Touring Europe in a Motorhome
Do you want to explore Europe in your motorhome or campervan? There is enough culture, nature and diversity to last a lifetime. Taking a motorhome across Europe seems like an awesome idea!
Find out about travelling Europe in a motorhome with practical motorhome advice, Europe road trip itineraries, travel tips and hints about living in a motorhome full time and loads of other useful stuff!
Motorhome Hire or Taking Your Own?
Taking your own motorhome to Europe is relatively simple if you follow our complete hiring guide.
A lot of your decisions will depend on whether you’re going for a two week motorhome camping trip in Europe, spending a month on the North Coast 500 in Scotland, a weekend in the Lake District or a year long campervan road trip in Europe (yes – this is still possible after Brexit if you plan properly). You can find lots of useful motorhome tips in our motorhome blogs and advice pages.
Your rental company will ensure your campervan hire for Europe will come equipped with what you need to enjoy a few weeks across the channel in July or August, and you’ll enjoy a great taste of European motorhome life.
For campervan Europe hire check out Indie Campers and for motorhome rentals in Europe go to Motorhome Republic, both reputable rental companies who get consistently good reviews.
Basic Requirements for Europe Motorhome Travel
This section has been updated to reflect the post-Brexit agreement between the UK and EU on 24th December 2020. It’s boring, but spend just one day doing the research before you head off, and you’ll be glad you did. If you do get stopped you’ll have all the correct equipment and documentation to show. Follow our advice and travel tips covers the basics;
- You must have at least three months remaining on your passport (issued in the past ten years) at your intended date of departure from Europe. If you’re motorhoming in Ireland, you passport only needs to be valid for your stay (UK citizens do not need a passport to travel to Ireland which is in the Common Travel Area).
- A UK driving licence is needed for touring in a campervan in Europe. Your UK licence allows you to drive in all EU countries. If you only have a paper driving licence or a licence issued issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man then you will need an International Driving Permit.
- You must have at least 3rd party insurance for your vehicle. Update August 2021 – you no longer require a green card to prove you have vehicle insurance cover when travelling in Europe.
- From 28th September 2021, you will have to display a UK sticker on the rear of of your vehicle, instead of a GB sticker, unless you have a new style UK numberplate which displays the Union Jack flag. If you’re travelling in Spain you will need a UK sticker even if you have the new style UK number plates.
- Headlights adapted for driving on the right.
- You may need evidence of a return ticket and that you have enough funds to cover your stay – how much you might need is covered in our post about the costs of travelling Europe in a campervan.
- A GHIC or EHIC card – not a legal requirement, but free so why not?
- We would also recommend your own travel insurance and Europe motorhome or campervan breakdown cover, but these are not legal requirements.
- An Animal Health Certificate, if you’re taking pets with you.
- Any country specific requirements for your vehicle – the AA’s country by country guides contains for up-to-date information about what you need to carry in Europe.
Now the UK is no longer part of the EU, you also need to be aware of legislation that limits your freedom of movement in the EU, specifically the Schengen Area, if you’re planning a long motorhome tour of Europe.
The Schengen agreement means you may only stay in this area for 90 days out of 180 days – overstaying your welcome can result in fines, refusal to re-enter and even deportation.
This comprehensive post about motorhome travel in Europe post Brexit explains all the details and offers advice and insight into how long-term motorhome touring in Europe is still possible.
Preparing Your Van for Europe
When planning and taking a motorhome or campervan road trip across Europe you’ll need to consider whether you have the right accessories in and on your motorhome for touring Europe.
If you’re heading off on a 2 week campervan trip in Europe, then you may already be well set up for this type of holiday and won’t need any special preparations to have a fantastic trip.
New motorhome owners or those planning a longer tour may want to make some changes or additions.
What you change or add will depend on how you want to travel Europe in a motorhome.
- Which countries will you visit?
- Will you wild camp or stay on sites? How off-the beaten track do you want to be?
- Will you be travelling Europe in a campervan across seasons, or sticking to summer or winter?
- Are you intending to leave Europe and/or the Schengen area for different regions of the continent?
Have a look at our motorhome accessories page and equipment and options list, which will give you some ideas about what is available and whether you would benefit from it on your motorhome tour of Europe.
For us, we have found these additions to be invaluable when spending more than a month or so on the continent. If you intend to travel long-term or regularly in Europe, then these extras will pay for themselves.
