A country where motorhome drivers can breathe easy
Unlike many countries, wild camping is not only tolerated in France, but often encouraged. It is a legal way to spend the night and you will find a multitude of options available to you, for example on school playgrounds with the permission of the local authorities, or on private land at the discretion of the owner. Car parks are often conveniently located to allow you to stop off in town centres, near ski resorts, close to major monuments and around the main sites of natural interest. Read this guide through to the end to discover how bedding down for the night on the shores of a lake, at the beach or even within the walls of a mediaeval castle are very real possibilities in France.
Drive your campervan to France or rent a motorhome on arrival?
When planning your campervan holiday, you should consider the total cost of the round trip, including the likelihood of being charged for traffic violations, vehicle depreciation costs and the time spent behind the wheel. For example, if you were to visit from Warsaw in Poland, you would need to drive 1,600 km, which translates into an average round-trip fuel cost of approximately €550, and an additional €155 in tolls. The round trip is also a gruelling 30 hours of non-stop driving. Meanwhile, the cost of renting a medium-sized campervan in France currently ranges from €65 to €100 per night and from €85 to €145 per night for larger vehicles, so it is well worth considering both options before you travel.
Check flights to France
Motorhomes in France – what you need to know before you go
Before starting your journey, it is essential that you familiarise yourself with the total height and weight of your vehicle – we suggest writing this information down and keeping it somewhere handy as it will be useful when confronted with road signs and restrictions. You should also check the current wild camping regulations at www.rural-camping.com.
The speed limit for campervans and motorhomes is 130 km/h on French motorways and 110 km/h on expressways. However, if you have held your driving licence for less than three years, or if visibility is severely restricted while driving, for example, during heavy rain or fog, these limits drop to 110 km/h on motorways and 100 km/h on expressways. The urban speed limit is 30 km/h in built-up areas and either 80 or 90 km/h outside built-up areas, depending on the type of road – look out for road signs. If your motorhome weighs more than 3.5 tonnes, you will need to display a set of speed stickers on the back of the vehicle and must adhere to adjusted speed limits of 80 km/h outside built-up areas, 100 km/h on expressways and 110 km/h on motorways.
Regular motorhome drivers will be all too familiar with height barriers limiting entry to certain tunnels, viaducts and underground car parks. Also be aware of low emission zones, for example in the centre of Paris, where driving a diesel vehicle is punishable by a heavy fine.
Sleeping in a motorhome
You can find French campervan sites on the Campercontact mobile app, however officially you can stay overnight wherever you park your car. The following accommodation options are available on the routes:
- Aires – or aire de service are popular free or pay car parks for motorhomes with full infrastructure – from showers to electricity and even swimming pools. You can usually stay in an aire for up to 48 hours.
- Municipal and private campsites
- France Passion – this is definitely the most interesting type of accommodation, offered by farmers and vineyard owners in exchange for the purchase of their products and the promotion of their services, which is naturally optional. Look for the free app that makes it easy to find a location for the night.
When travelling on French roads, you may occasionally encounter road signs that prohibit the movement or parking of a motorhome. A crossed-out image of a motorhome is usually accompanied by the ominous words “interdiction de stationer“, which means “no parking”. However, it is worth knowing these road signs violate the respected French principles of equality and are actually considered illegal. In the event of a police check in one of these places, which should go smoothly, a knowledge of French will come in handy.
Tolls are charged on many motorways and expressways in France and may also apply to certain bridges, tunnels and viaducts. There are five categories of toll, depending on the type of vehicle and the length of the road section and current prices can be found at autoroutes.fr. It is worth noting that the vast majority of toll routes have an alternative route nearby where no toll is charged; in the event of no alternative route, access to the motorway will be toll-free.
Where to rent a campervan?
If you are looking for a budget option, a good solution is camper sharing, whereby you rent a vehicle from private owners, through an app such as Yescapa. When renting, remember that the size and weight of the vehicle not only affects the overall hire price, but also your fuel consumption along the route. All motorhomes and trailers that are not connected to a towing vehicle with a gross weight of more than 3.5 tonnes must have a sticker showing the location of the “blind spots”, visible on the sides and rear of the vehicle. These regulations apply from 1 January 2021.
What insurance should I take out?
At mcrent.com you can find tailored insurance packages for your vehicle. Please note that in some cases, car rental companies will charge you an extra deposit on your credit card if you do not take out additional insurance.
Renting a van or travelling with your own? Insurance is a must!
Discover the best campervan routes in France
Great freedom of movement makes motorhome road trips around France addictive.We have selected three of the most interesting routes, taking into account interesting driving conditions, ease of sightseeing and historical potential.
The Bordeaux Wine Route
It’s time to holiday with your teetotal friend as we plan a motorhome trip through France’s wine region. The 850km stretch from Bordeaux to Gageac to Beaune offers a taste of everything that France is famous for. from idyllic mediaeval towns to stunning countryside, including the Gorges du Tarn and, of course, wonderful Sauvignon Blanc wines to sample. Not only can youvisit many beautifully situated vineyards, but you can also learn about the fascinating way in which French vines are grown. The most popular routes in the region are the Route des Châteaux and the route that runs from Graves to Sauternes. Whatever your preference, if you are touring the region in a motorhome, you must visit the impressive Château de la Brède, home to the famous Montesquieu.
Castles of the Loire Valley
The Loire Valley is deservedly one of the most popular destinations in central France. There are more than 300 mediaeval, Renaissance and Enlightenment castles in this historic region. Adding to their appeal is the fact that they are all situated on the banks of the River Loire – France’s longest river. Orléans, Blois, Villandry and Chenonceaux are just some of the towns that await you on this motorhome route. There are plenty of restaurants and vineyards along the way, as well as places to stop and enjoy nature.
Between the Alpine peaks
On no other route is it so useful to familiarise yourself with the term “Aire de Chainage” – the place where snow chains are fitted. The Route des Grandes Alpes starts at Lake Geneva, on the Swiss border, and runs through the French Alps to the Mediterranean cities. It is one of the most beautiful ways to explore France by motorhome.
If you choose this route, you will cover 720 km of road over 16 passes, five of which rise to over 2,000 metres above sea level. The most spectacular section is the Col de la Bonette at 2802m above sea level. The Grandes Alpes Route is open from June to October, but we recommend that you follow the announcements made by the Alpine safety services.
Travelling to France in a motorhome? Remember:
- Familiarise yourself with all current legislation regarding the movement and parking of a motorhome in France.
- Find out the height and total weight of your vehicle.
- Make sure you have the right insurance for driving in France.
- Prepare a map of places where you can stay 100% legally.
- Compare motorhome rental prices, including the possibility of renting from private individuals.