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Snälltåget or SJ? Which option was the best between Malmö and Stockholm?

We have been quite often in Skåne in the past six months and often we have had to book the trips relatively shortly before departure. Flying to Malmö doesn't feel either necessary from a time perspective or completely ok in today's climate discussion, so we have taken the train all the times. We could have taken the car, which for us would have been the most economical option, but it's quite a lot to drive in the evening for 6 hours. It's nicer when the whole family arrives refreshed.

Our train journeys have included both SJ (Intercity and express train) and with Snälltåget. What are our thoughts on these three options and what do we prefer to book? Here are our rice and roses from our latest train journeys! What is actually the best alternative with trains Malmö-Stockholm?

Booking online

Both SJ express train and Snälltåget has online booking where you can choose seats. We, who usually go with three people, prefer to book a place with a table. At SJ Intercity, however, you cannot book a seat, so the booking system lacks a seat map. You do get a place, but an assigned one. If you are not satisfied with it, you can back the booking and start over from the beginning. Not quite an ok interface in my eyes!

Winner: Shared profit of SJ express train and Snälltåget.

Travel time

It takes about 4,5 hours with the SJ express train and just over 5 hours by train Snälltåget and Intercity. A rather small difference in my eyes and does not justify the name express train at all! Fast trains are TGV or Shinkansen. SJ express train just feels like an ordinary train that doesn't stop as often as the other trains.

Winner: With a small (far too small) margin: SJ express train.

Snälltåget
Snälltåget

Carts

Maybe it's just me, but I like it Snälltågets slightly older, but well maintained, wagons much more than SJs.

The last three times we rode with SJ, the power socket in the seat has been broken twice. Once the electrical outlet was dead from the beginning and on the train I took last Sunday, my electrical outlet had fallen off and the power cables were pointing straight up in the air. So they simply had to shut down all the electricity in the whole cart because of my electrical outlet. I felt reasonably popular among my fellow travelers... Unfortunately, lack of service feels like a common problem on SJ.

The tables are slightly larger on SJ, but the space between the seats is the same on Intercity/the fast train/Snälltåget.

The toilets on Snälltåget have always been fresh and had both soap and paper towels, but the last Intercity we went was a mess. There was water dripping from the ceiling onto my head as I sat on the toilet (I really hope it was the air conditioning and not some disgusting water) and the soap ran out after less than half the trip and was not refilled.

Winner: Snälltåget, for its charm and well-kept carriages.

Food on board

There are bistros on both the Intercity, the express train and Snälltåget. However, I am a bit skeptical about the food at SJ since my husband and I happened to buy wraps in the bistro where the best-before date had expired. But if you have planned to eat on board, you don't have much choice on such a long train journey. After that incident, however, I always bring my own food on the train, regardless of the train operator. So I haven't tried the bistro on our travels as of late.

Wi-Fi

Wifi on trains and planes is always difficult, but they have succeeded quite well on both the high-speed train and Snälltåget, However, I experience Wi-Fi on SJ's express trains much shakier, last Sunday, for example, I could not connect at all. Lucky I can share wifi from my mobile instead!

Intercity had no wifi at all in the carriages we have ridden. Not sure if it should be like that?

Winner: Snälltåget, with a small margin against SJ express train

SJ Intercity
SJ Intercity

Price level

Snälltåget run with slightly older wagons, but with the same service on board as SJ. However, the price level is usually much lower. I find it very difficult to justify the price difference between the express train and snälltåget by arriving 40 minutes faster.

Winner: Snälltåget

SJ Express train
SJ Express train

The bottom line!

Snälltåget is an affordable and cozy alternative between Malmö and Stockholm and has been on time, had full carriages and comfortable seats in all the times we traveled with them. Sure, there are older carriages that can sometimes feel like the Blue Train, but SJ's fast trains are starting to get a lot of years on their necks too. So for us, it is rather the departure time than the travel time that determines whether we choose the SJ express train or Snälltåget, although of course it's nice when it's a little cheaper. Intercity unfortunately comes in last place, does not see any advantage with Intercity compared to the other two options.

Snälltåget during the winter months also have train trips to the Swedish mountains! I haven't tested these, but it would have been fun to know how it works to go to the mountains with sleeping cars and ski equipment! Maybe time to start thinking about a ski weekend this winter?

Snälltåget
Snälltåget
Snälltåget
Snälltåget with lunch bag and the obligatory coffee thermos!
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About the blogger

Travel blogger, gastronaut, photographer and family adventurer with over 55 countries in his luggage. Eva loves trips that include beautiful nature, hiking boots and well-cooked food. On the travel blog Rucksack she takes you to all corners of the world with the help of her inspiring pictures and texts.

4 Comments

  • StaPLind
    8 October, 2019 at 22: 28

    Hello and thanks for this blog post! I went Snälltåget a few years ago when it was new on the Swedish railways and then it wasn't very fresh or cosy. Perhaps they have popped up. I will go with them next week between Nässjö and Stockholm. Frankly speaking, SJ is less. The last time I rode SJ's fast train, there were excruciating delays and unpleasant staff who only made fun of the delay instead of apologizing. As you write – SJ's trolleys are nothing to brag about and the bistro with its useless semi-finished products and micro food is a joke. (sorry about the food poisoning – not that surprising though…) I'll give Snälltåget an honest chance and even if I were to be besviken (which I don't think I will be at all) so the trip has cost me less than... like most things in the way of travel. As I said – good with reviews from a seasoned traveller. SJ should stop being as silly as they are as they are no longer alone in driving trains in our beautiful oblong country 🙂 Greetings from Stockholm

    Reply
    • Eva Gyllenberg
      8 October, 2019 at 22: 52

      How fun! Feel free to come back after you leave Snälltåget again – nice to have an update! 🙂 Snälltåget drive with slightly different carriages, so it may vary what you end up in for seats. But (as you wrote) – they are nice, very affordable and a refreshing alternative to SJ! (and so far I haven't gotten food poisoning there, so that's a plus 🙂 )

  • […] long haul trains (over 2-3 hours), especially up north from Stockholm are fast and comfortable (here is a nice post about the different options to Malmö for example). They are not cheap though, unless you book ahead or get into a good promotion. If you intend to [...]

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  • Anton
    November 24, 2022 at 16: 19

    Hello Eva,

    Thanks for your post! Thought I'd update with a comment here for the curious. I agree with you completely and would rather go along Snälltåget than SJ. Snälltågets carriages are older but incredibly well maintained and "cozy". It is subdued lighting compared to SJ. I'm always happy when I get on Snälltåget, don't really know why. Nice staff, nice fellow travelers and simply nice train!

    Reply

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