Argh, the boring stuff. No one likes to think about the practicalities. Passport and visa requirements for campervan travel in Europe is a bit of a dry topic, but I’m going to explain it as simply and as easily as I can. Ever wondered how someone can spend so long travelling in Europe, but you can only see 3 month visas available? This information is for you if you’re unsure how you can swing a long stay in Europe, or you want to understand the practicalities of moving in and out of the Schengen area. If all of this sounds new to you, keep reading, you’ll need the information. I’ll do my best not to bore you to death!
Passports and visa’s to campervan around Europe
To enter Europe you will need to have a valid passport, with at least 6 months validity. Your passport must also have enough’ free pages to be stamped. All this means is it can’t be full. Make sure that you check the specific requirements for the country you’re flying into, specifically, as that’s where it counts.
One of the most important things to understand are the visa requirements based on your personal country of citizenship. The duration of your intended stay in Europe will also play a role in visa selection.
Every country has arrangements with other countries that determine how easy, or difficult, it is for you to enter. Make sure you understand what is required of you.
Expert tip: I always use this Visa Requirements page for a quick reference of my visa requirements by country.
When you know what the requirements for your country of citizenship are the first step is to work out how long you want to travel. From there you can decide the best way to approach it. If you intend to travel for an extended period of time, you’ll need to set an itinerary where you enter and exit the Schengen area. Don’t panic if that sounds confusing, I’ll explain it all below.
A quick break down of Europe’s structure
Europe is a vast and varied content. Home to 44 countries, all with land borders, you can easily move across from country to country. There are however some differences in areas, or regions and the ease of travel through some countries.
Recommended reading: How to travel Europe in a campervan or caravan
The Schengen Area
There are 26 countries in the Schengen area. Once you enter any of the countries in the Schengen area you’ll be able to move freely between all of them. The countries included in the Schengen zone are
Austria – Belgium – Czech Republic – Denmark – Estonia – Finland – France – German – Greece – Hungary – Iceland – Italy – Latvia – Liechtenstien – Lithuania – Luxembourg – Malta – Netherlands – Norway – Poland – Portugal – Slovakia – Slovenia – Spain – Sweden – Switzerland
Visa free entry into the Schengen Zone
There are approximately 62 countries whose citizens are eligible for visa free entry into the Schengen Zone. This means that you simply fly into your Schengen country of choice and you’ll be stamped in at immigration. You do not need to apply for a visa in advance.
UK citizens are eligible for visa free entry since Brexit
Since Brexit, citizen of the UK can now travel throughout the Schengen area on a Schengen Visa. This means that you can spend 90 out of 180 days in the Schengen area. If you’re planning a longer trip, the same rules now apply to you as for other non EU citizens.
Citizens that require a visa for the Schengen Area
For the countries that are not visa exempt you’ll need to apply in advance.
For a quick guide as to whether you’re eligable for visa free entry or need a visa, check here. We always recommend double and triple checking things like visa’s so don’t just take one site’s word for it!
Movement throughout the Schengen Zone
For non EU citizens, the Schengen Area is fantastic. Once inside the Schengen Zone you can move freely across ‘borders’. Citizens of most countries are allowed to stay within the Schengen Area for 90 in every 180 days. Different rules may apply if you need a visa. Please check your visa requirements carefully.
When your 90 days are up, you simply move into a non Schengen, European country or head home.
Non Schengen European Countries
For countries outside the Schengen Area, you’ll generally fall into one of two categories
- Either you won’t need a visa, you can just turn up and be stamped in or
- You need to get a visa, either at border, or in advance, depending on your citizeship.
Other ways to stay in Europe longer
A Bilateral Agreement is an agreement between two countries. It allows citizens of each country to spend additional time in the other country. For example, Australia has a Bilateral Agreement with the Netherlands. As an Australian, I can stay 90 days in the Netherlands under the Bilateral agreement. This 90 days, is in addition to the 90 days that I get as part of my Schengen entry. This means that I have 90 days where I can move freely in the Schengen area, followed by an additional 90 days where I can stay in the Netherlands.
Contact your consulate or embassy if you are planning a longer trip or wish to spend more time in a particular country. If may be that your country has a Bilateral Agreements with another.
Make sure you understand the requirements of use and meet the necessary criteria for the Bilateral Agreement that you use. Some countries for example require that you fly out when you leave. Meaning you would then be required to fly out of the Schengen. In that case, you would need to use the agreement at the very end of your trip.
You will often also need to prove that you stayed within that country for the duration of time that you used the Bilateral Agreement. You’ll want to keep receipts and other proof ready.
I have used all the techniques above. For example, I went from Romania, which is a non Schengen country, into the Schengen area. I then had 90 days where I could move freely through the Schengen zone.
After using my Schengen days, I stayed in the Netherlands with Ben’s family for an additional 90 days using the Bilateral agreement. Near the end of that 90 day period, I had to leave the Schengen area all together.
I couldn’t go back out through any Schengen countries (having been in the area 180 days already). I flew from Amsterdam to Croatia, a non Schengen country.
Make sure that you investigate all your options. Consider how long you want to travel in Europe. Decide where you want to go and make sure you’re prepared with a suitable travel itinerary and necessary visas.
Congratulations if you’ve made it to the end! Hopefully now you have a better idea about how you can stay longer in Europe to really enjoy your campervanning experience. Let me know if you have any questions below!