For many long-term travelers and digital nomads the worst thing about Europe is the 90 day tourist visa restrictions.
If you’re not from Europe, specifically the Schengen Zone in the European Union, then you’re not fortunate enough to spend unlimited amounts of time exploring, living in and traveling throughout the bulk of the most popular European cities.
In case you’re unaware, most travelers to the Schengen Zone in the European Union are given a 90 day tourist visa that’s only valid to use in the EU for every 90 out of 180 days. What this means is that for 90 days you can visit nearly everywhere in Europe that’s attractive to long-term travelers and digital nomads.
The most popular countries included in this 90-day list are:
- Czech Republic
- And many more
Some of the best cities to travel within, and cheapest cities to live in long term while still enjoying a higher quality of life, are in the Schengen Zone so it’s somewhat of an issue if after 90 days you have to leave and spend another 90 days somewhere else.
Before I cover the best countries to stay in that aren’t in the Schengen zone let me go over what the Schengen zone is exactly.
What’s the Schengen Zone and Why Does It Have Its Own Visa?
The Schengen Zone, or area, is a group of 26 different European countries that have joined together and gotten rid of any passport and border controls.
The countries share a common border that allows for more efficient and increased trade, increased security and has made for much easier international travel for many EU citizens.
More than 400 million people are able to take advantage of the Schengen area by being able to travel and work freely in any of the member countries.
How Does this Apply to You?
As I mentioned earlier if you’re a visitor to Europe from outside the European Union and Schengen Area then it’s likely you’re automatically given a 90 day tourist visa. That means that every 90 days you need to leave the Schengen Area or you run the risk of overstaying your visa.
Overstaying can incur fines, jail time and you can even get a stamp on your passport that will prevent you from entering the Schengen Area for up to five years.
While the Schengen Area passport-free zone has made it much easier for backpackers and short-term travelers to explore Europe it’s a lot more difficult for long-term travelers and digital nomads to stay for extended periods.
I’ve run into this issue myself but thankfully there are quite a few alternative countries that are still worth visiting for the extra 90 days until the Schengen/European Union tourist visa resets itself.
The Top 7 Non-Schengen countries to Visit in Europe when Your EU Tourist Visa Expires
Belgrade was one of the most surprising and interesting cities I’ve ever visited and deserves the number one spot on this list. Before I visited Belgrade I was convinced that it was a dirty, postwar city full of gypsies and other unsavory characters.
Thankfully, I couldn’t have been more wrong and it turns out that Belgrade is one of my favorite places I’ve ever lived.
Easy to reach from most of mainland Europe, Belgrade is a beautiful city has a rich, tumultuous history, delicious food and a world-class nightlife.
Digital nomads and long-term travelers alike will definitely have plenty of things to do in Belgrade while enjoying fast Internet, modern conveniences and a wide selection of national and international cuisine at a great price.
As one of the cheapest cities to visit in Europe, Belgrade is a great choice for those looking to spend their 90 days out of the European Union while waiting for a tourist visa to reset.
In regards to the cost-of-living it’s possible to get by with less than $1000 per month while still enjoying many meals out, regular beers and relaxing in a comfortable, spacious apartment.
On AirBnb there are plenty of affordable apartments with a great location and many positive reviews.
Belgrade has a thriving nightlife and a very popular coffee culture so if you’re into night clubs, bars or splavs (river boat clubs) then Belgrade is a great choice for you.
There are also many different coffee shops and local cafés where you can enjoy a nice coffee drink while getting some work done. Everything worth exploring and checking out is within walking distance of the city center so a car isn’t needed nor is it really worth it to use public transportation.
For day trips there are plenty of options and I recommend taking time to visit the three cities of Novi Sad, Nis and Zemun.
Romania is another gorgeous country that doesn’t get too much positive press. From a long, beautiful coastline to impressive and inspiring mountains Romania has it all when it comes to nature and outdoor adventuring.
Between Brasov and Bucharest you’re able to choose from living in a densely populated, urban environment or a calm and laid back city nestled in the foothills of the Carpathian mountains.
In Romania you’ll be pleased to find some of the fastest Internet speeds in the world so if you need to get your work done, upload photos or videos or just browse the web there’s hardly a better country to choose from. I spent time in both Brasov and Bucharest and I visited more than 20 other smaller towns, villages and cities in the country.
Along with Serbia, Romania is a very cheap country to visit and stay long-term in. There is a wide variety of apartments available on AirBnb and the prices are quite reasonable for long-term stays.
