Kotor Montenegon non schengen countires

Top Non Schengen Countries in Europe to Visit (2019 Update)

Megsy Travel Tips

If you’re a long term traveller in Europe, and you’re not one of the lucky bastards to have been born in the EU. Then you’re most likely going to be on a Schengen visa. If you’re new to the concept of the Schengen visa – let’s start at the beginning for you:

–> Planning on taking a RTW trip? Get top tips from this RTW ticket guide  

What is a Schengen visa?

It’s a visa that allows you free movement between the 26 countries in Europe who have agreed to eliminate internal border control. So as a traveller you can move freely between these countries without having to apply for a visa for every single country you enter.

The Schengen visa allows entry into these countries for a maximum 90 days every 6 months, starting from the date of entry. For more information check out this site http://www.schengenvisainfo.com

Thanks to the introduction of the Schengen visa for travellers, many countries have been more accessible than ever. It has opened up a ‘visa free’ (waived) world to many backpackers and gap year travellers from all over the world.

But what happens when you’re 90 days are up? What if you’re not ready to go home yet – where the hell do you go?

I recently found myself in this predicament, (actually I’m currently in Schengen exile as we speak) so in no particular order:

Top Non Schengen Countries in Europe to Visit (2019 Update)

Georgia – Tbilisi

Top Non Schengen Countries in Europe to Visit - Georgia

Top Non Schengen Countries in Europe to Visit – Georgia

Georgia and in particular the capital city of Tbilisi has fast become one of our favourite destinations in the whole world. It has something to offer everyone, fascinating history, breathtaking natural beauty, stunning architecture, welcoming locals and some of the tastiest food we’ve discovered on our travels. Plus with a 1 year visa on arrival, it’s a great place to hang out while you wait to re-enter the Schengen Zone. Places to check out include Tbilisi (the capital), Khaketi for wine,  and Kazbegi for natural beauty. 
 

Food:

As I mentioned above we fell in love with the food of Georgia so much that we recorded a 2 part podcast episode and still barely covered all of our favourite foods. Some stand out must try dishes are Katchapuri and cheesy bread dish that comes in many forms – the most popular being Adjaruli Khachapuri which is a bread boat full of tasty melted cheese and butter. Oh so decadent – but delicious.
Top Non Schengen Countries in Europe to Visit - Georgia

Top Non Schengen Countries in Europe to Visit – Georgia

Khinkali is also a must try dish. Khinkali is Georgia’s form of soup dumpling and is filled with a mix of pork and beef mince. You can also find other fillings like cheese, mushrooms, potato and creamy spinach. Cheap (about .30c per dumpling), very filling, and just straight up incredible!
 
 

Price Of Beer:

Georgia is not only an amazing place to visit it’s also currently incredibly affordable with the price of a large beer averaging about 4 Lari which is $1.50 USD. But if you are visiting Georgia then it’s all about the wine. A litre of white wine will cost about 7-16 Lari (depending on where you are) or $2.63 – $6 USD.
 

Accommodation:

Accommodation is also very affordable and depending on where in Georgia you want to stay the prices obviously do change. Downtown Tbilisi or at the beach city of Bari will cost you much more than other cities in Georgia. You can use Airbnb but here are a few hotel and hostel options in Tbilisi to consider as well.
 

An Interesting Fact About Georgia:

Georgia is currently considered the birthplace of wine with archaeological evidence showing that they were making wine 8000 years ago.
 
Learn more about the history of Tbilisi by taking a Free walking tour – there are so many tours to choose from you can’t possibly leave Tbilisi without learning something new!
Top Non Schengen Countries in Europe to Visit - Georgia

Top Non Schengen Countries in Europe to Visit – Georgia

 
 

Bulgaria – Plovdiv

Plovdiv is an ancient city that is finding its feet as a hip and digital destination in Bulgaria. Here you can find everything from ancient ruins to explore through to modern craft beer bars and restaurants. Plovdiv has also been named the European Capital of Culture for 2019 and there will be many events going on throughout the year to celebrate this.
 
Many people have hailed Plovdiv as the new ‘Chiang Mai’ or ‘Barcelona’ for digital nomads however we found there is still quite a bit to go before they are truly a digital nomad hub…but who knows they might boom before we know it as more digital nomads seek out more affordable places to live around the world.
 
