Savvy seniors over the age of 60 can get a range of discounts on the European railroads. Some countries like Hungary essentially let you travel for free, Interrail and Eurail give 10% discounts on their passes, and lots of countries offer no real senior discounts unless you buy a year-long pass for their system.
Read on for our complete guide to discounts and other benefits on my favorite way to cross the European continent: train travel.
- My Interest in Senior Travel Discounts on European Trains
- How Old Do I Have to Be for Senior Discounts on European Trains?
- Why European Train Travel is Great for Seniors
- General Info About Senior Rail Discounts in Europe
- Are Senior Rail Passes and Discounts Really Worth It?
- Eurail and Interrail Passes for Senior Travelers — Are They Worth It?
- Masks and Covid-19 Restrictions When Travelling by Train in Europe
- European Senior Discounts on Train Travel by Country
- Wrapping Up: Seniors on Trains in Europe
Update History of This Article
My Interest in Senior Travel Discounts on European Trains
I’m a travel writer and constant train traveler in Europe and elsewhere, always in search of the best deals. I’ve arrived at the age where several of my classmates have posted their AARP membership invitations on Facebook recently. (This is an organization for older Americans whose membership offers a wide range of benefits including travel discounts.) But since I am mainly based in Europe, I wanted to look into travel benefits available to seniors and retirees here. I don’t qualify quite yet, but you’d better believe I’ll soon be taking advantage of as many of these discounts as possible. In the meantime, I hope the information below can help some of you.
How Old Do I Have to Be for Senior Discounts on European Trains?
Senior discounts on European trains are available when you hit 60, 65, or even 70 in some cases. Read the individual country sections below for details. Generally they involve buying a national senior card (an annual subscription) in order to get the discounts, and so are only worthwhile if you’re travelling extensively in a particular country.
Why European Train Travel is Great for Seniors
- Trains in Europe are more comfortable and friendly. Airports and airplanes are notoriously difficult to deal with, and the stress is compounded as you get older. Seated in a train, you have more room to get comfortable, travel with whatever luggage you need, and the easy ability to get up and move around.
- 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 generally 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 (our picks for Switzerland) that can be (best!) enjoyed from train windows.
- 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 networks and senior discount packages, as well as 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 is usually not 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 senior card once it’s purchased. Others require specific documents like paperwork showing that you’re a pensioner.
The easiest one-stop way to check for specific European train route prices is Trainline. It offers generally the same prices as each national carrier, and will automatically direct you to senior discounts for countries when it can (and you have already gone through the paperwork for the national senior card—which it can point you to). Trainline is far easier to use than most national booking sites, and, in some cases, can save you money on complex trips — like those with multiple connections or international border crossings. The downside is that Trainline charges a small booking fee (~3%), though that’s less than other booking sites. It’s usually well worth it for the ability to book in advance via internet and without a hassle.
Eurail and Interrail Passes for Senior Travelers — Are They Worth It?
Before moving on to the individual countries, it is worth noting that there are the popular Eurail Senior Pass (for non-EU travelers) and Interrail Senior Pass (for European residents), which offer senior discounts on their single and multi-country passes. Essentially, if you’re 60 or over on your first day of travel, you can get a 10% discount on a pass that lets you take certain types of trains as you cross through a country—or all of Europe.
Keep in mind that these Eurail/Interrail passes are for serious travellers who plan on doing a lot of traveling within a short time period — they were originally meant for backpackers and gap years travelers. If you’re a spry senior crossing countries off your bucket list quickly, then by all means, consider a Senior Pass.
Otherwise, you might find other options more practical and economical. At this (minimalist!) 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 for that kind of travel.
To quickly check if Interrail/Eurail is worth the cost for you on your preferred series of train rides through Europe, make up a sample itinerary with the spots you most want to see and count the number of days of travel that entails. Then:
- Add up the total cost of both the senior pass linked to above and the cost seat reservations (you can check those here for Interrail or Eurail). Seat reservations are required when using these passes for Europe’s lovely high speed and overnight trains. They can add significantly to trip costs.
