Visas – is it really that hard? Or am I just dumb? The answer: YES.
I found some information on travelling to France, specifically with respect to visas. Check out this web site: http://www.ambafrance-au.org/Frequently-Asked-Questions.
As far as I can tell, if we’re staying for less than 90 days (which we would be, since my long service leave is only three months), we don’t need a visa, because of something called the Schengen Agreement. This applies to other countries in Europe, including Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Spain and Sweden.
But then this page mentions a Schengen Visa: http://www.ambafrance-au.org/General-rules-applying-in-France. If we don’t need a visa, what’s the point of a Schengen Visa? This Yahoo Questions post answers it, I think: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090129062054AAIPq7k. It’s for people who aren’t from a country that’s party to the Schengen Agreement. This site is useful too: http://www.schengenvisa.cc/. It says, “The Schengen visa is a “visitor visa”. It is issued to citizens of countries who are required to obtain a visa before entering Europe.” And since we don’t require a visa, we don’t need to do anything more. I think.
If it turns out we do need a visa (even if it’s just a Schengen Visa), then the whole thing becomes a giant pain in the arse, because they want to know your every movement (hotel booking confirmations, flight booking confirmations) during the stay, proof of means of subsistence (ie you’re not going to work whilst in France), bank account statements, visits to the Embassy in Sydney and god knows what else. The hotel booking part would be impossible to provide, given we intend to camp and just tool about without planning accommodation too far ahead.
But I think we’re OK without a visa. I think.