If you’re off to France in your motorhome or campervan, chances are you’ll be thinking about wild camping. Find out all you need to know about wild camping for motorhomes in France, finding the perfect spot and staying safe in this post.
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How to Wild Camp in France in a Motorhome
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The Legal Stuff
First off, let’s get the important stuff out of the way.
Le camping sauvage (wild camping in France) means parking and sleeping in your motorhome anywhere that’s not a campsite or designated camping ground. This could be by the road, in a car-park, on some unused waste land and so on.
French law is clear around some areas of wild camping, on others it is a bit grey. These are the key parts of the law we wild campers need to know about;
- Motorhome wild camping is permitted in France with the permission of the landowner or tenant and subject to certain limitations. The basic rules are set out in Article R111-33 of French town and country planning law.
- The main restrictions are that wild camping is not permitted on the coast, in protected natural sites, and on the perimeter of classified historic monuments.
- Local authorities and the authorities in charge of designated natural sites may establish specific rules which will be displayed on prominent signs and these should be followed.
How Does This Affect Motorhomes?
The reality is that finding the landowner before you park up is probably impossible. As long as you’re not on cultivated land or an area that is clearly private property then you’re probably ok.
The rules regarding restricted locations such as the coast and national parks are generally pretty rigorously enforced in the summer. You might find that if you are discreet and ‘park’ instead of camp, that out of season you will be left to get on with it. Make sure you follow the rules in our general post about wild camping in Europe.
The French highway code states that motorhomes may park beside roads and in designated parking places in the same way as other vehicles. Outside of cities and built-up areas, it is legal to park up a motorhome at the side of a quiet road. Many French D roads have places where bends have been straightened out, leaving unofficial lay-bys that offer a quiet place to stop for the night.
Finding Wild Camping Spots in France
We use a number of resources for finding good spots;
Alternatives to Wild Camping in France for Motorhomes
Since 2004, French local authorities have been encouraged to provide specifically designated parking areas for motorhomes. Many French towns and large villages now have aires, and these are often free or just a few euros, except in some popular tourist locations.
Most provide the basics of fresh water and facilities for dumping grey and black waste although sometimes there is an extra charge for this.
There are a couple of things to remember when using aires;
- Aires cannot be booked in advance and in high season will often have a queue of vans waiting to go in as one comes out.
- You should not stay more than two nights, three at the most.
- Don’t treat the aire like a campsite and hang washing everywhere or have your full-set up out. Some don’t like you getting your awning out and in many, there will not be room.
- If your aire is in a village, try and buy something or go to the bar for a drink. Your euros will help the local economy and keep the aire going.
- Be respectful of any services provided and leave them clean.
Alongside these municipality aires, there are also commercial aires cropping up which are a little bit more expensive but may have EHU or wifi included in the price. Camping CarPark is one such organisation, we have used them a number of times.
You need to buy a card at the first one you use (through the machine which has instructions in English) and load up with euros. Then use the card at the barrier to each aire you enter. The system is efficient and the facilities are usually well maintained. Because they limit electronically the number of motorhomes allowed to enter, you are never crammed in but have a proper space where you can get your table and chairs out. A Camping CarPark aire typically costs somewhere between €10-15 a night.
You can use the All The Aires book, which is available here and gives clear information about all the best aires in France and provides a map. The book is updated annually and many of the aires are inspected annually also. Most aires are also on Park4Night and other motorhome apps if you prefer not to use or carry the book.
France Passion is a scheme where growers, wine makers and farmers open up their land for motorhomes to use. This is farm and vineyard camping in France at its very best. Facilities are usually limited; you may get fresh water but grey and black waste disposal are unlikely.
The beauty off this scheme is that you can stay in vineyards, lavender farms and with cheese, oil and producers of other produce across France. You can sample their wares, buy if you wish (although there is no obligation, and there really isn’t) and enjoy being away from it all, often in spectacular locations. We have never felt pressured but have often been able to buy produce at a fraction of what you would pay at the local farmers’s market.
The guide costs €30 along with access to the members area of the website (no app sadly). In the guide you will find information about the 2050 sites you can stay at right across France. Some of these stops are also on Park4Night and other motorhome apps but we found the guide invaluable when planning our last tour.