The ETIAS visa waiver for Europe is scheduled to become an obligatory requirement as of the end of 2022 for citizens of over 60 countries taking short trips to the Schengen Area. However, this new travel authorization has created confusion in regard to the situation of the European microstates of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City.
In recent weeks, updated information has emerged to clarify whether it is mandatory or not to apply for an ETIAS when visiting the EU microstates, or when traveling from one of these states to a Schengen country.
Some of the most common questions have to do with practical issues when traveling to and from the EU microstates:
- Will nationals of the European microstates need an ETIAS to visit their Schengen neighbor countries?
- Will international travelers need to apply for an ETIAS to visit Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City?
- Are there any other issues tourists should consider when traveling to any of the EU microstates?
Read our quick guide to find out everything you need to know about traveling to and from the European microstates, as well as some interesting, curious facts related to these microstates.
Why Are There Microstates in Europe?
Before explaining the relation between the EU microstates and the ETIAS visa waiver, it is important to understand why Europe has microstates in the first place.
Generally speaking, a microstate is a nation with a very small territory and population.
Centuries ago, Europe presented a plethora of microstates, kingdoms, and feuds. Throughout history, these were absorbed into the greater nations that we know today, but some have kept their independence. Today, the European microstates enjoy sovereignty and international recognition.
Microstates and micronations are not the same. While microstates are independent, usually micronations are self-declared and not recognized by other countries. In terms of the number of microstates in Europe, there is no absolute consensus regarding what nations qualify to be called a microstate.
For instance, even though Iceland is an extended territory, some consider it a microstate because of its very small population (less than 400,000 people). On the other hand, a minority of scholars contest the Vatican's microstate status because it may not meet what is considered the traditional criteria of statehood.
However, when trying to answer the question 'How many microstates are there in Europe?', most scholars agree on 6 European microstates:
In this sense, it is important to understand the European microstates have several different agreements with the other European countries and the European Union. With the exception of Liechtenstein, all microstates have entered an economic agreement with the EU that allows them to issue euro icons, for instance.
In the case of Malta, this is the only microstate that is also a full EU member. Meanwhile, Andorra, Monaco, and San Marino participate to a certain extent in the European Economic Area (EEA), which allows free movement of goods and people within the bloc.
Although Vatican City is not part of the EU, it shares an open border with Italy. This means travelers can use the same documents that they would use for the rest of Europe. The same is true for Liechtenstein, which is part of the Schengen Area.
However, no microstate has the authority to independently issue a Schengen visa that will allow foreigners to visit the Schengen territory.
Foreign Nationals Traveling to the European Microstates
The question of whether an international visitor needs and ETIAS to visit Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, or Vatican City can be addressed and understood by considering the following facts:
- San Marino, Vatican City, and Monaco have open borders with neighboring Schengen countries, which makes them de facto part of the Schengen Area. Therefore, these 3 European microstates all apply Schengen visa policies. Andorra, however, poses no visa requirements on tourists per se.
- Due to their geographic location —and lack of international airports— visitors will inevitably need to pass through the Schengen Area in order to get to one of these 4 microstates.
- The travel authorization for Europe is mandatory for transit through the Schengen Area. Therefore, passengers from ETIAS-required countries will have to apply for an ETIAS in order to cross Schengen borders into each microstate.
Is ETIAS Required to Visit Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, or Vatican City?
In order to get to the European microstates, travelers need to fly into a Schengen airport, and then, enter the microstates by land, or sea.
Therefore, eligible third-country nationals visiting any of the European microstates will need to carry a valid ETIAS.
The travel authorization is required to transit through the Schengen countries needed to get to the microstates.
Where Do You Fly Into for Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, or Vatican City?
As stated before, the EU microstates do not have international airports. Hence, foreign nationals will need to arrive in a near Schengen country first, and then travel by land or sea to the selected EU microstate.
Following is a general guide for international passengers planning to visit Vatican City, San Marino, Monaco, or Andorra:
Andorra is landlocked and shares borders with Schengen countries France and Spain.
- The nearest French airports are in Toulouse and Perpignan. Non-EU travelers will need an ETIAS for France to fly into Toulouse-Blagnac Airport or Perpignan-Rivesaltes Airport.
- The nearest Spanish airports are in Barcelona, Girona, and Lleida. Visitors from outside the EU will need an ETIAS for Spain to fly into Barcelona El Prat-Josep Tarradellas Airport, Girona-Costa Brava Airport, or Lleida-Alguaire Airport.
Monaco shares an open border with France.
- The nearest airport is in Nice, France. Tourists will need an ETIAS for France to land in Cote d'Azur Airport and drive to Monaco.
