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European Economic Area

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The EEA area as of 2010
EFTA member countries (excluding Switzerland) in Green, European Union member-states in Blue, Croatia (provisionally applying the agreement pending its ratification by all EEA member states since 12 April 2014) in Red. The United Kingdom is also shown in blue, as it was an EU member at the time.

The European Economic Area (EEA) comprises the countries of the European Union (EU), plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway and was established on 1 January 1994.

It used to include Switzerland and the visa regimes of most countries throughout the world still treat Swiss passport holders as if Switzerland was still an EEA member. It also used to include the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom remains (until 31 December 2020) in a customs union with the EEA.


European integration was motivated by the catastrophe of World War II and the idea was partly developed to prevent such a disastrous war from happening again. The idea was first proposed by the French foreign minister Robert Schuman in a speech in 1950, which resulted in the first agreements in 1951 that formed the basis for the European Union.

Supranational European organisations

There are at least five groups of countries in Europe that it is important for travellers to be aware of. As the Euler diagram above shows, these overlap but are not identical:

  • The Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA), which entered into force on 1 January 1994, brings together the 27 EU Member States and the three EEA EFTA States of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway — in a single market, referred to as the "Internal Market". The EEA Agreement also states that when a country becomes a member of the EU, it shall also apply to become party to the EEA Agreement, thus leading to an enlargement of the EEA. The EEA used to include Switzerland and most countries' visa regimes treat Swiss passport holders as if Switzerland was still an EEA member.
  • The European Union, abbreviated "EU", is an economic and customs union with partial political integration of 28 member states currently.
  • EU applicant Turkey, former EU member state the United Kingdom and two bordering micro-states — Andorra and San Marino — are in a Customs Union with the EU. Monaco and the Vatican, while not members of the EU, are part of the EU customs territory through agreements with France and Italy. The United Kingdom, while not a member of the EU since January 2020, remains part of the EU customs territory through agreement with the EU. This is important for travellers to realise since it means they will pay no duty when importing goods from one customs union member to another. While all EU members are part of the customs union, not all of their respective territories form part of the customs union. This may be because a territory is not part of the EU, because the territories have opt-outs, or are excluded from the customs union because of their economic or geographic circumstances. That means travellers are still eligible for duty free purchases when travelling to and from such oddball areas as Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands
  • The Eurozone, countries using the common European currency, the Euro
  • The Schengen Agreement, countries using common visas and immigration controls

Here is a table showing membership of these 4 groups:

Country EEA? Date of EU
Schengen? Currency Time
Andorra c.u.1 - no EUR CET AND, .ad
Austria YES 1995 y EUR CET A, .at
Belgium YES 1958 y EUR CET B, .be
Bulgaria YES 2007 no BGN EET BG, .bg
Croatia YES 20132 no HRK CET HR, .hr
Cyprus YES 20043 no EUR CET CY, .cy
Czech Republic YES 2004 y CZK CET CZ, .cz
Denmark YES 1973 y DKK CET DK, .dk
Estonia YES 2004 y EUR EET EST, .ee
Finland YES 1995 y EUR EET FIN, .fi
France YES 1958 y EUR CET F, .fr
Germany YES 1958 y EUR CET D, .de
Greece YES 1981 y EUR EET GR, .gr
Hungary YES 2004 y HUF CET H, .hu
Iceland YES - y ISK UTC IS, .is
Ireland YES 1973 no EUR WET IRL, .ie
Italy YES 1958 y EUR CET I, .it
Latvia YES 2004 y EUR EET LV, .lv
Liechtenstein YES - y CHF CET LI, .li
Lithuania YES 2004 y EUR EET LT, .lt
Luxembourg YES 1958 y EUR CET L, .lu
Malta YES 2004 y EUR CET M, .mt
Monaco c.u.1 - (open border) EUR CET MC, .mc
Netherlands YES 1958 y EUR CET NL, .nl
Norway YES - y NOK CET N, .no
Poland YES 2004 y PLN CET PL, .pl
Portugal YES 1986 y EUR WET P, .pt
Romania YES 2007 no RON EET RO, .ro
San Marino c.u.1 - (open border) EUR CET RSM, .sm
Slovakia YES 2004 y EUR CET SK, .sk
Slovenia YES 2004 y EUR CET SLO, .si
Spain YES 1986 y EUR CET E, .es
Sweden YES 1995 y SEK CET S, .se
Switzerland c.u.1 - y CHF CET CH, .ch
UK new deal 2021 - no GBP WET GB, .uk
Vatican City c.u.1 - (open border) EUR CET V, .va

