20 Years From Now...

"20 YEARS FROM NOW," Mark Twain said, “you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than the ones you did.”THIS online journal is dedicated to our next 20 years!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Travelling Slow with the Schengen Agreement

The Schengen Agreement means quicker and easier travel from one European country to another for travellers because passport and border control is virtually non-existent. 

We experienced it first hand when we flew from the UK to Portugal (header photo). No papers to fill out. No documents to sign. No declarations to be made. After just a few quick questions at immigration we received a stamp in our passports and were sent on our merry way. 

On our flight back from France to the UK we were required to fill out one small form (basically name, citizenship and passport number). After our arrival in London our fellow passengers cued up for the European Union immigration line. We were two of perhaps six non-EU passport holders on the flight and were directed to another area. No cues. No waiting. Again, just a hello, why are you here, when are you leaving, and enjoy your stay. We were out of the airport before our fellow EU passengers had collected their luggage.

Unfortunately there is one downside to the Schengen Agreement. It doesn't translate well for those who prefer to travel slow. (Check out the benefits of slow travel HERE.) Not having a European or UK passport means we must abide by the Schengen Rules which dictate we can only stay in any or all of the Schengen countries for a maximum of 90 days within a 180 day period

Ninety days to visit Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland sounds like a super deal until you do the math. In order to visit all 26 countries within the 90-day time frame means spending less than 3.5 days in each of the above countries. Talk about a whirlwind tour of Europe!

We prefer a slower approach of longer stays at fewer destinations. Plus, because we housesit we have to take the Schengen Agreement into consideration before we apply for a European assignment. One option for those wanting to spend an extended stay in Europe is to visit non-Schengen countries (Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey and the United Kingdom) both before and after the 90-day Schengen allotment.

But what happens if a traveller isn't interested in travelling to non-Schengen countries? What happens if one stays beyond those 90-days? We know of one individual (a housesitter, in fact) who was fined the equivalent of $500 Cdn. Ouch. We've heard of other travellers being banned from future visits - although that may be more urban legend than fact. We've also been advised there's an unwritten leeway period of one week should a traveller stay past the deadline, but why take the risk? 

The best option is to plan your trip carefully and follow the rules. Either depart within the 90-day period or apply for a visa to extend your visit before leaving home. 

Happy travels!

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  1. And the question is...how easy is it to apply to extend your visa....?

    1. When friends walked the Camino de Santiago last fall and wanted to extend their visit by one month to spend Christmas with their daughter who lives in France, they mentioned having to drive to Toronto (six hours) plus get help and advice from their MPP. Financial records were required and all in all it didn't sound like an easy process. And because my motto is "easy is hard enough" we're content to take our 90 days and then move on!

  2. Great article! We are looking to take our house sitting adventure to Europe and this was very helpful!!

    1. Thanks, Shelly. Enjoy your housesits. We're convinced they enhance our travels and make our adventures all the more memorable.

  3. There are a few workarounds. Read Matt's article on this issue. We will most likely go for the self-employment visa offered by Germany.


    1. I'm familiar with Nomadicmatt's blog and that particular post, Dan. It's a great resource, (thanks for including in!) but since it was written a few more nations have signed the agreement. As travellers it's wise to research the current situation and determine how if affects them. For instance, as we're retired we're not looking for employment...not even self-employment...but it is certainly an option for younger travellers. :)