My very first travelling experience was interrailing through Europe, it was an amazing trip that started my passion for travelling. I was delighted to hear about a new initiative by the EU that would help young people explore Europe by offering them a free interrail pass. This is a fantastic way to help young Europeans learn more about the world around them.
If you’re not familiar with DiscoverEU, it is a new European Union scheme offering a free interrail pass for EU citizens or those legally residing within the EU for their 18th birthday.
The first round of 15,000 interrail passes were successfully distributed in the Summer of 2018, and a second round of 12,000 in the Autumn of 2018. A third round of passes will be distributed in Summer 2019, see below for more information about the application process.
It is expected that the scheme will continue as a pilot until 2020, however it is part of a wider EU proposal that could eventually see all 18 year olds receive this incredible opportunity.
What is interrail?
An interrail ticket (also known as an interrail pass) allows free rail travel within participating EU countries.
There are two types of pass:
- A global pass which allows unlimited rail travel within the 30 participating countries.
- A one-country pass which is limited to a specific country chosen when purchasing.
Find out more about the various passes available on the interrail website
The pass available through the European Union DiscoverEU free interrail pass scheme is a global pass, see the full list of countries included and excluded at the end of this article.
What is the DiscoverEU free interrail scheme?
Starting in 2018, the scheme offered free interrail passes to 18 year olds. The program “seeks to offer all young people, regardless of their background and including young people with reduced mobility, a chance to travel abroad”.
Round 1 [NOW CLOSED]: Offering 15,000 free interrail passes to those who were 18 as of 1st July 2018.
Applications open: 12th June 2018 – 26th Jun 2018
For travel dates: 9th July 2018 – 30th Sept 2018
Round 2 [NOW CLOSED]: Offering 12,000 free interrail passes to those who were 18 as of 31st December 2018.
Applications open: 29th Nov 2018 – 11th Dec 2018
For travel dates: 15th April 2019 – 31st Oct 2019
Round 3 [NOW OPEN]: Offering free interrail passes to those who are 18 as of 1st July 2019.
Applications open: 2nd May – 16th May 2019
For travel dates: 1st August 2019 – 31st January 2020
Following a successful two rounds in 2018, a third round of applications is open from 2nd May – 16th May 2019.
In order to apply in round 3, you must be 18 as of 1st July 2019 (i.e. anyone who was born between 2nd July 2000 and 1st July 2001).
If you are successful, you’ll have the opportunity to travel for 30 days in 2019 (between 1st August and 1st January 2020).
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When applications are open, you need to visit the European Youth Portal where there will be a user friendly application process.
You will need to complete this before the stated deadline (see top of this article). You’ll also need to provide your date of birth, your nationality and your email address.
At this point you can also specify if you wish to travel independently or with a group of friends.
If travelling with friends you can create a new group application or join an existing one. To join an existing application you will need a joining code from whoever started the group. There are a maximum of 5 persons per group application – the application will be treated as one application.
You’ll receive an email with a link to the next step of the process. You’ll need to provide further personal details such as gender, occupation, disability information, etc. At this point you’ll also need to provide either your passport or national ID number.
Next you’ll need to share details of your trip so it’s helpful to have an idea, the questions are:
- In which time period would you like to start your travel? (this must be between 1st August 2019 and 31st January 2020.)
- Which will be the starting country of your trip?
- How many countries are you planning to visit? (options are between one and four)
- Which would be your favourite country to visit?
- How many times did you travel abroad in the last 12 months?
If the application follows a similar process to wave 1, you’ll then be required to answer some quiz questions such as ‘When will the next European Parliament elections take place?’.
Hint: If you scroll to the bottom of the page there are links to pages containing the answers.
Who is eligible for a free interrail pass?
In order to be eligible for the scheme, you must meet the following criteria:
- Be an EU citizen or legally residing within the EU
- Be 18 years old to apply for free rail travel, there are cut off dates for each round
- Round 1: Must be 18 as of 1st Jul 2018
- Round 2: Must be 18 as of 31st Dec 2018
- Round 3: Must be 18 as of 1st Jul 2019
- Be willing to become a #DiscoverEU ambassador – this involves documenting your travels on social media or in a presentation at your school.
What does the free interrail pass entitle me too?
There are a number of different interrail passes available ranging from 5 travelling days within a 15 day period up to one month of unlimited travel.
The pass on offer as part of the EU free interrail pass scheme is a global pass for 15 travelling days within a month.
One of these passes would currently cost you £292 so it is a significant saving.
View all the passes here.
It is a global pass which will entitle you to travel within the 31 EU countries outlined below. Interrail passes are not usually valid in your own country.
How long do I have to use my free interrail pass?
There are set travel dates for each round of applications, these are outlined at the beginning of this article. Your trip will need to last between 1 and 30 days and visit between 1 and 4 countries.
I have reached out to DiscoverEU and they have confirmed that citizens of nations states at the time of selection can apply. Therefore, given that Brexit is now delayed until 31st October 2019, British citizens will be able to apply in wave 3 too unless there are any substantial changes to the date.
It is not yet clear what will happen once Britain leaves the EU.
Yes, citizens of Latvia, Estonia, Malta and Cyprus will still be able to apply for freeinterrail despite the fact that the global interrail pass is not valid here. Alternative transport options will be available in these countries.
The process works in waves and is expected to run until 2020 so those born throughout 2001 and 2002 should also have the opportunity to apply in later waves of applications. This is currently a pilot, if successful it may be rolled out permanently post-2020.
A global pass usually allows travel within Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Macedonia, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom. The pass also allows travel on some trains passing through Monaco and Liechtenstein as well as ferry crossings between Greece and Italy.
There are a number of EU countries where the pass is not valid, this includes Albania, Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine. As railways do not exist in Andorra, Cyprus, the Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Iceland, Malta or San Marino the passes are also invalid here.
However, the EU has announced that alternative transport options will be available to freeinterrail members hoping to visit countries where interrail passes are not valid on the rail network.
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