1 These countries are not formally members of the EEA but either have a customs union treaty with the EU as a whole or bilateral agreements with neighbouring countries

2 Croatia acceded to the EU 1 July 2013.

3 Officially the whole of Cyprus lies within the European Union. However, the de facto EU border runs along the Green Line, dividing the country in a Greek and Turkish part. EU law is currently not applied in the Turkish northern third of Cyprus.

4 The first symbol is the letter code to be shown on the rear of vehicles [per Vienna Convention on Road Traffic (1968)] and the second is the internet top level domain symbol.

Get in[edit]

There are many ways to enter the EEA; your best course of action is to read up on the individual nation you wish to enter.

Passport and visa requirements[edit]

EU member countries

You will have to get a visa from your "primary destination" country. In the case of Schengen Treaty countries (which does not include the UK, Ireland, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Cyprus), that visa is then valid for all other signatory countries; see Travel in the Schengen Zone for more information.

Citizens of some non-EU member countries, such as Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Japan, New Zealand, and the United States of America don't need visas if they are travelling for tourist purposes and their stays lasts no longer than 90 days within a 180 day period inside the Schengen area. Citizens of the EU candidate countries (except Turkey and the Former Yugoslav Republic of North Macedonia), also don't need visas, as well as citizens of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Citizens of these four countries should use the immigration queue often signed "EEA" - even though Switzerland formally left the EEA some years ago.

The 90 days visa-free stay for citizens of Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Japan, New Zealand, and the United States of America applies for the whole Schengen area; in other words, it is not 90 days per country. Citizens of the above countries who wish to travel within the Schengen Treaty region for longer than 90 days must apply for a residency permit. This is best done in Germany, as all other Schengen countries require applicants to apply from their home countries. Alternatively, you can sneakily arrange your travel to spend 90 days in the UK or Ireland (or other non-Schengen countries) to satisfy the "90 days in 180 days" provision.

Citizens of most non-EU/EEA states who wish to enter the UK can generally do so for a maximum of six months as a visitor.

By plane[edit]

The largest airports in the European Union are in Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Paris, Madrid–Barajas and Munich. Countless smaller international and regional airports exist.


You are legally allowed to bring through the EEA border limited amounts of tobacco (exact numbers depend on your arrival country) and one litre of spirit (above 22% alcohol) or 2 L of alcohol (e.g. sparkling wine below 22% alcohol) and 4 L of non-sparkling wine and 16 L of beer. If you are below 17 years old it's half of these amounts or nothing at all [1]. Please be aware that Turkey is in this customs union and abides by European terms an conditions.

Get around[edit]

see also Travel in the Schengen Zone

There are no border controls between countries that have signed the Schengen Agreement and some micro states that have no border controls. Likewise, a visa granted for any Schengen Agreement signatory country is valid in all other countries that signed the treaty. Travel to and from a Schengen Agreement country to any other non-Schengen country will result in the normal border checks.

These countries have implemented the Schengen agreement so far: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Estonia, Denmark, France, Finland, Hungary, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. Not all EU members have signed the Schengen treaty and not all Schengen treaty countries are members of the European Union. Several countries are members of the Schengen Agreement, but nevertheless have not implemented it. Switzerland became a full Schengen member in 2008, as did all the other EEA members at that time. Three European micro-states – Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City – do not have any immigration controls with the Schengen countries. Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Romania will follow at a later date, perhaps as late as 2016.

Citizens of EEA member countries don't need visas to visit other member countries.