Top Non Schengen Countries in Europe to Visit - Bulgaria

Top Non Schengen Countries in Europe to Visit – Bulgaria

 
Bulgaria, in general, is also a great place to explore while in Schengen exile. It’s a beautiful country with great food and wine tradition. We are always happy to go back to Bulgaria.
 

Food:

Bulgaria is a fantastic foodie destination as it has something to offer everyone. From fresh tasty salads through to homemade soups and barbecued meats Bulgaria has it all. We highly recommend trying Chuska Burek – stuffed Bulgarian peppers, Katak – a traditional fermented curd/yogurt-like product mixed with red peppers and garlic and of course the famous duck hearts.
Top Non Schengen Countries in Europe to Visit - Bulgaria

Top Non Schengen Countries in Europe to Visit – Bulgaria

 
There are plenty of restaurants to choose from in Plovdiv and prices of meals vary depending on where you choose to eat but in general dinner for 2 plus wine will set you back about 38.00 лв or $22 USD
 

Price Of Beer:

Bulgaria has some very good beers at a reasonable price. For 500ml you’d been looking at $1.23 USD but obviously, if you are trying some of their new tasty craft beers (yes the craft beer craze has hit Bulgaria too) you pay more. But the thing most people don’t realise is that Bulgaria makes amazing wine as well. In fact, most of the country is covered with vineyards so it is always possible to get a litre or a half litre of house wine for a great price.
 

Accommodation:

 
We stayed in an Airbnb during our time in Plovdiv as we were there for a week and wanted to get some work done. But there are plenty of hotel and hostel options right in the heart of this quaint city to check out. We’ve heard great things about Pijama Hostel. If a boutique hotel is more your style then check out 8 1/2 Art Guest House.
 

An Interesting Fact About Bulgaria:

Bulgaria is the oldest country in Europe that hasn’t changed its name since it was first established. It was established around 681 AD
 
Top Non Schengen Countries in Europe to Visit - Bulgaria

Top Non Schengen Countries in Europe to Visit – Bulgaria

 

Moldova – Chișină

Moldova is a country that is appearing more and more in the news for one main reason – wine. Wine is a massive industry in Moldova and they even have a Guinness World record at the Milestii Mici winery for the largest wine collection in the world. With over 1.5million bottles it doesn’t seem like they are going to lose this title any time soon.
 
Top Non Schengen Countries in Europe to Visit - Moldova

Top Non Schengen Countries in Europe to Visit – Moldova

While still lacking some of the tourism infrastructure that some other Non Schengen countries have – this is a great off the beaten path country for travellers to visit who like exploring destinations before they become popular. And you won’t be disappointed!
 

Food:

As Moldova has many strong ties to Romania, you will find that many dishes are quite similar but with a local twist. Dishes like mamaliga and sarmale are sure to delight and also try the manti which is a Turkish style of dumpling – one of the best things we ate in 2018!
Top Non Schengen Countries in Europe to Visit - Moldova

Top Non Schengen Countries in Europe to Visit – Moldova

 

Price of Beer:

As I mentioned above, wine is the popular drink of Moldova. Oh, and incredible brandy too which they made a lot of during the Soviet occupation. Today there are quite a few craft beer breweries popping up in the capital of Chișinău, and you can also find some locally made Chișinău for about 18.00 Leu or $1.50 USD
 

Accommodation:

There are airbnb options available for your stay in Chișinău but don’t expect them to speak much English (or any at all). If you are looking for a nice hotel to stay at in town try the Radisson Blu Leogrand Hotel or ZENTRUM ApartHotel. If Hostels are more your style then try the Amazing Ionika Hostel
 

An Interesting Fact About Moldova:

Moldova Has A Faster Internet Connection Than Norway, America, And 150 Other Countries. It’s true! many of the countries listed in this article have better internet than I get in my home country of Australia.
Top Non Schengen Countries in Europe to Visit - Moldova

Top Non Schengen Countries in Europe to Visit – Moldova

 
 

Bosnia and Herzegovina

 
We visited Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2018 and it quickly made our list of best countries to visit when your Schengen runs out – why? It is stunningly beautiful! We honestly had no idea how beautiful it was and this made us want to explore more of this underrated country.

