Europe Travel Rules

Member countries of the European Union (EU) must adhere to strict EU regulations regarding airport facilities and security. The EU is lending financial support to those countries whose airports have not yet met those standards when joining the EU, and in turn those airports have benefited by a strong increase in passenger numbers and airlines.

Those countries who signed the Schengen Agreement ('Schengen Members') have agreed that their citizens can travel free between those countries without the need of a passport. There are also agreements in place regarding tax-free purchases at the Airport by its members. For this reason, Airport security & customs has to divide 'Schengen' and 'Non-Schengen' (foreign) travelers at the Airport. In some older airports, this process is more cumbersome, while newer airport already have this division in place. Foreign' travelers need a visa to enter a Schengen-area country.

The EEA (European Economic Area) combines the EU (European Union) and EFTA (European Trade Association) member countries.. Its purpose is the participation in the European Market trade and movement, without having to be a member of the EU countries. In part, Scandinavian countries apply to citizens from all EEA countries.

EU - European Union

  • Note that a 2010 EU regulation requires departing passengers to show their boarding card before passing through the security checkpoint. You can either print this card at the check-in counter, from a check-in machine, or from the internet; it is also available on your mobile phone, credit/debit card, or airline card.
  • Members of EU: Austria Belgium Bulgaria Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Estonia Finland France Germany Greece Hungary Ireland Italy Latvia Lithuania Luxembourg Malta Netherlands Poland Portugal Romania Slovakia Slovenia Spain Sweden United Kingdom.
  • Candidate members of EU: Croatia, Iceland, Macedonia (formerly Yugo Rep.) and Turkey.
  • Non-EU members: Albania, Andorra, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia/Herzegovina, Georgia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Norway, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Switzerland, Ukraine and Vatican City.

EU Rules for liquids & gels and duty-free purchases

  • (a) You must present your liquids and gels separately from your hand baggage at the security checkpoint. The packages must fit comfortably in the transparent plastic bag and the bag must be sealed. Small metal items (loose change, mobile telephone, keys), coats, jackets and large electrical equipment, such as laptops, must be presented separately at hand baggage screening.
  • (b) Duty-free and Tax-Free items purchased at the airport are permitted in your hand baggage. Liquids and gels will be packed in a specially sealed bag - when necessary - by the shop or on board. Remember that you must be able to prove that the liquids were purchased on the day you are flying. When you transfer, the seal on the bag containing your liquid Duty Free Tax Free purchases can only be broken en route to your final destination. If you made liquid Duty Free & Tax Free purchases in a non-EU country or on board a non-EU airline, they will be confiscated as soon as you transfer at an EU airport.
  • EU Rules for tax-free shopping & VAT: Travelers residing in an EU country can purchase tax-free items after passing through the security line at the Airport and on board of European airlines. Fluids and gels will be sealed at place of purchase. This seal has a maximum validity of one day. When you are transferring at an airport it is not allowed to break the seal until you have reached your destination. All travelers residing in a non-EU country can obtain tax-free merchandise outside of EU airports. Traveler pays the VAT (tax) imposed on the purchase in the shop, and gets a refund of the VAT at the Airport prior to boarding. General restrictions are that traveler stays no more than 6 months when visiting the EU, and that purchases are made no longer than three months prior to export; only goods meant for personal use are eligible for the refund. Travelers must save the purchase receipts and visit Customs before leaving the EU to get a export validation stamp. Receipts can then be sent back to the retailers for a refund request. Also note that each EU country imposes a different VAT percentage which can be reclaimed, and has different minimum purchase amount restrictions.
  • EU Rules for duty-free shopping If your destination is outside the EU, duty-free purchases can only be made before getting through the passport check. Duty-free shops are retail outlets not applying local or national taxes and duties. These outlets were abolished for travel within the EU, but are retained for travelers whose final destination is outside the EU. They also sell to intra-EU travelers but with appropriate taxes. (Some special member territories (i.e., Aland, Livgno & Canary Islands) are within the EU but outside the EU tax union, and thus still continue duty-free sales for all travelers.


Under the Schengen agreement, transiting from one country to another within the Schengen area is done without border controls. In fact, the Schengen visa makes it possible to visit all the countries in the Schengen area and to cross internal borders without further formalities.

  • But be careful - the European Union and the Schengen area are two different zones!
  • Switzerland, which is not a member of the European Union, was just made a member of the Schengen countries, but could lose membership if it refuses to vote to deny Romanians and Bulgarians free access to the country.
  • Schengen Members: Austria Belgium Czech Republic Denmark Estonia Finland France Germany Greece Hungary Italy Latvia Lithuania Luxembourg Malta Netherlands Poland Portugal Slovakia Slovenia Spain Sweden, Switzerland.Schengen members traveling within Schengen countries do not have to show a passport.
  • Non-Schengen countries: Ireland, UK, Romania, Bulgaria, Cypress.
  • Visa Requirements for foreign citizens: Under the Schengen regulations, citizens of most other countries need a valid visa to visit or transit any country in the Schengen area. (This includes all Caribbean Islands, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru & Bolivia in South America; all of Africa and most of Asia). Nationals of certain other countries must have travel insurance, but do not need a short-stay visa--Brazil or Argentina, for example. Those requirements might change. To be certain, the best sources of information will be your embassy, consulate or travel agent. Your passport must be valid for at least six months after your return.
  • The following Countries have visa-free access to the Schengen states for 90 days within a 6-month period: Argetina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Japan, Korea,Malaysia, New Zealand; Paraguay, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela.
  • Obtaining a Visa for the Schengen Area: Your visa will be supplied by the country through which you enter the Schengen area. In addition to your visa application, you need to present a number of documents to the embassy or consulate of the country you are visiting in the Schengen area:
  • 1. Your Schengen visa application form (Use the standard Schengen visa application form and submit to the Consulate the required number of copies.
  • 2. Your passport must be valid for three months after expiration date of the visa you are applying for.
  • 3. You must submit documents stating not only the purpose of your trip but the conditions in which you are travelling as well. Those questions will be set out in the visa application form. Don't forget to provide the proofs with the application form (proof of transportation, reservations, invitation, or accommodation).
  • 4. To obtain a visa, you will need travel insurance of at least 30,000 EUR to cover the costs of repatriation and emergency medical expenses. The AXA Schengen insurance policy, for instance, meets the requirements for obtaining a Schengen visa. The insurance certificate must be presented at the time of delivery of the visa.

EEA Members

Countries that belong to the EEA area: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Frce, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom. Countries that are EEA member countries but NOT part of the European Union are: Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein.