Beginners Guide to Camper Vans in Europe

I will forever recommend flights and trains for the big cities of Europe, but when it comes to exploring rustic and rural life then it really has to be done by a road trip. And with around 30,000 registered campsites throughout Europe, not to mention the countless opportunities for wild camping, the best way to go with all be to hire a motorhome and just to make make the most of the freedom of the open road. Where travel has no bounds. And for me it is the one true way to explore the forever changing landscapes of the region, never knowing what to expect on the next corner, with full flexibility for travel and itineraries, and aimlessly wandering… Anyway, before I jump straight in, here we share some handy tips for planning your dream overland journey, and those things to factor in when planning to hire a motorhome for these unforgettable European campervan road trips.

License Requirements?

While driving requirements may differ from country to country, you will need a special license, depending on your age and the maximum authorised mass (MAM) of the vehicle, to drive a campervan in Europe. For vehicles below 3500 kg, a class B national driving licence is sufficient, while for campervans over 3500 kg you will need a class C license.

However, if your license is not in English or written in Roman alphabet, you will need to have an international driving licence along with your national license. In most European countries it is necessary to carry the entitled motorhome licence, rental agreement, insurance and registration agreement on you at all times.

There is normally a minimum age limit between 21 to 25 years, which varies from country to country for a motorhome rental. There is no height limit, but if your vehicle happens to be over 3m in height, a notice indicating how tall it is should be in place from where it is visible to the driver.

How does a motorhome work?

  • Electrical system: Most campervans run on two batteries, one that runs the vehicle and another rechargeable deep drain battery to run the appliances. For systems like AC and microwave that need greater power a generator or an external power source is needed.
  • Water supply: Normally catered through three water tanks, one for supplying fresh water and two for wastewater for kitchen and bathroom and shower.
  • Gas sources: Propane gas is used to operate the stoves, heaters and refrigerators. The gas comes in a glass bottle which must be refilled upon return.
  • Heating: Heating can be done by the vehicle, via gas or through the air-conditioning unit.
  • Kitchen facilities: All motorhomes have a kitchen, sink, running water, gas stove and a refrigerator. Basic crockery and cutlery are included.
  • Sleeping accommodation: All motorhomes have folding beds, bunk beds or a Dinette of different sizes depending on the model of the vehicle. It is also possible to bring your own tent and air mattress for camping.

Campervan driving in Europe

The liberty to explore at leisure, as per mood and free will, is what makes driving across Europe such a pleasure. The big decision for a long road trip is getting a good motorhome. However, the choices are so many, you can pick one that suits you best. Keep in mind the following points when hiring a campervan in Europe.

  • Countries covered by insurance
  • Excess payable in case of an accident.
  • Type of heating/cooling
  • Source of power.
  • Number of gas bottles
  • Layout of beds
  • Camper chairs/picnic tables
  • Crockery and cutlery
  • Bike rack
  • Snow tyres for winter
  • Safety equipment.

Overnight in public?

While it gives an incredible feeling to drive a campervan across Europe in a home literally travelling with you, a deep knowledge of knowing the places where you can park your vehicle at night is necessary. Truck stops are technically a legal place to have a shut-eye but facilities are limited. But a good option for staying overnight has to be the main supermarket car parks. Not only it offers safety, but one can stock up provisions that you may be running low on before moving on.

Camping facilities

There is a huge range in campervan sites to choose from, so it is better to use a reliable app for checking local campsites. Some useful ones are Camper Contact App and at times Park 4 Night. Check the motorhome laws for each country to know if you can camp wherever you like.(wild camping). In busy times you need to book ahead to get a spot.

Top tips

  • Avoid popular European destinations in high season.
  • Check the expected weather conditions.
  • Set up a GPS navigator to prevent you from taking small roads and underbridges.
  • Know the road rules of each country and vignettes.
  • Remember that all countries do not use the Euro.
  • Learn how to say at least ‘ Hello’ and ‘thanks’ in each country you are visiting. Can go a long way in an emergency.

Europe, by far, is the most amazing place to take a campervan trip. Regulations are not severe, crossing borders is easy and one can get in and out of any country in a jiffy. The enormous freedom of doing anything you like may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you could convince just one person in having a go, consider it a job well done.

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