If you love hardy, heavy and greasy dishes then you’re bound to fall in love with Romanian cuisine. I loved all of goulash and meat-based dishes that were served across the country and especially the fresh fish from the Black Sea.
Bucharest is a good choice if you want to spend time in a more urban environment. It’s got the nightclubs, cafés, world class restaurants and everything you would need to feel comfortable and right at home. It’s not as modern or updated as cities like Berlin, Oslo and Austria but it has its own unique, Balkan vibe that’s easy to fall in love with.
Brasov is the complete opposite of Bucharest. If you’re looking for somewhere quiet with access to plenty of natural beauty Brasov is where you’ll want to be.
With the the Carpathian mountains in your backyard, access to endless hiking trails and beautiful natural areas, and all of it within a couple hours drive of many different mall, beautiful Romanian villages, Brasov is the ideal place if you want to get away from it all and not have to deal with any distractions.
In regards to costs you can live extremely well on less than US$1000 per month and you could definitely get away with spending about half of that if you stick to a tight budget. There are plenty of great deals to be found if you’re looking for long-term AirBnb rentals and it’s possible to eat out everyday for less than $10.
Between the wide variety of nature options available along with a decent selection of gorgeous cities worth exploring Romania definitely earns a spot on the list of places you need to visit if your tourist visa runs out.
Ukraine, specifically Lviv, is another personal favorite of mine. It’s one of the biggest countries in Europe but other than the war that is being fought in the Eastern part of the country you don’t hear too much about it. That’s quite unfortunate because many parts of Ukraine are extremely beautiful and it’s a great country to thoroughly explore.
In the Western part of the country you’ll find Ukraine’s second biggest city, Lviv. This city is where I would recommend you to travel to if you’re looking for an affordable destination to wait for your tourist visa to reset.
It’s only a quick overnight train away from Kraków, and Lviv is a great base for exploring the rest of Ukraine. I’ve only spent about 10-days in Ukraine but it’s high on the list of places I want to return and spend more time traveling throughout.
Lately the economy has suffered quite a bit due to the conflict in Eastern Ukraine but the financial issues are actually a plus for tourism and visitors from Western Europe or North America.
Not only does your dollar go further but the locals are much more welcoming to tourists and long-term travelers spending money in their cities. Many young people in Ukraine are able to speak English and it’s completely safe to visit as long as you avoid the conflict ridden areas in the Eastern part of the country.
Apartments in Lviv can be found for very reasonable prices through AirBnb and you can find a beautiful apartment, centrally located in the the Old Town for anywhere between US$400-$500 per month.
It’s also very affordable to eat out regularly and even cheaper if you want to buy your own ingredients and cook at home.
The Internet is really fast so if you’re in need for a quick and reliable Internet connection I definitely recommend heading to Lviv while you wait for your tourist visa in the Schengen Area to reset.
Besides the plenty of things to do in Lviv you’ll also want to check out the capital city of Kiev. It’s a beautiful, culturally rich and historic city that has plenty to offer visitors and is a good choice for a quick getaway if you’re staying in Lviv.
You can also head to Chernobyl for a more unique travel experience and if you’re visiting in the summer you’ll definitely want to enjoy the seaside in Odessa.
If you haven’t noticed yet there is a Eastern Europe and Balkan theme for the country’s worth visiting that aren’t in the Schengen area.
Bosnia is no exception, and while Sarajevo is quickly becoming a popular budget travel destination it’s still one of my recommended countries to visit while you wait for your tourist visa to reset.
The first time you visit Sarajevo you might be surprised to learn that just 20 years earlier the city was ravaged by war.
Today, Sarajevo is the thriving capital of Bosnia and has become somewhat of a Balkan hub for long-term travelers and digital nomads.
From delicious cuisine to seemingly endless cafés and niche coffee shops Sarajevo is definitely a great choice if you’re looking to reset your tourist visa or explore a new, off the beaten path city full of life and adventure.
If you’re traveling in the summer you’ll be able to beat the shade in the many forests that cover the mountainsides adjacent to the city and if you’re a winter traveler you’ll love taking advantage of some of the best priced skiing in Europe just a short 25 minute ride away from the city center.
When it comes to price Sarajevo is comparable to the other cities on this list.
For around US$1000 per month you’ll be able to take advantage of a high quality of life while being able to eat out every day and not have to worry about any expenses.
