936-327-8873

Six Common Questions About RVing in Europe

Ever thought about RVing in Europe? It was a dream of ours for a long time, so last year we moved to France and did exactly that. And it’s been just as incredible as we imagined! Perhaps you’ve wanted to do the same, but just haven’t known where to start. Well hopefully this article will cover a few of those burning questions so you can make your own European RV dreams come true.

What is European RVing Like?

I guess the first thing everyone wants to know is what is it like? In many ways European RVing is similar to the US, and in others very different.

First of all RV’s are called motorhomes, campervans or camping cars in Europe. They tend to be much smaller (~20-26 ft in size), have no slides and no air-conditioning (typically) and use little cassette toilets instead of black tanks. They take a bit of getting used to, but they are really well-made and laid out. I’ve come to love them.

Narrow European Roads

Europe tends to be denser than the US, with narrow roads and tons of charming little cobblestone towns, old churches and historic castles, many of which are centuries old. But there’s also lots of nature, high mountains and wild coasts, and you can switch between them all in less than a day of driving. I like to say that’s it’s dense and intense.

European Campground

Campgrounds have smaller sites and generally only offer electric hookups (maybe water), but they come in all ranges and tend to have excellent facilities. Plus there are plenty of places to stay for free or almost free. And of course European RVers are super friendly, just like RVers in the USA. I think that’s a worldwide thing.

When is the Best Season to RV in Europe?

RVing in France

RVing in Europe is lovely any time of year, but there are certain seasons we prefer.

Summertime (June-Aug) is high season and frankly our least favorite time to RV. Kids are out of school so it’s crowded, rentals and campgrounds are more expensive, and you often have to book ahead, especially in popular areas. The only exception we make to summertime RVing is Scandinavia, where crowds remain low and summer temps are near-perfect. That’s a special experience. 

The shoulder seasons (April-May, Sept-Oct) are lovely just about everywhere, so they’re our top-recommended time to explore UK and Continental Europe. Crowds are gone, temps are mild and prices on rentals and campgrounds are all lower. Some sites start to shut-down towards the end of September, but otherwise it’s near perfection. We just love these months! 

Winter RVing (Nov-Mar) can be fabulous in southern Europe, especially in countries like Spain and Portugal. Lots of retirees head south in winter, so there’s a decent number of campgrounds that stay open all-year, plus rentals are reasonable, weather is fab and travel is wonderfully easy. It’s another great time to go!

How Do You Rent an RV in Europe?

If you’re coming to Europe for a short stint, then renting an RV is the easiest way to go.

Most folks end up paying ~$1000/week, but prices can go as low as $350/week or as high as $5000/week. Big rental agencies like Motorhome Republic (www.motorhomeseurope.motorhomerepublic.com), France Motorhome Hire (www.francemotorhomehire.com) and McRent (www.mcrent.eu) are good places to start your search.

What About Buying an RV to Travel Abroad?

Pyrenees in Spain

If you plan to travel for more than a few months in Europe, then buying will be much cheaper than renting! The only problem is that most European countries require you to be a resident to do so.

If you have (very good) friends in EU who are willing to help you, that’s a possibility. Otherwise there are agencies that offer specialized sell-and-buy-back services for non-residents. You buy from a dealer who registers & titles the RV for you, then you simply sell it back at an agreed-upon percentage of the purchase price when you’re done with your trip. For longer-term travel “rental costs” can easily drop to less than $100/week this way!

BW Campers (www.bwcampers.com), Happy Camper (www.happy-camper.eu) and Europe Roadtrip (www.europe-roadtrip.com) are some well-known dealers that offer this service.

How Long Can You RV in Europe?

Americans traveling to Europe are limited by the 90/180 rule. Basically you are allowed to stay visa-free for 90 days in the 26 countries that make up something called the “Schengen Area” (= most of Continental Europe and Scandinavia), then you have to be out of Schengen for the next 90 days before you can come back again.

What this means for longer-term RV travel is that you just have to watch your dates.

So, for example you can RV through Spain, France & Germany (all Schengen) for 90 days, then go to a non-Schengen country (e.g. UK, Ireland, Croatia, Romania, or Ukraine) for the next 90 days, then drive back into Schengen, and so on.

