If you are planning to visit Europe in 2024, you might be interested to know that two new countries will join the Schengen area, the largest free travel zone in the world. Starting March 2024, Romania and Bulgaria will be partially integrated into the Schengen area by air and sea, meaning that travelers will no longer need to go through passport checks when flying or sailing between these countries and other Schengen members.
This is a long-awaited development for Romania and Bulgaria, which joined the EU in 2007 and have been trying to enter Schengen for more than 10 years. Their full entry to the zone would leave Ireland and Cyprus as the only EU countries outside it1. However, talks will continue next year on opening land borders, as some countries, such as Austria, have expressed concerns over illegal immigration and border security.
So, what does this mean for travelers who want to explore these two Balkan countries? Here are some benefits and tips to consider:
• More convenience and flexibility: You will be able to fly or sail directly from any Schengen country to Romania or Bulgaria without having to show your passport or visa (if you need one). This will save you time and hassle at the airport or port, and allow you to plan your itinerary more freely. For example, you could fly from Paris to Bucharest, then take a train to Sofia, and then fly back to Amsterdam, all within the Schengen area.
• More destinations and experiences: Romania and Bulgaria are rich in culture, history, nature, and cuisine, and offer a variety of attractions for travelers of all interests and budgets. You can visit medieval castles, monasteries, and churches, explore the scenic Carpathian Mountains and the Black Sea coast, enjoy the vibrant nightlife and festivals, and taste the delicious local food and wine. Some of the must-see places include the capital cities of Bucharest and Sofia, the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Sighisoara and Nessebar, the Transfagarasan Highway and the Danube Delta in Romania, and the Rila Monastery and the Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria.
• More savings and value: Romania and Bulgaria are among the cheapest countries in Europe, and you can get a lot of bang for your buck there. The average cost of a hotel room is around 40 euros per night, and a meal at a restaurant is around 10 euros. You can also find many free or low-cost activities, such as museums, parks, and hiking trails. Moreover, by joining the Schengen area, Romania and Bulgaria will also benefit from lower airfares and increased tourism, which will boost their economies and create more opportunities for travelers.
As you can see, Romania and Bulgaria have a lot to offer to travelers who are looking for a new and exciting destination in Europe. By joining the Schengen area by air and sea, they will become more accessible and attractive, and open up new possibilities for exploration and discovery. If you are interested in visiting these countries, make sure to check the latest travel advice and requirements before you book your trip, and enjoy your journey! 🛫