DiscoverEU: The Ultimate Guide

Exploring Europe provides you with the opportunity to immerse yourself in history, culture and beautiful scenery. 

From the Colosseum in Rome to the Acropolis in Athens, Europe is home to some of the world’s most iconic historical landmarks and sites, including ancient ruins, medieval castles, and Renaissance masterpieces. With its diverse array of languages, cuisines, traditions, and lifestyles, Europe offers a mix of cultures unlike any other. 

Being able to experience this at any age would be breathtaking. But what about experiencing it just as you enter adulthood? That would truly be an experience you’d never forget. 

To facilitate this, the European Union introduced DiscoverEU, an initiative that affords young people the opportunity to travel across the continent.

Europe’s extensive transportation network makes exploring multiple countries and cities easy in a single trip. 

DiscoverEU helps you to do this. 

We’ll run through all the basics and answer your questions!

What is DiscoverEU?

DiscoverEU is an initiative launched by the European Union in 2018 as part of its efforts to promote cultural exchange, intercultural understanding, and European identity among young people. 

It gives out at least 35,000 Interrail Passes, providing European citizens aged 18 with the opportunity to explore Europe by rail. Crucially, it is funded by the European Parliament so the passes, which are valued at about EUR 273.35 each, are free for the travellers!

Objectives of DiscoverEU

DiscoverEU aims to encourage young Europeans to explore the diversity and cultural heritage of Europe and foster a sense of European identity and belonging.

By having participants travel by train, the scheme promotes a sustainable way to travel.

The program also gives the participants the chance to meet like-minded people and become more independent and confident.

How does DiscoverEU work? 

Each year, the European Union allocates a certain number of travel passes to eligible participants through a competitive application process. Successful applicants receive a travel pass, which allows them to travel freely across participating European countries.

In general, there are two rounds per year. Awarded travellers are offered the choice between a flexible and a fixed travel option. Over 95% of the participants opt for the flexible option, that is the Interrail Global Pass.

Once you receive your Interrail pass it might feel exciting, but overwhelming. Where do you start? How do you go about planning your trip? Who do you go with? Luckily there are companies like Interrail Planner that can help you plan your journey. 

This can include everything from planning where to go, to finding travel buddies and helping you select top rated hostels to stay in. Companies like this will make the whole trip seem more manageable! 

Interrail Planner features useful for DiscoverEU travellers
Companies like Interrail Planner can help you to travel around Europe. Image: Interrail Planner

Creation and development of DiscoverEU

The scheme is relatively recent, only being started in 2018. Since then it’s gone on quite a journey itself!

The creation of the scheme

  • DiscoverEU was inspired by the success of the European Commission’s pilot project, which provided travel passes to 15,000 young Europeans in 2018. 
  • The overwhelmingly positive feedback and enthusiasm from participants demonstrated the value of such initiatives in promoting European integration and cultural exchange.

Expanding on DiscoverEU

  • Since its launch, DiscoverEU has expanded its scope and reach, with the European Union progressively increasing the number of travel passes available each year, it’s now at 35,000 – over double its starting point! 
  • The initiative has also incorporated participant and stakeholder feedback to enhance the program’s overall experience and inclusivity.
DiscoverEU’s rail network coverage through Interrail is now extensive, allowing for travel across much of the continent. (Image by OCTA)

The application process

  • Who is eligible to apply for DiscoverEU? To be eligible for DiscoverEU, applicants must be citizens of the EU, aged 18, and have a valid European Health Insurance Card. 
  • What is the application process like? The application process typically involves submitting an online application form, including personal details, and a personal statement explaining why you want to participate in DiscoverEU. There is then a 5 question multi-choice quiz about the EU, with speed and accuracy helping in your application. A travel plan should be submitted too, and this will include how many people you want to travel with, where you want to go, how you will finance the accommodation and other trip costs, and how long you want to go for. Successful applicants are selected based on a combination of merit and random selection.

Transformative experiences

As a selected traveller, you will receive a DiscoverEU European Youth Card, which gives you discounts for everything from cultural visits to local transportation to accommodation and even food. This allows you to fully immerse yourself in the cultures.

DiscoverEU participants have shared a wide range of transformative experiences, from exploring iconic landmarks to immersing themselves in local cultures, cuisines, and traditions. Many participants also form lasting friendships.

DiscoverEU has had a profound impact on participants’ personal and professional development, fostering independence, resilience, and cross-cultural communication skills. 

The project aims to support 18-year-olds to become more independent, develop soft skills and embrace European values.  


How are the participants selected?

The European Commission and EACEA will rank the applicants per country following their replies to the quiz and the personal statement (discussed above). 

At least 35,000 young people will be chosen to take part. This is based on who provided the best responses on the quiz and in the personal statement. 

If there are too many applications (individual or groups) that are ranked equally at the cut-off point imposed by the fixed quota, then as a measure of last resort, the European Commission and EACEA will apply the “first come first served” principle to determine the allocation of the last places.

Is there a quota per country?

The selection will be carried out by nationality and/or country of residence, where applicable, in accordance with the number of travel passes allocated to each country. 

In case there are fewer applicants for countries than their amount of allocated travel passes, the remaining passes will be distributed among the countries where there are too many candidates. The quota per country will be published along with the selection results.

Can I participate if I have already travelled with a DiscoverEU travel pass?

You can only travel with DiscoverEU once, so you would not be eligible to submit a second application. If you were to do so, it would be detected at the submission stage

Can a relative (or friend) older than 18 travel with me?

Yes, but they must book and pay for the travel costs themselves. On top of this, it’s a good idea not to book any tickets or accommodation before your travel pass arrives!

Can I apply with my friends?

Yes, you can apply as a group. A group application will be assessed as a single application, so if you are successful everyone in your group will get an Interrail pass. Everyone in your group must also fit within the eligibility criteria but they can be located in a different EU country to you.

If you’ve already applied for DiscoverEU as a solo traveller, you can still add a friend to your application. Note, that people within your application cannot apply themselves, or be part of another group application. Read more on these rules here.

Can United Kingdom citizens participate in DiscoverEU?

Because the United Kingdom left the European Union on 31 January 2020, sadly, UK citizens can no longer participate.

How do I know if I am selected for a DiscoverEU travel pass or if I am on the reserve list?

When the selection is made, all applicants will receive the results via email. You should also keep a copy of your DiscoverEU application code. You can check the status of your application at any time on the European Youth Portal.

If you are not selected, you will be placed on a reserve list, and you might be contacted later if some participants withdraw their applications.

DiscoverEU can help young people to explore Europe at a crucial stage in their life. This means that they will develop essential life skills like independence and resilience, which will set them up for the future.