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The Search for a Cure for a Chronic Schengen Visa Headache

The Search for a Cure for a Chronic Schengen Visa Headache
I am not sure if anyone has ever conducted a sizable poll on the subject of international visas, but it would be fascinating to know where they rank in terms of annoyance for regular world travellers.

No, I’m not talking about Visa credit cards (although if lost or maxed out they can be the cause of much angst) - what I’m alluding to are those annoying little bits of paper that every country in the world insists you have before you set foot on their sacred soil – travel visas.

Depending on your nationality and the country/countries you intend to visit, the process of being issued with an entry visa can range from anything from a mere formality to a complicated nightmare with no guarantee of success.

A quick Google search is all you need to do to read the stories of countless people who have spent a lot of time and money preparing visa applications only to be rejected on, seemingly, a whim by consular officials.
As Australians the E-Bike Cycle Tourists are in many ways much better off than people from places such as Asia, the Middle East or Central and South America in terms of the ease of obtaining entry visas for most countries.

But that certainly doesn’t mean that problems do not exist – far from it. In this particular instance my bone of contention is the Schengen Agreement, the mutual agreement between 26 countries in Europe and Scandinavia to allow travellers to freely move from one country to the other without border restrictions. 

On the face of it the agreement sounds fair, but study the fine print – especially if you are planning to holiday, travel or work for longer than 90 days at a time – and suddenly it becomes clear that you have a problem, a big problem.

Take our attempt to set a new world long distance electric bike record over about 12 months of cycling as a case in point. Our initial plan was to follow the sun by starting the ride in southern Europe in about March/April before heading to the United Kingdom as the weather improved and then returning to southern Europe to continue cycling as winter approached.
 
 But those plans had to be thrown out the window because under the Schengen rules it is simply not possible.

Despite being financially self-sufficient, fully insured and being constantly on the move, we are not allowed to stay in Europe/Scandinavia for any more than 90 days every 180 days.

In other words after 89 days we have to hightail it back to the UK and Ireland - which fortunately are not part of the Schengen Agreement and where we can stay for six months at a time - or risk being banned from re-entering Europe for an extended period of time and being fined a substantial sum of money. Now that’s really promoting tourism, isn’t it!!

Extensive research into ways around our Schengen issues have to this point proved unsuccessful, with the plans for the entire record attempt as a result having to be changed.

We will now start the ride in London in late April before heading straight to Europe for our allowable 90 days under the Schengen Agreement before heading back to the UK to continue cycling through England, Scotland and Ireland through summer.

But with the approach of winter and clearly not wanting to cycle and camp through a freezing winter, we now have no choice other than to put all thoughts of continuing the ride on hold for a few months before resuming in spring 2016.

Thanks to the Schengen visa rules the result is a lot of extra expense and many hassles, when all we wanted to do was cycle and to freely spend our tourist dollars as we toured Europe and Scandinavia while on the way to setting a new world record for the longest electric bike journey every undertaken.

But as they say, “rules are rules” and unless someone can show us a way around our Schengen problems we will be toeing the Schengen line as ordered.


Gary Corbett is an award-winning Australian journalist who has written for a wide range of newspapers, periodicals and travel magazines for the past 30-plus years.

After years of writing about other people’s travel adventures, in the mid-2000s he  booked a personal holiday with a difference – a one week guided cycling tour in the Loire Valley in France – and was instantly hooked on those “how good is this” moments that only cycle touring can provide.

In ensuing years he has gone on to cycle well in excess of 30,000 kilometres completing guided, self-guided, bike and barge and solo long distance tours in Europe, Australia, Asia and South America.

Gary now writes exclusively about cycle touring and travelling in general and as such the attempt to set a new electric bike world long distance record along with his wife, Rachel, is his latest “fact finding” cycling adventure – however this time it will be on an e-bike.

His future goal is to see more of the world from the seat of his trusty Trek 520 touring bicycle, and now that he has discovered the world of e-biking, his new Haibike xDuro Trekking RX e-bike. There is, after all, always another country to be explored, new cultures to be experienced and more cycle tours to be completed.


Before this epic journey Gary (a.k.a. The Cycle Tourist) contributed many excellent cycle touring articles to the Cycle Tours Global blog - you can read them at cycletoursglobal.com/Gary-Corbett.

To find out even more about the expedition please visit http://ebikecycletourists.com.

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By: Gary Corbett
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