The European Union is relaunching its DiscoverEU program, which will allow thousands of young people aged 18 the opportunity to enjoy unlimited travel across Europe’s rail network via Interrail. 

The initiative was first launched with a pilot scheme in 2018, but the COVID-19 pandemic meant that those who turned 18 in 2020 could not get their passes. As a result, the budget for 2020 is being added to 2021, enabling twice as many young people to have the opportunity to explore Europe by train in 2022.

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The Interrail pass allows travelers to visit 33 European countries © Mike Kemp/Getty Images

“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 have applicants who turned 18 last year as well as those turning 18 this year.”

At present the Interrail pass allows travelers to visit 40,000 destinations across 33 European countries. The idea behind giving 18-year-olds free rail passes is to foster greater inter-cultural unity across the EU. Tickets are allocated to member states based on the size of their population, and only EU citizens or those legally residing within the European Union can apply.

The successful applicants have to use the passes between March 2022 and March 2023, for a period of up to 30 days. Due to the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic is still affecting Europe, the young people will be offered flexible bookings and routes and an extra provision of health and interruption insurance. Those who had already received their free rail pass ticket in November 2019 have up to 31 August this year to use it.

Applications for the program can be made via the European Youth Portal here when the date is confirmed.

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