Euro Update: Two Balkan Countries Added To The Schengen Region

From the logistics of availing the Schengen visa to the reasons to visit the Balkan nations, explore everything you must know before heading out to Eastern Europe
Castle of Bran, Romania
Castle of Bran, RomaniaShutterstock

Starting March 2024, visa holders will be able visit two more countries, Bulgaria and Romania, as part of their Europe trip. With an initial reticence, the European Union finally agreed to include these two beautiful Balkan nations. The easing of land controls will benefit both countries economically by streamlining commercial traffic and reducing wait times for trucks crossing the Danube River from Greece and Turkey.

Delve deeper into the Schengen region, learn about the Schengen visa application process, and discover reasons to include Bulgaria and Romania in your European travel itinerary.

The Schengen Visa

The Schengen visa
The Schengen visaShutterstock

A Schengen visa is a travel permit that allows entry into the Schengen Area. This area is made up of 27 European countries that have abolished passport controls at their mutual borders, enabling unrestricted movement. Obtaining a Schengen visa involves several essential steps.

A Schengen visa permits travel throughout the Schengen Area for 90 days within a 180-day period. The visa's maximum duration of stay under the short-stay program is 90 days, but this may vary depending on the visa type. To be eligible for a Schengen visit visa, you must be a citizen of a non-European country outside the European Union and justify your reason for travel and the time frame.

Availing Schengen Visa

A woman applies for Schengen visa
A woman applies for Schengen visaShutterstock

There are a few key steps that need to be followed in order to avail Schengen visa. First, you need to determine the purpose of your visit, such as tourism, business, or family visits. This determines the type of Schengen visa you should apply for. Next, you must choose the appropriate embassy or consulate to submit your visa application, typically based on the primary destination of your trip.

Later, you need to collect and organise the required documents, including a completed application form, passport-sized photos, passport, travel itinerary, proof of accommodation, travel insurance, proof of financial means, and an invitation letter if necessary. After scheduling an appointment with the chosen embassy or consulate, you must attend the visa interview, pay the applicable visa fee, and wait for the processing to be completed, which generally takes around 15 calendar days.

Throughout this process, you must stay informed about the specific requirements and procedures of the Schengen country they plan to visit, as these may vary. Additionally, staying updated on any changes or updates in visa policies is essential for a smooth and successful application process.

Circuits Of The Balkan Nations

A shot of Baba Vida fortress in Vidin along the Danube, Bulgaria
A shot of Baba Vida fortress in Vidin along the Danube, BulgariaShutterstock

To explore the two Balkan nations, Bulgaria and Romania, you can consider the travel circuits that incorporate them into diverse European itineraries. From the Balkan Peninsula Tour, which unveils shared histories and scenic landscapes in Bucharest and Sofia, to the Danube River Cruise, navigating through various cities of both the countries like Constanta and Vidin, these circuits offer a blend of cultural, historical, and natural attractions.

You can also embark on the Eastern European Capitals Tour, discovering the unique charm of Bucharest and Sofia's landmarks on your way, or opt for the Transylvanian Adventure, unravelling the mediaeval wonders of Bran Castle and Cluj-Napoca.

In addition, you can also enjoy the seaside beauty of Constanta and Varna along the Black Sea Coast Exploration or delve into the ancient Thracian civilisation with the Thracian Heritage Trail, exploring archaeological sites across both nations. These travel circuits promise a comprehensive experience, showcasing Romania and Bulgaria's diverse and captivating facets within the broader tapestry of European exploration. You can look at the circuits online and make your booking depending on your pace and style of travel.

Exploring Romania

The Timisoara Orthodox Cathedral, Timisoara, Romania
The Timisoara Orthodox Cathedral, Timisoara, RomaniaShutterstock

Romania has many beautiful cities worth exploring. While Bucharest blends historic charm and modern vibrancy, Brasov enchants visitors with its mediaeval fortifications and picturesque surroundings. Sibiu has well-preserved mediaeval architecture and cultural events, and Cluj-Napoca is a vibrant campus city which offers youthful energy, historic sites, and lively nightlife. Timisoara combines history with Baroque architecture and parks, whereas Constanta entices visitors with its ancient ruins and modern attractions. Lastly, Iasi impresses with its architecture and literary tradition, and Sighisoara, the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler, also known as Dracula, transports visitors to a mediaeval world with its well-preserved citadel and colourful houses. Each city showcases Romania's rich history, culture, and natural beauty. The best time to visit Romania is from April to October.

Exploring Bulgaria

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Bulgaria
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, BulgariaShutterstock

Bulgaria is an ideal destination for those who love nature and seek a modern lifestyle. It combines modern amenities with ancient architecture. Sofia, the capital city, is a perfect example of this blend, with landmarks such as the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and the National Palace of Culture. Plovdiv is another city with Roman amphitheatres and a rich history. Varna, the birthplace of the oldest European civilisation, offers beaches, heritage, and nightlife. Veliko Tarnovo is a city with a mediaeval Tsarevets fortress that is sure to captivate you. Burgas is a great place to relax and unwind, while Ruse is an excellent destination to witness the Danube, with well-preserved architecture. Nesebar has ancient ruins that are sure to enchant you. Finally, Blagoevgrad is a vibrant university town popular for cultural and eco-tourism. The season of spring, from April to June, is the best time to visit Bulgaria and witness it in all its glory.

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