Albania, Cyprus, Ireland: Europe’s best non-Schengen countries for when you’ve used up your 90 days

Albania, Cyprus, Ireland: Europe’s best non-Schengen countries for when you’ve used up your 90 days

Planning a year out to explore Europe? The ‘90-day’ rule is likely to catch you out: it stipulates that non-EU nationals with a valid visa can only enter Schengen Area countries for a total of 90 days in a 180-day period.

That applies in 25 out of the 27 EU countries, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

It might feel like that leaves little time to explore the continent - but don’t pack up your bags to go home just yet.

Here’s where to break up your stay so you remain on the right side of Europe’s 90-day rule - and avoid a potential one-year ban - as recommended by travellers.

Take time out on Albania’s stunning beaches

Albania is not a Schengen country, meaning many non-EU nationals - including Brits - can spend 90 days there without it counting towards the wider 90-day rule.

Albania is rising as a hot destination for tourists in Europe thanks to its beautiful beaches, mountains, affordable cost of living and welcoming locals.

Vlore, on the Adriatic coast, has “the best beaches, large promenades, great restaurants and cafes”, says one user of Reddit’s r/travel forum. For longer stays, “the apartments are super cheap to rent and the cost of living is incredible,” they add.

Further north, travellers rave about the stunning Komani Lake Ferry journey, which transports you between the towns of Koman and Fierze between the Albanian Alps, and is part of the famed Valbona to Theth hike.

Continue north and you’ll hit Montenegro, another Balkan gem with a stunning coastline that isn’t bound by the 90-day rule.

Chill out on Lake Komani, Albania.
Chill out on Lake Komani, Albania. - Canva

Combine nightlife and culture in Cyprus

Cyprus is one of just two EU countries not bound by the 90-day rule as it is not part of the Schengen zone. However, it does have its own 90-day limit for visa applicants.

That gives you a whole three months to lounge on its Mediterranean beaches, explore ancient Roman sites and get stuck into the vibrant nightlife scene.

After partying into the early hours in Ayia Napa, walk off your hangover along the cliffs of Cavo Greco National Park or take a boat trip to the sea caves.

Paphos is also a great place to combine nightlife and culture, from Aphrodite’s Rock to the mosaiced House of Dionysus and the UNESCO-listed Tombs of the Kings.

For a glitzier escape, head to Limassol to marvel at superyachts in the marina and explore the 4th century castle. Read more in our full guide to Limassol.

For an active adventure in Cyprus, venture into the Troodos mountain range for beautiful villages, wine tours and hiking.

Discover the Tombs of the Kings in Cyprus.
Discover the Tombs of the Kings in Cyprus. - Canva

Try your luck in Ireland and the UK

Besides Cyprus, Ireland is the other EU country that’s not in the Schengen Area. Similarly though, it has its own 90-day limit for tourists.

Ireland also remains a good option for Brits, who still enjoy freedom of movement there under the Common Travel Agreement (despite being cut off from other EU countries after Brexit). This means their stay in Ireland is not limited in any way.

After sinking a few pints of Guinness in Dublin, take a day trip to Galway and the Cliffs of Moher. Alternatively, take it all in on a road trip of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, which spans 2,500 kilometres of green, luscious coastline from Donegal to West Cork.

If the UK isn’t your homeland, it also offers plenty to explore without racking up days on your Schengen visa. Catch a music festival in London, go surfing on England’s Cornish coast, climb Mount Snowdon in Wales or head north to experience Scotland’s rugged beauty.

Head to the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland for stunning views.
Head to the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland for stunning views. - Canva

Break up a 90-day stay in Europe in intriguing North Macedonia

North Macedonia offers many tourists visa-free access for up to 90 days. As it is not part of the Schengen Area, this will not count towards your 90-day limit.

Bordering northern Greece, it’s a great place to break up your Schengen stay if you’ve been exploring the mountainous region of Zagori.

“If you are looking for a country with stunning nature, cheap prices and beautiful architecture, Macedonia is the place for you,” says one Reddit user.

Chill by Lake Ohrid in North Macedonia.
Chill by Lake Ohrid in North Macedonia. - Canva

Head to the Shar Mountains for more high-altitude exploration or the capital, Skopje, for “a quirky blend of old and new”.

Though the Balkan country is landlocked, watery respite can be found in the lakeside city of Ohrid: “One of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited. The water is so clear and perfect for swimming,” says one Reddit user.

You can also head to the Treska River, which “weaves past limestone cliffs before pooling in the emerald Matka Lake”.