Europe wants to buy every 18 year old a rail pass

What’s better than spending a few months as an 18 year old crisscrossing Europe by rail to explore other cultures and see foreign lands? Getting to ride for free certainly wouldn’t hurt. The European Union is moving in that direction. A budget of 12 million euro was set for 2018 to deliver 20,000-30,000 rail passes to young people across the continent.

[T]his action is expected to give an estimated 20,000-30,000 young people a travel experience that would help foster a European identity, reinforce common European values and promote the discovery of European sites and cultures. This proposal fits well with the EU’s ambitions to promote learning mobility, active citizenship, social inclusion and solidarity of all young people.

The first round of rail passes are expected to be issued for Summer 2018 travel, though full details on how they will be distributed are not yet known. Promotional efforts will be launched by the EU and getting an early pass may come as a result of an open competition or some other means according to the release.

It is important that we offer all our young people the opportunity to broaden their horizons by experiencing other countries. Education is not only about what we learn in the classroom, but what we discover about the cultures and traditions of our fellow Europeans. – Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics

All aboard at Gare du Nord in Paris, en route to Belgium
All aboard at Gare du Nord in Paris, en route to Belgium

The EU release also notes that the “[A]ction will seek to offer young people, regardless of social or educational background and including people with reduced mobility, a chance to travel abroad.” Getting the rail pass for free is a great start on that path but does not fully address all the costs. Food, lodging and entertainment will also be significant expenses, meaning that not everyone will really be able to take advantage of the offer.

Still, it is a great opportunity where it can work. And with growing isolationist movements within Europe and beyond it is nice to see some concrete actions put in place to counter those sheltered views.

Never miss another post: Sign up for email alerts and get only the content you want direct to your inbox.

Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.