Travel through much of Europe is about to become considerably easier: in three days’ time, on December 21st, nine more states will be added to Europe’s Schengen Zone, allowing travel without passport checks across an area that stretches from Portugal in the west to Hungary in the east.

Most of the new countries to the treaty are former communist states; Slovenia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Lithuania, Lativa and Estonia. The other new addition is Malta, which will now become the frontier border for illegal immigration from northern Africa.

The UK and Ireland are still hold-outs, having not joined Schengen at all, and while Switzerland and Liechtenstein have joined, they haven’t yet implemented the treaty.

The upshot of this is that travellers will no longer have to put up with regular, and often gruff, passport checks as they travel from Germany into Poland or the Czech Republic, or Austria into Slovakia or Hungary. On the downside, passport checks on the eastern borders will probably get worse.

I recall on one trip from Bosnia into Croatia by bus, my passport was checked three times in the space of about 30 minutes; first officers came through, and inspected passports; then another person came through and collected all of the passports and took them into a building, where they were stamped – and then returned, rather haphazardly, by being given to a passenger to hand out. This was followed by more officers coming through to check them again – presumably Croatian police, this time. Annoying, but not too bad, in the general scheme of things. What’s been your worst border-control experience?

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