- Compare the same itinerary on Trainline, which will efficiently find the best individual tickets for most of Western Europe including senior discounts if applicable. (For the countries not served by Trainline, see the individual train operators in the country listings below.)
- If you want to go even cheaper (but not as comfortably), Trainline can also show you bus options.
Masks and Covid-19 Restrictions When Travelling by Train in Europe
Things are constantly changing, country by country, in terms of Covid-19 coronavirus restrictions. The official EU site for re-opening travel requirements is here; but it’s worth also checking with individual countries’ restrictions.
This section offers my own and the experiences of other travellers I know in the spring and summer of 2022. It was last updated on June 24, 2022. Things change. Look for updates at the links below.
European countries have their own systems for showing proof of vaccination (or recovery from Covid) that involve a cross-border accepted QR code. Generally I’ve found that travelling with paper printed records of vaccination from a non-EU country (USA) has been sufficient in cases where this was required for border crossing. These restrictions have been loosening quite a bit and various travellers have told me that they are not very actively enforced. If you have evidence of having been vaccinated—even if it’s not the exact type of evidence required (such as the EU QR code), it seems to be generally accepted.
Mask use on trains is generally common and is required in some countries and not in others.
- France: Masks and proof of vaccination are no longer required in trains.
- Germany: Medical-grade masks (such as the FFP2 masks that are widely available there) are required on long-distance trains; I’m told that compliance is high.
- Italy: The widely available FFP2 masks will be required on Italian trains through to Sept. 30, 2022. Anecdotally from my Italian traveller connections, any mask is accepted.
- The Netherlands: The official train site still posts that masks are required but I suspect that this is outdated; a recent traveller there told me that no one wears masks on trains until they cross the border into Germany (where they are required). Also the Dutch government site says that masks are no longer required anywhere.
- Portugal: Masks are required and are worn in trains; on my recent trips compliance with this was 100%.
- Spain: Masks are required and are commonly worn in trains. Renfe says they are recommended on its site but they are required and train staff enforce this.
- Switzerland: Masks are no longer required on trains; I’m told that few wear them.
- UK: Masks are required only in health care settings and not in trains; anecdotally most people are not wearing them in trains. Masks are no longer required on Eurostar trains.
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 Ukraine. Soon, we hope.
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 65. It is available for free at train ticket counters upon presentation of “proof of eligibility”, which seems to mean being a resident senior in Austria receiving state benefits (“a compensatory or supplementary allowance”). If any non-residents have experience in trying to get this card, let us know in the comments.
Belgium’s Seniors Ticket allows for same-day return tickets throughout the country for a low flat rate of 7.20€ in 2nd class or 15.30€ in 1st class. (If you want to return on a different day, you simply buy two of these tickets; one for each day.)
Travelers over the age of 65 can buy this Seniors Ticket online or at SNCB ticket offices.
This is not valid for Brussels Airport, for which a supplement is needed.
It is also not valid for travel to border points or international travel outside of this tiny country. If you are travelling to/from a neighboring country you’ll need to get a full-priced ticket from the Belgian Train’s pretty excellent English site or else from Trainline, which will often find cheaper routing options.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
A 30% discount is offered to Bosnian citizens over the age of 60 and their spouses when traveling together. The discount applies to 1st and 2nd class fares.
A retirement pass for in-country travel is offered but it appears to be only available to residents with a national “retirement certificate”. It gives retirees a 50% discount on tickets and passes. This discount applies to women over the age of 60 years and 8 months and men over the age of 63 years and 8 months. Enquire at ticket offices or train stations in Bulgaria.
The Railcard “S” is also available for international travel for those over the age of 60. This card costs a little over 15€ and is good for 25% off cross-border train trips for one year.
There is an annual senior discount pass but it is only available to Croatian citizens and residents. Retirees and those over 60 who can show that they are living in Croatia can purchase the K-33S ID card (available for 50kn or about 6.65 euros) at train ticket offices and train stations. They will get a 30% or 50% discount (both are advertised on the HŽPP website) on regular ticket prices for unlimited one-way or round-trip tickets in 1st and 2nd class for all trains on any HŽ (Croatian national) train route.
