The CamperVanLife.com team love to travel around Europe. We have put together some useful tips that we hope will improve your experience.

  1. Do It - if you are thinking about visiting Europe... then do it! It is one of the best places in the world to explore with a leisure vehicle. Few places in the world offer the diversity of culture, history, food, drink and language that Europe offers. You will no doubt hear horror stories, but don't be put off. Almost everyone camping in Europe would recommend the experience to your personally.
  2. Avoid July and August - if you can avoid these months, then do. The majority of Europe holiday makers take their holidays during these months. You will find everywhere busy. If you have to holiday during this period then it is worth booking at least the first few nights at campsites, to ensure you have somewhere to stay.
  3. Learn a little of the local language - Europe has so many languages. Learning a little of the language you are visiting will make a big difference to the way people treat you. Most people can learn the basics in an afternoon with a good guide book. In Spain and Italy English is spoken very little, whereas in The Netherlands, Germany and Portugal English is widely understood and spoken. France, more than any other country, will appreciate you speaking the local language. Whilst many French can speak English they do not like to do so. Use any French you have. If you are keen to learn get started as soon as possible. The French will appreciate your efforts so much that you are likely to be invited for drinks and nibbles. See the guide to language phrase books.
  4. Get Road maps or GPS - Having good road maps or a GPS unit is essential. If you are buying a GPS unit make sure it contains maps for all of the counties you intend to visit. Or at least ensure you can buy the maps for a reasonable price. If you are going to use traditional maps invest in a good road atlas. See the GPS section or the guide to maps.
  5. Do research - Do at least some research about the regions you want to visit. The internet has made this so much easier now. Find out about the weather, water, festivals, or anything about your destination that might effect your visit.
  6. Buy guide books - If you intend to visit towns, monuments, beaches, etc then invest in good guide books. A good guide book can instantly inform you of the best places to visit, opening times, history, language, and more. See the guide book section.
  7. Know your vehicles dimensions - measure the height and length of your vehicle. Keep this information at hand in the cab, as you will at some point be presented with a narrow gap or low bridge. Knowing the dimensions can save a lot of hassle and embarrassment. Actually measure your vehicle., don't reply on manufacturer details, as they can be wrong, and you may have additions which change the original dimensions.
  8. Don't stop overnight on French Auto Route aires - the French roadside rest areas are great, and a wonderful place to stop during the day to break up your journey. However we have experienced, and heard of many problems from many campers who have stopped at these aires overnight. The main problems being theft. Don't stop at them overnight. In particularly the A7 and A9 seem to be the worst.
  9. Don't be scared of free camping - with the above point in mind, don't be put off free camping. Free camping is one of the best parts of camping in Europe, and people very rarely experience any trouble. Stopping at a beautiful beach, lakeside or mountain rest area, and then stopping for the night, week, or even a month, is a fantastic experience. Thefts are almost entirely occur at busy roadside stops in urban areas. Be careful and be alert and you should have no problems.
  10. Double check your insurance - check your insurance to ensure everything you think is cover is actually covered. You do not want to find out something is not covered once on the road or after an incident. Ensure you have insurance for the vehicle and travel insurance for the people in it.
  11. Take your E117 health care cards (for EU citizens only) - EU citizens should apply for and take a free E117 health care card with them to Europe. The card entitles you to free or reduced cost health care in most European countries. Don't think you won't need it. I needed mine, when travelling alone in Spain. I was very glad to have had mine on me, it made the whole experience much easier. In the UK you can apply online at http://www.ehic.org.uk/. Alternatively, you can apply by calling 0845 606 2030, or by picking up an application form from the Post Office.
  12. Choose ferries carefully - If you have to take a ferry do plenty of research. If you are coming from the UK you pretty much have to take a ferry. If anyone in the party doesn't like being on water take the shortest crossing you can, to avoid unnecessary illness, and drive the rest of the way. Dover to Calais is still the shortest and quickest crossing.
  13. Check your passports - ensure all are in date. Some countries demand that the expiry date on the passport must be at least 6 months beyond your estimated day of return. Take photocopies of all of the passports. At campsites you will have to leave a passport until you have paid. Many accept photocopies.
  14. Use a bank that doesn't charge for oversees transactions - most banks will charge you for taking money out when abroad There are several banks that do not. Nationwide is one. You don't need to change banks, just open an extra account for travel money. You can save a good deal of money this way.
  15. Check your home insurance - check that your home insurance is still valid if you are away from home for a long period of time.
  16. Always be respectful to the police - when you are stopped by the police always be respectful and cooperative. I have been stopped several times, always as a routine check. The police are not trying to catch out foreigners. In fact in most European countries the police will not stop foreigners.
  17. Always keep a quarter tank of fuel - don't let you fuel drop below a quarter of a tank. Many places close on a Sunday, and finding fuel can be hard. If you are twisting around hills for a long period of time only half fill the fuel tank. This will save weight and make the vehicle easier to drive.
  18. Know the law - the road laws vary between each country, and some require you to carry equipment you might not already have. 
    Under French law, vehicles must carry one reflective jacket for the driver, although many French families store one for each passenger in case there is a breakdown and they have to wait beside the car.

Important Information

  • If you breakdown, or are stopped by the police, put the jacket on, or else you may find yourself with a fine
  • In Spain you require a jacket for each person.
  • In France, Spain and Germany you are required to carry a red warning triangle.  Should you breakdown the triangle must be erected 30 meters behind the car.
  • In Spain you require 2 red warning triangles per car.
  • In Spain you are also required to carry a set of spare lamps/bulbs for your car and the tools to change them

    Here's a quick kit list:

    Greece
    - First aid kit
    - Fire extinguisher
    - Warning triangle

    Italy
    - Warning triangle
    - Reflective jacket

    France
    - Warning triangle
    - Reflective jacket
    - Headlamp adjustment

    Spain
    - Warning triangle x 2
    - Spare bulbs
    - Headlamp adjustment
    - Reflective jacket