Transit Visas for Europe – FAQ Fridays

[Updated: 12 September 2018]

Travelling with a South African passport comes with its complications.  This week on FAQ Friday, we discuss transit visas while travelling in Europe.

Video Transcription

Welcome to FAQ Fridays from Travelstart with me, Nick Paul. We regularly get questions on Facebook and Twitter on a range of different topics like visa’s and so on.

We got one today from Lee-Ann Lipman on Twitter asking: “If I’m booking a flight that has a layover in Germany, would we need visas of sorts?”

To answer that we’d need to ask her for more information. Germany is one of the 26 Schengen states, that’s a state that shares a common visa agreement with 25 others. This basically means that you need one visa to visit all the different countries.

It would depend on where your final destination is; if Lee was going to another Schengen State, she would already have a visa for that country in which case she wouldn’t need an extra visa for Germany. If she was on her way to another country outside of Europe, so long as she had a visa, passport, and any documentation she needed to go to that country, she’d be ok. You’d also need to make sure that you are not transiting in a country like Germany for longer than 24 hours. Most of the major airports allow you to transit there for up to 24 hours. Those include all the ones you can fly to from South Africa: Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Munich and so on. The smaller ones might require you to the leave the airport overnight so you would need a special visa to be out of the airport, roaming the streets at that time of night.

Another thing to bear in mind is that once you are in Germany that you are not allowed to transfer to another Schengen state. That would require you to have a Schengen visa for that transit. The reason is because if you were travelling, for example, Cape Town – Frankfurt, Frankfurt – Paris, Paris – Mexico City…Frankfurt and Paris are both part of the Schengen area. So essentially you are making a domestic flight between the two of them and would be leaving the international transit area, in which case you would need a visa.

In summary:

You really only need a visa if you are transiting more than one Schengen State and if you are spending more than 24 hours in these airports. So most cases you won’t need a visa to travel via Germany.

Just a friendly heads-up to subscribe to our channel, and if you have any more questions on visa’s or any other travel related question ask them in the comments below.

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Disclaimer

All information on this blog page was correct at the time of publishing and may change at any time without prior notice. Travelstart will not be held liable for loss or inconvenience resulting from the use of outdated or incorrectly noted information.

Our Readers Comments

  1. Hi, I am travelling to Paris on Alitalia with a 2 hour layover in Rome. We have 6 nights in Paris and 6 nights in Rome. Will I need a French or Italian visa? I’m not sure if Italy becomes the first point of entry jusy because our flight to Paris connects from there.

    • Hi Tony,

      Thanks for reaching out.

      As you are staying in Italy and France for the same duration you will apply for your visa at the Embassy of the country which is your first point of entry which would be Paris as you will only be in transit in Rome but clearing immigration in Paris.

  2. Hi there

    My girlfriend and I are traveling from Denver Colorado to Cape Town in two weeks time , we have an 11 hour layover in Frankfurt , and we would like to do a bit of exploring during that long layover ! My girlfriend hold a USA passport and I have a South African passport , is it possible for us to explore Frankfurt before our flight back to Cape Town or do we need a specific visa to do so !

    Thanks

    • Hi Joshua,

      Thanks for contacting us.

      A South African passport holder wanting pass through immergration in Germany will need to apply for a Schengen visa. Please contact the Germany Embassy or official visa handling agency. They will be able to advise on the correct procedures to follow for when you apply for a Schengen visa, what documents are required and the cost.

      I don’t think an American passport holder requires a visa when wanting to visit Europe however we do not specialise in visa related queries for foreign passport holders. Please contact the Embassy direct or official visa handling agency. They will be able to advise if a visa or transit visa is required.

  3. Good day,
    I am travelling on a South African passport from Vancouver ,canada to Johannesburg transiting to Munich (layover 2 hours) and Frankfurt (layover 5 hours).Do i need a Shengen visa?

    • Hi there,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      If you are transiting through 2 schengen countries you will need to apply for a Schengen visa.

      Please contact the Germany Embassy or official visa handling agency. They will advise on the correct procedures to follow when applying for a visa, what documents are required and the cost.

  4. I will be travelling from Johannesburg to Moscow transitting through Rome, on a South African passport, do I need a schengan visa?

    • Hi Winston,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      Usually one only need a visa if they are transiting more than one Schengen State and if they are spending more than 24 hours in those airports. So most cases one would not need a Schengen visa. However we do recommend you contact the Embassy direct, give them your exact routing / itineary and they will provide you with the most up to date information if a visa / transit visa is required or not.

  5. My wife and I are booked to travel from Cape Town via Amsterdam and then via Paris to our final destination being Toronto. We have the proper visas for Canada and have travelled via London, Frankfurt and Muich before without requiring Schengen visas. However, in selecting the best flight prices, we now have a flight that takes us from Cape Town to Amsterdam (layover of 3hr 20min), then to Paris (layover of 1hr 45min), then to Toronto. Having read your article on flying from one Schengen country to another will require a Schengen visa despite the final destination being outside Europe, namely Canada, may I confirm that a Schengen visa will be required in spite of the flights being booked via the KLM website as one of the connected routes it offers? The return flight, which is part of the entire package booking, however, is Toronto via Paris to Cape Town and, understandably, will not require a Schengen visa.

