we are travelling through europe for four months later this year... We were going to get a Eurail pass but can clearly see that it is expensive. I have looked on seat61 and a few other national sites to book train tickets over the net but the seam to be quite a nightmare to use. it is said that these national sites are the cheapest ways to book tickets.. how much more would be be expecting to pay if we were to just go up to the ticket window of the arrival station when we get there and book our departing ticket for say three days down the track. any othwer suggestions when booking tickets? i have tried the dbahn site and its not very user friendly either..
It depends. In the Netherlands and Belgium, there are no trains with seat reservation; in Germany, the price difference between advance purchase and last-minute purchase is considerable on long-distance connections, as is the case in France and Spain, and on most international trains; in Italy, the difference is minimal. I don't know enough about Switzerland and Austria, nor about eastern Europe; as for the latter, since trains are dirt cheap anyway, I wouldn't say it makes much of a difference.
I would buy the Eurail pass if you are mainly travelling in Western Europe. The 3-month pass works out to about 10-15 EUR per day, wich is roughly 1 hour of train travel. If you hop-on, hop-off trains so much as to average that travel time per day the Eurail pass is good value. Hassle-free too.
It takes some very heavy planning and research in order to compare point-to-point ticket prices to the Eurail pass and then buy the tickets, and the time you invest into the research necessary for a 4-month trip and the hassle to get the tickets is substantial enough to just shell out for the Eurail pass and be done with it.
As I wrote already in another thread, if you cannot afford to pay for the Eurail pass you probably cannot afford to go to Europe in the first place.
BTW, have you looked at eurolines passes? They are excellent value if you are travelling in off-season (winter) and don't mind the lower comfort and longer travelling times of bus travel.