The Schengen Area, also sometimes referred to as the Schengen Zone, is a collection of European countries that have abolished all passport and all other types of border control at their mutual borders, thereby providing one jurisdiction for international travel. For additional information on the Schengen Area, see the European Commission’s site and/or the Wikipedia article about the Schengen Area. To see the Schengen Area member states, visit our Schengen Area listing.
While offering convenience for traveling between many European countries, one practical impact of the Schengen Area is that a traveler without a visa can only stay in countries within the Schengen collection for 90 days in any 180-day period. This means that moving between Schengen Area member countries does not restart the days count for the maximum time spent — for example, the maximum stay without a visa continues even if one travels from Norway to the Czech Republic and then to Spain. The EU offers a short stay calculator for the Schengen Area to help you keep track of time spent in member countries to be sure you stay within the limit.
In our European travels, unless we have a longer-term visa, we carefully track our time in Schengen Area countries. And if we stay in Europe for a longer term, we leverage non-Schengen countries such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, and/or any of several Eastern European countries as destinations to restart the maximum stay “timer” for the rest of Europe.