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

Comments (96)

  • maria wright's picture

    Hi
    My husband and I want to travel by camper van round Europe. (Germany - Scandinavia) Could you recommend any companies that we can hire a van from in Europe. was going to fly out and then travel the rest by camper van and fly back home.

    many thanks
    Maria

    Jan 18, 2017
  • Katie Fenton's picture

    Hi there I am thinking of travelling round a few European countries for 2 weeks in the summer with my husband and 4 kids but haven't done anything like this before and don't know where to start!!! Any help/advice greatly appreciated!xxx

    Jan 03, 2017
  • Darren's picture

    Hi

    1. Make a list of the places you want to visit
    2. Check the tips above
    3. Get your vehicle ready
    4. Enjoy yourself!

    Jan 04, 2017
  • Ivana 's picture

    Hi,
    we travelling to Slovakia in motorhome in couple of weeks time. Making a first stop at Cologne and second in Poland Wroclaw. We were trying to find a campsite for overnight stay but not very successful. Where would you recommend us to make that stop and be safe?

    Dec 05, 2016
  • Fabrizio's picture

    We are a couple planning to do an Euro trip in a campervan and wondering if the car has to be a self-contained vehicle in order to be able to stay in all these free-parks?
    What country do you think is the best to buy a campervan?
    Thanks for your help and all the information mentioned in your article, is very helpful.

    Oct 18, 2016
  • Darren's picture

    To wild-camp in a campervan your vehicle does need to be self-contained.
    You really should just be "parked", and ready to move on at any time.
    The police often don't like people setting up camp in the car parks.

    France probably has the cheapest range of used vehicles.
    But, Germany probably has the best quality of selection, as they have so many VW and Mercedes vehicles.

    Oct 18, 2016
  • Bru's picture

    We are a family of 3 + dog & cat planning to travel with a med sized motorhome through Europe for 6-12 months.
    Our question is how do you incorporate large cities into the itinerary? Do you camp outside the city and use public transport or are there places to park in the city?
    Also, is there any free-camping in Switzerland? or year-round campsites?
    Thank you very much for all the helpful information!

    Sep 25, 2016
  • Darren's picture

    Yes, park outside of the city and use public transport to get in.
    Quite often campsites on the edge of cities will have a public bus route.
    Some cities have parking areas for motorhomes, but this is rare. France have the motorhome Aires, which are often well places in cities.
    I would recommend researching each city you want to visit, and plan accordingly.

    Switzerland has some aires, which are typically free camping. There might be some year-round campsites, with hard standings, as the weather will be severe in winter.

    Sep 27, 2016
  • Richard moss's picture

    Hi Darren can I just stop at any aire or does it have too be designated Motorhome too ..

    Aug 21, 2016
  • Darren's picture

    You can normally stop at any Aire. Some will say no motorhomes, normally in the busy months (summer).
    To park overnight, you typically need a motorhome aire, in the busy months. In the quite months, you can normally park anywhere.

    Aug 23, 2016
  • Robin Poggenpoel 's picture

    Hi Madam/Sir,

    About 6 gents from South Africa, average age, 50, are planning to travel through England visiting the football stadiums during the Easter period plus another week. Planning to hire a six sleeper motor home and do the tour in about 14 days, traveling from London to end up In Spain. Hoping to watch two games in England and one in Spain.
    Concerns:
    1. Where do you park,
    2. Licenses
    3. Permits required
    4. Average costs of camping sites, and are you allowed to park anywhere , where legal parking are allowed.

    5. Any traveling tips and guidance for some time travelers.

    Mar 28, 2016
  • Darren's picture

    Hi guys

    The UK is not friendly to wild camping, so you are pretty much going to have to use campsites.
    You can try and wild camp, but with such a big vehicle, you will draw attention from the police, and they will probably move you on.
    Campsites are around £20 per night.

    France has a great motorhome scene, and you will be very welcome. France has Aires, where only motorhomes are allowed to park.
    Also lots of campsites, some cheap.

    Spain is a mixture. Some areas are happy with motorhomes, some are not.
    Campsites are pretty good, some are cheap.
    Vehicle crime is high in many places.

    Have a great time.

    Mar 28, 2016
  • Claire's picture

    Hi! Me, my husband and our dog are about to set off travelling Europe in our campervan. We don't have an end date but anticipate being on the road for about 6 -12 months. We're struggling to find both pet insurance and breakdown cover that will cover us for more than 3 months away. Can anyone recommend any companies please?

    Feb 26, 2016
  • Geoff Foster's picture

    I am going to tour Europe for 12 months is it advisable to get a Lhd vehicle?

    Jan 05, 2016
  • Darren's picture

    It's not necessary. It takes a week or two to adjust, and then a RHD is fine.

    Jan 06, 2016
  • Arlaina's picture

    We will be venturing to Europe for a 2 week trip and would like to rent a camper van type vehicle to tour the countryside of Switzerland, possibly upper northern Italy, Austria, Germany, and The Netherlands. We fly into Geneva on September 13, but can take the train to a pick up destination in another city if necessary - hopefully not too far - and we could also pick up on Monday, September 14 if that makes it easier. We fly out of Amsterdam early a.m. on September 26 and would love to drop off there if possible; again, we could drop off on Friday, September 25 if works better.

    Does anyone have any recommended companies that provide the one-way rental experience? If not, we have considered renting out of Geneva or Zurich and travelling in a loop to check it back in and then train to Amsterdam. We are having trouble finding an outfitter and would greatly appreciate any and all advice.
    Thank you!

    Arlaina

    Aug 31, 2015
  • Megan 's picture

    Hi there, this is a great article for information thanks. Myself and my husband are off to Europe for a month in the campervan at the beginning of August. I was just wondering if anyone knew if it is possible to only stay for a couple of nights at campsites as the ones I have found so far only take bookings for a full week. Any advice/info greatly received. Thanks Megan

    Jul 14, 2015
  • Yvon's picture
    Yvon (not verified)

    I am in complete agreement with this article, traveling to Europe is wonderful. I went to the UK and France, and found that in France if you attempt at speaking French, they will appreciate it and help you out. If you are used to Camping in North America, you might find European camping different though as you are not very far from a town or city.

    Apr 27, 2015
  • Caroline's picture

    I am going traveling around Europe at the end of May, hopefully for a month, I would like to catch up will like minded people. Its my first trip of traveling alone, with my trusty dog!! Please can anyone give me some info regarding my travels.
    I hope to go through France, Spain, and wherever lol..

    Thanks

    Apr 27, 2015

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