Europe’s density of countries makes it easy to fit a variety of cultures and languages into one trip. Fortunately for country hoppers, an alliance called the Schengen Area makes crossing certain borders as easy as interstate travel in the United States. Here are some things to know about the Schengen Area:
What it is: The Schengen Agreement eliminates all internal border patrols between the 25 participating countries. Visitors who enter one of the countries can travel freely within all member countries for up to 90 days. After receiving a passport stamp at your initial entry point, you do not need to show your passport when crossing borders.
What countries are included: Member countries include France, Germany, Greece, Italy and Spain (see a full list here). The Schengen Agreement countries are not the same as the countries in the European Union -- for instance, United Kingdom is in the EU but not the Schengen Area.
What visitors should know: Residents of the U.S. and other exempt countries do not need a visa to enter the Schengen Area. However, you must have a passport that is valid for three months beyond the length of your stay. Business travelers and tourists planning on visiting the Schengen Area for more than 90 days within a six-month period will need to obtain a visa. (Note: Different rules apply to students and job-seekers; check the individual country’s embassy site for more information.)