For many people a 90-day tourist visa in Europe simply isn’t enough time to explore everywhere and check out all of the best cities. Unfortunately there are many issues in regards to continuous long term travel in Europe.
Once you’re aware of what it takes to extend your time abroad you can start making the necessary arrangements and eventually be able to spend more than 90 days in Europe.
How to Stay in Europe for Longer than 90 Days
There are 4 important factors that ultimately decide the length of your stay:
- Your passport (travel visas and holiday working visa agreements)
- Your budget/expenses (how you will support yourself)
- Accommodation (where you’re staying)
- Your skills and education (any degrees or certificates you have)
Each of these factors play an important role in determining where in Europe you can stay and for how long.
Staying in Europe for More than 90 Days: Know the Law
Keep in mind that none of these methods are illegal and I highly recommend overstaying your tourist visa. Should you decide to overstay your visa by few days you probably won’t get into any trouble except for a stern talking to.
However, if you overstay your visa by a few weeks or months you can expect to get dealt with very seriously and you risk not being able to travel in Europe for your foreseeable future.
All you need to know is that if you’re travelling to a Schengen country you can only stay for 90 days out of every 180 days. I’ll go into what the Schengen is in just a moment but don’t forget about your 90 day tourist visa. It will reset on day 181 and you can start your 90 days over again but always be sure to check your dates and travel times to guarantee you’re not breaking the law.
What is the Schengen Area?
The Schengen Area is a partnership between 26 different European countries. It was created for political and economic purposes and one of the benefits of the Schengen Area is that it gives European citizens the freedom of travel without any borders or passport controls. This means that a citizen in any Schengen Area country can live, travel and work in any other Schengen Area country without having to deal with any immigration laws, borders or other hindrances.
This is both a benefit and a drawback to people wishing to travel in Europe. On one hand you’re able to travel freely between 26 different countries and never have to cross a physical border control or show your passport. On the other hand, you’re limited to 90 days between 26 different countries – that’s only about 3 days per country, which is hardly enough time to explore.
When people talk about wanting to stay in Europe for longer than 90 days they typical refer to being able to spend more than 90 days in the Schengen Area. The majority of the countries in Europe are in Schengen, and essentially all of the ones that people want to spend time in are the leading members (France, Germany, Spain, etc).
If you’re from a country that has a partnership with the Schengen Area, such as the United States, Canada or Australia, then you get a 90 day tourist visa by default but if you want to stay longer there is a lot of additional work involved.
What Countries are in the Schengen Area?
As you can see the Schengen Area covers most of Europe. The little space you see down in the bottom-right is the Balkans and the only Schengen countries are the darker highlighted ones.
What are the Non-Schengen Area Countries?
There are a handful of non-Schengen countries in Europe. Each of them have their own guidelines and tourist visas so I suggest doing a bit of research to see if your country has any special relationships with them. For Canadian and American travelers here are the default tourist visa’s you’ll get upon entry:
- The U.K. – 180 days (Canadians can easily extend their visa here)
- Ireland – 90 days
- Romania – 90 days
- Croatia (On their way to joining) – 90 days
- Ukraine – 90 days
- Belarus – 30-90 days (you need to apply for visa in Belarus but it’s a simple process)
8 Ways to Stay in Europe Longer Than a 90-Day Tourist Visa
It’s really not easy to stay in Europe longer than 90 days, especially if you want to go backpacking or travel. The methods I’ll list below all require some work and none of them are guaranteed to be easy or even a realistic option for you.
Split Your Time Between Schengen and Non-Schengen Countries
As a long term traveler this is the way I skirt the 90-day tourist visa issue for Schengen countries. How it works is that you can spend 90 days in the Schengen Area and the next 90 days out of the Schengen Area, but still in Europe.
For example, you can spend the first 90 days visiting France, Germany, Greece, Poland or anywhere else you want in the Schengen and as soon as your time runs out you can head somewhere like Ukraine, Romania, United Kingdom or Serbia where you can spend the next 90 days as your Schengen Area tourist visa resets itself.
This is the easiest way to keep traveling in Europe for longer than 90 days and it gives you a chance to explore different parts of Europe that you might not have ever considered.
