Heading to Europe? All You Need is a Passport!

A branch of the European Union recently held a symbolic and show-of-hands vote in favor of requiring American visitors to apply for entry visas. This has caused some confusion – especially among those who read headlines instead of details. Let me offer an explanation. And to cut to the chase, there is zero chance that Americans will need visas to travel to EU countries in 2017.

Rick Steves holding a passport

The vote was a call from five European nations that the US requires visas for (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Poland, and Romania) to treat travelers from the USA the same: to require an entry visa. This is simply a matter of national pride and reciprocity.

While they make a fair case, these five countries are just a small part of the roughly 400 million citizens of the European Union. And the EU values the economic boost brought by nearly 13 million US visitors a year. Especially this year, with the dollar so strong on the euro, Europe is salivating for the boost to their economies American tourists will bring. A new visa requirement to soothe the damaged pride of those five nations is highly unlikely.

No visa is required for Americans to enter the EU and no changes in this requirement are expected. Changing this would involve all the member states and would take years to actually make happen. So do not worry.

On a related note, many Americans wonder what kind of reception we’ll receive in Europe with the chaotic and generally “ugly American” vibe coming out of the White House. We know from our own experience since our election that Europe may be amazed at the choice of the American people for “the leader of the free world,” they have been rattled by such choices in the past and have always understood that there’s a big difference between US government policy and proclamation and the attitudes and beliefs of individual American travelers. Just like we wouldn’t condemn an Italian for being ruled by a buffoon like Berlusconi or a Turk being ruled by a tyrant like Erdogan, reasonable Europeans will not condemn Americans for what they think about our president.

I’m looking forward to four wonderful months of travel throughout Europe in 2017 as are our guides and the thousands of travelers who have already signed up for our 2017 tours. While we took 20,000 happy travelers on Rick Steves Europe Tours in 2016, we’re on track to take even more in 2017. If you have any questions or concerns about these issues, please email us or give us a ring. Your peace of mind is a big part of a great European vacation.

Happy travels!