"When traveling in the European Union, which number do you have to dial to call the fire brigade, police or ambulance service?" That's just one of a number of questions applicants have to answer if they are to get one of the 60,000 free rail passes on offer to young European Union (EU) citizens.
In February, the EU announced it would be relaunching its DiscoverEU program in 2021, granting thousands of free Interrail passes to teenagers across the continent. More people than ever will have a chance to receive a free pass—and now is the time to apply.
Normally the initiative is only open to 18-year-olds, but because the pandemic halted proceedings in 2020, eligibility requirements have been expanded. This year, applicants must provide an ID or passport number on their application, and be EU Member State nationals—a designation that includes UK citizens for the final time, due to Brexit—born between July 2001 and December 2003. They must also complete a multiple-choice quiz on EU-themed questions, including: "Natura 2000 is the largest coordinated network of protected areas in the world. How much does it cover of the EU's land area?" (However, while you may not know the answers off the top of your head, the EU kindly shares some links to where you can find them).
Winners are selected by nationality, an allocation that’s determined by each country’s population relative to the overall population of the European Union, and at least 60,000 passes are up for grabs. (Between 2018 and 2019, more than 347,000 people applied, just to give an idea of the competition.) Solo travelers and groups are equally encouraged to try their luck, with the caveat that all trips must include at least one Member State aside from the applicants' own and be completed between March 2022 and February 2023.
The passes are good for up to 30 days of use, with options for both fixed and flexible travel. Looking to country-hop? The flexible option works on trains in all EU countries and lets riders adjust on the fly, at any point before the start of their travel day. Going in-depth on one country, or maybe two? The fixed option is the best bet, though it does have a budget limit of €258 per itinerary.
The application window is open until October 26, 2021, at 12:00 CEST. Visit the European Youth Portal for more information and to apply.