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Motorhoming in Europe

The Best Way to Meet Your European Neighbors

Motorhoming in Europe allows freedom
Experience the freedom of travel by motorhome in Europe.

I have completed an 8-month trip across Europe by motorhome. As a former tour operator, I have traveled just about every way imaginable. I found motorhoming hard to beat. You pack once; you travel where you want when you want; you have no worries about where the next hotel room will be, and you have to try hard not to meet people.

If you are traveling to Europe on a short 2-or-3-week vacation, a motorhome may not be ideal. Some wrong turns on unfamiliar roadways, and this can cause problems for people on a tight schedule. But for a family exploring Europe for the summer or a retired couple with plenty of time, it’s ideal. So why didn’t I meet more Americans in over 9,900 inspected campgrounds throughout Europe?

First, let’s look at the basics. There are three ways to acquire your camping van or motorhome:

  • rent
  • lease
  • buy

The least expensive way to go on a long trip is to buy. You may want to buy from an outfit that will guarantee to buy back your rig at the end of the trip. For optimum savings, consider a good used motorhome with low mileage. I contacted an outfit in Amsterdam recommended to me by an experienced RVer and made my arrangements over the phone. When I arrived, my camper was ready and waiting. I even shipped several cartons of supplies in advance and they were stored in the motorhome until I arrived. There are some technicalities regarding insurance and registration, but these are handled by the outfit that sells you your camper.

I met a number of Americans traveling in Europe who had considered motorhoming but decided against it because they were afraid of being stuck with the motorhome at the end of their trip. The buy-back program resolves this dilemma. Many companies will agree to sell your camper on consignment at the end of your trip, but I found most people wanted the security of a guaranteed buy-back. Buy-backs vary but usually average around 65 percent of the purchase price. Needless to say, the longer you travel, the cheaper the cost per day. Reasonable used motorhomes and camper-vans ideal for touring Europe range between $18,000 all the way up to $60,000 depending on size, year, condition, and luxury amenities desired.

Europeans love to camp and there are campgrounds just about everywhere. They range from complete destination resorts with swimming pools, tennis, entertainment, bars, restaurants, and grocery stores on premises to more rustic campgrounds with few extras. Almost all campgrounds have basic necessities such as bathrooms, showers, dish-washing facilities, electric hook-ups, and chemical toilets for waste. Many people find a central location they like and take day trips using the campground as a base until they move on.

Motorhoming in campground near Florence, Italy
A young camper in Italy savors Florence's delights from the back door of her family's motorhome. Photo by Steve Hunt.


If you take the cost of your camper (minus buy-back or anticipated resale price) insurance, registration, campground fees, and gas you can get a good idea of your costs. My costs over 245 days at the time of this writing, traveling an estimated 16,500 kilometers, were 1,678 euros for gas, 1,452 euros for insurance, and 932 euros for registration. Campgrounds averaged 15 euros per night for one person, electric hook-up, and camper. Add five to eight euros per additional adult and three to four per child. My low was eight euros and my high 28. Your mileage may vary depending upon the strength of your currency and current variable costs, especially gas. Some people save money by free camping (camping in truck stops, beaches, and along the road) but I did so only in an emergency and don’t recommend it as a standard practice. Besides, you miss one of the big advantages of camping Europe. When you’re in a campground, it’s hard not to socialize and meet people. Fellow campers will be intrigued by the fact that you’re an American camping through Europe. I can’t count the number of times I was invited over for a glass of wine and conversation. And if you are traveling with kids, you’ll be amazed how they communicate through body and sign language as if talking really didn’t matter.

Spend Time with a Local Family

Another way to add meaning to your trip is to allot some time for visiting with a local family. Servas, an organization consisting in 15,000 international hosts (7,000 in Europe) in over 100 countries, will provide you with host lists for the countries you request. The normal routine is to spend two nights at the home of a host family, usually including dinner. The objective is to learn about each other’s way of life and exchange ideas. Some hosts will give you a tour of the local area and all can provide useful information. Servas charges nothing except for a membership fee, but the usual procedure is to thank your host with a small gift or bottle of wine. A variety of such hospitality and home exchanges exist, with members worldwide.


Finding space in campgrounds is a lot easier than finding space in hotels (although at popular vacation destinations in July and August, it’s helpful to call ahead and reserve a spot). Not all campgrounds take reservations, so if the area campgrounds are crowded the best bet is to arrive early. I never made a reservation during my eight months of travel and was only turned away twice because a campground was full. In both cases, I got a spot at a neighboring site. I also tried to arrange my itinerary so I avoided crowded vacation destinations during the summer.

A good campground guide is essential for locating places where you want to stay. Another essential item to get before you leave is an International Camping card. This provides admittance to most campgrounds (in some cases at reduced rates) and is held by the campground instead of your passport. Don’t leave home without it. See below for a listing of good websites and books on camping in Europe as well as other services and suggestions. Proper planning is the best insurance for a smooth travel experience in Europe.

Motorhoming & RV Camping Tips and Resources for Europe


Propane Tanks: Your camper will undoubtedly come with one full propane tank (used for refrigerator, hot water, and sometimes heater) and possibly a small reserve "camper" tank. If you’re traveling for more than two months, get a second full tank from your camper outfit. This gives you plenty of time to get your empty tank replaced when it runs out at the most inopportune time.

Electric Heater: Get a small electric heater in Europe. It saves on propane during chilly nights, and you just plug in at the campground.

GPS: Hand-held or dash mounted, these can be indispensable if you find yourself lost or wish to find an obscure location with peace of mind.

Money: ATM cash machines are generally the easiest and least expensive way to obtain cash in Europe, and are everywhere in Western Europe.

internet Access: For many connectivity is absolutely crucial these days. Most campsites now offer WiFi. WiFi is also available in stores and chains as you travel. Many other mobile internet possibilities are coming online all the time.

Satellite TV: If you’re on a long trip this is a great way to keep in touch with what’s going on via CNN, BBC, etc. Many campers have them, though you can also stream content via WiFi these days.

Useful Websites

Caravan and Motorhome Club lists over 330 caravan sites in Europe in 16 countries. The website offers many ideas for using your camper in Europe.

ACSI Eurocamping is a site with a search engine listing more than 9,850 inspected campsites in Europe in over 40 countries, including those where caravans and motorhomes are allowed. You can also purchase on their site the ACSI off-season discount camping cards.

Helpful Books

RV and Car Camping Vacations in Europe: RV and Car Camping Tours to Europe's Top Vacation Destinations. Picks best campgrounds in popular spots. Provides suggested itineraries. My guide for much of the trip. Indispensable.

Europe by Van and Motorhome. Basic how-to guide to taking an RV through Europe that is more than a listing of campgrounds. Good tips on a successful trip.

Key Resources

AutoEurope: RV and Motorhome Rentals in Europe

Brownhills Motorhomes Limited: Buy-backs available.

Renting or Buying an RV (Campervan/Motorhome) in Europe

STEVE HUNT is a professional tour operator who has traveled extensively. He is currently touring Europe by motorhome.

Related Topics
Camping Abroad
Budget Travel
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Renting an RV to Travel through Europe
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