Czech Republic / Czechia
Railway operator České dráhy (ČD) offers a discount of 50% for all passengers 65 and over and for pensioners on in-country travel (not crossing borders). These tickets are available via the website and at ticket counters. There are some regional limitations.
Those travelling to/from Germany will likely have better luck getting a good price through a Trainline search.
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 on Estonian trains 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.
Those over the age of 60 can purchase the French train carrier SNCF’s Carte Avantage Senior for 49 euros. The discount card is valid for one year.
This senior card comes with a lot of complications concerning when it can be actually used. The card, in principle, offers 30% off on 1st class in TGV INOUI and 2nd class on Full Leisure Fares, but excludes cheaper train fares like OUIGO and INTERCITÉS 100% ECO, and also excludes any add-on services. It also excludes trips that both start and end in the Paris region and includes only the regional TER trains that choose to accept this card. You get 60% discounts with the same exclusions for accompanying children aged 4-11. And, the card gives you access to a set of “capped prices”, meaning certain types of tickets don’t get priced above a certain point, even if, for example popular route tickets are purchased at the last minute.
One of the reasons that France’s senior card may not actually work out cheaper for a lot of people is that there are other ways, if you’re flexible about travel dates and locations and other things, to get regular discounts on train travel in France, and these generally cannot be combined with the Carte Avantage Senior.
While the SNCF’s marketing claims that the 49-euro card pays for itself after the first round trip, this is only true for certain more expensive trips during peak periods booked at the last minute. As a general rule, we’d say this card is only worthwhile if you make a handful or more of trips in France over the course of a year.
The easiest way to purchase the Carte Avantage Senior is through Trainline’s page for discount cards, which sells at the same price as the official SNCF site; (Trainline is also the site we generally recommend for booking train trips in France as it doesn’t have the website errors and comes up with better routes.)
It is also possible to buy the Carte Avantage Senior directly from SNCF, though in our readers’ experience that SNCF site tends to give errors on foreign credit cards and have issues shipping to non-French addresses.
The German train system now offers some discounts to all travellers over the age of 65 without buying any special travel card. To see your options you simply enter your age when booking from the Bahn.de official site or from the booking platform Trainline (easier to use, often finds cheaper route options, but may not be as complete for travel to/from Germany and countries to its east).
For those spending more time in Germany and travelling regularly by train, Deutsche Bahn’s Generation 65plus program offers reduced fares with the purchase of a discounted BahnCard (scroll to near the bottom of that page for the senior discount versions). Essentially, the BahnCard 25 or 50 for seniors cost 37.50 euros and up depending on the travel classes etc. selected and they give one year of discounts (25% or 50%) on certain types of fares (flexible and saver). For the very serious train traveller, there is also a year of ticket-free travel offered for a set annual or lifetime rate. Note that three-month trial versions of these cards are also possible.
One of the greatest countries in terms of train discounts for seniors is Hungary—but only if you’re an EU national. Travel for EU citizens over 65 is free on domestic trains in Hungary. You will still need to pay a small price for your ticket seat reservation and can do so in a train station —a recent search showed these reservations available for the equivalent of just a euro or two. Non-EU nationals pay the full price, but trains tend to be quite cheap here compared to other European countries. Booking is available online for Hungarian trains, though the site translation in English is not the best.
Italian national train operator Trenitalia has a Silver Card (Carta d’Argento) that costs 30 euros per year for those over 60 and is free for those over 75. It offers 10% off on certain types of overnight trains (Wagon-Lits and “couchettes”) and 15% off on the base fares in most other national trains. These cards are generally only worthwhile if you’re living in or travelling frequently in Italy; you can get them at train station ticket desks or travel agencies in Italy.
If you’re taking an Italo train (the private competing rail service in Italy; it serves a few 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. Tickets are available from train operator CFL or through Trainline, which has a better routing search engine for crossing the borders to Belgium, France, and Germany.
