The European Union Is Giving Away Free, Unlimited Rail Passes to Thousands of Young People

Exploring Europe via the continent’s extensive rail network is a quintessential travel experience on the bucket list of many globetrotters. Now, the European Union is helping thousands of lucky 18-year-olds make that dream a reality by giving away free, unlimited Interrail passes.

It’s all a part of the DiscoverEU program, which was first launched in 2018. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, people who turned 18 in 2020 couldn’t take advantage of the offering, but the EU isn’t letting them miss out on the opportunity. This year, the DiscoverEU program will relaunch, combining the budgets from last year and 2021, granting twice as many young people the chance to explore Europe by train in 2022.


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“We are envisaging one mega-round of 60,000 travel passes, to be launched probably this October,” said Mariya Gabriel, the EU commissioner for youth. “We will thus have applicants who turned 18 last year, as well as those turning 18 this year.”

The Interrail pass currently gives travelers access to 40,000 destinations across 33 European countries. The EU launched this free rail program for 18-year-olds, hoping to creating greater intercultural unity across the continent. Tickets are allocated to member states based on their population size, and only EU citizens or those legally residing within the European Union can apply, Lonely Planet reports.

Successful applicants must use the passes between March 2022 and March 2023 for a period of up to 30 days. Since the COVID-19 pandemic is still impacting Europe, travelers will be offered more flexibility with bookings as well as interruption insurance. Those who had already received their free rail pass ticket in November 2019 will have until Aug. 31, 2021, to use it.

When the submission period officially opens, interested travelers can submit their application via the European Youth Portal.

Jessica Poitevien is a Travel + Leisure contributor currently based in South Florida, but she’s always on the lookout for her next adventure. Besides traveling, she loves baking, talking to strangers, and taking long walks on the beach. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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