The Schengen Visa Explained

Two years sounds like a really long time to travel around Europe, and it is!

Just think of all the ski trips in the Swiss and French Alps you could take! And the surf trips to Spain and Portugal you could fit in! And the number of real Italian pizzas you could eat!

Unfortunately, I need to burst your bubble just slightly by informing you about a little arrangement known as the Schengen Visa and how it affects your long-term travel plans in Europe…

What is the Schengen Visa thing?

The Schengen agreement is a treaty formed by a number of European countries that has essentially abolished the internal borders between them. This means that people can travel more freely between Schengen countries without having to go through border control at each one. Hence the name, Schengen Visa.


Which countries does the Schengen Zone include?

All the good ones! There are currently 26 countries (with a few more applying):

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxemborg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland


What do I need to do to visit these countries?

With an Australian passport you won’t need to actually apply for a Schengen Visa before entering most of these places. Just rock up at the airport and they’ll stamp your passport – just make sure it has at least 6 months validity from the date you intend to leave the country.

However, you are limited to being in the “Schengen Zone” for 90 days out of every 180 days, which is the part that ruins those dreams of unlimited travel…


How do people manage long-term travel around Europe then?

The easiest way to make the most of a long-term trip around Europe is to divide your time between Schengen and non-Schengen countries, and keep count of your days in each area.

For your reference, non-schengen countries you could visit include:

  • Albania
  • Andorra
  • Belarus
  • Bosnia & Herzegovina
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Georgia
  • Kosovo
  • Macedonia
  • Moldova
  • Monaco
  • Montenegro
  • Morocco
  • Republic of Ireland
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Serbia
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine
  • United Kingdom


Say for example you’re in the UK on your 2 year Youth Mobility Visa. You work your butt off in a physio clinic for 2 years, and decide to do a long-term jaunt around Europe before returning home down under.

You could enter the Schengen zone on the 1st January and stay until 31st March, gallivanting around Germany, Switzerland, and Austria to make the most of the snow for 90 days. On the 31st March you could then pop down to Croatia, Montenegro and Cyrpus to soak up some sun until 29th June, when another 90 days has passed and you can re-enter the Schengen zone. Make sense?


It gets a little more tricky when you spend shorter periods in each zone.


For example, you work in London for 3 months to save up for a shorter term trip. You decide to get away from the gloomy, grey skies to check out the south of Italy and France for 3 weeks. If you arrive in the Schengen Zone on 1st January and leave on 21st January, you have another 69 days remaining on your 90 day “count”.

However, your count doesn’t “reset” after 180 days. You can’t go on another Schengen trip for 69 days (until the 29th June), then tack on your next 90 days immediately after. This would mean you’ve stayed for 139 days straight in the Schengen zone.

The requirement for the Schengen visa is “90 days in any 180 day period”.

Picking up what I’m putting down?


What happens if I’m a rebel and stay more than 90 days?

Overstaying your visa is a big no-no, and more countries are getting more diligent on this.

When you get caught leaving the Schengen zone whoever finds you at the border has a few options, and your penalty could depend on how long you overstay, what country you’re in and whether they’re having a bad day or not!

  • A fine (ranging from €500-1000)
  • A record in your passport showing that you’ve overstayed (this will make your future travel plans really difficult)
  • A ban on entry (you’re not allowed back in the Schengen zone for 1-5 years. Just think about all those beautiful places you’re missing out on!)
  • Deportation

Don’t risk all your future travel plans for the sake of a few extra days!


There are plenty of cool places to check out both inside and outside the Schengen zone, just keep track of your dates and the adventures can roll on…