What you will need to know when traveling to Europe

By dev_ln on Mon, 09/21/2020 - 03:59


A handy guide to, documents, money, etiquette and more

September 2020 ­– Europe today is a delightful combination of old world and new world charm. The food, the art, the culture, and the stunning landscapes are enough to draw anyone to the continent. The Schengen area of Europe (a 26-country region) is not only easy to travel but is full of diversity in terms of language, attractions, and geography.

Before you book your flight, there are few things you will need to know and do before you ‘cross the pond.’ Let’s dive in.

Do not forget your travel documents – both paper and electronic

You can’t go to Europe empty-handed. There are a few documents that you will need to obtain before setting off.

Passport – A passport is required for all international travel, and your passport must be valid for at least three months after your anticipated return.

ETIAS visa waiver – ETIAS is the European Travel Information and Authorization System, which is essentially a background check and electronic visa waiver that allows you to freely travel within and across the Schengen area borders. Either a visa (see below) or the waiver will be required for Schengen area travel once ETIAS goes into effect (anticipated in early 2023).

Travel Visa – A visa is not required for most short-term travel in Europe; however, long-term travel (more than the 90-day limit) will require a visa, including long-term work contracts and school.

International Driving Permit (IDP) – An IDP is required to rent a vehicle and drive in Europe.

Child Documents –Check individual countries for required documents for children.

Read on for more information about the European Travel Information and Authorization System.


The days of traveling to Europe with just a passport are going by the wayside. Citizens from 61 countries, including the U.S., will soon be required to travel with either a long-term visa or a short-term travel visa waiver (ETIAS) when traveling in the Schengen area. Learn about the hassle-free ETIAS application process

The European Travel Information and Authorization System—a visa waiver program (VWP)—is designed to increase external border security while also allowing travelers to easily cross borders within the Schengen zone without additional paperwork.

As opposed to the lengthy visa process, the ETIAS application is done entirely online and will take less than 20 minutes to complete. You will need a valid passport and email address at the time of application, as well as a credit/debit card for the processing fee.

Applications are expected to be processed and approved in just minutes, but in unusual cases the process may take several hours or longer. We recommend applying for the waiver at least five days before you travel.

The ETIAS visa waiver is valid for three years (or until your passport expires if that happens first). Once approved, you are free to travel anywhere within the Schengen area for up to 90 days within each/any 180-day period.

Visiting Historic Sites

Go anywhere in Europe and you’re bound to run into historic sites. However, many of these sites are protected and have restrictions regarding food and drink (and even footwear).

Take the right kind of pictures

Photos make for wonderful souvenirs, but some countries have restrictions on what you can take pictures of, like airports and government buildings. Doing so can possibly result in a fine, or even questioning. While photo taking is mostly welcome in tourist area, be sure not to aim the camera into windows of private residences or at people without their consent.

European etiquette

visit lovely Costa del Sol with ETIAS

Europe is known for culture and etiquette, and it is both respectful and feels good to fit in. Here are a few ways to be courteous while traveling:


  • Quiet voices: It’s expected to speak at a quiet volume (think library voice). Spend an afternoon in a charming café to get a feel for typical conversation levels.
  • Polite conversation: Try the local language and polite conversation when interacting with locals, particularly before making a request. A quick How are you? or Good afternoon Is both customary and creates a more enjoyable interaction.
  • Dress to impress (sort of): Everyday European fashion tends to be more casual-chic than the level of casual Americans tend to sport. Save the sneakers and athletic wear for the beach.


Food and dining and up a whole other set of customs:

  • Ask for the check – Servers typically do not bring the check until asked, and you are encouraged to linger over a meal.
  • Tipping – Unlike in the U.S., tipping is not the norm in most places.


All about money and how to pay

The euro (€) is used in many Schengen area countries so research before you travel. Some countries may accept the euro as payment but give change in local currency (like Iceland).

Cash is preferred in daily exchanges, but many vendors accept major credit cards, particularly for purchases like hotels and rental cars. Let your bank know before you travel internationally and consider foreign transaction fees when using a card. ATMs are generally more favorable than currency exchange kiosks.


Plan ahead with the ETIAS visa waiver program

The ETIAS visa waiver will allow for visa-free travel to the Schengen area for you to sate your wanderlust. Review the ETIAS countries list to start planning your trip and get ready for adventure! While the ETIAS application is not yet available you can check your ETIAS eligibility now here and read more about the strategy for a safer Europe that the European Union (EU) and European Parliament have adopted to ensure safer internal borders.

Bookmark our blog to stay up to date on the new ETIAS travel waiver news.