Free camping in Europe with your motorhome
The cost of a European road trip can stack up quickly and accommodation can take a huge chunk of your budget. But unlike the UK, much of Europe is well geared up for camper vans and motorhomes. Free camping in Europe with your motorhome is easy. Often easier than finding a campsite. During a 6 week road trip around Europe, our accommodation costs came to a grand total of zero.
That’s not a typo. We didn’t pay for a single night’s accommodation in all that time. You can easily travel most of the European continent without ever paying for accommodation. If you’re planning a road trip around Europe and want to save a few pound, follow this guide to see how you can find free camping in your motorhome.
Free camping in Europe with your motorhome
First thing’s first, you need a camper van or motorhome. A vehicle you can cook in, carry drinking water, sleep in and have on-board toilet facilities. Cars with roof tents are generally not allowed. You have 2 options for free camping in Europe with your motorhome: camper stops or wild camps.
European camper stops
Most European countries provide official places for you to stay overnight. These are generally referred to as camper stops. Each country may refer to them by their own name and signpost them accordingly:
Camper stops range from carparks in town centres to remote locations and beachside spots. We’ve even seen them in National Parks.
Read more: Wild camping locations in Spain
Facilities can vary but most include free drinking water. You’ll find facilities for chemical toilet and grey water disposal. Overnight overnight parking is free. Some have free electricity for hooking up your camper van’s leisure batteries. We’ve even managed to secure quite good free wifi connections at many camper stops.
Overnight parking can be limited to 48 hours in some, others will have no restrictions. A few may even charge you a euro for a water top up. However, the vast majority of the facilities provided are totally free of charge.
Free camping in Europe with your motorhome is a privilege
Camper stops are a privilege and certainly not a right. Coming from the UK where motorhomes are not widely catered for, we certainly feel they are a luxury. With that in mind, there are some rules that must be followed. Camper stops are not for camping.
This means no pitching a tent, winding out your awnings, hanging out laundry or putting out your camping table. Certainly this may be a downside; it is lovely to sit out on a summer’s evening with a glass of wine. But this is camping. If you want to camp, go to a campsite and pay for that privilege.
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Wild camping in Europe in your motorhome
We’ve all been there. We find a perfectly idyllic location and think it’d be wonderful to spend the night there. It may have a spectacular view, it’s quiet and remote or has the promise of a beautiful sunset. To stay the night would be wonderful. If you’re on foot with a small tent, you could be rather discrete about it. Hiding a 3 metre high motorhome is no mean feat though.
Throughout Europe you will find ‘tolerated’ spaces and remote locations that are perfect to park overnight. They don’t offer any facilities but if you find a perfect spot, you could always give it a go.
Read more: Our guide for wild camping in your motorhome
With so many motor homes touring Europe, there’s a wealth of information available on the internet about where to find some of these spots. Just bear in mind, these are not official places so you could be asked to move on. We’ve wild camped at many locations in western and eastern Europe and never been asked to move on. We do choose our spots wisely though.
How to find free camping in Europe with your motorhome
You may well see a camper stop sign along your route and this may be a perfect opportunity to park up for the night. You may want a few pre-planned though. Here’s a couple of ways to have some locations pre-planned. Get yourself a sat nav that allows you to either upload waypoints or at least allows you to enter GPS co-ordinates.
Never set off on a European road trip without it. Our sat nav has a set of (dated) camper stops included as points of interest. We occasionally get lucky using that function.
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Better still, VWFurgo is a website that holds almost 4000 GPS co-ordinates for camper stops across Europe. Each location is marked on a map and provides photos and details of the facilities and nearby amenities. It includes both official camper stops and ‘tolerated’ spaces.
The site allows you to download the full file (for free). It covers most of the major sat nav formats. It’s a heavy weight file so consider if this will affect the performance of your device. You can always download it onto your laptop or tablet and refer to it as you go.
iOverlander is another terrific website with loads of overnight wild camping spots and parking locations. It’s maintained and updated by overlanders and terrific source of information globally, and not just for Europe.
If you’re trying to find free camping in the UK with your motorhome, you could try park4night.com. It’s not as comprehensive as VWFurgo but a good resource. Alternatively, there is a book detailing the official camper stops across Europe. This book will become your accommodation bible as you travel around Europe in your camper van or motorhome. With almost 9000 free or very cheap aires listed, you’re sure to find a suitable place to sleep. The Camperstop Europe guide include photos, GPS coordinates and information about facilities at each camperstop. Don’t tour Europe without this.
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Road trip planning doesn’t have to be difficult. If you’re looking for a European road trip on a budget, camper stops are a perfect way to reduce (or eliminate) your accommodation costs. You now know how to find free camping in Europe with your motorhome. All you have to decide now is when and where you’re going.
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