If you’re a long term traveller in Europe, and you’re not one of the lucky bastards to have been born in the EU. Then you’re most likely going to be on a Schengen visa. If you’re new to the concept of the Schengen visa – let’s start at the beginning for you.
What is a Schengen visa?
It’s a visa that allows you free movement between the 26 countries in Europe who have agreed to eliminate internal border control. So as a traveller you can move freely between these countries without having to apply for a visa for every single country you enter.
The Schengen visa allows entry into these countries for a maximum 90 days every 6 months, starting from the date of entry. For more information check out this site https://www.schengenvisainfo.com
Thanks to the introduction of the Schengen visa for travellers, many countries have been more accessible than ever. It has opened up a ‘visa free’ (waived) world to many backpackers and gap year travellers from all over the world.
But what happens when you’re 90 days are up? What if you’re not ready to go home yet – where the hell do you go?
I recently found myself in this predicament, (actually I’m currently in Schengen exile as we speak) so in no particular order.
Georgia – Tbilisi
Georgia and in particular the capital city of Tbilisi has fast become one of our favourite destinations in the whole world. It has something to offer everyone, fascinating history, breathtaking natural beauty, stunning architecture, welcoming locals and some of the tastiest food we’ve discovered on our travels. Plus with a 1 year visa on arrival, it’s a great place to hang out while you wait to re-enter the Schengen Zone.
Bulgaria – Plovdiv
Plovdiv is an ancient city that is finding its feet as a hip and digital destination in Bulgaria. Here you can find everything from ancient ruins to explore through to modern craft beer bars and restaurants. Plovdiv has also been named the European Capital of Culture for 2019 and there will be many events going on throughout the year to celebrate this. Many people have hailed Plovdiv as the new ‘Chiang Mai’ or ‘Barcelona’ for digital nomads however we found there is still quite a bit to go before they are truly a digital nomad hub…but who knows they might boom before we know it as more digital nomads seek out more affordable places to live around the world.
Moldova – Chișină
Moldova is a country that is appearing more and more in the news for one main reason – wine. Wine is a massive industry in Moldova and they even have a Guinness World record at the Milestii Mici winery for the largest wine collection in the world. With over 1.5million bottles it doesn’t seem like they are going to lose this title any time soon.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
We visited Bosnia and Herzegovina and it quickly made our list of best countries to visit when your Schengen runs out – why? It is stunningly beautiful! We honestly had no idea how beautiful it was and this made us want to explore more of this underrated country.
While it’s had it’s fair share of battles in the past there is some fascinating history to discover in this country and even though much of it is fairly raw, they look at it with good humour and a positive attitude.
Kosovo – Prizren
Kosovo – in particular, the city of Prizren, is our new favourite non Schengen country in Europe. Prizren was such a pleasant surprise. When we were there, winter was approaching and the days becoming colder. And even so, the people in Kosovo were still out enjoying the limited hours of sunshine they had every single day. We discovered locals drinking coffee in the numerous coffee shops around town, restaurants full every night and bars that offer cheap drinks and a chilled atmosphere.
We visited Tirana and Shkodra, but the coastal towns of the ‘Albanian Riviera’ are a popular place to visit during the warmer months. This country is jam packed with so much natural beauty it would be a shame to leave it off any European trip. The people are all welcoming and go above and beyond to help any foreigners in need of assistance.
The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia – Skopje
The first thing to realise is that there are 2 Macedonia’s in Europe. In fact, they are side by side. One is The FYR Macedonia and the other is a part of Greece. One is Schengen (Greece) and the other is not. So if you’re avoiding the Schengen zone – it’s best not to mix these two up.
We visited the capital of FYR Macedonia Skopje, and though it is a city under construction, it’s still beautiful to visit. It’s going to be incredible once it’s finished. You can wander the streets admiring the architecture and art bridges, or head into the Old Bazaar or Bit Pazaar area to get a taste of the local market scene.
One of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the Balkans. Montenegro offers beautiful coastlines, stunning mountains and historic old towns to explore. Whilst not as cheap as some other Balkan destinations, you can certainly still get some bang for your buck if you go about it the right way. In the summer months prices go through the roof but come a little off season and prices of accommodation can sometimes be negotiated.
We spent close to 4 months living in Bucharest while I waited to be able to re-enter the Schengen zone back in 2015 – and we fell in love. The people are friendly, the countryside is captivating and it doesn’t hurt that the cost of living is quite reasonable. Plus being able to say you’ve visited Dracula’s castle will make you instantly cool with your friends – trust us.