[Updated Nov 19] How to Apply for EU Free Interrail Pass for 18th Birthday

[Updated Nov 19] How to Apply for EU Free Interrail Pass for 18th Birthday

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 rail travel within participating European countries. This can either be a continous ticket from 15 days up to 3 months or a flexible ticket with a set number of travel days ranging from 3 days within a month up to 15 days within 2 months.

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There are two types of pass:

  • A global pass which allows rail travel across any of the 31 participating countries.
  • 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


What is the DiscoverEU free interrail scheme?

Starting in 2018, the European Union’s DiscoverEU started offering free interrail passes or equivalent fixed tickets to 18 year olds who are EU citizens or legally residing in the EU. The program “seeks to offer all young people, regardless of their background and including young people with reduced mobility, a chance to travel abroad”.

The scheme typically offers successful applicants a standard ‘7 travel days within one month’ global interrail pass. This allows travellers to visit any of the countries accepting interrail passes with the caveat that you must begin in an EU member state and visit at least one other member state.

Not all successful applicants will receive a standard interrail pass. If your travel plans require flights (e.g. Malta or Cyprus), includes countries that do not participate in the Interrail scheme (Estonia or Latvia) or are complicated for other reasons, you may be better off asking for fixed tickets which can be chosen once you’ve been accepted on to the scheme. See below for more information on this.

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Application Window Timings for DiscoverEU

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 [OPENING SOON] :

  • Applications open: 7th Nov – 28th Nov
  • Eligibility: Must be 18 as of 31st December 2019 (i.e. your birth year is any date in 2001)
  • For travel dates: 1st April 2020 – 31st October 2020

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How Do I Get a Free Interrail Pass?

Once applications open, you’ll need to follow the below process to submit an application. This may vary for each application window.

Step 1

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.

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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.

Step 2

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.

Step 3

Next you’ll need to answer 5 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.

Step 4

The final part of the application requires that you share some initial details on your travel plans so it’s helpful to have an idea. These questions are NOT part of the application criteria. Questions may 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)
  • Whether it is the first tine that you’ll be travelling without your parents
  • Which would be your favourite country to visit?
  • How many times did you travel abroad in the last 12 months?

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Who is Eligible for a Free Interrail Pass Under DiscoverEU?

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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
    • Round 4: Must be 18 as of 31st Dec 2019
  • Be willing to become a #DiscoverEU ambassador – this involves documenting your travels on social media or in a presentation at your school.
  • You must not have applied in previous application windows

What Do I Get If Successful In My DiscoverEU Application?

If successful, you’ll be contacted by the EU or one of their contracted agencies to confirm your travel plans. You’ll have two options:

  • Flexible travel option **recommended** – You’ll receive a standard ‘X travel days within one month’ global interrail pass (usually 7 travel days within a month). This is the best option as it allows you to remain flexible as to where you go and when. You will need to make any required train reservations yourself but this is very simple through the interrail app or at a train station.
  • Fixed travel option – This is much more complex and will remove a lot of the freedom you get on an interrail adventure, it is also limited to a maximum of 2 countries. You’ll provide exact dates and times of the journeys you’d like to take over the course of one month, up to the value of €260. This option would be useful if your trip includes Cyprus or Malta which will require a flight or countries not in the Interrail scheme such as Estonia or Latvia.

Apparently it’s possible to have combined fixed/flex tickets if your plans allow, speak with the contractor arranging your booking or drop me a comment below for more info.

For both the fixed and flexible travel options, you can travel for up to one month. You are required to begin your journey in an EU member state and visit at least one other EU member state during your trip.


How long do I have to use my free interrail pass?

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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.

FAQs

Can British citizens apply for a free interrail pass after Brexit?

I have reached out to DiscoverEU and they have confirmed that citizens of nation states at the time of selection can apply. As Brexit has been delayed, British citizens will be eligible in the upcoming Nov 2019 round.

Can citizens of Estonia, Malta and Cyprus apply for a free interrail pass?

Yes, citizens of 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. When providing travel plans, you may need to use the fixed travel option or a combination of fixed and flex – a representative will help with your booking.

I was born after 1st Jan 2003, will I be able to apply for a free Interrail pass?

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 but proposals are currently being considered that could see up to 1.5 million 18 year olds have the opportunity by 2027.

Which countries is a standard interrail pass valid in?

A global pass allows rail 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.

There are a number of EU countries or regions where a standard interrail pass is not valid or where railways do not exist, this includes Latvia, Estonia, Andorra, Cyprus, the Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Malta and San Marino. You can still travel here with the DiscoverEU program but you’ll need to book fixed travel tickets through the contractor managing your application.

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This Post Has 19 Comments

  1. My daughter was born 1st July 1999 – is she eligible?
    Thanks.

  2. It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d definitely donate to
    this brilliant blog! I guess for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account.
    I look forward to fresh updates and will talk about this website with my Facebook
    group. Talk soon!

