The drive through France never ceases to amaze me. You can drive for 200 miles and when you look at your location on the map, you’ve barely covered any distance at all! As well as having a vast amount of dedicated overnight spots for campervans, France does offer a vast amount of beautiful wild camping spots.
There is a lot of scaremongering, usually on “antisocial” media, about how wild camping in Europe is difficult, unsafe and asking for trouble. I can quite categorically state that this is absolute nonsense. However, here are some tips for a successful wild camping experience:
Find a spot where you are not in the way
Always find a spot where you’re not obstructing others in any way. Appreciate that there may be other people near and they are there to enjoy peace as much as you are. I never park close to houses or near the access to properties.
Leave no trace
There’s an old saying and it goes something like this: Take nothing but photos and leave nothing but tyre tracks. To me, even better is leave nothing at all. Take your rubbish with you and deposit it in a bin.
A poo with a view
Many campervans don’t have toilets and if yours is one of them and a nature poo is the way forward, enjoy the view whilst doing your business and then either bag and bin your number two, or bury it. So many beautiful places are being ruined by human waste (complete with loo roll!) being deposited on the ground.
Arrive late, leave early
Arrive quietly and preferably later in the evening. An early start is often a good plan to avoid potential earache. Many nice parking spots are in fact a busy local spot for dog walkers, etc. and it’s always good to be gone before the area fills up.
If you’re not familiar with the term “dogging” I’ll let you Google that. Essentially, it’s where people meet for, let’s just say, “in car antics”. It’s not my thing personally, but being parked near doggers can add a little security to the equation. They’re there for one thing and one thing only. They aren’t looking to break into your van or cause a scene. So if you’re parked up and wonder why random cars are coming and going, that could be why! Don’t worry, having other people around can be a good thing at times.
Noise and fires
We all like a bit of music, but second hand music is rarely appreciated. Lighting a fire isn’t completely taboo and if you do it, a fire bucket is a good way forward so as no to destroy the ground around the fire or leave any trace. Of course, common sense should prevail as to where it’s safe to have a little fire. Do be aware of local fire bans at certain times of the year.
Is wild camping legal?
This isn’t something I’m going to comment on too much because, let’s face it, if society had it’s way, anything enjoyable would be slightly less than “legal”. If you pull up somewhere and there’s a sign saying “no overnight parking” then it’s often good to move on. There’s a technical difference between parking and camping too, so when you do park up for the night, it’s best not to set up a table, chairs and crazy camp setup. Again, common sense is key!
If you find a nice spot for the night but to you (or anyone else travelling with you) something doesn’t feel quite right about it, then the chances are you’re right. If it doesn’t feel good, leave.
Wild camping in the UK, France, Spain and Portugal is not difficult at all. Showing respect, courtesy and using common sense will keep you in the right direction. France as mentioned does have a lot of facilities for overnighting and mostly for free.
We motored on down through France over a couple of days. A couple of overnight stops and a few tanks of fuel later, we were close to Spain. One thing I was a little shocked with in France is the automated fuel stations where you can only pay by card. I noticed that they authorise your card for €120 initially, then charge you the actual amount afterwards. You’d think that’s all well and good, until you check your travel money card statement to find they actually take €120 up front, then take the fuelled amount, then the next day refund the initial €120. I did this at a lorry pump and had the same experience with a €600 authorisation!
When we hit Spain, I was surprised to find snow! My Luton and snow aren’t a good combination so the driving was exciting to say the least.
Two days of driving through Spain and experiencing almost every type of weather out there before we finally crossed the border to Portugal.
Welcome to the blue sky heaven of Portugal…