Although most senior travelers associate senior discounts with rail passes, some European countries offer mature travelers discounts on individual tickets. Typically, you will need to purchase some kind of annual membership card to qualify for the senior discount. Requirements vary by country and are subject to change. In some countries, non-European Union seniors are not eligible for discount cards.
If you plan to travel by train on just a few days over a one- or two-month period, you may find that a rail pass will save you money. BritRail and France's SNCF offer senior discounts on certain types of rail passes. Senior discounts also apply to the Eurail Ireland and Eurail Romania Passes.
Do not assume that a rail pass is the cheapest way to go. Depending on the countries you plan to visit, the number of train trips you plan to take, and the senior discount plans available, you may save more by purchasing a senior card and applying its discount to your tickets. It is worth spending some time at your computer to research the best deal.
Terms by Country
Let's take a look at senior train travel discounts by country.
Belgium offers seniors age 65 and older a great senior discount on non-peak train travel. Tickets are just 6.50 Euros each if you travel after 9:01 A.M. on weekdays. You can also get this senior fare on weekends during the school year. Restrictions apply; some "frontier" train stations do not offer the senior fare. This discount is unavailable on August 15, during holiday periods and summer weekends. Proof of age is required.
France gives seniors age 60 and older the opportunity to purchase a Carte Senior+ for 60 Euros. The Carte Senior+ entitles you to discounts of 25 to 50 percent on train travel. You can also change your train ticket for only 5 Euros; the normal change fee is 15 Euros.
Germany offers senior travelers over age 60 a discount on the BahnCard 50. Seniors pay 255 Euros for the second class BahnCard50, which gives you a 50 percent discount on flexible fare train tickets as well as a 25 percent discount on certain saver fares in the German rail system. Carefully research each leg of your journey to see whether the BahnCard50 is a good option for you. If you are traveling with one or more companions, Germany's Weekend Tickets may be a better bet, depending on your travel dates.
Italy offers the Carta d'Argento ("Silver Card") to senior travelers over age 60. The card costs 30 Euros (free for travelers over 75) and is valid for one year. With the Carta d'Argento, you will save 15 percent on most Italian train tickets and 10 percent on couchette tickets (second-class sleeper berths). You will also be able to participate in the RailEurope system with its 25 percent discount on international travel. You have to show both your ticket and your Carta d'Argento to the conductor. Certain restrictions apply.
Portugal's CP rail system offers seniors age 65 and older discounts on several different types of trains, including regional, interregional and Coimbra Urban trains. The typical discount is 50 percent. Restrictions apply.
Spain's RENFE rail system offers senior travelers 60 and older the Tarjeta Dorada ("Gold Card"). With the Tarjeta Dorada, you will save 25 to 50 percent on train tickets, depending on the type of train, the day of the week you travel and how far in advance you buy your tickets. You can buy your Tarjeta Dorada at a RENFE station for 6 Euros; it will be valid for one year.
The UK's Senior Railcard gives you a one-third discount on a wide variety of standard and first-class tickets. Morning rush hour travel within the London and the South East area does not qualify for the Senior Railcard discount. The Senior Railcard costs £30 and is available to anyone age 60 or over. British train fares are quite high, so it is also worth investigating a BritRail pass if you plan to take several train trips.
Eurostar, which operates the Chunnel trains, no longer advertises a senior fare.
Disclaimer: Some train systems may restrict senior discounts to citizens of European Union communities, even though their websites do not indicate any such restrictions.