The establishment of the European Union (EU) was created primarily to allow free movement of people and goods throughout the European region, with one main currency. Within the “Schengen Area”, passport controls between countries have been abolished allowing visitors to move freely using the same currency of the Euro.
It is important to know that the continent of Europe, the EU and the Schengen Area are not all the same countries. Only 19 of the 28 EU members have adopted the Euro and 26 countries are part of the Schengen Area, 22 being EU members and 4 non-EU members. Below is a brief explanation of currencies and visa requirements in Europe.
Money exchanges are everywhere throughout Europe, so you don’t have to travel around with copious amounts of cash and currencies.
Try to plan ahead and exchange some cash ready for your next destination. If you’re stuck, you can always just pay with your travel card but prepare to be stung with additional bank and conversion charges.
When you’re leaving a country that has a different currency, to use up your coins first as you can only exchange notes, and there’s nothing worse than having $20 of change you can’t use!
The number one visa you need to be familiar with when travelling through Europe is the Schengen Visa. This allows free travel throughout certain countries in Europe without stamping passports or passing through border control for 90 days within 180 days. If you do it in one hit and you use up all your 90 days, you must exit the zone and not return for 90 days. Then you are free to enter once again for 90 days and so on. If you are in and out of the zone, you need to keep count and ensure within 180 days you do not spend more than 90 in the zone. More information can be found here, but a couple of important things to note:
Entry and exit days count in the 90 days (ie if I am leaving Germany (in the Schengen zone) to go to Croatia (not in the Schengen), the day you fly out is one of the 90 days even if you leave Germany at five minutes past midnight.)
Day trips to countries inside the zone also count (ie travelling from Croatia to Slovenia will tally one day in the Schengen zone). Same with passing through a Schengen country to a non-Schengen country. Essentially if your passport is stamped, one day is counted whether you spend 24 hours there or 30 minutes.
The European Union (EU) and Schengen Zone are not the same thing. The EU is political, the Schengen is visa related.Non-Schengen Zone countries have their own visa policies to be aware of.
Even through there is no border control or stops throughout the countries within the zone, police sometimes board inter-country buses and trains to check passports.There are a number of small principalities throughout Europe (including Monaco and Andorra) which are technically not part of the Schengen Zone but will not issue you an entry or exit stamp therefore the time spent in these countries are still counted in the 90 days.
Overstaying your visa is risky, because while some officials hardly check and stamp away, others will count and compare stamps and ask you for the dates of your entries and exits and so forth. So be prepared. Consequences of overstaying can range from a warning and slap on the wrist to heavy fines, instant deportation and bans up to 5 years.
Below is a breakdown of all countries in Europe, their currency and whether they are in the Schengen Zone and member of the EU.