[Updated Feb 20] How to Apply for EU Free Interrail Pass for 18th Birthday

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DiscoverEU, is back in 2020 and it’s offering more passes than ever before. The next round of applications will open in March 2020, read on to find out more details and how to apply.

If you’re not familiar with DiscoverEU, it’s a European Union scheme offering a free interrail pass for EU citizens or those legally residing within the EU at the age of 18.

To date, there have been over 70,000 free interrail passes available to young Europeans through the scheme with application windows open twice per year. The total number of applications has been over 350,000

It is expected that the scheme will continue as a pilot until the end of 2020, however it’s part of a wider EU proposal that could eventually see all 18 year olds receive this incredible opportunity rather than a select number of applicants.

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.

There are two types of pass:

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  • 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


DiscoverEU Free Interrail Pass 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”.

Candidates will either receive a one month global interrail pass which allows travellers to visit more than 30 European countries, or alternatively they’ll receive fixed tickets for travel within 2 participating countries in the one month period (for regions that interrail doesn’t cover).

The scheme is the brainchild of German politician Manfred Weber who is convinced that encouraging young people to travel will help break down cultural barriers and build a generation that is much more inclusive – I couldn’t agree more!

DiscoverEU is currently running as a pilot and is due to end after 2020, however proposals are currently being considered by the EU for extension and even expansion of this scheme by integrating it with Erasmus. Manfred Weber hopes that one day the free interrail passes will be available as a standard procedure to all EU citizens as an 18th birthday present.

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Passes are allocated to each country by quota according to their population, in the latest application round, the UK received 7.5% of the passes available, equating to about 1,500 passes.


Eligibility Criteria

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
    • Round 5: Must be 18 as of 1st July 2020
  • 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

Application Windows

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 2019 – 16th May 2019
  • Eligibility: Must be 18 as of 1st Jul 2019
  • For travel dates: 1st August 2019 – 31st January 2020

Round 4 [NOW CLOSED] : Offering 20,000 free interrail passes

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  • Applications open: 7th Nov 2019 – 28th Nov 2019
  • 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

Round 5 [POSTPONED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE]: Offering 30,000 free interrail passes

  • Applications open: 12th March 2020 – 26th March 2020 – POSTPONED
  • Eligibility: Must be 18 as of 1st July 2020 (i.e. your date of birth is between 1st July 2001 and 30th June 2002)
  • For travel dates: Yet to be announced

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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 – Application Form

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’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 – Personal Details

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 – EU Quiz Questions

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. If you’re joining a group of friends, only the person who created the group will need to answer these questions.

Step 4 – Trip Details

The final part of the application requires that you share initial details on your travel plans. 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?
  • Where will you be starting your trip?
  • How many countries do you plan to visit? (options are between one and four)
  • Will this be your first time travelling without parents?
  • How many times did you travel abroad in the last 12 months?

TOP TIP: Join the DiscoverEU Facebook Group where you can find helpful information, interviews from those who have previously travelled with DiscoverEU and meet others on the scheme.

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Successful Applications

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 global 30 day interrail pass, this is usually one of the flexible passes which allows 7 travel days within the 30 day window. 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 flights or if you plan to visit countries not in the Interrail scheme such as Estonia or Latvia.

Some readers have highlighted that 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?

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.


FAQ’s

When does the next round of DiscoverEU Free Interrail Passes open?

Applications were supposed to begin on 12th March 2020 however this has now been postponed.

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

Yes, with the UK continuing to participate in European programmes throughout 2020, British citizens are encouraged to apply in upcoming application windows.

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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.


The European Youth Portal has a huge number of FAQ’s from queries about the programme to technical issues encountered during application – find it here.



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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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