Who hasn’t dreamt of hitting the open road with the family, the dog and all of dad’s bad jokes? Doing so in Europe is a great way to explore a continent full of history, lakes and beaches. I just went on my first RV trip in Europe last month with the rest of the Campanda team and got to see first hand how camping in Europe really is. So I decided to write a little guide about how to plan it and what to expect. But first, here are a couple of photos from our trip!
Us at the dealership – the adventure begins
Co-ordinating 8 RVs was pretty difficult, but we got through it
Me thinking deeply about something
We got to Rechlin just in time for a boat ride
Time for BBQ – Many pounds of sausage successfuly consumed
Breakfast the next morning – total bliss
If you have particular questions that are not covered here, ask us in the comment section below, and we’ll get you the answers you seek!
1. Where should I plan to book an RV in Europe?
No matter where you plan on traveling, you should consider getting the cheapest RV possible. I would advise you to look in Germany first. People who rent an RV in Germany tend to save around 20%. Your next best option is probably Poland. Expect to pay considerably more when you look at renting an RV outside these two countries. If you don’t mind the price increase so much, then you’ll be able to rent from the country you want to go camping in without an issue.
Cost of your RV trip in Europe per country
2. How should I go about applying for an RV in Europe?
You can contact RV dealers directly by phone or online, or you can use Campanda to compare hundreds of motorhomes online. Either way make sure to ask as many questions as possible to the dealers prior to booking. It’s also a good idea to submit more than one rental request, that way you get to talk to different dealers and RV owners and get a better picture of the service and what they offer. You’ll want to know things like: what is included in the rental (chairs, tables, kitchen utensils, bed sheets, etc…), the type of coverage they offer you, the included mileage and all other questions you might have.
3. What to expect when picking up an RV in Europe?
Many dealerships will offer to come get you from the airport. When you arrive at the location, they will typically give you a rundown of the motorhome. This is your chance to further ask all the questions you need answered. If you RVed in the US before, you probably won’t have that many questions about the vehicle. RVs are pretty much the same anywhere you go. Sure the electric plugs might look different, but other then that nothing more will change. Make sure however to ask questions about the driving rules, road assistance in different countries (typically, they will give you coverage that is valid in all of the E.U and Switzerland) and what countries you aren’t allowed to travel in with the rental (a lot of rental places won’t allow you to travel to Turkey for example).
4. Europe is so big, how do I pick a destination?
It’s easy to be overwhelmed when you look at a map of Europe. Find out what kind of European camping trip you want and plan a strict itinerary based on that. Do you want to see historic sites? Do you want to camp on the coast? Do you want your RV trip in Europe to be all about the Balkans? Find out what’s the most interesting for you and the camping party and plan ahead. Here are things to consider and trips we recommend below.
The RV Trip in Europe we recommend
5. Where can I boondock / dry camp in Europe?
An important factor when planning an RV trip in Europe should be friendliness to the camper lifestyle. Some countries like Sweden, Norway, Finland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia are ideal for boondocking and nature camping. The law in these countries is that living in the outdoors is completely legal and that visitors are allowed to fully take advantage of that rule. Scotland also allows you to park absolutely anywhere and has actively advertised this fact in campaigns to attract tourism to their country. As long as you are not bothering locals or destroying nature, you are free to park where you please. This is great because you can call it a day when you want and park in the most beautiful places you find on the road!
Other countries that are also friendly to campers like in the DACH region (Germany – Austria – Switzerland) and the balkans (Croatia – Albania – Macedonia – Serbia – Slovenia – Slovakia). Although the law doesn’t officially recognize your right to live in the outdoors like the countries listed prior, they still have a friendly and tolerant attitude as long as you’re not directly disadvantaging someone else.
If you’re interested in Western Europe, you’ll have to be willing to ask around more to find free overnight camping in the cities and the wild. These countries are a tad bit more restrictive than their eastern counterparts.
Outside boondocking however you’ll find that Europe in general is very tolerant to campers. France for example has these rest stops on motorways called “Aires”. They’re always available and plentiful and are equipped with bathrooms and small parks. So you’ll always have a place to stay as long as you’re traveling on the highways for example.
Don’t forget also that rules for making a fire or setting up a tent might be different from one country to another. So a good rule of thumb is to watch other campers and get a feel right away for what is legal and what is illegal in the particular country you are in.
6. What are RVs in Europe like?
RVs in Europe are much smaller – Rarely do you find type A’s for example. You’ll also find that many people go camping in vans or old Volkswagen buses. If you’re only two people travelling, consider booking one of those. What you lose in spaciousness you’ll gain in mobility. Don’t forget that Europe has many small streets and having a more nimble vehicle can allow you to access more places, especially in small villages.
You’ll find that most RVs are manual transmission. Luckily we’ve made an option for you to search only for automatic vehicles on Campanda.
Other then that you’ll find the same good old stuff you find in an American vehicle: holding tanks, generators, inverters etc..
7. Are driving rules different in Europe?
Yes, here are the most important ones:
- No right turns on red lights
- Some intersections don’t have stops – priority to the car coming from your right-hand-side
- Overtaking is only allowed on the left in Europe. So you’re never supposed to pass other cars if you’re driving to the right of them.
- If no speed limit is posted, then there is no speed limit (Germany only)
- In the United Kingdom, the driving seat is on the right and cars drive on the left lane – Click here for more info
- You might find yourself crossing borders without realising it since there is no border controls and the rules might change from country to country so stay mindful and try to have an idea of which country you’re driving in. Also do some research to find out which countries have more stringent rules, you’ll need to be on higher alert when traveling through these countries, like Switzerland for example.
- Overtaking on the incoming lane is more common and more tolerated in Europe
- Some countries have tolls on highways and some countries don’t. To cross France for example it will cost you approximately 150 Euros in tolls.
8. Anything else?
Get a prepaid sim card
Pre-paid sim cards are extremely cheap in Europe. I got mine for 10 Euros ($12) and had it working withing an hour. You can get them at any small shop, same place you would buy chewing gum. Don’t wait to look around before buying one, do it as soon as possible, it will come in handy very quickly on more than one occasion. This is probably the most important purchase you’ll make during your RV trip in Europe.
Don’t expect everybody to speak english
That’s why you should have a sim card. Not only will you be able to translate things you want to say, but you’ll also be able to translate road signs and restaurant menus. Some people will understand you in English but still choose to speak to you in their mother language. Don’t despair, stay unwavering in trying to understand them and eventually you’ll bring them into the light and starting to speak good old fashioned english.
Get a switch for your electric appliances
Yes, appliances run on 220v in Europe. For most electronics a simple extension will do, for appliances that produce heat however look into getting a converter if you plan on using them. These are heavy and difficult to transport, so if you can live without it, don’t bring it.
Be friendly to everyone
This is just standard but in case you’re one of the grumpies, a small smile can go a long way in a foreign country, especially when you don’t understand what someone is saying.