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F.A.Q.

EUROPE

  • What is the European Union?
    The European Union, or EU, is a political and economic union that consists of 27 member states located within the European continent. The EU is considered to be a Customs Union, which means that there are no customs duties paid on goods moving between EU member states, and all member states apply a common customs tariff for goods being imported from outside of the EU. The EU has developed what is known as the European Single Market, in which all member states have agreed to adhere to a standardized system of laws known as European Common Law that apply to all member states in matters where the members have agreed to act as one. Overall, EU policies aim to ensure the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital between the members of the Union.
  • What is the Schengen Area?
    The Schengen Area is an area comprising 26 European countries that have abolished all border and passport controls at their mutual borders. All countries within this area have a common visa policy for international travelers, and the Area acts as a single jurisdiction for the purposes of international travel. Essentially, this why travelers do not have to show their passports when traveling across the mutual borders of these 26 European countries. The Schengen Area visa policy allows nationals of certain countries to travel within its borders visa-free for up to 90 days within a 180-day period. To see if your nation’s passport needs a visa to travel to the Schengen Area, visit Passport Index. It is important to note that the EU and Schengen Area do not completely overlap one another. Currently, only 22 of the 27 EU members are also part of the Schengen Area, with 4 EU countries (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Romania) not yet members of the Area but are legally obligated to join upon fulfilling certain requirements. Furthermore, there are countries that are not EU members but are part of the Schengen Area: the four countries that comprise the EFTA (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland) have signed agreements in association with the Schengen Agreement, and three additional microstates (Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City) are de facto part of the Schengen Area. Neither the United Kingdom nor Ireland are part of the Schengen Area, making Ireland the only EU member that is not part of the Area. With that being said, both nations set their own visa policies; both of these policies are similar to that of the Schengen Area, but there are some differences in forgein nationals that are allowed to travel to these countries visa-free. Be sure to check out Passport Index to see if you need a visa to travel to the UK, Ireland, or both. The countries that have freedom of movement within the Schengen Area incude: Austira, Belgium, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Vatican City.
  • Do I need a visa to travel to Europe?
    The answer to this question depends on two factors: (1) which nation your passport is from, and (2) which country or countries you are planning on traveling to while in Europe. Europe can essentially be split into two areas of travel: the Schengen Area (described above) and the non-Schengen area. Any countries that have freedom of movement within the Schengen Area have a common visa policy, which means that no matter where you travel to within this area, you will have one single visa policy you have to adhere to. If you are traveling outside of the Schengen Area, these countries set their own visa policies. There are areas where Schengen and non-Schengen visa policies coincide with one another, but there are a also differneces based on where you’re going and which passport you hold. By going to Passport Index , you can select which passport you hold and see which countries in Europe (as well as the rest of the world) you are able to travel to visa-free. This website has a live-update feature, and does currently reflect any travel restrictions that may be in place due to the 2019 novel coronavirus pandemic. Passport Index recommends you always check with your local embassy to ensure the most up-to-date information.
  • Do I need a visa to travel between the U.K. and Ireland?
    This answer depends on which passport you hold and are traveling on. Here are some important tidbits you should keep in mind depending on your nationality: The Common Travel Area (CTA) is an arrangement between the U.K. and Ireland that applies to British and Irish citizens only. The CTA grants citizens of the U.K. and Ireland free movement between the two countries with minimal identity documentation; in the context of the CTA, the U.K. comprises England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands. The CTA is not dependent on EU membership of both countries, and citizens continue to maintain these rights post-Brexit. There is a long list of countries, which includes the United States, whose citizens can travel visa-free to both the U.K. and Ireland. If your nationality allows you to travel to both of these countries visa-free, you can travel visa-free (you will still need to show your passport) between the two countries. Visa-free travelers can stay in Ireland for up to 90 days, and those traveling to the U.K. from Ireland visa-free can only stay in the U.K. for up to 90 days. Regarding visa travel, the British Irish Visa Scheme (BIVS) was introduced in 2014 to allow travel to and within the Common Travel Area (see above) on one single visa. The BVIS operates through a reciprocal short-stay visa agreement, where both the U.K. and Ireland recognize the short-stay visas issued by the other to allow free travel within the CTA for the duration of the visa. As of 2021, the BIVS is only available for Chinese nationals living in China and Indian nationals living in India. For all other foreign nationals who require a visa to enter both the U.K. and Ireland, two separate valid visas (one for the U.K. and one for Ireland) will be required to travel between the two. If you can travel to Ireland visa-free but not to the U.K., you will still need a visa to enter the U.K. from Ireland. The same is true if you can travel to the U.K. visa-free but not to Ireland; you will need a visa to enter Ireland from the U.K.
