Image Alt

Europe

Europe: a continent with thousands of years of history, a rich cultural heritage and some of the world’s most breathtaking scenery. So much for the traveller to discover and explore and all made much easier thanks to the European Union (EU). You can cross many borders within the EU without being checked and the euro makes it easier to shop around for bargains. You have easy access to healthcare should you need it and your dog or cat can travel with you. If you drive, your driving licence and motor insurance policy issued in one EU country are valid in all the others. And using your mobile phone abroad is getting much cheaper.

 

The European Union of 28 countries stretches over the continent of Europe from Lapland in the north to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the west coast of Ireland to the shores of Cyprus: a rich tapestry of landscapes from rocky coastlines to sandy beaches, from fertile pastureland to arid plains, from lakes and forests to arctic tundra. The peoples of Europe, with their diverse traditions, cultures and languages, make up around 7 % of the world’s population. Their historic heritage is charted in prehistoric cave paintings, Greek and Roman antiquities, Moorish architecture, medieval fortresses, Renaissance palaces and baroque churches. Modern Europe too attracts the traveller, with its vibrant cities, colourful cultural festivities, winter and summer sports and varied cuisine. Europeans love to travel. The removal of most passport and baggage formalities and the use of the same currency — the euro — in 19 EU countries have made travelling much easier. The creation of a single market of more than 500 million people has brought wider choice and lower prices. In fact most Europeans find it as easy to travel around the EU as it is to travel in their home country.

 

Documents you will need For EU citizens Passport or identity card There are no longer any controls at the borders between 22 EU countries. This is thanks to the Schengen rules, which are part of EU law. All EU countries, except for Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom, are full Schengen members. Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland are also Schengen members but are not in the EU. The Schengen rules remove all internal border controls but put in place effective controls at the external borders of the EU and introduce a common visa policy. Internal border controls may exceptionally be reintroduced for a limited period if there is a serious threat to public order or internal security in a given Member State. You will therefore need to present a valid passport or ID card when travelling to or returning from the six nonSchengen countries and when entering or leaving the EU at the external borders. Carry them when travelling in the EU because they may be required for identification or security purposes. Before travelling outside the EU, check what documents are required by the non-EU country you plan to visit. Be aware that the only valid ID is the one obtained from national authorities. Children must have their own passport or ID card. Visa You will not need a visa for travelling within the EU.

 

For non-EU citizens Passport You will need a valid passport. Visa There are more than 50 countries whose nationals do not need a visa to visit the EU for up to 90 days. In general, most EU citizens do not need a visa to visit these non-EU countries either. They include Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and the United States. The list of countries whose nationals require visas to travel to Ireland or the United Kingdom differs slightly from other EU countries. Apply for a visa at the consulate or embassy of the country you plan to visit. If you hold a Schengen visa you can travel to all the Schengen countries. Moreover, if you have a valid residence permit issued by one of those Schengen countries, you can stay for up to 90 days in other Schengen countries. You may need a national visa to visit the non-Schengen EU countries.

 

Money

The euro is currently used by around two thirds of EU citizens, or more than 337 million people in 19 EU countries: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain (see insert map overleaf). The symbol for the euro is €. Euro notes are identical in all countries but each country issues its own coins, with one common side and one side displaying a distinctive national design. All the notes and coins can be used in all EU countries that have adopted the euro, including many of their overseas territories. Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City use the euro as their national currency, in agreement with the EU. A number of countries and territories, such as Kosovo and Montenegro, use the euro as their de facto currency. In European countries outside the euro area, many hotels, shops and restaurants, particularly in tourist areas, accept payment in euros as well as the national currency, although they are not legally obliged to do so. Cash and cards EU rules now ensure that banks charge the same fees for international payments in euros within the EU as for a national transaction of the same value in euros. So withdrawing euros from a cash machine anywhere in the EU costs you the same as it does in your own country from a cash machine that does not belong to your bank. The same fees must apply to all payments by debit or credit cards in euros, to euro credit transfers or direct debit payments, no matter whether the transaction takes place in your own country or within the EU. Charges for any transactions may of course differ significantly between banks. International payments in other currencies are not subject to these provisions. Block any lost or stolen bank cards immediately by calling the issuer. Make a note of the number to ring before you travel. If you enter or leave the EU with €10 000 or more in cash (or its equivalent in other currencies) you must declare it to the customs authorities.

