Europe’s new visa rules: Why it could double the cost of your trip

Unique Things to do in Prague, Czech RepublicMala Strana, Prague, CZ.

A vote by the European Union (EU) Parliament in early March could have a big effect on U.S. travelers headed to Europe, but many don’t realize what a massive effect it actually could be.

The EU voted to reinstate visa requirements for Americans planning to travel to Europe. Currently, all that is needed is a passport to visit any of the countries within the EU borders. The move is not exactly a surprise, as the commission put the U.S. on notice back in 2014, because the United States currently requires visas for visits from EU countries Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland, and Romania.

The vote asked for the visa requirements to be in place “within two months,” which would be May of 2017.

How it will affect the cost of your trip

What many Americans, particularly those who have never had to apply for a visa, don’t realize, is it’s not quite as easy as applying for a passport. There is no local office to go to to take your picture and submit some documents. Depending on what country you are planning to visit, you likely have to visit their embassy or consulate.

So, say you are planning to visit Prague in May. At some point, between 15 days and three months prior to your trip, you will have to make a trip to Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, DC, or New York City to visit the Czech consulate, depending on which region you are in.

Say you live in Oregon. Flying to Los Angeles with little notice would cost anywhere from $300 – $700 (depending on when you book). If you multiply that times two people, it could be up to $1,500 just to apply for your visa. And that is without the cost of the hotel in LA if you have to stay overnight.

Not only is that likely what you paid for your actual plane tickets, but for many Americans, that would be enough to not book their trip and instead go somewhere outside the EU. At the very least, it would take care of any spending money you had planned to use while in the country.

So when should we start to worry?

Many analysts are saying this is nothing more than a negotiating tactic, but with the current state of foreign relations in the United States, there may a chance this will go into effect.

“It’s not in anyone’s interest to make it harder for Americans to travel to Europe,” Tom Hall, Lonely Planet editorial director, told NBC News. “The continent’s travel industry — and that of the United Kingdom for that matter — will be hoping for strong visitor numbers from the U.S. to make the most of the advantages of the currency situation. For this reason, there’s a long way to go until any changes to the visa regime come into force, if at all.”

It’s important to stay informed on what will happen with the requirements, especially if you have an upcoming trip already booked.

“It seems action could be one or two years away,” Jack Ezon of Ovation Travel told NBC. “But my advice is to never take visa-free travel for granted anywhere these days. Always check on the U.S. Department of State website for entry requirements anywhere you travel in the world.”

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