OK, time for something boring but oh-so important. For a while now "Europe" has been threatening to introduce a fee for foreign tourists wanting to enter. They are not unique in this - the US, Canada and Australia along with many other of our most popular destinations, have had such fees for quite some time now.
Where "Europe" is unique is that the fee doesn't apply to all of Europe, nor does it apply to the entire European Union. The fee applies to the Schengen Area, which consists of 27 European countries that have agreed to create common entry and exit requirements in order to remove the need for internal borders. Not all Schengen countries are part of the EU (although 23 are) and some EU countries have chosen not to be part of the Schengen area.
And then there are two EU countries (Romania and Bulgaria) that have removed border checks at air and maritime borders but not at land borders.
Confused? Here's what you need to know about Europe, the EU, Schengen and the upcoming fee.
The following countries are full members of the Schengen Area: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. (See also the map at the bottom)
It means that once you enter any of these countries, you can travel from there to any of the other countries without being stopped at the border. Canadian and US passport holders can stay in the Schengen area for a maximum of 90 days in every 180 days. Passports must be valid for three months from the date you leave the Schengen Area.
And the fee? Well, the European Travel and Information Authorization system is now rumoured to come online sometime in 2025. The fee is expected to be EUR7.