If you’re thinking long-term travel in Europe, you need to know about the zone. The Schengen zone. What is the Schengen zone, you ask? Well. You better learn what it is before you head to Europe (unlike me. I just went and got and caught up!). Basically it’s a group of European countries between which border checks have been nearly abolished for the sake of having a single enforceable border with uniform rules. If you’re traveling within these countries, typically your identification will not be checked.
It’s different depending on what country you come from, but as an American citizen you can enter and remain in any area within the zone for a total of 90 days within a 180 day period.
Think of it like this; if you were from a different country and you visited the US for 90 days, you could spend the whole ninety in the state of Texas, or you could go on a road trip up through all fifty states. Either way, at the end of those ninety days you would need to get out of the US.
The Schengen zone functions the same way. Replace US states with European Schengen countries and you get the gist. You could spend the entire time in France or you could take the train through France, Germany, The Netherlands, etc. Just know you have ninety days total to do it.
The days don’t have to be concurrent; you can come in and out, it just means you have to be more careful with your count.
Here’s another map with a list of Schengen countries;
The penalties are anywhere from being fined a heap of money to being jailed to being unable to enter the zone for one to five years. You don’t want that. I don’t want that. None of us want that. So check and double check with this fab US Government website.
It’s also important to know that the Schengen zone and the European Union are NOT the same things.
Also, these maps are now inaccurate because #Brexit! Aka, the UK is in the process of separating from the European Union.
It can all be very confusing so be sure to READ CAREFULLY before making any travel decisions. I had to run out of the zone like my hair was on fire because I didn’t do my research. Remember, we don’t want any episodes of Locked Up Abroad!