Senior Savings on European Train Travel: The Ultimate Guide to the Discounts

by  Beth Hoke
LAST UPDATED ON  2023-11-11
PUBLISHED ON  2019-05-23

Your Guide

Beth Hoke

Expert Wanderer

Savvy seniors over the age of 60 can get a range of discounts on the European railroads. For frequent travel in a specific country, you can purchase a country-specific senior discount pass. There are also Interrail and Eurail discounts that work out OK for heavy travel in a short period. However, most countries offer no worthwhile senior discounts if you’re just visiting the country for a short time—but we’ve still got some ways that you can save.

Read on for our complete guide to senior discounts and other savings on my favorite way to cross the European continent: train travel.

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.

For general strategies that work for all ages, check out our advice on how to book cheap train tickets for Europe.

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 particular 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 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. In particular, seat reservations are almost always required for France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden. They can add significantly to trip costs and often make the cost of the pass itself less worthwhile.
  • 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.) There are certain types of trains that you have access to when not using a pass, such as budget high-speed private train operators, that can make this à la carte option both cheaper and faster, particularly for France, Spain, and Italy.
  • If you want to go even cheaper (but not as comfortably), Trainline can also show you bus options.

We have done a much more in-depth discussion of when and whether Eurail and Interrail actually save money.

Masks and Covid-19 Restrictions When Travelling by Train in Europe

The restrictions on masks, negative tests, and vaccinations have generally been lifted for travelers in Europe as of spring 2023. For piece of mind if you want to make sure that you can travel to a specific place and meet the requirements, you can easily check the official EU site for requirements for re-opening here; there is information updated for each country.

It is certainly acceptable to wear masks in transport and many people still do so.

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.

Andora

Austria

Belgium

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bulgaria

Croatia

Czech Republic / Czechia

Denmark

Estonia

Finland

France

Germany

Hungary

Italy

Lithuania

Luxembourg

North Macedonia

Montenegro

Netherlands

Norway

Poland

Portugal

Slovakia

Slovenia

Spain

Sweden

Switzerland

Turkey

United Kingdom

UK (Northern Ireland)

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.


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10 thoughts on “Senior Savings on European Train Travel: The Ultimate Guide to the Discounts”

  1. tarjeta dorada … not worth it. buy tickets early to save, the card saves nothing at all. We’re in Spain now. no savings on Madrid to San Sebastian. We bought tickets early all over spain before arriving (that was a waste too as they’re now all cheaper).
    So, wait until you get to Spain but price out tickets – you may have to buy about 8 days ahead (prices do go up after that).

  2. Anders Andersen

    It is free for pensioners to travel in Warsaw – does this also apply to the whole country?

  3. I am a 75 year old Hungarian citizen who plans to travel in Spain on train. What kind of discount I can get? I Hungary I travel free on the train, bus ecet.

  4. Hi, one small correction: Hungary gives free travel to those over 65 who are EU Nationals, not EU residents.
    And BTW it applies to all public transport, i,e, buses, ant the Budapest metro too. However for a train which has a supplement over the normal fare, seniors do have to pay the supplement.

      1. Having visited Hungary many times, my Irish passport shows my age and there has never been a problem on trains, trams, metros, buses or even the airport bus service ! I’m left with the impression that free travel for 65’s plus, is to bring in orderly tourism. Budapest has a super public transport system….a bit like what Ireland had up to 1932 !

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