Can I Get a Senior Discount on Rail Passes?

A train station in Alberta, Canada.
Artie Photography (Artie Ng) / Getty Images

You probably remember those glorious college days, when summers were spent working just long enough to save up some money for a long backpacking trip around Europe. Whether the backpacking days are far behind you or you still bunk at youth hostels to save money, it's nice to know that rail passes are still around in Europe and can also be found in the U.S. and Canada. Best of all, some rail system operators offer senior discount on rail passes depending on where you go.

Senior Rail Pass Discounts in the U.S.

Although Amtrak offers 10 percent discounts for seniors aged 60 years of older on some fares, this does not include their selection of rail passes. Senior discounts are quite limited in the U.S. and are not applicable to discounted fares, first class tickets, or on high-speed Acela service. However, if you are traveling with a child under 12, it is possible to get a discount on their rail pass ticket and children under 2 years old can ride for free when accompanied by a fare-paying adult.

Senior Rail Pass Discounts in Canada

On VIA Rail, seniors over 60 years of age can receive 10 percent discounts throughout the year on Economy Plus, Sleeper, Sleeper Plus, and Touring Fares. However, the discount is not available if you're booking a seat in Prestige or Business Class. Every rail pass is different, so you'll want to be sure that the pass you purchase includes the area you wish to travel to:

  • Multi Pass: 10, 20 50, or 100 travel credits available to use in zones one through five.
  • Leisure Pass: Six travel credits available to use in zones one through five.
  • Canada Pass: Six, 12, or unlimited travel credits to use in Zone 6.
  • Commuter Pass: 20 travel credits available to use between only two cities within Zone 5.

Detailed information and maps of each zone is available on the VIA Rail website.

Senior Rail Pass Discounts in Europe

Senior discounts for travelers from North America age 60 and older are available on rail passes in the UK, Ireland, France, and Romania. You can save 10 percent on the price of your pass, but you'll need to purchase it before you leave home. You may want to book seat reservations once you arrive, particularly in high season; the pass alone does not guarantee you a seat and standing in a train corridor is not fun.

It's worth noting that the rules for obtaining a senior discount for the Eurail pass can be particular. For example, you must be at least 60 years or older on the first day of your trip. Even if you turn 60 in the middle of the week, you will have to buy an Adult pass without a discount. Generally, this is not a huge inconvenience, but anyone celebrating their 60th birthday with a train trip to Europe will want to keep this in mind when making arrangements.

The Global Pass will give you access to 33 different countries in Europe and you can book a first or second class pass that will last anywhere between 10 days to three months. The more expensive passes allow for unlimited travel, which is a great option if you want the freedom to make side trips and detours. The least expensive passes will limit you to predetermined number of travel days, but there is no limit to how many trains you can take on these days or when you can use them. If you purchase a global pass, you will be able to visit the United Kingdom via the Chunnel, the underground tunnel that connects the the British Isles to Continental Europe. You'll be able to take the Eurostar train, but your seat reservation must be made in advance through Eurail and they may charge you for a booking fee in addition to a reservation fee.