Get A Working Holiday Visa
Many countries around the world have a visa agreement with countries in the Schengen Area that will allow you to easily get a working holiday visa. You’ll have to do your research to see if your country has an agreement but for Canadian citizens it’s really easy to get a working holiday visa with the U.K. and a handful of other EU countries.
The visa will typically last between 1 and 2 years so they’re great if you want to stay in Europe for 6 months or even longer. During that time you’ll be allowed to work and travel freely throughout all of the Schengen Area without having to worry about how much time you have left.
There is some work required in getting these visas and keep in mind that you’ll actually have to work while you’re in Europe so you won’t be able to spend all your time travelling but it will definitely give you more freedom and options than the basic 90-days.
Check out this page to see if your country has a working holiday visa agreement with any of the Schengen Area countries.
Enroll and Study at a European/Schengen Area University
For many people this isn’t a practical option but if you become a full-time student in a European country you’ll automatically be granted a student visa. Not only are there plenty of programs in Europe that are taught in English but it’s also much cheaper, and in some cases free, to study abroad in a European university.
With a student visa you can travel freely throughout the EU and since you’re a student and won’t be working as much you’ll have a lot of free time for travelling.
Alternatively, you could apply to a university, get in and receive your student visa and choose to never show up. During the length of your student visa you could travel the whole time and leave Europe once the visa expires. However, a degree from a European university will open a lot of doors for you in Europe. If you’re lucky you could find a company that would hire you and from there you could get residency and eventually gain citizenship status.
Rather than going to university for degree you could enroll in a foreign language course. This is a practical option because it will give you the opportunity to learn a new language and, by enrolling, you will also receive a student visa. The problem with these courses is that they tend to be a lot more expensive than university courses, especially for foreigners, but with a student visa you be able to find part-time work that will help cover your expenses and give you some extra spending money for travel.
Apply for a Long Term Tourist Visa
This might seem like an easy way to extend your 90 day tourist visa but getting a long term tourist visa isn’t as easy as you might think. You will have to do your research to see which countries offer these long-term tourist visas but one of the main requirements is that you have enough money in your bank to support yourself during the timeframe of the tourist visa.
These visas are typically given for one year and many of the countries will require that you have at least $25,000 in your bank account, a permanent address in your country of residence and up-to-date, valid health or travel insurance. The application process is quite long so expect it to take six months or even up to a year for your application to go through and hear back from the country you’re applying to.
Join a Government Run Language Assistance Program
There are a few different countries in Europe, specifically France and Spain, that have an English language assistance program that is funded by, and under control of, the government. In order to join this program you will need at least a conversational level of fluency of the local language.
Essentially you will work in a classroom as a language assistant while getting paid to help the locals further their education and during this time you can improve your own fluency with the language as well. The pay varies depending on where and who you work for but it will be enough to cover your living expenses and you will have enough spare time to travel throughout Europe. It’s a good way to spend more than just 90 days in Europe while helping people at the same time.
Teach English As A Foreign Language
TEFL is a great way to extend your stay in Europe while being able to get paid and travel. All you need is a certificate, which can cost anywhere between a few hundred to a few thousand dollars depending on where you get your training, and then you can apply to English teaching jobs in Europe. Depending on where you apply and get accepted you’ll be able to get either a six month or one year visa, which can definitely be renewed if you wish to continue teaching.
Getting a TEFL certificate won’t only help you get a job teaching English in Europe but it can also be used anywhere else in the world that you want to visit and travel for an extended period of time.
Freelance or Self Employment Visa
For individuals who are location independent or self-employed it’s possible to get a self employment visa from either France or Germany. In order to get this visa you will have to sign up and apply for it abroad, if you want the one from France, and if you want the one from Germany you’ll have to be in the country before you apply.
As long as you meet all of the requirements, such as being able to provide proof of a consistent income, then the application process is fairly straightforward. If you don’t read either French or German then you will want to ask a friend who does or pay a translator to go through the application process with you to make sure that you fill everything out properly.