Gas and LPG
You can’t take a UK gas bottle to Europe and exchange it. This means if you run out of gas, you’ll have to carry your empty bottle and buy a bottle in whichever country you are, as well as a suitable regulator. This is not difficult, but it is a hassle and an added expense.
Disposing of your empty bottle is illegal, and it’s also illegal to re-fill Calor gas type bottles at the pump, so there really is no easy way round getting gas if you’re not prepared. You can find out more about motorhome LPG across Europe here.
If you’re touring for more than a month or so, we would definitely recommend a refillable Gaslow or Gasit system which can be filled in any EU country (including the United Kingdom) at the pump using a set of special adaptors.
You’ll save money every time you fill, LPG (called GPL in Europe) from the pump is around 70% cheaper than buying it in a bottle.
The down-side with a refillable system is that in the UK lots of garages have stopped selling LPG at the pump as the take-up of gas driven vehicles has ben surpassed by electric technology. A good compromise is to have one bottle on a refillable system and one UK bottle, and we hear about more and more people doing this.
If you’re planning to visit Morocco in your motorhome, gas at the pump isn’t available (nor in Finland) so this does need careful planning.
If you are planning on free camping in aires or wild van camping in Europe (if you’ve a wild camping newbie, it’s the ideal place to start) then you will need equipment to ensure you have electricity when you’re overnight parking off grid.
This might include a solar panel and you may want to upgrade your batteries. You could also consider a solar generator, which is totally portable and will provide you with enough power to wild camp as much as you like!
With summer temperatures regularly getting into the early 40s in Europe, air conditioning can literally be a life saver. One summer in France, despite being dyed in the wool wild campers, we spent every night in a campsite or aire, just so we could plug in and have air con!
If a roof mounted unit is too expensive, take a look at portable air conditioning solutions – the technology has advanced in recent years, and some of them are pretty good. Make sure to check the size though, as they can be large!
If you’re travelling in summer, then an awning of some description is an absolute must. Having one fitted retrospectively can be expensive, but a drive away awning, simple gazebo or even a collapsible umbrella can do the trick.
Yes, it’s possible to use a paper map but ideally you want up to date information and in a perfect world, to be able to set your dimensions in the sat nav and avoid things like toll roads. This avoids the inevitable detour of miles when you reach a low bridge and contemplate for fifteen minutes whether your 3.1m high van can fit under a 3.1m low bridge.
If you’re planning on visiting countries where the quality of potable water is questionable, or you don’t want de-salinated water (common in southern Spain) in your fresh water tank, then a water filter is a great option. We have a Nature Pure filter fitted, a job a competent DIY’er could manage, and love not having to buy bottled.
What Kit Do You Need In Your Motorhome?
Are you taking a 2 week campervan trip in Europe or longer? Will you be travelling Europe in a camper van across seasons and into different regions of the continent?
Have a look at our essential motorhome kit list for an idea of what kit and gear we think is important when taking a motorhome to Europe. You’ll also find access to a free motorhome packing list covering kitchen, garage and personal essentials.
Internet, Wifi & TV
Connectivity is important – if you want to watch UK television in your van, stay in touch with loved ones or use social media, you’ll need internet access.
We know that information regarding European roaming on a UK contract is changing and keep our post about motorhome internet and wifi up to date, so you can check the best options for your needs.
You also need to consider how you’ll get out and about, especially if you intend to remain static on a site or an aire for more than a few days. If you’re in an urban area, the public transport may work, it’s defiantly the best way to get into cities. More remote and you’ll want to be able to get to the nearest village or head off for a day out.
We take bikes and a scooter in our garage, some people use e-bikes and others tow a car or motorbike. If you’re touring Europe in a VW campervan or similar pop up camper, then you can use this vehicle to get out and about too.
Read about the bikes and bike racks for your van tour of Europe to understand all the options.
Make sure you research thoroughly if you want to tow a car – the law regarding A-frames in Europe is often mis-quoted and not always clear. You may find some helpful information on various Facebook forums for motorhome owners, and on the UK Government website.
Gross Vehicle Weight
What and how much you pack will also depend the gross vehicle weight (GVW) of your motorhome and how much storage space you have. As a general observation, if you fill your storage space you are likely to be overweight – just because you have loads of cupboards doesn’t mean you should fill them all!
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Europe Motorhome Destinations
How on earth do you choose where to go when touring Europe by campervan? How do you fit it all in?
You could spend literally years in a camper in Europe and not see it all. If you don’t have years you need to decide what to prioritise.
