The Schengen Visa – Why it’s ruining our Euro Trip!

On our blog, you may have noticed a big red ? in the space that we usually announce where we are off to next. This is because Europe just threw a big ol’ monkey wrench into our plans since learning of the Schengen Visa, or as we dubbed it…”the Schlitterbahn,” since we’re not exactly sure how to pronounce it! After following so many backpackers and fellow round-the-world travelers, I don’t know how we missed this critical piece of travel information. Hence, the importance of writing this post to share our findings with other long-term travelers and backpackers.

The Schengen Visa makes it very difficult for Americans (or any other non-Schengen citizens) to explore almost the entire continent of Europe on a more long term basis. Travelers are only allowed 90 days within Schengen Member countries in any 180 day period. Your 90 days cumulate, but do not need to be consecutive. For example, we arrived in Lisbon on June 23 so we have until December 20, to use 90 days of travel. Then, 180 days after our initial arrival date, (which would be December 21) we are granted another 90 days to travel within the Schengen Area countries.

Our original plan was to float around Europe with the hope of arriving in Prague just in time to spend the Christmas holiday. As long as we were crossing borders into different countries, we figured there would be no concern with visas or length of travel time. But just as the Euro unifies this region, so does the Schengen Visa. If I hadn’t seen a random post on my Facebook feed, I don’t think we would have been aware of Schengen Visa restrictions until we were detained or fined while unknowingly passing through immigration after our 90 days.

So as we are busy road tripping through France, we’ve been scouting out cheap airfare to see what our best options are as we move forward. The good news is that the U.K. is not part of the Schengen area, so we could spend time in its four different countries including England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Harry would like to visit London and Scotland was high on my personal must-see list, so it wouldn’t be a waste of time or money. Ireland and Croatia are also non-Schengen countries. Turkey, which wasn’t initially on our travel itinerary, is another possible option.

Harry and I have had long conversations about how nonsensical the Schengen Visa restrictions are, especially from a financial perspective! As long as a passport is showing that you are moving around Europe, why wouldn’t these countries want people spending money in their businesses and helping to grow their economies? We don’t get it, but rules are rules. For now, we are hard at work trying to devise a plan because there is no way to see everything Europe has to offer in just 90 short days.

Countries in dark blue participate in the Schengen Visa. Unfortunately, that's almost the entire continent of Europe!
Countries in dark blue participate in the Schengen Visa. Unfortunately, that’s almost the entire continent of Europe!

“The Schengen countries have abolished passports and any other type of border control at their common borders. It mostly functions as a single country for international travel purposes, with a common visa policy. The Area is named after the Schengen Agreement. Countries in the Schengen Area have eliminated internal border controls with the other Schengen members and strengthened external border controls with non-Schengen states. The Schengen area encourages the free movement of goods, information, money and people.” – Wikipedia

0 thoughts on “The Schengen Visa – Why it’s ruining our Euro Trip!”

  1. We are currently doing the Schengen shuffle in Croatia! You should definitely squeeze it in if you can. But wait until after the high season, September should be safe. It’s so beautiful and budget savvy, you won’t be disappointed!

  2. We had also planned to spend several months in Europe (on our two year trip around the world) and discovered the Schengen area limitations as we were landing in Stockholm, from São Paulo. What a disappointment! Once we counted out the 90 days, we realized we would need to leave the Schengen area by Sept 13th…but my Mom was flying in to Italy to meet us for a week, on Sept 14th. Yikes! So we just spent the last month in Croatia, banking days so that we can spend September in Italy.
    We too are baffled by the Schengen area limitations. And also trying to figure out a new plan – guessing it’ll be more time in Southeast Asia.
    As your other reader suggested – Croatia is a good place to bank days, especially in September. August was a bit too much.

    1. Croatia is going to lose a lot of tourism when it finally joins the E.U.! We’re planning on heading there in October. Hope it’s still a good travel time. We’ve heard so many travelers rave about it.

  3. I believe the same 90-day limitation applies to EU citizens travelling in the US, so I suppose this is all down to reciprocity.

    1. From what we’ve heard from locals in Bulgaria, it’ extremely hard to get a visa to the USA. It’s actually really crazy and really hard for a lot of people. WAY WAY WAY harder than it should be. We hope someday SOON it will be much easier for Eastern Europeans to visit the USA.

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