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How to tour Europe in a campervan for £16 per day
There are other ways to tour Europe but none is as convenient, or as effective, as touring by motorhome or campervan. You have total independence and the only restrictions will be self-imposed. £1000 per month is sufficient for two people touring in a motorhome, just £16 per day each! People on a van tour mostly use Motorhome Stopovers and these are often restricted to 48 hours parking. Not all towns have a Motorhome Stopover; as a result you naturally deviate off the tourist trail. Following an itinerary helps provide structure to your journey, but often your best memories are not Florence, Rome or Paris but the sleepy town where you drank with the locals. Read a general guide to Europe in advance as this will highlight the best bits and give you an idea of where you want to spend your time. You could easily spend a year discovering France, Germany, or Italy and guidebooks are essential to help you choose where to go and what to see.
Whatever type of motorhomer you are, the important thing is to go. There is never a right time, and you never know what will happen in the future. Should you discover that you do not like motorhoming, at least you have tried and if you love it, the quicker you go the better.
We recommend that you take a trip to France to learn what European motorhoming has to offer. Buy and study the appropriate guidebooks in advance, as these are unlikely to be for sale at the rental office. Stop overnight in campsites of varying standards and at Motorhome Stopovers to get the full experience.
Do I need a Camping Card International?
The Camping Card International (CCI) is a credit card sized card that displays the holder’s name, address, and passport number. The CCI is worth buying because it is common, across Europe, for campsite receptionists to ask for passports for identification when booking in and the CCI is an acceptable substitute for your passport. Sometimes receptionists wish to keep your documents overnight and it is preferable to let them keep your CCI rather than your passport. CCI cardholders also benefit from 2,500,000 Swiss Francs worth of third-party insurance against accidental damage at campsites. The CCI has an accompanying book, that details country specific camping information, Offsite-Parking rules and a list of over 2,500 campsites offering discounted pitch fees to CCI holders. Not all Swedish campsites accept the CCI. Luckily, they have their own card called the Camping Card Scandinavia, available at all campsite receptions, which you must buy if you wish to stay at that campsite. CCI cards cost from £5.50 and are available from organisations affiliated to the AIT, FIA or FICC. The following UK organisations offer CCI to their members: The Motorcaravanners' Club, The Camping & Caravanning Club, Hymer Club International and the RAC, The AA no longer sells the CCI, however AA personal members may purchase a CCI from The Caravan Club. Have the following information on hand when you phone: date of birth, place of birth, nationality, passport number, passport date of issue, and passport place of issue.
Campsites suitable for campervans and motorhomes
Caravan sites, campgrounds, touring parks, or campsites, no matter what you call them most accept tents, caravans, and motorhomes. There are over 30,000 campsites across Europe, enough to stay at a different one every night for the next 82 years. One third, 10,500, of all European campsites are located in France. Campsites range from huge five star holiday complexes to tiny campsites offering basic, affordable camping. Small campsites often referred to as ‘Mini Camping’ range from gardens to Sites/Locations administered by the clubs in the UK. Pitch fees range from €5-€10 per night. Farm camping is popular in France and has a supporting scheme called ‘Bienvenue à la Ferme’. French ‘Aire Naturelle’ campsites are similar to UK Certified Locations/Sites, but are only open for the summer. Holland, Denmark and Germany have plenty of small, rural campsites often connected to farms or restaurants.
The ACSI CampingCard is the largest discount camping scheme and has four times more participating campsites than Camping Cheque. The ACSI CampingCard is valid for one calendar year from the beginning of January until the end of December and is published just in time, on the second week of December. To obtain the card you must purchase the ACSI CampingCard guidebook listing the participating campsites, the card presses out of the front cover and in the back cover there is a map showing the sites. There is no membership, upfront fees or further administration apart from writing your own name and address on the back of the card. If you do not use the scheme it has only cost you the price of a guidebook. Users present the card at reception of the participating campsites and pay the receptionists either €13, €15, €17 or €19 per night, as identified in the guidebook. Some campsites offer free nights, for example stay seven and pay for six. The ACSI Camping Card is available from Vicarious Books, www.vicarious-shop.com Tel: 0131 208 3333.
Motorhome Stopovers, wild free camping and camper stops.
Dedicated motorhome parking areas are provided in many European countries and these bring welcome tourists into major and undiscovered areas alike. Motorhomers and campervanners have over 6000 Motorhome Stopovers to choose from, and as so many of them are free it would be possible to tour Europe and never pay for camping or parking. Throughout Go Motorhoming and Campervanning , we have referred to them as Motorhome Stopovers because overnight parking is normally allowed. Most Motorhome Stopovers also have a Service Point for water collection and disposal, and there are some service areas without parking. Motorhome Stopovers in rural locations normally offer free overnight parking and may charge €2-€3 for water. Motorhome Stopovers near the sea and at popular tourist destinations normally charge between €5-€20 for parking and may charge for water as well.
Motorhome Stopovers have a different name in every language:
• Aires de Service/Stationment Camping Car – France and Belgium.
• Wohnmobil-Stellplätze – Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.
• Aree di Sosta – Italy.
• Bobil – Norway.
• Area de Servicio para Autocaravanas – Spain and Portugal.
Motorhome Stopovers had no established name in English until Vicarious Books published the ‘All the Aires’ series of guidebooks. Aires is a shortened version of the French term Aire de Service but even this is better described as serviced Motorhome Stopovers. To avoid confusion the term Motorhome Stopover is used throughout this book except when discussing Motorhome Stopovers in specific countries, when the local term is sometimes used.
Parking overnight in a motorhome or campervan.
Motorhome parking is mostly municipally provided, but some privately operated tourist attractions and supermarkets have a section of motorhome parking. Normally signs depicting a motorhome identify the area to be motorhome parking, although the signage does vary significantly. Sometimes designated parking areas are shared with cars and can be busy during the day, but empty at night. Motorhome Stopovers operate on a first come, first served basis and it is not possible to reserve a space. Stopping is generally limited to 48 hours unless otherwise stated, as they are designed to be used whilst touring and not for an extended holiday. Always park in designated bays, if provided, and never obstruct roadways or Service Points. Motorhome Stopovers may not have designated spaces, and it is normal to park less than a vehicle width from your neighbours. If the stopover is full find another one. 10 years ago motorhomes longer than 6m were rare, now motorhomes shorter than 6m are rare, the result is that a lot of the old parking areas are unsuitable for modern motorhomes. People with sub-6m motorhomes can take advantage of this and will find that they can stop on their own in wonderful locations. Anywhere that attracts a lot of motorhomes has had to manage the situation, and a lot of coastal towns have done this by banning motorhomes completely. Towns that have continued to accommodate motorhomes normally allow parking at specified places only, which are often barrier and parking meter controlled. To enjoy the freedom of motorhoming we recommend that you plan your travels so that you avoid the obvious places. For example, if you want to drive around the French coast expect to pay at least €5 per night; you can get around this by heading inland each evening.