If you are accepted you will likely be granted a one-year visa but keep in mind that it will not be easy, and likely impossible, to renew a self-employment visa. This is a good visa to try to get if you are a travel blogger or working online for a company based in North America. It would be illegal for you to find a job in those countries while on a freelance visa but you will be able to travel freely and spend more than just 90 days in the Schengen area.
Check Your European Passport Eligibility
If your parents or grandparents are from Europe and its likely you will be eligible for a European passport. For example, if either of your parents emigrated from their home country to your current country then as long as you fill out the paperwork with the relevant information you will be granted a passport from their home country.
It doesn’t have to be both parents, only one, but be prepared for this process to take a while since the application requires you to fill out quite a bit of information about your parents.
Never Overstay Your Tourist Visa
There are a few blogs out there that will tell you that you can risk it and overstay your tourist visa. Not only is this illegal but it’s a very bad idea if you ever wish to travel to Europe in the future. If you only overstayed by a few days then it’s likely you won’t run into any problems but any longer than that and there are a few different negative outcomes that you could run into.
Right away when the border guard notices you overstayed you’ll be escorted into a private room and interrogated. Then, depending on how long you overstayed, you will either be fined or arrested and deported back to your home country.
Either way, you’ll be banned from being able to enter the European Union or the Schengen area for at least one year and it’s not unheard of for the ban to last more than five or ten years. If you are unlucky enough then you’ll even get an illegal immigrant stamp in your passport and you’ll be heavily questioned and screened regardless of where you travel in the future.
Tips for Saving Money for Traveling Long Term
Slow Down and Enjoy Yourself
The problem with having only a 90-day tourist visa is that you have to rush to see everything you want. This usually means spending only a few days in each city and not being able to truly experience what it’s all about. By slowing down, regardless of what visa you get, you’re able to learn more about the local customs, culture and history and this gives you a broader perspective on how different people live.
Rather than having to pack it all in during a few short weeks you can actually relax and check out everything you want. You can spend a few hours wandering around a museum or hanging out in that one special cafe without having to feel guilty about missing out on something.
Spending more than a few days in one place will also help to reduce your transportation costs. Not only could you simply walk from one place to another in the city you’re staying in but you also won’t have to shell out for a new bus, train or plane ticket every few days. You can also head out on shorter adventures to cities nearby and take advantage of hotel or transportation deals rather than having to pay the fixed rate because you don’t have any flexibility.
Another drawback of the 90-day tourist visa is having to switch your accommodation every few days. Heading somewhere new means you have to find a new hostel or hotel to stay at and, even if they’re affordable or budget options, the costs can still add up. For example, $20 per night at a hostel is over $600 per month in total! For that price you can rent a beautiful apartment in many cities in Europe and not have to put up with people snoring or always having to worry about your gear.
Using AirBnb, specifically the Sublet option (www.AirBnb.com/Sublet), you can find great places to rent no matter what your budget is. You can choose between the entire apartment or a private room but regardless which style you choose it’s still superior to staying in a hostel or hotel every single night.
Having your own AirBnb apartment also gives you a base from which you can explore the rest of the country or region from. You can leave some of the heavier stuff at home and travel for a few days without having to carry it all on your back or in a suitcase. If you received an extended visa you can still use AirBnb for finding even longer-term rentals and I recommend it as the best way to find long term apartment rentals in Europe.
If you haven’t signed up yet, I suggest signing up through my link here and you can get $25 off your first stay!
Cook at Home
One of the biggest expenses when it comes to traveling Europe on a 90-day tourist visa is that you don’t have any time or the right tools for cooking so you have to eat out a lot. Even if you try to save money by sharing meals or eating at the grocery store it’s not that enjoyable and it can be stressful having to search for every single meal.
When you’re long term travelling in Europe you have the time to make your own meals at home. This way you can eat what you want and guarantee that you’re going to get a proper and fulfilling meal every time, should you choose to cook. You can buy groceries in larger amounts and keep what you need in your apartment without having to only eat something fresh or whatever is available on the street.
Cooking at home will definitely keep costs down and will actually let you spend more money on seldomly eating out so you can opt for a higher quality or better rated restaurant rather than some fast food kebap or something similar. Even if you don’t like cooking you can always keep snacks or fresh fruits and vegetables available so you always have something around that’s ready to eat.