Shopping

Within the EU There are no limits on what you can buy and take with you when you travel between EU countries, as long as it is for personal use and not for resale. Taxes (VAT and excise duties) are included in the price you pay and no further payment of tax can be due in any other EU country. Tobacco and alcohol To determine whether tobacco and alcohol are for personal use, each country can set guide levels. If you carry a larger quantity of these goods, you may be questioned to check that you have no commercial intent. However, countries may not set their guide levels lower than: ƒ 800 cigarettes, ƒ 400 cigarillos, ƒ 200 cigars, ƒ 1 kg of tobacco, ƒ 10 litres of spirits, ƒ 20 litres of fortified wine (such as port or sherry), ƒ 90 litres of wine (of which, a maximum of 60 litres of sparkling wine), ƒ 110 litres of beer. Food There are no general restrictions on carrying meat or dairy products when travelling within the EU.

 

Coming into the EU If you enter the EU from a non-EU country, you can bring with you goods free of VAT and excise duties for personal use within the limits set out below. The same applies if you come from the Canary Islands, the Channel Islands, Gibraltar or other territories where EU rules on VAT and excise duties do not apply. Alcoholic drinks ƒ 1 litre of spirits over 22 % vol. or 2 litres of fortified or sparkling wine ƒ 4 litres of still wine ƒ 16 litres of beer.

 

Tobacco products Each EU country chooses whether to apply the higher or the lower limits to travellers coming from outside the EU. If it applies the lower limits it may apply them only to land and sea travellers (Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Sweden) or to all travellers (Estonia and Romania). higher limit lower limit 200 cigarettes or 40 cigarettes or 100 cigarillos or 20 cigarillos or 50 cigars or 10 cigars or 250 g tobacco or 50 g tobacco Travellers under the age of 17 cannot make use of these alcohol and tobacco allowances. Other goods, including perfume Up to a value of €430 for air and sea travellers Up to a value of €300 for other travellers Some EU countries apply a lower limit for travellers under 15 but it may not be lower than €150. Food It is illegal to bring back any meat or dairy products, even in small quantities, when coming back into the EU from most countries outside the EU. The only exceptions are Andorra, Faeroe Islands, Greenland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, San Marino and Switzerland. This is to protect EU livestock from animal diseases.

 

Food

It is illegal to bring back any meat or dairy products, even in small quantities, when coming back into the EU from most countries outside the EU. The only exceptions are Andorra, Faeroe Islands, Greenland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, San Marino and Switzerland. This is to protect EU livestock from animal diseases. Help for consumers As a consumer you are guaranteed fair treatment, products which meet acceptable standards and a right of redress if something goes wrong, wherever you are in the EU. Know what you are eating You can be assured of the highest food safety standards because of strict laws on the production, processing and selling of food. Improved food labelling rules mean clearer, more comprehensive and accurate information on food content. Look out for the EU organic logo on all prepackaged organic labelled foodstuffs. Know what you are buying You are protected from a wide range of unfair commercial practices both online and in shops. Pre-ticked boxes on websites are now banned, so that you do not unintentionally pay for travel insurance, say, when buying a plane ticket online. Unjustified surcharges for paying by credit card online have also been banned. Resolve any problems European Consumer Centres give practical information on EU consumer rights as well as free advice and assistance with cross-border complaints or disputes. There are centres in all 28 Member States and in Iceland and Norway. There is also a useful ECC-Net Travel app with lots of practical help and information. Cosmetic products have to indicate how long they can be used after opening. Check the open jar symbol. Sunscreen products have clear labelling, including a standardised indication of UVA protection. Marking on certain products such as toys, electrical products and mobile phones indicates that the manufacturer has certified that they meet all relevant EU safety, health and environmental protection requirements. The EU Ecolabel is awarded to products that meet high environmental standards. It can also help you to identify environmentally friendly hotels, youth hostels or campsites. Compare prices The full price, including VAT, of all goods for sale must be clearly displayed, as well as the unit price — the price per kilo or per litre. When booking a flight online, the total price of the ticket, including charges and taxes, must be visible from the start of the booking process.

 

Time zones

Summer time Daylight saving time begins across the EU on 27 March 2016, when clocks are moved forward an hour, and it ends on 30 October 2016, when clocks are put back an hour. The dates for 2017 are 26 March and 29 October.