Even if the EU is a a customs union where there are no tariffs on importing or exporting goods, when crossing between EU states, individual member states can still enforce customs checks to see that prohibited or controlled items (e.g. narcotics, firearms) do not cross the border in either direction. Customs checks may also be conducted to ensure that passengers or animals being transported do not pose a health or environmental risk. Between any two EEA states, customs checks can happen twice in a single journey: once by the authorities of the outgoing country and another by the authorities of the incoming country.

By plane[edit]

The EEA has an extensive selection of low-cost carriers, which can fly freely within the EEA.

All flights within and from the European Union limit liquids, gels and creams in hand baggage to 100 mL/container, carried in a transparent, zip-lock plastic bag (1 L or less). The bag must be presented during security checks and only one bag per passenger is permitted.

At some airports, airlines will still insist on seeing your ID card or passport.

By car[edit]

There is a set of traffic signs valid in many EEA countries. The most important are described here:

  • Speed limit - A round white or yellow board surrounded by a red ring with a black number in the middle. This is the maximum allowed speed in km/h. 1
  • End of Speed limit - A round white board with a gray number on it (speed in km/h 1), slashed with 4 thin black lines.
  • Stop - A red octagon with 'STOP' in white letters.
  • Yield - A white or yellow triangle surrounded by a red edge standing on one corner.
  • Priority road - A yellow square with a white edge standing on a corner.
  • End of priority - The same, but slashed with 4 thin black lines.
  • No overtaking - A round white or yellow board with a red edge and a red car on the left and a black car on the right inside. Often the sign is only valid for trucks and shows a red truck in this case. 2

Unlike in the US, in most EEA countries (except those mentioned in footnote 2) there is a "yield to the driver who comes from right" rule. That means, on a normal crossing without any traffic lights or signs, you have to give the driver who drives on the street right of you precedence. That also applies for bicylists. Pedestrians have to wait, though before they can cross the street. 1 All speed limits and distances are measured and marked in miles or mph in the United Kingdom and Crown Dependencies.

2 In Alderney, Cyprus, Guernsey, Ireland, Isle of Man, Jersey, Malta and the United Kingdom, the red vehicle is on the right.

By bicycle[edit]

The EEA countries offer limited support for Eurovelo; that is implementing cross-Europe cycling routes, linking local infrastructure into long distance touring routes. The traffic signs depicted above are also valid for bicyclists, unless there are special traffic lights (e. g. in the Netherlands) and/or traffic signs only for bicyclists.

Buy[edit][add listing]

The Euro[edit]

European Central Bank, Frankfurt

The Euro (Symbol: €; ISO 4217 code EUR) is the common currency of many countries of the European Union. One euro equals 100 cents, unofficially referred to as 'Euro cent' to differentiate them from their US and other counterparts.

The European countries shown in the table above have replaced their national currencies with the common European currency, the € (Euro). They are often commonly referred to as the "Eurozone". As well as many EU members, the Euro is also the currency of Monaco, San Marino, Vatican City, Andorra, Kosovo, and Montenegro even though they are neither members of the Euro treaty, nor the European Union. The first three countries are allowed to mint their own Euro coins.

The euro has not been adopted by all EU countries. The 19 countries of the EU, that have replaced their own national currencies are commonly called the Eurozone. Some other EU countries are due to replace their currencies with the Euro over the next few years. Three countries (Denmark, Sweden, and the United Kingdom) currently have no intention of adopting the Euro in the foreseeable future, however some shops accept both local currency and Euros.

Established in 1999 and introduced as bank notes and coins on 1 Jan 2002, the Euro eliminates the need for money exchange. It is not only a boon to pan-European business, but to travellers also.

It's not a good idea to accept any of the obsolete currencies. While several countries' banks will still change them into Euros, it's a lot of hassle and there is no guarantee that this will be possible everywhere or on short notice. You should also expect to have to give your personal details to the bank as a precaution against money laundering. You're very unlikely to come across any of the old currencies - and if you do, they might make great souvenirs.


Throughout Europe, automatic teller machines are readily available. They will accept various European bank cards as well as credit and debit cards. However, be prepared to pay a fee for the service (usually a percentage of the amount withdrawn, with a minimum of a few Euro). Read the notices on the machine before using.

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