How to Travel in Europe for Longer than 90 Days | Schengen Visa Country Rules
Did you know that as an American citizen, you're only allowed 90 days to travel without a visa in (most of) Europe? I learned this only once I got here and had to take a detour from the Schengen Zone.
Allow me to explain.
So far, I've been traveling in Europe for about five months. Some people asked me how this is possible since as mentioned above, I am allowed only 90 days of visa-free travel. The way to extend your time in Europe is to leave the Schengen Zone.
The 26 Schengen Zone Countries Are:
- Czech Republic
In any of the 26 countries listed above, you can spend up to 90 days within a 180-day period moving freely without a visa. This is also why your passport does not get stamped if you cross borders from one to another. How you choose to break up those 90 days is up to you.
I decided to break up the 90 days by leaving "the Zone" and visiting non-Schengen countries (Croatia and Bosnia and Hercegovina). When I left from Italy, I had already spent 47/90 days in Schengen countries. Although many people think that your days reset to 0/90 when you leave the Schengen Zone and re-enter a few days later, it's unfortunately not that easy.
Pausing the Schengen Zone Visa Clock
If you leave the Schengen Zone, the number of days you have when you return is the number you left off at. Since I left at 47 days and it was only for a seven-week period, I have 43 days remaining of visa-free travel. Only when I leave the Schengen Zone for three consecutive months then my visa will reset back to zero. Here are some countries you can visit if you want to pause or reset your visa that are not part of the Schengen Zone.
Non-Schengen Zone Countries (Part of the EU):
- United Kingdom
Non-Schengen Zone Countries (NOT Part of the EU):
- Bosnia and Hercegovina
Many travelers head to the Balkans while waiting for their visa to reset because it's still close to Central/Western Europe and it's a lot cheaper to travel in that region. Plus, it's not as touristy as Western Europe. If you plan to stay in Europe longer than 90 days, be sure to check out the visa restrictions of each of the Non-Schengen Countries you plan to visit. Each one is a bit different depending on your citizenship.
What Happens If You Overstay Your Visa?
There are a few things that could potentially happen:
- You get fined in the country you're trying to exit.
- It goes on your record which could make it harder to return to a Schengen country in the future.
- You could get banned from all Schengen countries for 1-3 years.
- Nothing. Some take the risk and get away with it, but I don't think this is a good option...
Have any questions about my experience with visiting the Schengen Zone countries? Send me a message and I'd be happy to help ansewr your questions!