In Europe, Have Your Age Subsidize Your Travel

If you are planning a trip to Europe and are 25 years old or under, make sure to look for discounts not only at attractions that commonly offer student discounts such as museums and performances, but also on transportation.  In contrast to the American standard practice, in Europe most discounts are available for people aged 25 and under (with proof of ID) rather than for students regardless of age.  And transportation networks are usually included.

In England, for example, you can buy a 16-25 Railcard for £26, which gives you a 1/3 discount on virtually every train fare throughout the UK for a whole year (even once you turn 26, as long as you bought it when you were still 25 years old).  This includes the express trains to and from Heathrow and Gatwick airports.  Importantly – and this is not frequently advertised – if you get the Oyster card for transportation in London (and you should), your Railcard can also be linked to it and lower your daily cap.  For example, a single ticket for off-peak travel in zones 1-2 of the London tube (as a tourist, those are probably the only zones you will need) is £1.60, but if you use an Oyster card and take multiple trips in one day, you will be charged a maximum of £5.10 per day.  With the 15-26 Railcard, while you do not get a discount on the single fare, your daily fare is capped at £3.35.

For travel between European countries, the Eurostar and the Thalys also offer youth discounts.  A youth one-way ticket on the Eurostar from London to Paris departing this Friday (September 04, 2009) at 11:30, for example, is £72, compared to £84 for the standard non-flexible fare.  Prices are lower and discounts are larger during the week and if booked in advance.  And on the Thalys, a high-speed rail connecting Paris, Brussels, Cologne and Amsterdam (and several Belgian and Dutch cities along the way), youth fares are generally around half the price of the most flexible fare offered.  Travel from Amsterdam to Brussels on a youth fare, for instance, is as low as €29, while the flexible fare costs €57.

So whether your are planning on just visiting one city in Europe or backpacking throughout, remember to carry your ID and ask about youth discounts on transportation if you are 25 years old or under.  This will help you cut down on sightseeing costs and free up your budget for souvenirs, food, and even a splurge.