    • Hi Cedric,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      If you are flying via 2 schengen states or more you will need to apply for a Schengen visa. Please contact the Embassy direct or official visa handling agency.

      They will be able to advise on the correct procedures to follow when applying for a visa, what documents are required and the cost.

  6. Hi there, thanks for your blog, it helped a lot but could you help me more please. I have a South African passport and live in the UK and have permanent residency. I’m flying from Manchester to Amsterdam (40 minute layover) to Paris (1 hour 45 minute layover) and then onto Johannesburg. I now know I do need a schengen visa but at which countries embassy do I apply as both will be classed as 1 day in their counties.
    Thank you in advance

    • Hi Wouter,

      Thanks for getting in touch. You would apply at the Embassy of the country you are first entering.

      When contacting the Dutch Embassy advise them of your flight itinerary and they will confirm if applying through them is correct.

  7. Hi,

    I’m hoping someone can help me. I have a flight from Dublin Ireland which has a technical stop in Madrid and then a stop in Addis ababa and then into Cape town. I am on a south African passport. Do I require a transit Visa for madrid?

    • Hi Casey,

      Thanks for reaching out.

      If you are transiting through two Schengen states you will require to apply for a visa. If only one, this should be fine. However visa information and rules are always changing so we recommend to contact the Embassy direct to get the most up to date information.

  8. Hi

    My civil partner and I are flying from Nice, France via London Heathrow onto Cape Town soon? I’m German/RSA passport holder, his RSA with USA visas.
    According to gov.uk you sort of exempt for a quick layover in London without leaving the airport.
    Nice-Heathrow-Johannesburg-Cape Town all with British Airways.

    Your thoughts?
    Merci

    • Hi there,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      South African passport holders transiting the UK as part of their flight enroute to the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, CANADA, NEW ZEALAND or AUSTRALIA may travel to the UK under the “Transit without a Visa” (TWOV) concession. This will allow passengers to connect to the next leg of their route without a visa provided that the passenger:
       Has a confirmed flight to the next destination (USA, Canada, New Zealand or Australia)
       Has the correct documents to enter their next destination (i.e. a valid visa to the US, Canada, New Zealand or Australia)
       Will be leaving the UK within 24 hours of arrival.
      The TWOV concession allows passengers to connect to onward flights both airside or at an alternative airport as long as the connecting flight to the onward destination is taken within 24 hours

      Please contact the Embassy direct as visa information could change at anytime and they will be able to provide you with the most up to date information.

  9. Do I need a visa if I travel to Panama and the 1 stop over is in Amsterdam or any other part of Europe?

    • Hi Jacque,

      This depends on the passport you are travelling on. Please contact the Embassy of the country you are travelling too as well as the countries you are transiting to make sure if you require a visa or not.

  10. I am a Nigeria with south Africa study permit. Please I am travelling to Spain on an academic conference. I want to go through Heathrow airport London, please will I need a Uk transit visa?

    • Hi there,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      I’m afraid we do not specialise in visa related queries for foreign passport holders. Please contact the Embassy direct or official visa handling agency. They will be able to advise if a visa or transit visa is required and if so what the cost would be, correct procedures to follow and what documentation will be required. To my knowledge you would need a transit visa, but again you would need to contact the relevant authorities to get the most up to date visa information for a Nigerian passport holder.

  11. Hi
    I have a question
    me and my family are flying from south africa to ireland with a layover of two hours in london heatrow do we need a transit visam in london

    • Hi Gert,

      If you are flying on South African passports to Ireland via the UK you will need a UK transit visa.

      Please contact the Embassy or official visa handling agency direct they will be able to provide you with the most up to date information and correct procedures to follow when applying for the transit visa.

  12. Hello Im from Port Elizabeth and to apply or now appear personally for biometrics is adding hefty amounts to our travel bill as we only have a German consulate and UK visa centre here. Is there any way that this extra travel cost can be prevented, because most times you tend to avoid this and visit countries that do not require visas????????

    • Hi Hassen,

      I’m afraid this is an unfortunate situation.

      I would suggest you contact the Embassy or official visa handling agency direct. As they are the ones doing the visa applications they will be able to provide further information if there is another way.

  13. Hi There

    My girlfiend and I will be travelling to Germanny in 2019. I’m in dual citizen and hold both RSA and USA passport, so I do not need a schengen visa.
    My girlfirend on the other hand is south african, so she will need one. Looking at the requirements I see that financial capability is one of them. She has a job, but doesnt earn much, espicially when looking at ZAR/EUR.

    I will be the one paying for this entire trip. I also live and work in south africa by the way. How do we show on the application that she has the financial means to maintain herself during the stay, through me?

