I caught the travel bug on my first interrail adventure across Europe so I was delighted to hear about a new initiative by the EU that would help other young people do the same.
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.
To date, there have been almost 50,000 free interrail passes available to young Europeans through the scheme. The most recent round of applications was open in May 2019 for travel in the latter half of the year.
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
- Applications open: 12th June 2018 – 26th Jun 2018
- Eligibility: Must be 18 as of 1st Jul 2018
- For travel dates: 9th July 2018 – 30th Sept 2018
Round 2 [NOW CLOSED]: Offering 12,000 free interrail passes
- Applications open: 29th Nov 2018 – 11th Dec 2018
- Eligibility: Must be 18 as of 31st Dec 2018
- For travel dates: 15th April 2019 – 31st Oct 2019
Round 3 [NOW CLOSED]: Offering 20,000 free interrail passes
- Applications open: 2nd May – 16th May 2019
- Eligibility: Must be 18 as of 1st Jul 2019
- For travel dates: 1st August 2019 – 31st January 2020
Round 4 [NOT ANNOUNCED] : Minimal information currently available but here is an estimate:
- Applications open: November 2019 (dates tbc)
- Eligibility: Not yet announced but estimate to be: ‘Must be 18 as of 31st December 2019’
- For travel dates: Not yet announced but sometime during 2020
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Once applications open, you’ll need to follow the below process to submit an application. This may vary for each application window.
Once applications for the free interrail scheme 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 could be along the lines of:
- In which time period would you like to start your travel? (this must be within the period specified)
- 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?
You’ll then be required to answer some quiz questions about the EU such as ‘When will the next European Parliament elections take place?’.
If you look carefully there will likely be helpful hints on the page itself or you can refer to google.
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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.
From January 2020, new Interrail passes will no longer be valid in Great Britain as the train companies have pulled out of the scheme in favour of their BritRail pass scheme which works in much the same way.
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 nation states at the time of selection can apply. Therefore, given that Brexit is delayed until 31st October 2019, British citizens can apply in wave 3 (May2019) but will be unlikely to apply in wave 4 (Nov 2019).
Yes, citizens of Latvia, Estonia, Malta and Cyprus will still be able to apply for free interrail passes 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 2000, 2001 and 2002 should also have the opportunity to apply. This is currently a pilot so there is no guarantee that it will continue after this date. So far it seems successful so we hope it will eventually be rolled out permanently.
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 and Great Britain. The pass also allows travel on some trains passing through Monaco and Liechtenstein as well as ferry crossings between Greece and Italy.
From 2020, new Interrail passes will not be valid in Great Britain who have withdrawn from the scheme.
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.
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