If you are 18 this year, here is a freebie you should know about: this summer, the European Commission is offering up to 30,000 18-year-olds a free month of Interrail travel across the continent. Yes, really.
The idea was first mooted in 2016 and the EU commission has now confirmed its plans to spend €12 million (approx £10 million) on funding trips for 20,000 to 30,000 young people who are celebrating their eighteenth birthday this year. They aim to offer more tickets in years ahead.
Where can I go?
With this free Interrail pass you can travel through 30 European countries including the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Germany and Greece for a whole month.
To put this into perspective, if you took full advantage of the perk and travelled everyday on a 2nd class ticket on the current Interrail Global Pass (which offers discounts for under 27s) you would end up paying around £465.
Read also: How to travel by train across Europe
Why is the EU being so generous?
The Commission has a vision to promote inclusion and solidarity amongst young people across Europe while they enjoy the beauty and culture of the different countries.
The Commission for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics explained:
It is important that we are able to learn from our horizons by experiencing other countries, but what we discover about the cultures and traditions of our fellow Europeans.
However it also may have something to do with the fall in interest in train travel since the Interrail pass was first launched in 1972. At that time, young people were able to visit 21 countries in one month for just £27.50. It was a popular pursuit and seeing these adventurers hopping on and off trains around Europe with a rucksack became commonplace. Today the passes can cost up to £415 and travellers are taking to the skies.
This is great! How do I apply?
To apply head to the European Youth Portal and keep an eye out for news. However it is anticipated that there will be a high level of interest and so tickets will be handed out to “winners”.
Will Brits be able to apply after Brexit?
If you’re 18 this year, make sure you go for it in 2018 because after the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 this perk will disappear.