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!


21 Replies to “Heading to Europe? All You Need is a Passport!”

  1. It is really important that you keep us posted on your travels this year. It really helped us travel after 911, and we had no problems and we had Europe to ourselves! So Rick you are a great encouragement and confident builder for new and old travelers! I look forward to reading all about this years experiences!

  2. My husband & I visited Europe last month. We were looking at a map when a friendly construction worker asked us if we needed help finding anything. He gave us directions and asked where we were from. Somewhat out of the blue, he mentioned that our president (Trump) was crazy. We indicated that we agreed and he made a few additional choice comments about him. His comments were made in a befuddled/joking kind of way. He wasn’t being rude or argumentative. That was the only Trump comment that was made to us. We weren’t treated like ugly Americans at all. We tried to be polite with everyone we met and felt that we received very friendly treatment in return. No issues! Anyone who worries about receiving an anti-American reception in Europe needn’t fear.

  3. Thanks Rick, please keep updating us on this issue. I have two three-week trips planned to France this year, and I am practicing my very limited French to learn how to say that at least half of us are not totally crazy. Also I plan to visit with real estate agents to prepare my “Plan B” in case it gets too out of control here, and I think it just might.
    Anyway, Happy travels!

  4. Dear fellow travelers:

    Book your tour and flights and go have a great time in Europe!

    Relax and savor all the flavors that Europe and the Europeans have to offer.



  5. Thanks for the reassurement!! I am leaving May 9 and reading all the newspapers, I was worried. Everyone makes it sound so final. On a different note, I am visiting Minsk because I am taking advantage of the visa-free requirement. However, with all the ballyhoo from Russia, do you think they will withdraw it? Thanks!!!

  6. Very interesting blog. Thanks for sharing such useful information here and nice snaps.

  7. Thanks, Rick, for addressing this. I think you’re right on with your assessments. I’m going to Spain in June. Last year I was there while the Brexit vote took place. There were a lot of English people hanging out discussing this issue. We were part of some very informative conversations and we witnessed an almost-fistfight over the vote by two English men on opposing sides. We’ll be prepared for anything while we’re in Spain. Thanks again.

  8. “Europe is salivating for the boost to their economies American tourists will bring” .. really?

  9. Berlusconi a buffoon?

    I’m reconsidering the man now. He’s a world class statesman compared to the current US Tweeter-in-Chief.

  10. Rick… I’ll look forward to what you have to say when both Wilders and Le Pen win! You might have to start trashing the Europeans too!

  11. While I am tending to agree that we might not see visas soon, the EU and the Schengen Agreement are getting a lot of pressure from Brexit, Greece and a down-the-road move by Italy and Spain to exit the EU as well as a political shift to the right in many countries. Germany and France remain the economic powerhorses of the Union and steers the ship to the disadvantage of the other countries. Having a bloc of 5 votes could be significant in any direction Europe wants to move.

  12. In Rotherham over 1400 children were sexually assaulted.

    In Cologne a few years ago over 1000 women were sexually assaulted on New Year’s Eve.

    In both cases the government and media labored to cover it up.

    I think not doing anything to prevent these crimes is more crazy than anything Trump ever did.

  13. I have a trip to SE Asia planned soon and I’m looking forward to escaping the partisan bickering for a few weeks. It’s likely that I will be in Europe in the fall and I don’t plan to let a visa or a would-be tyrant hold me back. Life’s too short.

  14. Thank you for bringing clarity to this topic. I travel frequently to Europe and always value your insights and advice!

  15. Once More into the fray…
    Oh about two decades back, twenty two years exactly, this traveler took Rick’s advice to visit Europe Through The Back Door. Planning took months, and the four week trip astonished friends who said it was the “Trip of a Lifetime!” Well…after returning home I knew I must go back, there was too much left to see, and so dozens of trips followed. Also in 2002 came a first RS tour, which now will total 20 after this year’s My Way France in May.
    These trips, along with many Edmond’s travel festivals, brought many new friends, countless “wow” moments and remarkable cultural and historic insights. Nothing, save life’s end, will diminish these joyful travel times, and the constant travel anticipations. Thank You Rick, for kick-starting the most significant times of my last twenty two years!

  16. Are you people attacking Rick Steves kidding me? Rick is an ambassador for the USA in all the best ways. Do you live in a bubble or travel the world in one? Did you really think that Rick would be in agreement with the current administration – “America First”? Come on…get a clue.

  17. Thank you for the post and please keep updating your site on this. We went to Europe for the first time last spring utilizing your books, videos and advice for our own independent scheduling. Traveling really opened our eyes to other ways of living and culture. We can’t wait to go back for a longer period of time and are hoping that opportunity doesn’t go away. Thank you for all of your information and tips.

  18. Too many Americans think the world revolves around what happens in America. If that is the case, why do we seek to visit and enjoy other Countries? Trump is our current President, like it or not, so we have to live with it and hope for the best. So far it looks a little unorthodox but mostly okay to me. This will be our fourth trip with Rick Steve’s Tours and we look forward to it very much. What I have always thought is that the main thing between the USA and Europe is that we don’t have Roman ruins. (just joking). Happy Travels everyone and relax.

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