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Looking to camp in France? France is known for being one of the most camper-friendly countries in Europe and one of those reasons is the plentiful camping options. Here we’re diving into the top five options for camping in France.
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This is the most straightforward, traditional way to camp in France. Like RV parks in the States, campgrounds in France offer designated campsites and amenities.
At campgrounds, you can access electricity, water, and possibly a dump station. You’ll also find laundry, showers, bathrooms, and—even in the smallest campgrounds—a playground.
Campgrounds are a great place to stay, but because France is an extremely camper-friendly country, there are many more unique motorhome stopover options.
Read more: What Campgrounds in France Are Like
Aires are rest stops meets gas stations.
You’ll see signs for aires about every 10 minutes on the highway and they have varying levels of niceness. Some are like picnic areas in the states—a place to park and some tables. Others are full-blown gas station rest stops that connect the east and west sides of the highway with a sky bridge, offer multiple restaurants, and all the classic things campers need like dump stations and showers. It’s quite the range.
How Do Aires Work?
These are generally first-come, first-served overnight parking spots. Many aires are free, but some may require a small fee (less than $10 and usually only if they offer services like electricity). Dump stations and water fills are often free, but you’ll want to local check signage.
Not all aires offer overnight parking, so double-check the information on Park4Night before planning an overnight stay. I also recommend reading the reviews (they should translate for you in the app) for crime reports. France is generally safe, but certain regions of France have more petty crime than others. If you’re in a more crime-ridden area, you’ll see reports of prowlers or theft in Park4Night reviews.
How do you find aires?
We exclusively used Park4Night to find aires because of the reviews and the features listing. When we needed to find a place to eat lunch and stretch our legs on a long drive day, we searched and found an aire with a huge picnic area and a playground for the kids.
You can, however, also just keep your eyes peeled for signage or search “aires” on Google or Apple Maps.
3. Wild Camping
Wild camping, called boondocking in the States, is camping for free in nature. We found wild camping options throughout France, often in forests or on rivers. At one particular campsite—which was really a gravel area on the side of a quiet country road surrounded by trees—we had miles of trails right outside our door.
We enjoyed a peaceful night in nature and woke up and hiked through the forest. Even better, that campsite was 15 minutes from a castle and a three-minute drive into a tiny village where we enjoyed coffee and pastries the next morning.
According to the internet, wild camping is both allowed and not allowed in France. Officially, it’s banned. But it’s also up to local ordinances. To put it in the simplest terms possible, you know when you see a photo of a tent on Instagram in the middle of nowhere surrounded by mountains? That’s a big no-no in France. You can’t just go anywhere in nature and call it wild camping.
You’ll need to find a designated overnight camping spot to avoid getting ticketed. Don’t worry, it’s surprisingly easy to find free overnight parking all over the country.
How Does Wild Camping work?
We, again, use Park4Night to find wild camping spots. Park4Night is just a listing app, so they don’t own or coordinate any campsites. But they will provide the exact location coordinates you need, often paired with photos and reviews. You can click the navigation button or copy-paste the GPS coordinates and head toward the camping area. Park4Night is specifically for motorhomes and caravans, so you won’t get anything that would take you offroad or where you can’t drive. Read the reviews if there are height or length restrictions that might prevent your RV from making the drive.
When we arrive at our “campsite,” we find a level place to park that is out of the way of any road traffic and leaves space for other campers to join us. There are no services when you’re wild camping, so setting up your RV is as simple as putting it in park. We often immediately set up our tables and chairs outside so we could enjoy as much time outside as possible.
Our Experience Wild Camping
Wild camping felt both safe and quiet. We never encountered any rowdy campers or loud road noise. We, as tourists, are also overly cautious of local signage to make sure we are camping in the right spot. The last thing you want on holiday is to get woken up by the police in the middle of the night telling you to leave.
4. Home Camper
Home Camper is where you can stay in your motorhome at people’s homes/on their property. (Very similar to a HipCamp or Boondockers Welcome.) You’ll need a self-contained RV (AKA your own onboard bathroom) and you’ll probably want to know a little French, since you’ll be conversing with locals.