Macedonia Railways gives senior passengers over the age of 60 a 30% discount (page in Macedonian or Albanian only) on all national routes, but it requires a K-13 card that is available from ticket selling offices.
Montenegro’s national train service has a K-5 card for seniors which gives passengers over the age of 60 a 30% discount. Those over the age of 75 travel for free with this card. The card costs 1 euro and is valid for two years.
Seniors over the age of 60 are eligible for certain limited discounts especially if purchasing classic subscriptions for frequent travel. There is, for certain discount card subscriptions, the option to travel for free for 7 days per year during off peak hours; the website only explains it properly in the Dutch version.
Keep in mind that travelling from certain smaller, unstaffed train stations with cash or a foreign bank or credit card can be impossible in the Netherlands with its station machines that only accept local cards. It is therefore worth buying tickets in advance. Trainline offers some but not all routes; the official NS site and app has all routes but can be very tricky to use in English.
Those aged 67 and older can get a 50% discount on single full-priced tickets for Norwegian train operator Vy, but various flexible, sleeper, and other discounted tickets are not eligible for this senior discount.
There is a 30% discount 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, and at ticket offices and machines.
Passengers over the age of 65 can show their IDs to get a 50% discount on travel within the country. The easiest way to buy tickets is via the official CP (Comboios de Portugal) app or at CP.pt, but I haven’t been able to figure out a way to get this discount with those options; you may need to buy directly at a Portuguese train station. Fortunately the staff at main stations often speak English.
There is also a discount of 25% for those aged 60 and over on the international Celta service connecting northern Spain (slow, smelly train, not recommended).
For now, generally, Portugal is not connected in any useful way by train with Spain; for overland low carbon travel to main Spanish destinations, search the bus/train combinations presented by Trainline.
There are free tickets on many types of Slovakian trains for those over the age of 62. It is necessary to first register for a rail customer card at ZSSK (official Slovakian train operator) ticket desks. For certain other types of trains there is a small fee.
There are also very steep discounts with less limitations on categories of trains for those aged 70 and over. And there is an annual rail card available for purchase offering discounts for those aged 60 and over.
Slovenian Railways offers a Seniors Railcard for those over the age of 65 or who are retired. It costs 10 euros and is valid for one year; its discounts are 30% on weekdays, 50% on weekends and for trips to Croatia, and 15% off of international fares.
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 25% off travel on most types of Renfe trains and 40% off on medium-distance trains (trenes Media Distancia). The cards cannot be used in conjunction with other discounts.
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 (or also those who have a certificate from the Swedish Pensions Agency) get a 10% discount on trains in Sweden. You simply select the category “Pensionär” when booking online and then carry a valid ID document showing your age on the trip.
For heavy travellers in Switzerland, the official operator SBB offers its beautiful rail rides to residents an an unlimited basis through a subscription program called the GA Travelcard that gives women over the age of 64 and men over the age of 65 discounts on 1st and 2nd class travel. (There are also versions of the card at higher cost for non-seniors.)
You can pay for the subscription (which automatically renews, be careful) 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.
Be aware that there are no other senior discount rates on Swiss trains, and that the SBB site can confusingly offer half fares for which you are not eligible unless you are a resident who has purchased the Swiss Half Fare card. Trainline is a less bewildering experience if you want to purchase tickets in advance; it is also generally fine to just show up and get them on the spot.
Turkey’s TCDD gives discounts of 20% to passengers aged 60 and over and 50% to passengers aged 65 and older. Be sure to ask for these fares when booking at a train station. Tickets can in theory be booked online in English; Seat 61 has a good guide for this.
The UK has an annual Senior Railcard for citizens over the age of 60 that gives 1/3 discounts off of 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 North Ireland 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.
Wrapping Up: Seniors on Trains in Europe
We tend to hear much better tales of travel by train than any other mode of transport in Europe. Particularly if you’re looking for slower-paced travel that puts you more in touch with local Europeans, trains are the way to go.
The discounts for seniors on trains are not always great and the purchasing process in some countries can be a bit complicated. But train travel is well worth it.
We continuously update this article and as always appreciate reader feedback and suggestions in the comments.