Traveling in Europe: 7 Key Changes in 2024

By AXA Schengen, 29 February 2024 

European travel has significant changes on the horizon. From the rise of tourist taxes to the long-awaited introduction of Europe’s Entry-Exit System there will be a transformative shift in border dynamics in 2024. Let’s uncover the game-changing policies, strategies, and innovations that are shaping tomorrow’s travel experience across Europe.

Kosovo finally gets visa-free travel in Schengen 

On January 1, 2024, Kosovo gained visa-free travel to the Schengen area becoming the last Western Balkan country to benefit from this arrangement. The European Commission approved the motion in 2018, but it faced delays due to concerns about potential migration. The abolition of the visa regime is seen as a significant step towards full recognition for Kosovo. The country joins the list of other countries whose nationals do not need a Schengen visa for European travel. 

Bulgaria and Romania will partially join the Schengen area

Romania and Bulgaria are set to partially join the European Schengen area for free movement by sea and air in March 2024. After a year of opposition, Vienna's proposal of "Air Schengen" was finally accepted in late December 2023. Air Schengen is seen as a compromise for the countries involved, representing a step towards full membership in the future.

The introduction of the Entry-Exit System

The EU's Entry-Exit System (EES), initially set for 2022, is now scheduled for October 6, 2024, per The Independent. Non-EU travelers to the Schengen Area will undergo new border controls, including passport scanning at self-service kiosks which will record personal details and biometric data. While the EES aims to enhance border security, it looks to significantly increase processing time at ports, rail terminals and airports. Simultaneously, the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), not a visa but an authorization for citizens from around 60 non-EU countries, targets entry to the expanded Schengen Area and is set for introduction by 2025.

France becomes first European country to issue digital Schengen visas

France launched its "Olympic Consulate" on January 1, 2024 to streamline visa applications for the Paris 2024 Games. The innovative paperless system allows the Olympic and Paralympic families, including athletes and journalists, to submit applications to the Games Organising Committee. The "Olympic Consulate" manages the nearly 70,000 applications efficiently, incorporating visas directly into Olympic accreditation cards. While France is the first country to use this digital system, other travelers will have to wait a bit longer to benefit from this technology. Find out more about applying for a Schengen visa and its requirements

The rise of tourist taxes across Europe

Tourist taxes are gaining momentum globally as a post-COVID measure to revive economies struck by the pandemic. Numerous countries, including Greece, Spain, Germany, and the United States, already employ city and hotel taxes. In 2024, destinations like Valencia in Spain and Venice in Italy plan to introduce tourist taxes, while Amsterdam will raise its existing tax on hotel rooms to 12.5% — making it the highest in Europe


Meanwhile, former EU member state the UK is implementing a few key changes of its own in early 2024 — namely by gradually adopting a new Electronic Travel Authorisation system, aka ETA. As per the U.K.’s official ETA website, this will be “an electronic travel permit that grants non-U.K. nationals permission to go to the U.K.” 

In theory and principle, ETA is very similar to the EU’s proposed ETIAS program (still in the works until mid-2025, in theory). And — depending on where you’re planning on going — AXA can tell you all you need to know about both ETA and ETIAS.

Possible Schengen Visa Fee Hike

In addition, in early 2024, the European Commission announced that it had “assessed the need to revise the visa fee amounts and concluded that they should be increased.” The proposed increase would mean that Schengen visas cost 90€ (a 10€ increase) for adults and 45€ (a 5€ increase) for children. 

Though nothing was set in stone, a final decision was expected to be made in March 2024 — until which point EU citizens could express whether they were in favor of the increase or not. According to the official source, the 5-10€ calculation was based on EU-wide inflation rates, as well as “salary developments for national civil servants” over the preceding 3 years.