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Europe encompasses an area of 10,400,000 km� (4,000,000 square miles), stretching from Asia to the Atlantic, Africa to the Arctic. There is much here for the traveller to enjoy, with a bewildering array of diversity and culture, cosmopolitan cities and spectacular scenery.

Europe defies easy categorization, with its compact size and complex history. The following are five (loosely defined) regions.


See also: European Union, 25 European states in various stages of economic and political union.


Get around

There are no border controls between countries that have signed and implemented the Schengen Agreement. Likewise, a visa granted for any Schengen Agreement signatory country is valid in all other countries that signed and implemented the treaty.

These countries are: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland (voted in, but not yet formalised, nor implemented). Note that not all EU members have signed the Schengen treaty and not all Schengen treaty countries are members of the European Union.

At some airports, airlines will still insist on seeing your id-card or passport. Travel to and from a Schengen Agreement country to any other country will result in the normal border checks.

By train

The Inter Rail (for Europeans) and Eurail (for everybody else) passes offer good value if you plan on traveling extensively around Europe (or even a single region) and want more flexibility than cheap plane tickets can offer.

As of 2006, Eurail covers the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland.

The most notable omissions compared to Inter Rail are Republic of Macedonia, Morocco, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.

By plane

A number of budget airlines allow very cheap travel around Europe, often much cheaper than the train fares for the same journey. Currently the cheapest flights are offered by low cost airlines such as Easyjet, HLX, Ryanair, Transavia and Jet2, with the lowest fares usually found on routes which go to or from cities in the United Kingdom, Germany, Ireland or Eastern Europe. All of these flights should be booked on the internet well in advance, otherwise the price advantage can become non-existent. Always compare prices with major carriers like British Airways or Lufthansa! You should also make sure where the airport is located, since some low cost airlines name very small airports by the next major city, even if the distance is up to two hours drive by bus (e.g. Ryanair's Frankfurt-Hahn, which is not Frankfurt/Main International)..

Passengers Rights

European Union (EU) Regulation 261/2004 of 17. February 2005 gives certain rights to passenger on all flights, schedule or charter and flights provided as part of a Package Holiday. It only applies to passengers flying from an EU airport or from an airport outside the EU to an EU airport on an EU carrier.

Denied Boarding

You can get compensation if:

  • you have a valid ticket
  • you have a confirmed reservation
  • you have checked in by the deadline given to you by the airline

Then you are entitle to:

  • �250 if the flight is shorter than 1500Km (�125 if it delayed less than 2 hours)
  • �400 if the flight is between than 1500Km and 3500Km (�200 if it delayed less than 3 hours)
  • �600 if the flight is longer than 3500Km (�300 if it delayed less than 4 hours)

and a refund of your ticket (with a free flight back to your initial point of departure, when relevant) or alternative transport to your final destination.

The airline also have to cover the following expenses:

  • two telephone calls or emails, telexes or faxes
  • meals and refreshments in reasonable relation to the waiting time.
  • hotel accommodation if you are delayed overnight.

Usually they will give you a prepaid phone card, and vouchers for a restaurant and a hotel.

Refund

If your flight is delayed 5 hours or longer you can get a refund of your ticket.

By bus

Eurolines (http://www.eurolines.com) connects over 500 destinations, covering the whole of the continent, including Morocco. Eurolines allows travelling from Sicily to Helsinki and from Casablanca to Moscow.

Gullivers (http://www.gullivers.de) is another option.

By ship

Besides ferry connections to and from the UK and other countries, there are also various ferries on the larger lakes and for crossing rivers. Furthermore, there are several regularly running cruise-lines on the larger rivers like the Rhine or the Danube.