If you’re traveling on a budget you can definitely get by spending between US$500 and $700 per month. This includes rent, entertainment, food and a few day or weekend-long trips.
I definitely suggest taking a look on AirBnb to see all of the apartments that are available in your price range and be sure to look as close to the city center as possible. It’s a very walkable city and you’ll be able to access anything you need to on foot as long as you’re in the pedestrian-friendly city-center area.
If you’re looking for something more secluded and laid-back then Mostar is just what you’re looking for. Mostar is a small, medieval and historic city that’s only about two hours away from Sarajevo. It’s most famous for the Mostar Bridge but it’s an underrated location for long-term travelers and digital nomads.
Many people only visit the city for a day or two so early in the morning and late at night it tends to be really quiet and serene. It’s even quieter in the off-season and also more affordable as there tends to be less tourists so AirBnb owners and other accommodation venues are more likely to give long-term stay discounts.
It’s a truly enchanting place and it’s definitely worth spending some time in if you’re looking for a laid-back destination as you wait for your Schengen visa to reset.
The Macedonian capital of Skopje definitely deserves a spot on this list.
Again, it’s located in the heart of the Balkans but it’s a great city if you’re looking to spend a month or two outside of the Schengen and you want a unique, somewhat off the beaten path experience.
Skopje is slowly becoming a hotspot for digital nomads and long-term travelers looking for an affordable destination with fast Internet and great food.
It’s not often that you hear about people visiting Macedonia but that’s why it’s such a good choice.
For under US$1000 per month you can enjoy a very high quality of life and not have to worry too much about your daily expenses.
If you want to stick to a tight budget you could definitely get away with spending less than US$500 per month and there are plenty of affordable and comfortable AirBnb apartments available online.
With a population exceeding 1.7 million people Skopje looks like a big metropolis on paper but seems like much more of a small town once you’re there.
There is plenty of renovation and construction going on throughout the city and it’s easy to see why the city has turned into a technological hub.
If you’re looking for entertainment, along with an affordable place to stay, Skopje also turns out to be a good choice.
At all hours of the day you’ll be able to walk out and enjoy live music, popular clubs, full cafés and bars stuffed to capacity no matter what time you head out.
Not as popular as such cities like Dubrovnik, Split or Zadar, Zagreb is still a good choice to spend at least a month if not just for the easy access to its beautiful coastal cities.
The more popular beach towns tend to get extremely busy during the spring, summer and fall months and during the winter no one wants to visit them so that’s why Zagreb is your best bet year round.
It’s definitely one of the smaller capital cities on this list but thanks to fast Internet and affordable prices it’s one of the best destinations for digital nomads and long-term travelers looking to save money and wait out the 90 day tourist visa from the European Union.
With a beautiful and picturesque Old Town split into two distinct areas Zagreb is not only a wonderful place to walk around and enjoy the sights but for such a small capital it really has all you need to enjoy yourself for an extended period of time.
You’ll be able to choose from a wide variety of quality restaurants along with unique cafés and a quickly growing club/nightlife culture to keep you entertained. Food is cheap, beer is even cheaper and when it comes to rent if you’re able to spend around US$500 per month there’s almost nothing that you couldn’t find in your price range.
I would say it’s one of the cheaper cities on this list and it’s perfect if you’re looking to save money while building an online business or growing your blog/website. From Zagreb you can also easily reach the coastal cities if you’re looking for a city break or you want to spend some time away from the capital.
Last but not least, Bulgaria is the country I would finally recommend for those long-term travelers looking to wait for a visa reset. Its capital city, Sofia, is quite a big place but tends to be often overlooked by tourists and long-term travelers alike.
I’m not sure why as the Internet is very fast, there are plenty of things to see and do and the food is delicious. It’s safe, rent is very affordable and it’s definitely one of the top options for places I would travel to outside of the Schengen.
The city itself is rich in history and if you’re looking for some day-trips you have plenty of options including the beautiful Black Sea coastline along with a handful of unique and quaint rural Bulgarian villages and small medieval towns.
Sofia itself is one of the most dynamic and interesting Balkan capitals with a mix of European and Communist architecture along with countless Orthodox churches that are all worth checking out.
Also, if you’re into winter sports or hiking there are plenty of natural areas nearby that are easily accessible and during the winter it’s possible to ski on some well-developed and affordable ski mountains and resorts.
For between US$70 to $1,000 per per month you can live very well in Sofia and I definitely recommend visiting whether you’re looking for a long-term stay or a new city to checkout.