Savvy seniors over the age of 60 can get a range of discounts on the European railroads. The possibilities for discounted senior travel range from a minimal 10% discount in Sweden to free travel in Northern Ireland!
Read on for our complete guide to discounts and other benefits on my favorite way to cross the continent: train travel.
How Old Do I Have to Be for Senior Discounts on European Trains?
Several of my classmates have posted their AARP membership invitations on Facebook recently. Americans are invited to become a member of this national organization when they turn 50 and membership comes with a wide range of benefits including travel discounts. This prompted me to look into travel benefits available to seniors and retirees in Europe as I am currently living here as an expat and coming up on my fiftieth birthday.
But as it happens, European countries don’t view those in their fifties as seniors. Most senior discounts on European trains aren’t available until you hit 60, 65, or even 70 in some cases. So I’m not quite eligible yet myself, but once I qualify, you’d better believe I’ll be taking advantage of as many of these discounts as possible. In the meantime, I hope the information below can help some of you.
Why European Train Travel is Great for Seniors
- For many destinations within Europe, train travel can actually be quicker than traveling by plane, especially when you add in all the extra time it takes to get to the airport, wait around for two hours, factor in delays, stand in line to get your passport checked, and wait for your luggage to come off the carousel. European trains tend to depart and arrive right in the centers of the places you want to visit, and the high speed trains, aside from being technological marvels, save you lots of time.
- Train travel is sometimes less expensive than traveling by plane, especially when you factor in available discounts. There are very few airlines that offer senior discounts. And if you’re taking a cheap flight on a low-cost airline, you often have to pay extra to for a larger piece of luggage (which is checked). This is not usually the case on trains.
- Want to bring your pet on vacation? Trains don’t usually charge extra for your furry friend, nor do they make them travel separately in a luggage hold. As long as your pet is kept in a carrier or muzzled, they can ride the rails with you by their side.
- You can get up and stretch your legs on trains. Sure, you can do this on a plane, too, but only for a quick trip to the bathroom and back. If you want to walk up and down the length of the train, no one is going to stop you.
- There’s usually a restaurant on board. You don’t have to wait for the cart to come by before eating like you do on planes. When you’re hungry, just head to the dining car. If you’re sitting in first class, you might even have the option of ordering food from a staff member as they come through the compartment.
- Speaking of helpful staff, there are also people on hand to help you with your luggage, give you information about your destination, tell you where to make your connection, or even give you advice on how to travel in the most inexpensive and convenient way possible.
- Then there’s the scenery. Europe has some drop-dead gorgeous views that can be seen out of the windows of a train!
- Finally, trains are better for the environment. Like, a lot better. EcoPassenger has a calculator that shows you how much of an impact your travel has on Mother Earth.
General Info About Senior Rail Discounts in Europe
While there are typically discounts on local and regional lines as well, this post focuses on each country’s national train service. But note that some national rail companies do include local transportation in their ticket prices or offer package deals on bike, bus, ferry, tram, and subway travel.
Some also include additional benefits like special offers on accommodations, restaurants, and tours.
The discounts generally apply to 2nd class travel, but I’ve noted when they can be used to upgrade to 1st class.
Finally, when taking advantage of senior discounts on European train travel, be sure to carry a photo ID with you that shows your date of birth. Some of us don’t look our age!
Are Senior Rail Passes and Discounts Really Worth It?
There are actually a lot of instances when it’s not worth trying to get the senior discounts that we discuss in this article, especially if don’t reside in Europe.
Senior discounts are generally applied to full-fare ticket prices only, so be sure to look for other opportunities to save. For example, see our in-depth guide to strategies for finding cheap train tickets in France as well as the other articles on other countries’ systems on this site.
- Often the early booking prices or weekend travel specials or other deals are a better deal than the senior discount.
- Many major destinations like France, Germany, and Spain offer reduced fares only with the purchase of an annual discount card; the overall cost might not be worth it if you are visiting the country for a short time.
- Dealing with the red tape necessary to get a pass might not make it worth your time. Some countries want you to be a national resident with a local address to which they mail the card once it’s purchased. Others require specific documents like paperwork showing that you’re a pensioner.
Eurail and Interail Passes for Senior Travelers — Are They Worth It?
Before moving on to the individual countries, it is worth noting that both Eurail (for non-EU travelers) and Interail (for European residents) offer senior discounts on their single and multi-country passes.
