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Do you qualify for a free Interrail pass?

Here's how to apply for one of 15,000 Interrail tickets up for grabs this summer

The EU is giving away 15,000 free Interrail passes to citizens of EU countries this summer, under a pilot DiscoverEU scheme. There is, however, a caveat…

You’re only eligible to enter if you’re 18 years old on 1 July 2018. This doesn’t mean your birthday has to fall on this date, just that you need to be this age – lucky for those set to turn 19 on 2 July, and ideal for some low-cost travelling this summer.

An Interrail pass lets you travel on the national railways – and some ferry lines – of 30 European countries.

Entrants will need to get in quick with an online application to the scheme, which opens on 12 June and closes on 26 June.

Student travel: is it worth going Interrailing? – we weigh up the costs, routes and options

How to apply for a free Interrail pass

There are a few things you’ll need to do in order to enter, including committing to visit at least one European Heritage site (there are 38 places of interest, such as the Gdansk Shipyard in Poland and Hambach Castle in Germany) and taking a quiz on the EU.

Winners will also be expected to become ‘ambassadors’ and be prepared to report back on their travel experiences through social media or a presentation in their local community. Group entries are also possible, for up to five 18 year-olds planning to travel together.

The passes up for grabs are for between 1 and 30 days, and you’ll need to travel between 9 July and the end of September. The passes allow visits to up to four different Interrail-participating countries.

The number of free tickets handed to EU member states depends on population. This means that around 1,900 18-year-olds in the UK could benefit from much cheaper European travelling this summer.

If you’re not 18 years old yourself, it might be worth sharing this news with any travel-hungry young adults you know.

To apply, visit the European Youth Portal.

Is Interrailing the best and cheapest way to see Europe?

There’s no set agenda with Interrailing. You just pick the pass that suits your plans and away you go.

Interrailing is more likely to be a cheaper way to travel if you qualify for a youth pass, for ages 12-27. The table below shows you what each Interrail global pass includes, and shows the price difference between youth and adult tickets.

Pass What does it include? Youth (12-27) price Adult (28-59) price
5 days within 15 days You can use this on 5 days of your choice during a set period of 15 days. £188 £243
7 days within 1 month You can use this on 7 days of your choice during a set period of 1 month. £230 £288
10 days within 1 month You can use this on 10 days of your choice during a set period of 1 month. £275 £343
15 days continuous You can use this whenever you like, during a set period of 15 days. £304 £379
15 days within one month You can use this on 15 days of your choice during a set period of 1 month. £339 £425
22 days continuous You can use this whenever you like, during a set period of 22 days. £355 £444
1 month continuous You can use this whenever you like, during a set period of 1 month. £459 £574

Travellers over 60 get a 10% discount on standard adult prices, and under-12s travel for free.

Bear in mind that, even with a Interrail pass, you have to pay a reservation fee for some trains – including the Eurostar.

We’ve found that some train journeys between different countries are cheaper when booked in advance than the per-day price of an Interrail pass.

Find out more about this in our Interrailing guide, which also looks at route ideas and whether Brexit affects Interrailing.

Holiday hacks for student budgets

Whether you’re thinking about a beach holiday to unwind after exams, or you’re considering a gap year, a bit of planning and research can help stretch your budget and extend your fun:

  • Find cheap flight options using websites such as Skyscanner, Kayak and Momondo and by being flexible on travel dates and times.
  • Look for a bank that won’t charge you extra fees for overseas spending – Starling and Monzo are worth a look.
  • Booking low-cost accommodation – is Airbnb the best option or will you be happier and better off staying in a hostel?
  • Check out free and cheap things to do while you’re away, such as city walking tours and free exhibitions.

Our holiday hacks guide is a must-read for students looking for low-cost travel options this summer.

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