UPDATED 2014: Europe is an amazing place. Millions of people travel to Europe each year, whether it be on business, curiosity, adventure, rebellion or leisure; we all make it there at one point in our lives.

However, there are a few rules I have come across as a solo backpacker that just plain piss me off. I have found many threads on the internet showing that many people are also concerned about some of these laws as travelers.

The Shengen Treaty (Please click for more detailed info).
Now, being an American citizen, I am rather lucky because I get a free waiver visa throughout basically any country in Europe. I also have the right to stay legally as a tourist for 90 days (3 months) in any country in Europe. UNLESS, you happen to be some countries named Austria, Estonia, Greece, Latvia, Netherlands, Slovakia, Belgium, Finland, Hungary, Lithuania, Norway,Slovenia, Czech Republic, France, Iceland, Luxembourg, Poland, Spain, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Malta, Potugal and Sweden.

Here is what the Schengen Treaty states:

  • You must apply for a "Schengen Visa," if you are not specific countries (not including EU citizens, Americans, Australians or Canadians). 
  • You may stay 90 days on a tourist visa in an 180 period. This means that out of 180 days, you can only be there 90 nonconsecutive days. AKA..You DO NOT get 90 days in each of those countries.
  •  Those countries are border-less, and once you enter any one of those countries, you have 90 days in all the combined countries. 
  • Therefore, if you spend 1 month in Italy, 3 weeks in Spain, 1 month in Germany, and 2 weeks in Greece...you have suddenly overstayed your tourist visa and are able to become fined 300-1200 euro.
What. The. Hell.


A majority of these countries do not stamp you. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they do not.

I am aware of the Schengan Treaty, but my father, who is a huge traveler, laughed at me and said if he was ever stopped and was questioned for the treaty, he would be very confused. Many people do not know about it...

Anyway, the truth of the matter is you could be anywhere in Europe. You could have traveled by car and no one stamped your passport. It is actually hard to track your journey through Europe.

 

If you do happen to overstay, here is how to escape:

  • -Do not travel to a country outside the schengen zone in Europe once you have overstayed (England, Turkey, Balkins, Ireland, etc.). They may catch you there and either fine you or deport you. 
  • Fly/take a boat back to your home country or another destination through a schengen zone country. They won't deport you if you are already leaving, and it is easier to talk your way out of a fine if you are on your way out rather than them catching you already in.

 

If you have overstayed... 

  • Chill and take a deep breath. If you have overstayed by one day or 8 months, the fine could still be the same depending on the officer. However, it will not go past 1200 euro. There are many people who are living in Schengen zone countries without residence visas. I would research at your own will for those situations. You can search on bootsnall.com. Working illegally, however, is another issue.

For more information on how to get a visa and work in Europe, please visit my 'How To Work In Europe' section. You can apply for long-term visas if you know you will stay extra time. I suggest it, but if you wanna rough it, it is totally possible and hundreds have and are doing it right now!