 
 
While it’s had it’s fair share of battles in the past there is some fascinating history to discover in this country and even though much of it is fairly raw, they look at it with good humour and a positive attitude.
 

Food:

We were warned before visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina that it’s not known for great food. And while personally the food didn’t wow us, I can say that we are certain that this needs to be investigated further.
Sometimes it takes a visit to family homes to get a real taste of authentic cuisine and we didn’t get to do this during our trip, so I don’t want to make judgement until we’ve had the chance to visit some homes and experience some home cooking. I can say they make some mean burek and this should be consumed as much as possible!
 

Price of beer:

We were actually surprised when we arrived to discover that there is a very strong Muslim community in Bosnia and Herzegovina and therefore there isn’t a big culture of drinking. Of course, you can find beer in more touristy areas like Mostar, but in Sarajevo, we found you had to go to the bar district to get a beer. A 500ml beer costs about 3.21KM+ or $1.87-2.50 USD
 

Accommodation:

There are great airbnb options you can choose from which is where we stayed in Sarajevo, but if you are looking for a hotel in Sarajevo check out Hotel Boutique 36. If you are wanting hostel accommodation try Hostel Franz Ferdinand. If you are heading to Mostar we stayed at Apartment Astra which is a short walk from the famous bridge and is owned by a lovely family. If you are wanting hostel accommodation then check out Hostel David.
 

An interesting fact about Bosnia and Herzegovina:

 
World War I was started by the assassination of Archduke Frans Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo in 1914. If you want to learn more about this and other parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s history we recommend taking the free walking tour – it’s highly informative and entertaining as well!
Top Non Schengen Countries in Europe to Visit - Bosnia and Herzegovina

Top Non Schengen Countries in Europe to Visit – Bosnia and Herzegovina

 
 

Kosovo – Prizren

Kosovo – in particular, the city of Prizren, is our new favourite non Schengen country in Europe. Prizren was such a pleasant surprise. When we were there, winter was approaching and the days becoming colder. And even so, the people in Kosovo were still out enjoying the limited hours of sunshine they had every single day. We discovered locals drinking coffee in the numerous coffee shops around town, restaurants full every night and bars that offer cheap drinks and a chilled atmosphere.

Top 5 Non Schengen Countries

Top Non Schengen Countries in Europe to Visit – Kosovo

 

A must see is the view from the Kalaja Fortress. This is a great place to relax and enjoy the view. If it’s a nice day bring a picnic and hang out with the locals, many of which are happy to chat to foreigners.

Food:

Try the local Pljeskavica, the Kosovo version of grilled meat stuffed with cheese. We had this dish at te Syla restaurant and it is seriously the best in town. So good we went back the next day and had it again! Price is less than $5 USD and it often comes with salad and chips.

Top 5 Non Schengen Countries

Top Non Schengen Countries in Europe to Visit – Kosovo

 

Price of a beer:

A pint of the local beer Birra Sabaja costs around $2 -2.50 USD. There are a couple really funky bars in Prizren that are open late into the night. Be warned though in the cooler months everyone stays inside, and there are no, no-smoking laws in many bars and restaurants in the Balkans. Or if there are, they are swiftly ignored. You will end up smelling like an ashtray by the end of the evening.

Accommodation:

Prizren City Hostel (NOW CLOSED DOWN )was the only hostel in town when we visited (November 2014), and it’s a great place to stay. Free beer and snacks in the evening and breakfast is also complimentary
Dorms are around 11 per person and private rooms aprox $37 USD per night.

For more hotel options in Prizren click here

An Interesting Fact about Kosovo:

Kosovo, the youngest country of the 21st century, they officially declared independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008

Top 5 Non Schengen Countries

Top Non Schengen Countries in Europe to Visit – Kosovo

Want to learn more about our time in Prizren? Read our full article here

Albania

We visited Tirana and Shkodra, but the coastal towns of the ‘Albanian Riviera’ are a popular place to visit during the warmer months. This country is jam packed with so much natural beauty it would be a shame to leave it off any European trip. The people are all welcoming and go above and beyond to help any foreigners in need of assistance.

 

Top 5 Non Schengen Countries

Top Non Schengen Countries in Europe to Visit – Albania

If you want the beauty of the Greek islands with a more affordable price tag – then book that plane ticket to Albania today.