There are other ways to stay longer-term in Europe (e.g. long-term visas) but sticking to the visa-free limits is the simplest option.

How Much Will it Cost to RV in Europe?

Spanish Coast

Last topic just because I know you’re dying to know, but this is also the toughest one! SO much of RVing costs depend on when, where and how you like to travel.

So, it all depends! From the budgets I’ve seen and our own experience, I’d say typical daily RV expenses for a couple can vary from $50/day (lower end) to $150/day (high-end). It’s a big range I know, but so are RVing styles!

Hopefully that gives you a taste for what European RVing is like and how to get started. Here’s to keeping those dreams alive, and maybe we’ll see you on this side of the pond down the road!

Author

Nina Fussing SKP#106238

Nina Fussing is a blogger, photographer and all-around nature-lover who spent 8 years fulltime RVing with her hubby & 12 paws around USA. They are now in Europe continuing the adventure there. 
Follow their story at: wheelingit.us

Did you like this post? Pin it to Pinterest!

16 Responses to “Six Common Questions About RVing in Europe

  • JC Webber III
    2 years ago

    In the states (and Canada) we use All Stays Camp and RV to find campgrounds. Is there something similar in Europe that accomplishes the same thing?

  • Yes absolutely! The biggest is Park4night. It covers everything from regular camping spots to boondocking sites. We use the app constantly and it’s the #1 app one I recommend to folks traveling over.

    There are also a few other apps I like and use in conjunction with Park4night, in specific CamperContact (great for Aires) and Searchforsites (a UK based app that has more detailed reviews).

    Nina

  • Is it possible (realistically safe & affordable) to take pets with you to RV in Europe?

  • Susan Reed
    2 years ago

    My husband and I rented a motor home five times for travels around Germany, the Netherlands, and Austria. We loved it! There is nothing like being able to stop for lunch, or cake and coffee, along the “backest” of the back roads, or on a mountain top, whenever one wants. And it’s so convenient having a potty, or a cold drink, available any time. The campgrounds are great. Don’t be afraid to try camping in Europe!

    • We have been RVing in Europe for over 10 years. We write about our travels in the Escapees group newsletter for the World Wide Travelers BOF. All of our practical articles are at our website. TheRoadGoesEverOn.com. Our camper is stored this winter near Edinburgh and is for sale.

  • @deb – your question about bringing pets is a great one, with a potentially very long answer. I’ll try to condense it as much as possible 🙂

    Yes, you can travel over with pets. They need to be microchipped (with an international chip), and have a rabies shot (> 21 days before travel) plus a health certificate issued by a USDA certified vet (within 10 days of travel) which must then be endorsed by USDA right before leaving. That’s the paperwork. It’s not difficult. It just takes planning!

    Then there are the logistics of actually getting them here. Depending on size your pet can either travel with you in cabin (generally small pets only, one pet per passenger) or they have to go in a special pressurized section of the plane. This travel must be booked in advance since planes have limited space for pets.

    Finally once in Europe they can travel up to 4 months with you on their US issues health certificate. If staying longer they will need à European Pet Passport which you can get in EU. And when you go back to US you will need paperwork for that too.

    I have a ton more details about this on my blog, but hopefully that gives you a taste. We moved over with our 3 pets (2 cats, 1 dog). So it can be done!

    Nina

  • Thanks for a terrific overview.We were just beginning to epxlore whether we might do this next year (2020). Very timely!

  • Nice article to get “feet wet” about renting an RV in Europe. We’re considering this as an option for our trip to Europe next September/October. Hugs/pets to all!

  • I would really be interested in knowing how you get residency in France. We bought an RV from Happy camper in Sept 2017 then travelled 90 days in western EU then out 90 days in Morocco then back in EU 90 days. We then sold the camper back to Happy camper. Great people to work with ?. But we would like to travel without restrictions ?. HAPPY RVing.

    • Hi Lyd,

      Well I’m lucky in that I’m European by birth (Danish) and my father lives in France. So Paul (who is American) was able to get a long-term stay visa through me.

