Schengen and Safe Passage
As foreigners we can travel into the Schengen area for a total of 90 days during any 180-day period AND we must not overstay our welcome! To stay any longer than 90 days, we must have a specific visa.
Travelling on a South African passport would require us to have such a visa in any event of course.
The 26 Schengen countries are:
Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland
The following countries that I travel through are not Schengen area countries:
Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Turkey
So what exactly does this mean?
The time I spend in Schengen area countries may not exceed 90 days.
I had better make sure I don't dawdle too much on my way across to Turkey, or at least if I do take extra rest days, make them in non-Schengen countries where possible.
Are all the countries I travel through safe?
Many of you have asked me by email and messages, how I know where it is safe to travel. I will try my best to answer your questions here.
I guess 'safe' is difficult to quantify, because a situation could erupt in any city anywhere around the world that could be called 'unsafe'
An interesting site to check for analysis on this is https://smartraveller.gov.au - the Australian travel advisory. Much to my wife's dismay, I usually check this site for some comments on travel to countries we intend visiting with our young kids.
Referring to this site, each country has a threat level being Green, Yellow, Orange or Red - and the annotation provided above details these and other status colors.
For each and every country that I have planned to travel through, I have done as much research as possible to ensure my safe passage and learn about local customs, laws and etiquette.
As an example, lets look at the Kosovo advisory at the time of writing this blog - https://smartraveller.gov.au/Countries/europe/southern/Pages/kosovo.aspx
Landmines and unexploded ordnance are present, particularly in regions bordering Albania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia, including the Dulje Pass area close to Prizren.
Only use roads and paths labelled as cleared by a competent de-mining authority. Seek local advice on additional ways to minimize risks to your safety. Don't travel off-road or bush-walk in woodland areas... I guess this messes up my random off-road camping a bit!
Driving can be dangerous due to poorly maintained roads and vehicles and poor driving skills. Roads are sometimes shared with pedestrians and farm animals in rural areas. Roadworks are common and traffic conditions change frequently.
Along with the general advisory, there is a huge amount of additional information about any country such as:
Entry and exit requirements
Additional safety and security considerations
Local travel comments
Where to get help
Useful information when visiting a country and travelling around - but very important if you're slowly meandering through less "touristy" areas on a bicycle.
I'll have to trust my instinct regarding any confrontational situations that develop around me.
Listen carefully, not behave in any way that can be interpreted as aggressive and of course be humble.