San Marino shares an open border with Italy.
- The nearest major airport is Federico Fellini International Airport, formerly known as Rimini Miramare Airport, in Rimini, Italy.
- Other nearby airports include Marche Airport, formerly known as Ancona Falconara Airport in Ancona, Bologna-Guglielmo Marconi Airport in Bologna, and Forlì International Airport, also known as Luigi Ridolfi Airport, in Forlì.
- Visitors flying into any of these Italian airports to get to San Marino will need an ETIAS for Italy.
Vatican City shares an open border with Italy.
- The nearest airport is in Rome. Travelers flying into Leonardo Da Vinci Fiumicino Airport in Rome will need and ETIAS for Italy.
Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City Nationals Visiting Schengen
Although Andorra was initially announced as an ETIAS eligible country, government authorities have officially confirmed that their citizens will not need a travel authorization to cross the Schengen border.
Andorran, Monaguesque, Sammarinese, and Vanticanien passport holders will not be required to carry an ETIAS in order to visit their neighboring Schengen countries.
This exemption is effective despite the sovereign nations not being part of the European Union or the Schengen Agreement.
Citizens of the European microstates will continue to enjoy free travel to the Schengen Area, while also benefiting from the increased security the ETIAS will offer.
Accordingly, passport holders from Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City will continue to enjoy full freedom of movement to the Schengen Area even once the implementation of the ETIAS is fully operational in late 2022.
Quick, Curious Facts About the European Microstates
European microstates differ greatly from one another and have unique characteristics and attractions. There are plenty of reasons why international visitors should take a detour from the most popular European landmarks and visit them.
Is Monaco Worth a Visit?
Monaco is a city-state of 35,000 residents. Measuring only 2 square kilometers, it is the second smallest state in Europe.
Geographically located in the French Riviera, Monaco is a favorite holiday destination for the rich and famous: from the European elite and politicians to international movie stars. Its most famous area is Monte Carlo, a place of luxury, yachts, and shiny casinos.
Monaco is also known internationally for its Formula One Grand Prix, one of the most prestigious motor race events in the world.
What is the Best Month to Travel to Malta?
Malta is a country made of seven islands near Sicily, in the heart of the Mediterranean. Part of the United Kingdom until 1964, the country holds English as a co-official language (together with Maltese) and most people speak both.
The capital city, Valetta, is famous for glasswork and fish markets; while the island of Gozo offers relaxed environment and a beautiful landscape of lush vegetation and flowers.
The best time to visit Malta is late spring or early fall when the temperatures are gentle and the climate dry, but there are no tourist crowds.
Is the Vatican Free to Visit?
The smallest European state, the Vatican in Rome, is the official home of the Pope (the highest religious authority for Catholics) as well as 1,000 more residents.
However, its size does not prevent the Vatican from being one of the most visited places in the world. Whether they decide to enter it as part of a pilgrimage or to observe some of the world's finest pieces of art and architecture (e.g., the St Peter Basilica and the Sistine Chapel), visitors can walk into the Vatican for free. The Basilica is also free to visit, but travelers will need a ticket for the Vatican Museums.
How Long Do You Need to Stay in San Marino?
San Marino is a mountainous state in the north of Italy. Its capital, San Marino, sits on Monte Titano and is made of picturesque medieval architecture and narrow cobblestone streets.
On the very top of the mountain, visitors will find the old citadel with its Three Towers, built in the 11th century. In fact, San Marino claims to be the oldest republic in the world.
Only a 2-hour drive from Bologna, San Marino can be easily visited within a one-day trip.
Can You Walk Across Liechtenstein?
Liechtenstein extends for 25 km (north to south) and 4 km (east to west), meaning that it can be crossed in a matter of hours. However, this does not mean that it will be an easy stroll.
Liechtenstein is located in the heart of the Alps, between Switzerland and Austria, and extended parts of the walk will be uphill.
Liechtenstein's 37,000 thousand residents enjoy one of the highest GDPs per capita in the world. This wealth comes from the fact that Liechtenstein is a global banking center and financial hub.
Is Andorra Expensive to Visit?
Placed in the Pyrenees and at the border between France and Spain, Andorra is a mountain destination and a paradise for lovers of winter sports. Travelers interested in leisure can also enjoy world-class slopes and 5-star spas to relax their muscles at the end of the day.
Andorra is more affordable if compared to other famous ski destinations in Europe like France or Switzerland. Of course, the final cost of a holiday in Andorra will depend on many factors, including where travelers are flying for and what type of accommodation they book.