  • Does every country in Europe use the euro?
    Nope! This is a common misconception, and it is important to know which countries use the euro when traveling throughout Europe. The eurozone consists of 19 of the 27 EU member states that have adopted the euro as their common currency. Although they are not formally part of the eurozone, four microstates (Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City) have formal agreements with the EU to use the euro as their official currency as well. Additionally, both Kosovo and Montenegro have unilaterally adopted the euro, but are also not officially recognized as part of the eurozone. The list of nations that use the euro include: Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Portugal, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Vatican City.
  • What is a Eurail pass and how does it work?
    The Eurail Pass is a popular rail pass that permits travel through 33 European countries on nearly all major railroads and railways. The Eurail Group, based in the Netherlands, is owned by more than 35 European railway and shipping companies, and thus partners with all major rail networks in Europe, helping make train travel within the continent as seamless as possible. You can find a full list of the participating train networks by heading here. The Global Pass is one of two options to choose from; this is likely what you think of when you hear 'Eurail Pass.' This pass allows holders access to the major railway lines (and some ferry lines) in the 33 participating European countries. There are plenty of ways you can structure your Global Pass, each of which have a specified period of travel days within a certain amount of calendar days. You can find all of these options and their prices broken down here. Alternatively, you can also choose from a variety of One Country passes, whose benefits are good within the borders of one specific country. You can find a list of One Country passes that Eurail offers by heading here. Before you can use your pass, you must activate it within 11 months of its purchase date; you can do this at any large train station in one of the participating countries, or you can do this online after you place your order at Eurail.com. Once the pass is activated, you are free to roam on your travel days. A travel day is specified as the 24 hour period from 12:00 am to 11:59 pm on the same calendar day. During this time, users have unlimited access to all trains and ferries covered by the pass, and can take as many trains or ferries as desired. Your pass is your ticket; simply fill out the details of the route you are taking on the pass and show it when tickets are being checked. For any overnight trains that last into the next calendar day (without a train change after midnight), only one travel day needs to be used. Some major train routes (i.e. high-speed TGV or Eurostar trains) require a seat reservation. These seat reservations are not included with the Eurail pass and must be booked separately. Once you have planned which route you would like to take, you can easily check to see if you need to purchase a seat reservation by using Eurail's route search engine; if you do end up needing to purchase a seat reservation on any of your trains, you can do so by using Eurail's reservation tool. There is an abundant amount of information on the Eurail pass that cannot possibly fit into just a few paragraphs, so if you are looking for more info head on over to Eurail.com.
  • What is an Interrail Pass and how does it work?
    Simply put, the Interrail Pass is just a Eurail Pass for European citizens. The Eurail Pass is only available to non-European citizens, while the Interrail Pass is only available to European citizens. Both of these brands are owned and facilitated by the Eurail Group, so the Interrail Pass truly is the same exact product as the Eurail Pass, just marketed under a different brand name. You can find out more by heading to Interrail.eu.
  • Is a Eurail pass worth purchasing?
    This is a very common question that is tough to give a cookie-cutter answer to as it primarily depends on your specific itinerary plans and how you value your money. An easy way to decipher this question for yourself is to compare the cost of the Eurail Pass you are looking at as opposed to the total overall cost it would be to buy each point-to-point ticket individually. Generally speaking, frequency and distance are the two main factors that would determine this decision. The longer your trains are and the more frequently you will be taking them (i.e. a cross-continent trip from Madrid to Budapest via 5 or 6 cities), the more likely it is that your Eurail Pass will cost you less than buying each ticket individually. If you only plan on taking a few shorter train trips (i.e. Rome to Florence followed by Florence to Venice), it would be much more economical to buy those two point-to-point tickets individually rather than purchase the Pass. There are obviously other aspects to the Eurail Pass that are not financial, yet do hold a certain degree of non-monetary value. The ease and simplicity of only having to carry one Pass around as opposed to having to print and carry multiple point-to-point tickets is an attractive element, and saves time in having to make multiple separate reservations individually. Flexibility is also a key factor, especially for those who will be venturing throughout Europe without a set-in-stone itinerary. Travel days are not restrictive and you can use them whenever you see fit, so for those who will have plans that may change on the fly, this would be another element to the Pass that adds value. At the end of the day, the answer to this question all depends on your personal preferences and how you intend to plan your travels. It works for some, but not for all. The above points are intended to help you gauge if the Eurail or Interrail Pass is the right fit for you!
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