Money, Vaccinations & Entry Requirements for Europe
NOTE – This info is accurate as of January 2014!
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS FOR EUROPE
If you are from the European Union…
If you are from an EU country (see map on right) or have a passport for one then you can travel freely between any of the member states and stay as long as you like. Should you wish you can also get a job without any form of visa and minimal fuss.
In addition, Swiss and Norwegian passport holders typically have exactly the same rights even though they are Non-EU members.
If you wish to visit a Non-EU country then check with the relevant embassy but very few require you to have a visa although your passport will be stamped and you will only be allowed to stay in the country for a certain time period.
If you are from outside the European Union…
The term Schengen Zone may not be too familiar with you but it is important you understand it before embarking on a European backpacking trip. Basically it is treated as one big country and once you have entered you don’t have to show your passport again until you leave the zone, no matter how many borders you cross within it.
The Schengen Zone is not the same as the European Union but is very similar. The UK and Ireland are the only members of the EU to not be part of the Schengen Zone or legally obliged to join it (as is the case with Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria which will join the zone in the near future).
Current Schengen Zone Countries:
Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland
Anyone from countries in blue above such as USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea and Brazil can enter the Schengen Zone visa-free and stay in the zone for upto 90 days. You could in theory visit all 26 members without having to show your passport once in this period except to gain entry to the first country you visit and to leave your final destination. Ensure you are given a stamp on your initial entry as border guards can be a bit dopey and forget.
That is all good but crucially once those 90 days are up and you have left the zone you cannot re-enter a Schengen member (visa free) for another 90 days. i.e. in every 6 months you can only spend a maximum of 3 months within the Schengen area.
US citizens may find this page useful.
When visiting European countries outside the zone, there are separate entry requirements and you may well require a visa. See our How to Guide for Sorting out Visas for more info on how you can find out.
A few countries, most notably Russia require you to sort out a visa several weeks in advance of your trip so it’s a good idea to plan ahead if you are planning on visiting countries outside the Schengen Zone.
Euros have since the turn of the millennium been the principal currency in the European Union but several countries have opted to retain their old currency. Even in these ones however it is often possible to pay in Euros although generally it works out better for you to pay in the local currency.
EU countries that don’t use the Euro:
Britain, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Lithuania (joins in 2015), Poland, Romania, Sweden
Expect to be charged a small fee every time you use your debit or credit card in any European country. That said, it is of negligible difference to the fees you will be charged for exchanging money.
None really required. To our knowledge there are no countries that require any form of medical certificate or proof of vaccinations for entry into their country. It might be a good idea to check you are upto date with common vaccinations like hepatitis if you are visiting one of the less developed countries but most travellers go without.
This article was published in January 2014.