Is this a break from work to chase the sun and chill? Are you a culture vulture looking for Roman ruins and ancient worlds? Or, like most of us, looking for a bit of both?
Check out our destination guides for motorhome tours with information about sites and wild camping spots as you RV through Europe. Be inspired by stunning landscapes, mountains and coasts and incredible road trips.
Maybe you just want to find one of Europe’s best sandy beaches to flop on for a few weeks holiday?
If you’re thinking of touring in your campervan in Europe over winter then this post about the best European places for winter sun in your motorhome has lots of ideas and information.
Europe is your oyster, you and your travelling van just need to go and grab it! You’ll find some of our best campervan trips in Europe in our destination pages, whether you’re looking for a 2 week European road trip itinerary or campsites for motorhomes in France.
Motorhome Touring Guides
Motorhome Germany – A Complete Touring Guide
The Complete Guide to Motorhome Touring in France
How to Tour Spain in a Motorhome – A Complete Guide
Top Tips for Touring Portugal in a Campervan & Motorhome
How to Tour Norway by Campervan
The Complete Guide to Touring Italy by Motorhome
The 21 Best Motorhome Routes in the UK
Planning Your Morocco Motorhome Adventure
Motorhome Stopovers & Travel in Belgium
Motorhoming in Ireland – A Complete Guide
The Best Motorhome Holidays in Europe
How to Take a North Coast 500 Motorhome Trip
Motorhome Route Planner Europe
Ok, so now you’ve got some ideas about where to go on your motorhome trip of Europe, you need to actually plan your Europe travel route.
Check out our motorhome touring guides for specific information about culture, food, driving and overnight stays including wild camping and aires (campsites for motorhomes in France) to help with your camping trip in Europe.
Our travel blog for Europe page has loads of great ideas and country specific information, head on over and find some inspiration for your campervan holidays in Europe. Why not take a look at our sixteen top European road trips for some ideas?
Planning a route for touring Europe in a campervan can be as complex or as simple as you want. Some people like a clear plan and a short amount of driving time per day with overnight stops booked or planned in advance, others like to just go with the flow and see what happens. It’s why we fall out every time we look at a map or start planning our campervan around Europe routes!
It’s worth getting all this sorted before your camping trip to Europe as some schemes will provide books and cards for which you need a postal address, and others require a good broadband connection to download apps and maps.
Living in a Motorhome in Europe
You’ve done it… you’re on the road and starting your motorhome Europe tour, although adventure is probably a better word!
Frequently Asked Questions
Whilst we all have views about van life in Europe, there are some topics that crop up time and time again. See our post about the questions we always get asked – if your burning question is not there then feel free to email us. We’re always happy to give an honest answer if we can and we love questions.
Sometimes, things can go wrong when you’re travelling in a motorhome. We had a disaster with a bed and drove around France for weeks with acro props holding it up, you can read about that here.
You will also find a lost of top 20 motorhoming FAQ’s here – from why your fridge isn’t cooling to why you tap doesn’t work.
The point is that most things can be overcome, sometimes with a little bit of ingenuity, sometimes with patience and usually with a large wad of cash!
Lots of people ask us how much it costs to live in a motorhome in Europe. Our answer is always the same – it depends on how you want to live. You can find a breakdown of annual, weekly and monthly motorhome touring costs here, with lots of ideas and tips to help save money on the road.
Make sure you have emergency funds accessible to you, whether that’s cash stashed in a secret place (not our recommendation) or an emergency credit card. Read more about general safety and security in your motorhome for ideas.
Prevention is always better than cure on campervan road trips! These two posts discuss how to manage grey water tank waste and fresh water and deal with smells and condensation in your touring van. In our experience, these are the two areas where people have most problems.
Often it’s a simple issue, but the first time something goes wrong can be challenging and if you don’t know, you don’t know.
Relationships on the Road
And what about being with your other half 24/7 on your tour of Europe by motorhome? This may come as a shock if you’re both used to rushing in from work at 6pm, collapsing in front of the tv before bed and then repeating for five days of the week.
Read our guide about relationships on the road, the ten truths we have learnt after campervanning in Europe for the last three years.
And finally, because we always have more to say, read our post on what NOT to do in your motorhome. I wrote it three months and 4,000 miles in to our first tour of Europe in a motorhome, when we’d had our fair share of mishaps and surprises about travelling in a van and decided to become a motorhome travel blogger!
Wherever you decide to go in Europe, happy and safe motorhome travels!