Food:

Veal appears to be the speciality of Albania – or ‘the baby cow’ as it is usually described. We recommend giving the Albanian Pilaf a try, pilaf is a rice dish where the rice is cooked in seasoned broth. Pilaf costs around $1 USD for a small serving.

Top 5 Non Schengen Countries

Top Non Schengen Countries in Europe to Visit – Albania

Price of Beer:

Birra Kaon the local beer is aprox $1 USD for a 330ml. We also found that the wine was quite tasty and very affordable – score!

Accommodation:

Prices vary depending on where you are staying and at what time of year.  We often found airbnb to offer cheaper accommodation than hotels or even hostels.

For hotel options in Albania click here

An Interesting Fact about Albania:

Albania, Armenia, Macedonia and Vatican City are the only European countries without a McDonald’s branch.

Top 5 Non Schengen Countries

Top Non Schengen Countries in Europe to Visit – Albania

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia – Skopje

The first thing to realise is that there are 2 Macedonia’s in Europe. In fact, they are side by side. One is The FYR Macedonia and the other is a part of Greece. One is Schengen (Greece) and the other is not. So if you’re avoiding the Schengen zone – it’s best not to mix these two up.

We visited the capital of FYR Macedonia Skopje, and though it is a city under construction, it’s still beautiful to visit. It’s going to be incredible once it’s finished. You can wander the streets admiring the architecture and art bridges, or head into the Old Bazaar or Bit Pazaar area to get a taste of the local market scene.

 

Top 5 Non Schengen Countries

Food:

Macedonian food is well worth trying, even though it seems most locals are only interested in international cuisine.
Pindjur is a relish like spread made of eggplant, garlic, peppers, tomato, onion and olive oil. Ask for the spicy version and they’ll add in some seriously spicy chilli as well.  Make sure you try Pastrmajlija – this is a fried dough pie that is covered with salted and cubed meat pieces and sometimes cheese or egg. Often you’ll get a couple so chilli’s on top as well. There’s even a festival for this dish it’s so tasty. Cost for a small was around $3 USD and that fed both of us!

Top 5 Non Schengen Countries

 

Price of a beer:

There are 2 local beers by the local brewery of Skopsko. This beer comes in both light and dark varieties at a cost of around $1.80 USD. If you find the Zlaten Dab beer give it a try it’s a little pricier but certainly a tasty choice.

Accommodation:

We stayed at Hostel 42 in Skopje, Dorms from 8 euro pp. Private room shared bathroom cost: $27 USD
This place is neat, clean and the service was amazing. The girls who worked there were super friendly and helpful and made sure we had a lovely stay. It’s also in a good position so all attractions are within walking distance.

For prices and availability click here

As an added note the bakery on the corner of Boulevard St Clement of Ohrid as you head into town has the best burek (cheese or cheese and spinach pie) we’ve ever tasted. And at a cost of $1 USD for a big piece, how could you refuse!

Top 5 Non Schengen Countries

 

For more FYROM hotel options click here

An Interesting Fact About Macedonia:

Of all the Yugoslav territories, Macedonia was the only one that gained independence peacefully

Montenegro

One of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the Balkans. Montenegro offers beautiful coastlines, stunning mountains and historic old towns to explore. Whilst not as cheap as some other Balkan destinations, you can certainly still get some bang for your buck if you go about it the right way. In the summer months prices go through the roof but come a little off season and prices of accommodation can sometimes be negotiated.

Top 5 Non Schengen Countries

 

Food:

Seafood, especially squid known as Lignej is popular in Montenegro. Due to its positioning, there is also a lot of Italian influence in Montenegrin cooking, with Turkey coming in a close 2nd place. The cuisine also revolves around fresh produce including olive oil, olives and cheese. All of which are divine.

Top 5 Non Schengen Countries

 

Price of a beer:

The local beer is Niksicko. You’ll pay around $1.50 USD for 330ml (bottle size) in some of the more expensive places. However, we’re not the biggest fans of the flavour. In Montenegro, we recommend drinking the local wine. Montenegrin wine is made locally and is actually quite tasty and affordable. A decent 1 litre bottle costs as little as $1.20 USD. Yes that’s right – 1 litre!

