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Monday 22 January 2024

Travel to Romania and Bulgaria about to be less of a hassle

Want to venture behind what used to be called the Iron Curtain?

Intra European travel will become less of a hassle from March 31 when Bulgaria and Romania join the Schengen zone, which allows free movement between member states for 400 million citizens.

The two countries have been members of the European Union (EU) since 2007 but as they were not part of the border-free area, travellers were still required to show passports upon entry.

In 2024, border controls for the two countries will be simplified, Euronews reports.

The two interior ministries announced in December that some border checks will be lifted.

Travellers arriving by air or sea from other Schengen zone countries will no longer have to show passports upon arrival. This means passengers on flights, cruises and ferries will not be subject to checks.

If you are driving or arriving by train or bus into Romania or Bulgaria, however, you will still need to carry ID as rules governing land borders have not yet been confirmed.

The most recent country to join the Schengen zone was Croatia in 2022.

Every year, 1.25 billion trips take place within this area and 3.5 million people cross the borders of its member countries every day.

Not counting Romania and Bulgaria, the zone comprises 27 states. Twenty-three belong to the EU and four are associated states of the European Free Trade Association: Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

The Schengen zone was created in 1995 following the signing of the Schengen Agreement 10 years earlier between five member states of the European Economic Community: Germany, Belgium, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

Several other agreements followed until the 2007 enlargement, integrating nine additional countries into the free movement area.

Travellers without EU citizenship are advised that stays in Bulgaria and Romania will now count towards time spent in the Schengen zone, which cannot be longer than 90 days in 180 days.

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