We used Home Camper on our second night in the RV to stay in the backyard of a champagne house in Epernay. We were greeted by Frank, who guided us to a large field where we parked with four other motorhomes. That may sound like a lot, but we had plenty of space between our RVs! This site offered electricity, bathrooms, showers, and playgrounds, but amenities vary by site.
How Does Home Camper Work?
To use Home Camper, you’ll first need to sign up and create a free account. Then you can browse their listings, see photos and reviews, and request or book a reservation. We found a beautiful spot in Champagne and then selected our dates, our vehicle type, and how many people were in our party. Most Home Camper listings charge per person (like campgrounds do) but don’t charge for young children like ours. You will add your credit card information to request your reservation.
We clicked request and got a request confirmation via email. It notes specifically that if our request expires or is declined, we won’t be charged.
Four minutes later, our host, France (pronounced like Frank), accepted our reservation.
With the reservation confirmation email, we received the address, phone number, and email address of our host as well as arrival information. We were told to arrive at 5:00 PM, which we mistakenly read as after 5:00 PM. France was waiting at his gate patiently at five while we were sitting at a champagne tasting downtown. This was a total cultural miscommunication on our part. Once we realized our mistake, we called and let him know we were on our way and headed to the champagne house.
The reason this was important for this particular reservation was that the photos of the property showed acres of green grass and trees surrounded a beautiful chateau. We drove down a tiny city street lined with buildings getting meters away from our destination and we were beyond confused. Shouldn’t we be in nature?
But there, behind a concrete wall and a wide gate, was the hidden property. If someone wasn’t waiting by the road to get our attention, we would’ve gotten lost.
France greeted us and we apologized for our delay. He showed us where to get parked and how to hook up to his electricity. And then we were free to explore and enjoy the property. We played on the playgrounds, drank France’s champagne, and he even brought over a few eggs he plucked from his chicken coop.
We stayed one night, though we could’ve booked more if we had the time!
5. France Passion
Despite what the name might bring to mind, this isn’t a French dating app. French Passion is a membership program where you can camp for free at farms and wineries across the country. This was our favorite way to travel across France!
Because this is a membership, there is an initial fee. But after joining the membership, you get to camp for free all over France!
How Does France Passion Work?
Before heading to France, we signed up for a membership online. (I’ll cover signing up in a second.)
Once signed up, we would browse their book or their app for great places to stay along your camping route. With over 2,000 locations, you’re always sure to find one near you. Be sure to look at the listing details to see if your motorhome can fit, if kids/pets are welcome, and if they require calling before arrival.
When you show up at your chosen campsite, connect with the owners to know where to park. We always had a grassy area to ourselves. After getting parked, it’s customary to patron the business. This means buying a wine tasting, bottles of wine, produce, or meals. We felt that this was a great way to get truly local foods and enjoyed buying wine, olive oil, and other local treats from each place.
Be respectful during your stay by cleaning up outside your RV and not dumping any of your refuse or tanks. When you leave—there may be preferred “leave by” hours—take a moment to leave a review in the France Passion app. You can also leave a review on Google. Choosing to stay at France Passion sites means you’re supporting local family businesses and every review counts!
How do I join France Passion Program?
The France Passion program is pretty old school. To sign up, you have to order a physical book. I was slightly confused at first on whether or not I’d also need to sign up and pay for an app separately, but you don’t. In essence, you just go to their website to purchase a book and then you’re enrolled.
The cost to enroll is currently at $33 annually (includes the physical book, your membership card, and app access).
Related: How the France Passion Program Works
Our Experience Staying at France Passion Sites
I speak zero French. With my vast knowledge of the French language, I was a little concerned about coordinating with hosts. (I’ll cover French phrases to know in the next chapter!)
I imagined calling French hosts and trying to explain in English that we’d like to come and stay in their vineyard. They would probably start asking me about our motorhome length but then I’d get confused and think they were inviting me to a chocolate tasting.
Luckily, that didn’t happen.
First, the majority of the hosts spoke English. Second, for the ones who didn’t, I was able to bust out Google Translate (my best friend when traveling abroad) and we managed to get enough words like “camping car” into the mix or “France Passion”. Inevitably, once they heard France Passion they gave an enthusiastic yes.
Camping Options in France
If you’re planning a road trip around France, you will not struggle to find a place to stay for the night. As you can see, there are multiple free and paid camping options in France.
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