      That said it is totally possible for US citizens to get long-term visitor visas for France. It just takes some paperwork & patience. You apply in the USA for the visa (before you come to EU) and you need to provide a local French address (which is the hardest thing -> most folks take out a longer-term Airbnb rental or something similar), proof of resources (basically enough cash to prove you are not going to be a burden to the system while you are here), and several other documents. The processing of the paperwork takes around 2 weeks. Then, once you land in France you need to go through some additional steps to validate your visa on this side. That’s it!! If you want to stay beyond the first year, you’ll need to renew with all the paperwork again (but that you can do locally in France).

      If you’re interested in long-term visa info you can go to the official French Visa application website (https://france-visas.gouv.fr/en_US/web/france-visas/) and read more.

      Nina

  • Hello Brenda:

    For environmental reasons, my partner and I decided not to ever buy a motor vehicle. I, living in NY for 20 years, and he, living everywhere before we met, never really needed a car, and I rented one when needed. However, for various reasons, we are considering buying a motorvan now, that we are living in Berlin. We want something with a compost toilet and where we can pack our bikes and that causes the least environmental footprint. We have also been left in awful economic circumstances with the pandemic, and because of it, its been a nightmare to find lodging in Berlin, where we have been going from one short term rental to another. This is one of the multiple reasons why we are considering a van. Do you know where in Germany we can buy a cheap van? we are mostly concerned about it having a good engine, something that will not need continuous repairs. We are also not planing to drive it around too much, short 200km trips every 15 days maybe. While working in a specific place, we wont even move. We just need it to be discrete, and fuel efficient. We were planing to convert our own. But after searching a lot, we do not know where we can go for a Sprinter, or a Ram or Ducatto. Do you have any advice for us, completely newbies? We are in our mid 40’s. we want just the basics, toilet, sink and stove, a bed for 2, as much storage space as possible, as much energy efficiency and autonomy (solar) as possible. being able to carry out bikes. In your knowledge or experience, would furnishing our own commercial van be cheaper? His father has a professional carpenter’s workshop and we might be able to recruit him to do insulation and wood paneling. Or buy a proper camper, redo the interiors?
    I would appreciate your feedback!

  • Hi @elle. I am not overly familiar with things in Germany, as we live in France but I can provide some pointers.

    For buying a vehicle IMO the best site in Germany is https://www.mobile.de/. They list both new and used vehicles, as well as campervans, motorhomes and vans. Dealers and private individuals use the site all over the country, so it has an enormous selection. I suggest you start your search there.

    As for the conversion, that could be a little trickier. I know that in France it’s very difficult to get conversions registered, and there are many rules you have to be met to make it happen. I’m not overly familiar with the registration process in Germany, but I’m almost certain your van will lose its operating license (as a van), once you start converting it. So it will need to be re-registered. I would highly suggest looking into these regulations on this before you embark on a conversion. You may find that it’s much simpler and easier just to buy a used campervan off the lot.

    Good luck with your search. I hope you find what you’re looking for.

    Nina

  • Shawn West
    2 months ago

    Wondering if you can tell me, we are going o be shipping a skoolie from Panama, to Europe. Wondering are there restriction on length of RVs for national parks in Europe, and are there the same waste hook ups for sewage and water?

    Cheers

    • @Shawn West You will definitely find more size restrictions here in Europe, not only in campgrounds but also on roads and in towns. You will likely need a truckers GPS & have to call ahead most places to ensure your vehicle can be accommodated. Plus you will need to be prepared to pay more in road tolls & ferry costs (anything above 3.5 tonnes in weight is usually charged more in road tolls, and lengths larger than 6 m are charged more for ferries). It’s not impossible to drive larger vehicles here, but it definitely limits you.

      As for hookups, the majority of European campgrounds do not offer hookups other than electricity. Water is sometimes offered (sometimes), but sewer is never an option (RV’s here generally use cassette toilets which you remove and dump at a centralized dump area). If you’re bringing a US-style RV to Europe I recommend a macerator and long hose so that you can dump your black tank where you need to (the casette dump areas are not always convenient for drive-through).

      Nina

Trackbacks & Pings

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease) Notification - For latest club information affecting members and RVers, please click here.

Escapees Lobby Hours In the interest of doing our part to slow the spread of COVID-19, our lobby will be closed and all tours of Escapees headquarters are cancelled until further notice. If you need assistance with your Escapees RV Club membership, please call us at 936-327-8873 or email us at clubbusiness@escapees.com.

X