The Schengen Area has a population of over 400 million people and an area of over 4 million square kilometres. It means that you can travel from Malaga in Spain to Tallinn in Estonia without having to show your passport or go through a border crossing. This clearly saves travelers immensely in terms of time and money.
If you do not hold an EU passport and don’t benefit from a visa-free status, the Schengen area offers other additional benefits. Schengen also means that a visa for one Schengen country is valid for all (subject to restrictions), which simplifies traveling across Europe immensely as applying and collecting visas is expensive and seriously time consuming.
The Schengen area has saved me literally hundreds of hours in lost time waiting to cross borders in Europe. A trip overland from Portugal to Estonia meant at least 8 border crossings (pre-Schengen). Now you only notice a welcome sign telling you that you are in a new country. 🙂
Countries currently in the Schengen Area (July 2016): Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
Remember how back in the day people bought calling cards and went to phone booths? There was a very good reason for this, especially in airports, even when cellphones first because widespread.
Roaming charges used to be a major problem for travelers in Europe. For example, if you had a French SIM card and you crossed the border into Germany, you would have to pay ‘roaming’ charges for any calls or data that you use there. The cost of these were often prohibitive.
Many travelers chose to turn their phones off (particularly for data). There was a case were a traveler came back from holidays to find a €10,000 bill for having downloaded a film. Quite an expensive movie indeed!
Consistently over the last decade, the European Commission in Brussels has proposed legislation to cap the prices that mobile phone operators can charge for roaming within the European Union. In fact, roaming charges will technically be eliminated in 2017 after which there will still be some additional charges if you use your SIM abroad the majority of the time.
Considering how much time I spend hooked up online (about 18 hours per day probably 😉 ), roaming charges used to be one the banes of traveling in Europe. I depend hugely on the ability of my smartphone to remain connected when traveling and I always buy a local SIM after one day for this reason (read my article here on smartphones
From 2017 roaming charges will be a frightful expense of the past in the EU (although they will still apply in the parts of Europe outside of the European Economic Area so be careful of this in countries like Serbia, Russia and Ukraine, for example). Thankfully your phone bill will no longer cause you great anguish upon your return home. 😀
Roaming charges for calls and data have been forcibly slashed across the European Union
The acceptance of credit cards is now almost universal in Europe (at least for Mastercard and Visa – American Express is not widely accepted). This means that you can avoid been being ripped off by high rates for changing currency at the bureau de change in the airport upon arrival.
Sometimes there are transaction fees (so you need to check those with your bank), including if you choose to pay in your local currency when abroad. For example, if you are in Paris, France and using your American credit card then perhaps you will be given the option of paying in dollars as opposed to euros. There is an additional fee if you choose to pay in dollars so I always check the mid-market exchange rate on my smartphone before deciding in which currency to pay.
There is now also less reason to carry wades of foreign currency on your trips. Credit cards make paying abroad a lot more convenient, as well as, reducing your losses if you are robbed on a trip. In such an unfortunate case, you will have to report your card stolen and pay a fee for a new one but this is a lot better than potentially losing your entire budget for a trip. 😀
Making payments is now relatively easy in Europe
If you are the kind of guy who wants to go to Eastern Europe to party hard, meet beautiful women, just have an unforgettable experience and learn loads of lifelong skills all during your stay in a city like Odesa, Kyiv, Kharkiv, Lviv, Minsk, Moscow or Saint Petersburg then …
you need to go here to the Live the Tsar Experience page or apply directly with the following application form.
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