    1. Awh thank you so much, it’s bit of a hobbie so not in it for the money 😁

  3. I am planning on applying for this year and this post was incredibly helpful so thank you very much for posting it!
    I do have 2 questions, do you know any more questions they asked during the 2 rounds and where are the links for the answers to the quiz questions?
    Thank you 🙂

    1. Hi there, great to hear you’re looking to apply. I’ve updated the post with the application dates. Unfortunately I can’t say for sure what the questions will be but the official website states that “All you have to do is to participate in a quiz and answer a subsidiary question”. In the past there have been helpful hints to the quiz questions. Good luck!

  4. Hi
    my Son has missed the application date. Is there any way he could still apply?
    Thank you

    1. Unfortunately I don’t think this is possible but you could always reach out to the scheme itself for absolute clarity. Whilst there is no information about future application windows yet, if it follows the same format then he should have another opportunity to apply in Autumn providing he will still be 18 at the end of the year. Hope this helps.

  5. Hi, I’ll be 18 in Februrary 2020, am I eligible for the upcoming 4th round? If no, I’ll have to wait for the 5th? Thank you 🙂

    1. Hi Gabriela, Yes if it follows the same pattern as the last 3 rounds then you’ll likely need to wait until the 5th round. But keep an eye out for announcements just in case!

  6. Hi!
    Thank you for your post, it has truly been helpful. There is however one thing I really would like to have clear, hence the question.

    I will turn 18 in April 2020, but will graduate in June 2021, and is therefore hoping to get a Discover EU pass for summer or fall 2021. In which round am I supposed to apply? Can I apply in the previous rounds, deny a ticket if won and apply later?

    1. Hey,

      wait, what? If Sophie turns 18 in 2020, she was born in 2002. It says in your article that for round 4, all those can apply that were born in 2001. So, for the 5th round those born in 2002 should be able to apply right?
      If I get it right, you should be able to apply for exactly the year you want to. Still, we don´t know anything about the 5th round, maybe the requirements will change?

      And for the case that I´m completely wrong: Sorry, I´m super tired.

      Lots of love!

    2. Hi Sophie, Apologies please ignore my last comment as I used the wrong dates.

      As you were born in April 2002, you should be able to apply in rounds 5 or 6, waiting until round 6 (Nov 2020) would be your best chance of travelling in summer 2021 as you wish, but this entirely depends upon the travel dates which will not be announced until closer to the time.

      Remember you can only apply in 1 application window and if you are British you will not be able to take part after Brexit so this should be considered.

      Hope this helps – you can email me at kieren@gotmybackpack.com if you need any more help 😁 Kieren.

      1. Thank you for your response. As I am not British I will definitely apply in November 2020. I am looking forward to it!😊

  7. Hey there, awsome blog. I had a question concerning the Brexit and Ireland.
    Since I expect Ireland to remain a part of this program, would it be possible to travel from Ireland to France by train, if I would want to visit these two countries. In other words: would it be able to travel through the UK (without stopping there) with this pass after the Brexit?
    Kind of the same question, but does travelling through a country, but without stopping there, count as a visit? Curious since the rules state you can only visit 4 countries…
    I’ll be signing up for the 4th wave, since I’ll be 18 in november 2019, but it’s still quite difficult to get familiar with all the rules as to how and what. I just want to prepare myself as good as possible for the moment it’s possible to sign up!
    Hope you can help in any shape or form!

    1. Hi Felix, Thanks! It was announced that Britain will remain in the Interrail scheme even after Brexit so yes you’d be able to pass through. To my knowledge there is no limit on the number of countries you visit with the pass (I’ve updated the article as this was originally in it). Good luck with the application and have an amazing adventure!

  8. Hi Zoe, thanks for pointing this out, you raise a good point.

    Sophie was born in April 2002 and therefore should be able to apply in rounds 5 or 6.

    As she wishes to travel in summer/fall 2021 then applying in round 6 (i.e next November) would give her the best chance of doing this assuming the timings follow a similar pattern and also assuming she is not British (won’t be eligible after Brexit).

    If you have any further questions I’d be happy to help you out to the best of my ability! Thanks,

    Kieren.

  9. My daughter will be 18 in July 2020 and was hoping to travel the following week. It looks like she would not be eligible to apply in round 4 and presumably rounds 5 and 6 will involve travelling at a later date? Can you confirm. Thank you

    1. Hi Penny, thanks for reaching out! Based on the previous trend, I would expect your daughter to be able to apply in round 6. This would involve submitting an application in November 2020, and if successful, travelling in Spring/Summer 2021. If the scheme continues beyond the pilot then she may also be eligible to submit an application in round 7 if it follows the same format. Please remember that all of this is only speculation and the official deadlines will be announced by the scheme closer to the time. Hope this helps.

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