You may think of Europe as a singular place, but it is a complicated continent made up of 44 countries that are often grouped together in different ways for different reasons. Most countries on the European continent are members of the European Union (EU), though there are a handful of countries that are not. There are three main groupings to know about if you're planning on visiting multiple countries during your trip.
- European Union: This is the political union of 27 European countries. The majority of these member states use the Euro as the official currency, but there are a few exceptions that have not yet adopted it.
- European Economic Area (EEA): This is an economic zone that includes all 27 countries of the EU, plus Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein that allows for open trade and movement between countries. Switzerland is not an EU or EEA member but Swiss nationals hold the same rights to live and work in the EEA as other nationals.
- Schengen Area: This is an area of open borders, comprising of 26 countries that are both within and outside of the EU. When traveling from one Schengen Area country to another, there are no passport checks. Not all EU countries, such as Ireland, are a part of the Schengen Area and others may still be working towards joining.
Citizens of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the U.S. do not require a visa to enter any country in the Schengen Area and are free to travel between Schengen Area countries for up to 90 days within a 180-day period. The 90-day allowance applies to all countries in the Schengen Zone, so if you enter the Schengen Zone and visit Italy for 60 days and then decide to visit Germany, you will only have 30 days left on your visa. Visa policies for tourists are the same for all Schengen Area countries, which include:
- Czech Republic
- Denmark (excluding Greenland and the Faroe Islands)
- France (excluding overseas territories)
- Netherlands (excluding overseas territories)
- Norway (excluding Svalbard)
City-states like Vatican City, Monaco, and San Marino are not technically members of the Schengen Area, but they practice the same open borders. Additionally, there are a few EU countries that are legally obligated to join the Schengen Area in the future but do not yet qualify for membership, such as Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Cyprus.
Each of these countries bases their visa policy on the same 90-day model as other Schengen Area countries, but they do not yet count as Schengen Area countries. This means you can spend 90 days in a Schengen Area country like Spain or Germany and then travel directly to Croatia or Romania for another 90 days in Europe.
Non-Schengen Area Countries
Much of Eastern Europe, as well as the UK and Ireland, are not a part of the Schengen Area and each country has its own visa policies for tourists. For the majority of these countries, citizens of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the U.S. qualify for visa-exempt travel. However, there are a select few that you will need to obtain a visa for. For some Balkan countries, it's a common requirement that tourists register with the police upon arrival. However, if you are staying at a hotel or similar tourist-centered accommodation, they will usually do this for you.
|Visa Requirements Non-Schengen Area Countries|
|Country||Visa Required?||Application Fees||How Long Is It Valid?||Required Documents|
|Albania||None required for citizens of the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand||None||American citizens are allowed to stay up to one year, but citizens of Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom may only stay up to 90 days.||Letter of invitation by the host in Albania, return ticket, confirmation of accommodation, proof of ability to sustain yourself financially|
|Belarus||None required for citizens of the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand||None||30 days and you must enter and leave through Minsk National Airport||Proof of medical insurance, proof of ability to sustain yourself financially, and you must register with the Citizenship and Migration Department for any stay longer than five days|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||None required for citizens of the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand||None||90 days within a 180 day period||If staying in a private residence for three or more days, you or your host will need to register with the Department of Foreigners within 24 hours of arrival|
|Ireland||None required for citizens of the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand||None||90 days||Proof of ability to sustain yourself financially|
|Kosovo||None required for citizens of the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand||None||90 days within a 180 day period||Document stating the purpose of visit|
|Moldova||None required for citizens of the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand||None||90 days within a 180 day period||Registration of your visit with the government|
|Montenegro||None required for citizens of the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand||None||90 days||Police registration form (if you are not staying at a hotel), currency declaration form (if you're carrying more than 10,000 Euros)|
|North Macedonia||None required for citizens of the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand||None||90 days within 180 day period||Police registration form (if you are not staying at a hotel), proof of travel medical insurance,|
|Russia||Required for citizens of the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand||$160||3 years, with multiple entries||Application form, passport photo, and money order|
|Serbia||None required for citizens of the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand||None||90 days||Police registration within the first 24 hours (if you are not staying at a hotel)|
|Turkey||Citizens of Australia, Canada, and the U.S. must obtain an e-Visa, but there is no visa requirement for citizens of the UK and New Zealand.||$50||90 days||Passports must be valid for at least 6 months on the day you enter Turkey.|
|Ukraine||Citizens of New Zealand and Australia must obtain an e-Visa, but there is no visa requirement for citizens of the UK, Canada, and the U.S.||$85 (for e-Visa)||90 days within 180 day period||Proof of health insurance, a passport-sized photo, proof of ability to sustain yourself financially|
|United Kingdom||None required for citizens of the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand||None||Six months||Your passport must be valid for the duration of your stay|
If you overstay your 90-day allowance in a Schengen Area country, you could face deportation and hefty fines. However, these consequences are not uniform in every country. How strictly this rule is enforced can depend on a number of different factors, from what country you're in, to how long you've overstayed, and the even mood of the immigration officer. In a worst-case scenario, you could be banned from entering any Schengen-Area country and your passport may be permanently flagged.
In non-Schengen Area countries, consequences for overstaying depend on the country. Some countries are very strict. For example, overstaying a visa in Russia could mean not being allowed to leave until a new one is approved and in the United Kingdom, you may be immediately deported and banned from reentering from anywhere between one and 10 years. It typically depends on the circumstances on your overstay.
Extending Your Visa
Unless there are extenuating circumstances, such as an extreme weather event or a serious medical condition, it is not possible to extend your stay in any Schengen Area country. For countries outside the Schengen Area, visa extension rules vary. For example, it's not possible to apply for a visa extension in Ireland or Turkey, but you can apply for an extension in Ukraine or Montenegro. If it is possible to extend your visa, you will most likely need to do so in-person at the nearest embassy while you are abroad.