    Thanks
    Patrick

    • Hi Patrick,

      The Embassy would probably need a letter from you confirming you will be paying for her trip and then show a 3 or 6 months copy of your bank statement.

      Please contact the Embassy or the official visa handling agency of Germany as they will advise what all documents would be required in this case.

      German Embassy (Pretoria)
      Tel Number : (012) 427 8900
      Appointments : 086 100 22 45
      Fax Number : (012) 427 8984 (Visa Department)
      Street Address : 201 Florence Ribeiro Avenue, Groenkloof, Pretoria, 0181
      Postal Address : P.O. Box 2023, Pretoria 0001
      Email Address : visapretoria@pret.diplo.de
      Web Address : http://www.southafrica.diplo.de

      or

      Intergate Visalink: Visa Application Centres
      Call Centre : 0861 00 22 45 (for appointments, tracking and general information)
      Email Address : info@intergate-visalink.com
      Website : http://www.visa-germany.co.za
      Street Address (Pta) : Lougardia Building, Cnr Hendrik Verwoerd Drive & Embankment Road, Centurion, Gauteng, 0157
      Street Address (Cpt) : 80 Strand Street, Cape Town, 8001
      Street Address (Plz) : Fairview Office Park, 4th Floor, Regus Centre, 8 Ring Road, Greenacres Port Elizabeth, 6001
      Street Address (Bfn) : 80 Prez Reitz Avenue, Westdene, Bloemfontein, 9301

  14. Hallo

    I am travelling via Paris to Canada. I know if I travel via Amsterdam to Canada I don’t need a intransit visa, but do I need one for Paris.

    Regards
    Corne..

    • Hi Cornelia,

      France is part of the Schengen state. If you are travelling on a South African passport and transiting through one Schengen country on your way to Canada a transit visa is not required.

      However you welcome to contact the Embassy direct to make 100% sure as visa rules could change at anytime.

  15. Hi,
    I have one question. If I’m travelling from India to one of the country in Africa, via Europe, then do i need a transit VISA (Schengen)? if yes, then can you pls share the link, to get the Schengen transit VISA, along with the pre-requisites required, to get the Schengen transit VISA.
    Regards

    • Hi there,

      This depends on what passport you are travelling on and what country in Europe.

      Please contact the Embassy or official visa handling agency direct. They will be able to advise accordingly.

  16. I’m flying from Johannesburg South Africa to Zürich. 2 hour wait for my flight to Malta. In Malta I will be joining the ship on which I will be working. Got a letter of invitation from both the ship and Malta outhorities. Do I need a visa for the 2 hour wait as I’m in transit and won’t leave the airport

    • Hi Susan,

      If you are passing through 2 Schengen countries you will require a visa and both Switzerland and Malta is part of the Schengen countries.

      With regards to working on a ship please contact the Embassy to see what visa you will need on the passport you will be travelling on.

  17. Hello, i am travelling from the uk with a schengen visa to Mykonos (Greece). But i have a stopover in Frankfurt – Do i need a transit visa or am i fine with the schengen visa. I hold a nigerian passport.

    • Hi Tim,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      Germany falls under the Schengen States so this will cover you.

      However we do not specialise in foreign passport holders so I do recommend you contact the Embassy direct to get the most up to date information.

  18. Hi there. Do I need a transit visa if I am stopping over in Spain for less then 5hours onward to Mexico from Johannesburg? Travelling on a South African Passport.

    • HI Nikita,

      If you only have one stop over in an EU country you would not need a transit via.

      If you would be flying via Amsterdam then via Spain onto Mexico you would require a Schengen visa.

      However as visa information could change at anytime, we ask that you please contact the Embassy for the most up to date information.

  19. I am planing to fly to Ireland on my south African travel document, do i need a visa ?

    • Hi there,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      If you flying to Ireland (Dublin) on our South African passport you will not require a visa. However please contact the Embassy direct as visa rules and regulations can change at anytime.

      As the Embassy is the one granting the visa they will be able to provide you with the most up to date information.

  20. Hi,

    I’m travelling on a South African passport via Paris (layover less than 12 hours) to London (LHR) in June 2018. Thereafter London/Edinburgh/London a few days later. I will then return to South Africa a week later. Am I correct in saying all I need is a UK visa for London & Edinburgh and no Schengen Visa.

    Thank you.

    • Hi Stuart,

      If you are passing through more then 2 Schengen States you would require a Schengen visa.

      Please contact the Embassy direct, let them know your full Itinerary there and back and they will be able to provide you with the most up to date information. With visa’s rules and regulations this could change at anytime.

  21. Most probably answered already. Question. Flying on south african pasport to venice via madrid with iberia airline. Layover of 2 hours in madrid. Applying for italian shengen. Do I need layover passport for spain?

    • Hi Werner,

      Thanks for contacting us.

      Your Schengen visa for Italy will cover you while in transit in Spain as it is also part of the Schengen state.

      However rules could change at anytime, so we do advise you contact the Embassy direct to get the most up to date information.

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