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The Schengen Shuffle: A guide to visas in Europe for Digital Nomads

Updated: Jul 8, 2023

What is it?!

The "Schengen Shuffle" is a way for digital nomads and travelers to live abroad in Europe while taking advantage of tourist visas. It allows for much more flexibility and less commitment than applying for a digital nomad visa or long-term work visa in one particular country. Let's dive into this a little more...

First, we have to talk about the Schengen Area/Zone. This is a group of countries in Europe that have an agreement to allow customs-free passage within those countries. The image/link below shows a map of the Schengen countries:

*Please note that countries may have joined or withdrew from the Schengen Area since this post was written (9/18/2022)*

The 90/180 Day Rule

Because of the flexible passage between Schengen countries, there is a 90/180 day rule to keep foreigners from staying too long. An American (or anyone without citizenship in a Schengen country) cannot stay in a Schengen country for more than 90 days within any 180 day period (without a visa). Some subtleties to this calculation that can make it difficult are:

  • This time period is a rolling measurement.

  • Travel days count! If you land at the airport and arrive at customs at 11:59pm, that is considered Day 1.

You can use a Schengen Zone Calculator to help you with this calculation.

Americans are granted the Schengen tourist visa upon arrival, however citizens of some countries must apply for the Schengen Visa before traveling to the Schengen Zone. The application process varies depending on your nationality and which countries you plan to visit.

If you overstay your 90 days, you could be fined, deported and possibly even banned from ever re-entering a Schengen country. That's a big deal! So, it's important to do your homework before beginning your digital nomad explorations! Ryan and I plan a 3-day buffer on our Schengen stays in case something unexpected happens, like travel delays, illness or some kind of emergency. Want to stay longer than 90 days? These countries offer a special Digital Nomad Visa, allowing you to stay for longer periods of time.

Let's break this down a little more and use examples. Italy is a country in the Schengen zone, so if I wanted to stay for a while, I could only stay for a maximum of 90 days. After 90 days, I would need to leave and stay in a Non-Schengen country, like England, for a full 90 days.

Here is our Schengen Shuffle Plan:



Croatia (Non-Schengen)

Sept 2022 - Nov 2022

Switzerland (Schengen)

Dec 2022 - Feb 2023

UK (Non-Schengen)

March 2023 - June 2023

Italy (Schengen)

June 2023 - August 2023

**Side Notes:

  • Croatia is joining the Schengen Zone in early 2023.

  • We plan to travel in between our extended stays.

Schengen Shuffle Tips

In order to do the Schengen Shuffle right, you have to pack light! Ryan and I each brought one suitcase, one backpack and a small personal item (Ryan brought his laptop bag and I brought a weekender). You need to be able to comfortably handle your luggage on planes, trains and in taxis. I know it doesn't seem like a lot, but we fit everything we needed and more in those bags (except outerwear for snow). Vacuum storage bags are the packing MVP! We plan on shipping a box of winter outerwear and Ryan's snowboard to Switzerland once we arrive. This was something we went back and forth on, but ultimately we decided spending a little extra would be worth having our own things. It should be around $350 to ship the box from Virginia to Interlaken.

Another key piece to the Schengen Shuffle is booking reliable accommodations. We have had great experiences so far with AirBnb's extended stay options. Most accommodations give a discount when you stay for over a month or three month period. It is probably more expensive compared to renting locally, however we believe having AirBnb's Rebooking and Refund Policy and the flexibility of booking in advance is worth it. Also, AirBnb's chat with the owners is incredibly convenient when an issue arises and it's great for communicating local recommendations.

Transportation is also something that needs to be carefully considered before beginning your Shuffle. In most countries in Europe, you can't rent a car for more than 3 months (renting is also SUPER expensive right now) and you can't buy/register a car without a long-term visa and permanent address. We did find a little loophole in France that allows some companies like Peugeot and Renault to sell long-term leases to foreigners without a permanent address. If you're interested in buying an RV and traveling throughout Europe on the road, this seems like a reasonable option, but it didn't make much sense for us. You could also ship your car from the United States to Europe anywhere from $2,000-5,000 depending on the size of the vehicle and the place you will ship to and from. That being said, the cost of parking and petrol in Europe is not a joke. For our honeymoon (July 2022), we rented a compact car for one month in Spain and paid over $500 for parking and petrol. Because of the cost and hassle, Ryan and I chose to forego a car and to stay in places that are walkable and have reliable public transportation.

Follow That Digital Nomad Dream

While I'm definitely not an expert on visas in Europe, I hope the information in this post is helpful to you in some way! Figuring out the logistics of Digital Nomading in Europe can be a daunting process and seem like a huge barrier to your dream. It was for me! So, I hope this post helped simplify the Schengen Shuffle (at least some of it!) for you. It really is a great way to explore the continent. Let me know if you have any questions and I'll do my best to answer them! Follow that dream!!!

Thanks for reading!



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