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 campsites in Europe. 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 at all that time. You can easily travel most of the European continent without ever paying for accommodation.
If you’re planning a road trip and must-try hiking trails around Europe and want to save a few pounds, 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 campervan toilet facilities.
Cars with roof tents are generally not allowed for tent camping. 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 name and signpost them accordingly:
Spain & Portugal: Area de servicio para autocaravanas
France & Belgium: Aires de Service
Germany, Austria & Switzerland: Stellplatz
Italy: Area di sosta
Camper stops range from carparks in town centers to remote locations and beachside spots. We’ve even seen them in National Parks.
Facilities can vary, but most include free drinking water. You’ll find facilities for a chemical toilet and grey water disposal. 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 campers 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 tent camping table.
Certainly, this may be a downside; it is lovely to sit out on a summer evening with a glass of wine. But this is camping. If you want to camp, go to various campsites in Europe and pay for that privilege.
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 it has the promise of a beautiful sunset. To stay the night would be fantastic. If you’re on foot with a small tent, you could be somewhat discrete about tent camping.
Hiding a 3-meter 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. Also, add to your bucket list the camp 9 nature campground in Poland and Camping La Pointe in France.
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, that 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 are 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 coordinates.
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.
It’s easy to arrange campervan hire in Europe.
We recommend using a reputable comparison site to check the different types of motorhomes and campers available.
They even allow drop-offs at different locations so an ideal way to avoid circular routes.
VWFurgo is a website that holds almost 4000 GPS coordinates 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 tent camping spots and parking locations. It’s maintained and updated by overlanders and terrific sources 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.
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.
Angela Devaney, a former IT project management professional, embarked on an adventurous journey of full-time travel, which included touring West Africa in a converted overland truck and converting an ex-military 4×4 Sprinter van into a camper for a five-year South American expedition. She now utilizes her hands-on experience to create practical RV living and van life advice as a full-time digital media producer, reaching over a million users annually through her YouTube channel, blog, and newsletter. Angela also lends her expertise as the editor-in-chief of the Campervan Electrics Handbook.