Schengen = Itinerary Change

The Schengen Visa, which limits tourists to 90 days in the EU, is forcing us to change our planned itinerary for visiting countries in Europe this year.

Our original idea was that we would find a long-term rental (probably in Spain) and use this as home base, going out from there to various places we wanted to explore more thoroughly over the course of the next 6 months to a year.  But after arriving in Spain, we decided that this really wasn’t the best way to fully explore Europe the way we wanted to.  Unfortunately, that decision forces us to be in the EU on a straight tourist visa, which means that we are subject to the 90 day limit.

Now, we knew about Schengen but — and this is very, very embarrassing for me to admit — somehow we had it in our heads that we could stay 90 days in Spain, then move on for another 90 days to Portugal, etc. etc.  Wrong.  The limit for tourist visas in the EU is 90 days total across all countries.  When you count all the countries that make up the EU, this works out to be about 3 and a half days per country.  Not exactly the leisurely trek we envisioned through all the tiny little towns and hamlets we’ve missed on previous trips to Europe.

Are there ways around this?  Yes, there are some tricks.  For example, one could enter the EU through Great Britain, which is covered by Schengen but allows for 6 months instead of 90 days, and then drive across borders within the EU where it is possible to avoid getting a passport stamp.  This would mean that as long as we left within 6 months (ideally flying out of the EU through London) there is nothing to prove that we were in Schengen countries with a 90 day limit — so technically we would not be an overstay.

But, this is not our style.  We really don’t want to do anything illegal or against the rules.  We have been advised that it might be possible to get an extension of the 90 day visa depending on what country we are in when we ask for the extension.

So, new plan: We are currently poking around in Portugal (the cycling is to-die-for!) and are scheduled to meet friends in France on June 1st.  After we wrap up our visit in France, we will be just past 60 days in the EU.  We will either apply for an extension so that we can stay in the EU, or we will head to Croatia and Turkey.  The clock resets after 180 days so we could return to Europe after we visit Croatia and Turkey, and continue our leisurely trek.

My one concern with heading to Croatia and Turkey in June or July is that we will return to the EU at about the time the weather begins to turns chilly.  Since I am determined to chase summer, this might not be ideal.  Fortunately, there is a repositioning cruise leaving Barcelona in November, sailing to Miami.  We could take a long, transatlantic voyage to Miami and have a chance to visit with family for a few weeks before heading out to a new destination (South America?  Back to Australia?  Who knows….wherever the weather is warm and lovely).

So, that’s the update folks.  Stay tuned.




    • Nan Dawkins says

      I think some countries have a phased participation and a couple have opted out. If I were a country that relied heavily on tourism, I would certainly say no!

    • Nan Dawkins says

      We will be in the South of France at that point Chris. We have rented a place with friends through the 7th. Will email you — are you flying back to U.S. on the 6th?

  1. syed says

    A lot of things wrong in this article.
    1. Britain/UK has NO participation in Schengen region. UK maintains its strict border control with rest of Europe, and vice versa. So passing through Britain you would have your passport stamp.
    2. Switzerland, Denmark, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech, Slovenia are all part of Schengen region with no border control at all.
    (though in case of no EU contries such as Switzerland and Norway, there is custom controls).

    Please update your info.

    • Nan Dawkins says

      Hi Syed, not clear on what is inaccurate in what I said. I didn’t say that UK is in the Schengen 90 day zone — in fact, just the opposite. You can stay for 6 months in the UK as opposed to EU countries that are in the 90 day Schengen zone. I also didn’t say that they don’t maintain strict border control, they do. In fact, you WANT to have your passport stamped going in to show that you left the 90 day zone. because the rules are different. I also didn’t say that the countries you list in #2 are not Schengen participants. Last but not least, it is a good idea for anyone dealing with Schengen issues to check current rules and requirements. Croatia for example is scheduled to change their participation (I believe in 2015). I like the U.S. state department’s fact sheet on Schengen. It is short, clear and easy to understand.


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