Keep in mind that these passes are for passengers who plan on doing a lot of traveling within a short time period as they were originally meant for backpackers and gap years travelers. If you’re a spry senior crossing countries off your bucket list, then by all means, consider a Senior Pass. Otherwise, you might find other options more practical and economical. At this site, we tend to encourage slow travel and getting to really know each location for more than a couple of days, so for us, these passes are rarely worth their cost.
European Senior Discounts on Train Travel by Country
We haven’t yet been able to cover senior travel in Albania, Belarus, Georgia, Greece, Ireland, Kosovo, Latvia, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Serbia, or the Ukraine. If you know about senior discounts on national train routes in these countries and how to get them, please comment below so I can update this list.
Most of the senior discount cards discussed below must be purchased annually and entitle you to discounts throughout the year.
There are no trains in Andorra.
Austria’s ÖBB offers the Vorteilscard Senior for passengers over the age of 63. The age limit will go up to 64 in 2020. This discount card gives seniors 45-50% off on ÖBB trains, up to 50% off on many private railways throughout Austria, and even 15% on travel into neighboring countries. You purchase the card directly from the OBB at that link, and once you have it you can buy tickets there or (easier, but with less complete offerings for Austria) Trainline.
The price of the card starts at 29€ and you can use their online calculator to see if it will save you money over a year. In addition, it includes discounts for ÖBB Rail Tours, travel to the airport in Vienna, and one free hour of nextbike rental at select locations in Lower Austria and Burgenland.
Belgium’s Seniors Ticket allows for same-day return tickets throughout the country for a low flat rate of 6.80€ in 2nd class or 14.40€ in 1st class. Travelers over the age of 65 can buy a Seniors Ticket online or at SNCB ticket offices.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
A 30% discount is offered to citizens over the age of 60 and their spouses when traveling together. The discount applies to 1st and 2nd class fares.
BDZ offers retirees a 50% discount on tickets and passes. The discount applies to women over the age of 60 years and 8 months and men over the age of 63 years and 8 months. Seniors can buy a pass for 1 lev (less than 1€) that entitles them to the discount or show their ID card and retirement certificate each time they buy a ticket. Tickets can be bought at ticket offices or train stations and may be used for travel within Bulgaria.
The Railcard “S” is available for international travel for those over the age of 60. The card costs a little over 15€ and is good for 25% off cross-border train trips for one year.
Non-residents over 60 and Croatian retirees can use the K-33S ID card (available for less than $8) to get a 30% discount on regular ticket prices for unlimited one-way or round-trip tickets in 1st and 2nd class for all trains on any HŽ train route.
Croatian residents over the age of 60 can get a 50% discount with the “Years Are Worth More” program. Purchase of a K-33S ID card (available for less than $8) is required.
The Czech Republic offers one of best discounts in Europe. Those over the age of 65 get a 75% discount! Alternatively, passengers can get discounted rates of up to 100% with the purchase of an InKarta Card.
Denmark has three different options for senior travelers and retirees. The DSB Orange ticket has discounts on various routes purchased in advance. The DSB 65 ticket gives passengers over the age of 65 a 25% discount. Retirees get up to 40% off with the Travel Card Pensioner.
Discounted tickets are available for seniors over the age of 65 with an ID showing their age and retirees in possession of an Estonian pension certificate.
Passengers carrying a photo ID that shows that they are over the age or 65 or paperwork that shows they are a retiree are entitled to 20% off the basic ticket price long-distance trains and 50% off commuter trains.
France’s Avantage Senior card gives seniors 30% off all travel in France and Europe. The annual fee of €49 also covers additional benefits like 60% discounts for up to three grandchildren traveling with you and 15% off car rentals through Avis and purchases from the train’s bar.
The easiest way to purchase tickets as a senior if you’re not a resident in France is to set up a profile at Trainline indicating your age, and then let the system walk you through any discounts available when you perform your ticket search; you can also get your senior card through Trainline without having a French address.
Deutsche Bahn’s Generation 60plus program offers seniors reduced fares with the purchase of a discounted BahnCard. In addition, seniors can bring their grandchildren (under the age of 15) with them for free. Other benefits Deutsche Bahn offers to its senior travelers includes luggage service and optional day trips from RegioTOUREN.
