Europe is without a doubt complicated. Many will find the various organizations and treaty agreements confusing at best. There's the European Union, the Euro Zone, the Schengen Zone, and more. So what do all of these mean? Europe is a stunning region with endless beautiful attractions that one can visit year-round.

The answers to these questions are a little complicated as everything gets a little messy in Europe. But it's good to have an idea of what these are before heading over there. It's even messy how many territories the United States has - some have over 3 million people and some are uninhabited.


The European Union

So what is the European Union? The European Union as a political and economic union of some 27 European states in Europe. The European Union is not important for visas and travel purposes. The importance of this organization is more, well, economic and political.

  • What: An Economic and Political Union
  • Size: 4,233,255.3 km2 (1,634,469.0 sq mi)
  • Population: 447 Million

The European Union has an area of 4,233,255.3 km2 (1,634,469.0 sq mi) and a population of around 447 million. Britain was a part of this organization until Brexit. Being a member of the European Union does not mean the country is part of the common travel area (the Schengen Zone) or that the country uses the common currency (the Euro).

  • United Kingdom: Was Part of The European Union Until Brexit

The aim of the European Union is to create a single integrated market through standardized laws that apply to all member states. It also strives to ensure the free movement of people, goods, services, and finances.

One doesn't even have to be in Europe to be in the European Union territory. Some far-flung France possessions like French Guinea in South America are part of the European Union (as well as the Schengen Zone and the Euro Zone).

Related: First Time In Europe? Save These 10 Tips For Your Trip

The Schengen Area

The Schengen Area is a common travel area that includes 26 European countries. These countries have officially abolished all passport and other types of border controls between themselves. For travel purposes, this zone functions as a single "country" or destination. Generally, other developed countries are permitted to enter the zone visa-free for 90 days.

  • Visa Policy: Visa-Free For 90 Days For Most Developed Countries

The Schengen Area is similar but not the same to the countries that make up the European Union. Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland are part of the Schengen Area but not part of the European Union. On the other side, Bulgaria, Romania, the Republic of Ireland, Cyprus, and Croatia are part of the European Union but not part of the Schengen Zone - you will need to pass different border controls for those countries. All European Union countries (except Ireland) need to join Schengen at some point in the future).

  • Members: 26 European Countries
  • Established: 1985

Related: These European Destinations Are Great To Visit All Year Round

The Eurozone or Euro Area

After the American Dollar, the Euro is the next big international currency in the world. It is the common currency of 19 members of the European Union. The Eurozone is a monetary union and most of the countries of the European Union are obligated to join the Eurozone at some point in the future (except for Denmark and the United Kingdom before it left the European Union).

  • Type: Monetary Union
  • Members: 19 Members of The European Union - 7 of The Rest Are Expected To Join In The Future
  • Denmark: Is Not Obligated To Join The Eurozone

In these countries, the Euro is the sole legal tender and all national currencies have been abolished. Two countries outside the Eurozone have unilaterally adopted the Euro as their currency - Montenegro and Kosovo (some microstates have agreements to use it as well).

The eight countries that continue to use their national currencies are Sweden, Poland, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Romania, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. Some of these countries are expected to join the Eurozone in the coming years and their national currencies will be abolished.

Common Travel Area (Britain + Ireland)

Like a mini Schengen Area, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland are in the Common Travel Area where border checkpoints between them have been abolished. This is a geographic common travel area of the British Isles. The Common Travel Area also includes the mini countries - or British Crown Dependancies - of the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.

  • Members: United Kingdom, Ireland, Isle of Man, Channel Islands

This means that one can fly or drive between Ireland and Britain will little or no checks.