Accommodation:

There are lots of Couchsurfing and airbnb options available around Montenegro for very reasonable prices. We also stayed a few nights in Hostel Old Town Kotor – which was absolutely lovely. The rooms were really spacious and it really felt like stepping back in time to the middle ages. Very cool place to stay!

Check prices and availability for Hostel Old Town Kotor here

If hostels aren’t your scene and you are looking for a hotel stay – here are a few good options

An Interesting Fact about Montenegro:

Montenegro features in the movie “Casino Royale”, released in 2006. James Bond plays a high stake poker tournament at the Casino Royale, which is located in Montenegro. Filming for this movie was done in the Czech Republic, however 🙁

Romania

We spent close to 4 months living in Bucharest while I waited to be able to re-enter the Schengen zone back in 2015 – and we fell in love. The people are friendly, the countryside is captivating and it doesn’t hurt that the cost of living is quite reasonable. Plus being able to say you’ve visited Dracula’s castle will make you instantly cool with your friends – trust us.

Bran castle Dracula's castle Romania

Bran Castle also known as Dracula’s castle

Food:

When heading out for a meal in Romania know this – you will never leave the restaurant and still be hungry. Romanian food is incredible, but the portion sizes are insane. Needless to say, if you do visit make sure you try Mititei which is grilled minced meat rolls which in Romanian means “small ones”. Sarmale which is minced meat with rice, wrapped in either pickled cabbage leaves or vine leaves. It’s often served with a few slices of ham or bacon and a nice big helping of polenta. And then for dessert Papanasi, a boiled/fried doughnut of sorts that’s been smothered in local jam and cream – heavenly.

Non Schengen Countries - Romania

Price of Beer:

Romanian’s love their beer and there are plenty to choose from. The main beer that you will find on tap is Ciuc, which will set you back about $1-2 USD depending on what bar you are in. Other popular brands include Ursus, Silva and Timișoreana.

Top Non Schengen Countries in Europe to Visit - Romania

Top Non Schengen Countries in Europe to Visit – Romania

We’ve noticed that the prices of beers in popular bars has skyrocketed and you can pay up to $5 for a beer in some of the most ‘hip’ places. There are still some local nightlife places you can visit to find a reasonably priced beer. Bucharest also has an amazing garden bar scene. In the summer months, these are full of locals all enjoying the warmer months in style.

Accommodation:

Airbnb can be a little pricey in Romania but there are some great options out there. There are also some really great hostels/hotels in Romania including our very favourite hostel…

 
book-a-rest hostel romania

Top Non Schengen Countries in Europe to Visit – Romania

 
Our favourite place to stay in Bucharest.The staff are super friendly and helpful, plus there’s a funky bar and live theatre on the premises – Great Hostel. Check prices and availability here
 
If you are seeking a boutique hotel to stay in then we simply love Epoque Hotel. A beautiful hotel with a spa and one of the best buffet breakfasts we’ve had in Romania. Fresh and tasty!
Top Non Schengen Countries in Europe to Visit - Romania

Top Non Schengen Countries in Europe to Visit – Romania

 

Check out our full list of our favourite accommodation options in Bucharest Here

Interesting fact about Romania:

In 1889 the Romanian city of Timisoara became the first in Europe to have electric street lighting.

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So there you have it, my Top  Non Schengen Countries to Visit.

Now you may be thinking hey, wait a minute! What about Cyprus or the UK? These are kick ass countries that aren’t in the Schengen zone… True, but the UK is known to be quite expensive and not that welcoming to people looking to ride out their Schengen and I’ve never been to Cyprus. So that’s that…..

All of these places are great options to visit and chill out in while you are waiting until you can re-enter the Schengen zone. But honestly, I recommend adding these countries to your itinerary anyway. And as soon as possible too. Trust me these countries won’t be quite so ‘unvisited’ in the coming years.

We’ve had such a fantastic time visiting these countries, I’m actually now embarrassed that I had never even considered them until my Schengen visa ran out. But to be honest, next time we are in Europe these countries will be at the top of my Must Visit Again list.

Top 5 Non Schengen Countries

Have you been to any of these non Schengen countries? Where did you visit, how was your experience? Tell us in the comments below

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Top 5 Non Schengen Countries - great options to visit and chill out in while you are waiting until you can re-enter the schengen zone. But honestly, I recommend adding these countries to your itinerary anyway. Click through for more information