Countries

Country Symbol Currency EU-member Schengen
implemented
Time zone³Inter Rail
(zone)
Eurail
Albania AL, .al ALLnnCET
Andorra AND, .ad EURnnCET
Austria A, .at EUR1995yCETCy
Belarus BY, .by BYRnnEET
Belgium B, .be EUR1958yCETEy
Bosnia and Herzegovina BIH, .ba BAMnnCET
Bulgaria BG, .bg BGN2007¹nEETH
Croatia HR, .hr HRK2007+?²nCETD
Cyprus CY, .cy CYP2004nCET
Czech Republic CZ, .cz CZK2004nCETD
Denmark DK, .dk DKK1973yCETCy
Estonia EST, .ee EEK2004nEET
Finland FIN, .fi EUR1995yEETBy
France F, .fr EUR1958yCETEy
Germany D, .de EUR1958yCETCy
Greece GR, .gr EUR1981yEETGy
Hungary H, .hu HUF2004nCETD
Iceland IS, .is ISKnyCET
Ireland IRL, .ie EUR1973nWETA
Italy I, .it EUR1958yCETGy
Latvia LV, .lv LVL2004nEET
Liechtenstein FL, .li CHFnnCET
Lithuania LT, .lt LTL2004nEET
Luxembourg L, .lu EUR1958yCETEy
Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia MK, .mk MKDnnCETH
Malta M, .mt MTL2004nCET
Moldova MD, .md MDLnnEET
Monaco MC, .mc EURnnCET
Netherlands NL, .nl EUR1958yCETEy
Norway N, .no NOKnyCETBy
Poland PL, .pl PLN2004nCETDn
Portugal P, .pt EUR1986yWETFy
Romania RO, .ro RON52007¹yEETHn
European Russia RU, .ru (.su) RUBnnMSK4
San Marino RSM, .sm EURnnCET
Serbia and Montenegro SCG, .yu (.cs)CSD²nnCETH
Slovakia SK, .sk SKK2004nCETD
Slovenia SLO, .si SIT2004nCETG
Spain E, .es EUR1986yCETFy
Sweden S, .se SEK1995yCETBy
Switzerland CH, .ch CHFnnCETCy
Turkey TR, .tr TRY2010+?¹nEETG
Ukraine UA, .ua UAHnnEET
United Kingdom GB, .uk GBP1973nWET
Vatican V, .va EURnn/aCETn/an/a

¹ Official EU applicant countries. Bulgaria and Romania acceding January 1, 2007 (accession may be delayed to January 1, 2008).

² Montenegro and the Serbian province of Kosovo (administered by the UN) use the Euro as their official currency.

³ Winter time. In summer (last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October): WET → WEST (UTC+0 → +1), CET → CEST (+1 → +2), EET → EEST (+2 → +3)

4 Russia uses multiple time zones. EET in Kaliningrad Oblast, MSK (UTC+3) in Moscow, up to UTC+12 near Alaska.

5 New leu (RON) replaced old leu (ROL) on July 1, 2005. Old leu are legal tender until December 31, 2006.

Other territories

  • Faroe Islands
  • Gibraltar
  • Channel Islands (United Kingdom)

Note: Russia and the Caucasus are sometimes considered to be a part of Asia.

Political History

Europe, prior to the conclusion of the Second World War, was a region ravaged by large-scale wars. National leaders realized after World War II that closer socio-economic and political integration was needed to ensure that such tragedies never happened again. Starting with humble beginnings, the EU's first form was the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). The founding group was Belgium, West Germany, Luxembourg, France, Italy and the Netherlands. Impressed with the results of the union the six countries pressed on and in 1956 signed the treaty of Rome, with the ultimate goal of creating a common market- the European Economic Community (EEC). In 1967 the union was formalised further with a the creation of a single Commission, as well as a council of ministers and a EU parliament.

Post-1967 the EU continued to grow; Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom joined in 1973. Greece joined in 1981, Spain and Portugal in 1986 and Austria, Finland and Sweden in 1995. The EU pressed on with economic integration and launched the Euro(�) across several nations in January 2002.

In 2004 a further 10 countries joined the EU "club", including Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.