If you’re lucky enough to be an EU national and over the age of 65, you can enjoy FREE train travel in Hungary. Be sure to bring a valid identity document with you when you acquire the ticket, or, if you get it online, keep the document with you as you travel in case an inspector wants to check it. (A reader comments below that this does not apply to EU residents who are not nationals and we’re inclined to believe this particularly savvy guy, but at last check were not able to get Hungarian railways customer service on the phone ourselves to confirm. The reader says that this applies to all public transport including city transport, and that supplements still have to be paid for special fares.)
Trenitalia gives Silver Card (Carta d’Argento) cardholders over the age of 60 discounts of 10-15% off the base fares on all national trains. The cards cost €30 for seniors up to 70 years of age and are free for anyone older than that. They can be bought at the ticket desks in major train stations or at select travel agencies in Italy.
If you’re taking an Italo train (the private competing rail service in Italy; serves some major cities) and you’re willing to wait to get your ticket until up to three days before departure, you can get a nice discount of 40% off of the Flex tickets in Prima ambiance (first class). These are available directly from Italo. and you’ll need a valid ID onboard.
You have to be 70 or older to get the generous discounts that Lithuania’s national train service offers. Passengers 70-80 years old get a 50% discount, while those over 80 get 80% off.
Luxembourg doesn’t have discounts specifically for seniors, but those with a disability or limited income are entitled to free travel.
Macedonia Railways gives senior passengers over the age of 60 a 30% discount on all national routes.
Seniors over the age of 60 get additional discounts when they purchase one of NS International’s classic subscriptions. For an extra fee, seniors can also choose unlimited travel on seven days of their choice throughout the year.
Travelers over the age of 67 in Norway can get 50% off train trips on the Vy network. Spouses and registered partners traveling with the senior get the same discount.
A 30% discount is available for seniors over the age of 60 traveling in 1st or 2nd class on PKP Intercity trains in Poland. Discount tickets can be bought online, through the app, at ticket offices and machines, and from the conductor on all trains except EIP trains.
Passengers over the age of 60 can show their ID for an automatic discount of 25% on the international Lusitânia Comboio Hotel, Sud Expresso and Celta lines. Those over the age of 65 get a 50% discount on travel within the country.
All seniors over the age of 62 can register for free train travel in Slovakia!
Passengers over the age of 60 can buy a Seniors Railcard for €7 to get discounts of up to 50% on national and international travel.
Spain’s Tarjeta Dorada (Gold Card) is offered to seniors over the age of 60 and can be purchased for €6 at ticket offices inside major train stations and at select travel agencies throughout Spain. Cardholders get up to 50% off travel on Renfe trains.
The website of the Spanish rail operator Renfe is a a bit of a disaster, so if you have issues there we recommend booking with Trainline for Spain, including if you have the senior card, in which case just be sure to specify your Tarjeta Dorada before searching.
Senior travelers over the age of 65 get a 10% discount on trains in Sweden with a valid ID.
Switzerland offers its beautiful rail rides to resident seniors through a subscription program that gives women over the age of 64 and men over the age of 65 discounts on 1st and 2nd class travel. Seniors can pay for the subscription online or at SBB ticket counters. Additional benefits include a 10% discount on day trips with RailAway, discounts on Rent a Bike, up to 15% off car rentals with Europcar, discounted admission at Swiss museums, and lounge access for 1st class ticket holders.
Turkey’s TCDD gives discounts of 20% to passengers aged 60 and over and 50% to passengers aged 65 and older.
The UK has a Senior Railcard for citizens over the age of 60 that takes 1/3 off standard and first class fares on most trains. It can be combined with some bus/rail/sea journeys (except on Eurostar, which has no senior discounts) and can be bought at train stations (including on the day of travel), and on the National Rail website. Cardholders also get discounts on restaurants, accommodations, theatre tickets and more through Railcard Rewards. The annual cost of the Senior Railcard is £30.
UK (Northern Ireland)
Northern Ireland’s Translink has a 60+ Smartpass that offers free travel for permanent residents between the ages of 60 and 64. Their Senior SmartPass offers free national and cross-border travel on Translink trains and buses for seniors over 65 who have been residents of Northern Ireland for at least three months.
With cheap fares, helpful staff, and convenient facilities, train travel is great way for seniors to see Europe. We hope you’ll share your experiences and questions on traveling as a senior on national and international trains in the comments below. Bon voyage!