DiscoverEU: How to get one of the EU’s 35,500 free rail passes for young people this summer

All you need to do is answer six questions and you might be in with a chance of a month-long free rail pass.
All you need to do is answer six questions and you might be in with a chance of a month-long free rail pass. Copyright Austin Distel
Copyright Austin Distel
By Rebecca Ann Hughes
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All you need to do is answer six questions and you might be in with a chance of a month-long free rail pass.


If you are young and looking for a budget-friendly way to explore Europe, there’s good news.

The EU is giving away 35,500 free rail passes to 18-year-olds under the DiscoverEU scheme.

The initiative is part of the Erasmus programme and aims to foster cultural connections in the EU.

Those eligible will have the opportunity to explore Europe’s heritage and history while meeting people from across the continent.

All you need to do is answer six questions.

DiscoverEU: How to apply for a free EU rail pass

To be in with a chance of winning a free rail pass, applicants must be born between 1 July 2005 and 30 June 2006.

The scheme is open to legal residents of the 27 EU member states or Overseas Countries. Residents of third countries associated with Erasmus can also apply. These include Iceland, Liechtenstein, North Macedonia, Norway, Serbia and Türkiye.

If that’s you, the next stage is to head to the European Youth Portal to take an eligibility quiz.

You will have to answer five multiple-choice questions about the EU and one additional question. These cover general knowledge about the EU and its initiatives aimed at young people.

You will also be asked to give more information about your travel plans. This includes when you plan to travel, whether it will be the first time you have travelled alone without your parents, what you would like to learn from the experience and how you will finance your trip.

This information will not have any impact on the selection process.

The Commission will rank applicants based on their EU quiz responses and will offer travel passes following their ranking up to the limit of available tickets.

Applications are already open and end on 30 April at midday CET.

You cannot apply if you have previously been given a DiscoverEU pass.

How will the free rail pass scheme work?

Those who prove successful will get a free rail pass to travel in Europe for up to 30 days between 1 July 2024 and 30 September 2025.

At the application stage, you can choose to either travel alone or with a group of up to five friends. If you choose to travel as a group, you can share your application code with your friends to allow their registration.

Only the group leader has to answer the EU quiz questions; group members just need to supply personal data to complete the application and fulfil the age and residency criteria.

The travel pass can be used in your residency country only for one outbound and one inbound journey. It must include travel to at least one other country eligible under the scheme.


The overall journey can last from one day up to a maximum of one month, including up to seven travel days.

Participants will generally be eligible for a pass worth up to €283.26 in second or economy class. The amount may be raised for applicants travelling from remote or overseas regions.

In some cases, coach and ferry passes will be included too. To ensure young people living in remote areas or on islands are not excluded, flights may also be awarded in exceptional cases. Preference will always be given to the most sustainable option.

If you’re one of the lucky awardees, you will also be given a European Youth Card (EYCA) valid for one year. This grants discounts for cultural visits and activities, learning, nature, sports, local transportation, accommodation, food and more across the EU.

How will applicants for the free rail pass be selected?

Applicants will be selected up to the available budget and ranked following the correctness of their replies.


There is a quota of travel passes set for each country. If a country has fewer applications than the quota, the remaining passes will be distributed to countries with a higher number of applications.

If there are too many eligible applicants, a ‘first come, first served’ principle will apply - meaning earlier applications could be favoured as a last resort.

Successful applicants will be notified by email after the selection period has ended in June.

They will then be connected with an EU contractor who will take care of the travel bookings and payments.

Passes purchased directly by the selected applicants will not be reimbursed.


Is anything expected in return for the free rail passes?

When you apply for a free pass, you must agree to become a ‘DiscoverEU Ambassador’. This means you are encouraged to report back on your travel experiences through social media or school and community presentations.

The scheme’s app will allow you to create a customised map of your itinerary with statistics on the number of trains taken, number of countries visited and CO2 savings, which can be shared on social media.

Young travellers will also need to report back in an online survey after taking part in the scheme.

On its completion, travellers will receive a certificate of participation highlighting competencies and skills gained from their travel experience.

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