Vanlife in France – how to get started!

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France is one of the very best countries in Europe to travel by van, RV, or camper. This country just has it all: beaches, mountains, wine regions, an outstanding climate, great roads, and top spots to park your van for the night. Vanlife in France is thriving, you’d say, nevertheless, it’s easy to find places in nature where you’re all by yourself.

So, let’s dive in!

In this article, we’ll give you all the info we can give you about vanlife in France. At the bottom of the page, you can find some of our favourite camper places! So, keep scrolling to find out all the secrets about campervan travel in this beautiful country! 

Driving in France

France is a massive country. Depending on your schedule, you can choose to drive on free roads only, or drive paid highways as well. I’d say, if you have the time, don’t go for the paid highways. Instead, enjoy the scenery and drive through the France of Louis de Funès!

 We only cruised on the highways and toll roads when we wanted to get into a different place fast. Each time we did, we decided never to do that again! Toll roads are not enjoyable, because you miss out on the scenery. You actually see nothing of the country, and you pay to do so! 

Péage in France

In France, you have to pay to use motorways. The system works in an old-school way. Other countries have a set price to use all the roads in the entire country for a fixed amount of days (like Austria of Hungary). France has a system where you only pay for the road you use.

Each vehicle class has a different price to pay. Usually, driving a camper van or RV is more expensive than driving a car or motorbike. Our Peugeot Boxer is a Category 2 vehicle in France, because it’s below 3 m in height en weights less than 3,5 tonnes (we hope).

How do you know when a motorway is a toll road? You’ll see the word Péage when you enter the highway. 

Usually you get a ticket when you enter the highway. You have to use the ticket when you leave the highway, so the booth will know the distance you drove. This system is not always the same, though. Sometimes, there’s just a fixed price for a fixed distance of highway.

Read more about highways in France.

Low emission zones in France

France introduced, just like any other European country, low emission zones. 

The situation in France is not too bad just yet. In most areas, you can just drive without worrying about LEZ too much. 

Low Emission Zones are areas where there’s a higher chance of pollution. Therefore, only non-polluting cars may drive there. There’s talk about a sticker called Crit Air, and the sticker is actually mandatory, but I can’t tell you for sure if anybody ever checks it. 

We avoid cities as much as possible, so; we don’t worry about it either.

After all, the Crit Air sticker is not really expensive and you can order it from your home country or wherever you are. If you plan on traveling through France for a long period, consider getting the Crit Air sticker on the official website. 

Just keep in mind: driving into cities might get you into one of the Low Emission Zones. 

Usually, when entering a Crit Air zone or a LEZ, you’ll get a notification as a sign or warning at the side of the road.

Driving in France during wintertime

France is a pleasant country to spend some time during the colder winter months.

The further South you travel, the better the weather will be.

But, of course, there are also mountains en regions where snow might fall. That’s why there should be some information about driving during the wintertime.

Winter tyres are not mandatory in France. They’re only mandatory if there’s a specific road sign.

Sign for winter tyres France vanlife

Drinking and driving in France

You’re not allowed to drink and drive in France.

The alcohol limit for driving is 0,5 promille, which is quite strict in comparison with other countries in Europe. 

If you’re stopped in a police control with an alcohol level between 0,5 and 0,8 promille, expect to pay a 135€ fine. Did you drink even more? With an alcohol level higher than 0,8 promille, fines can be as high as 4500€ and you can even be sent to prison. 

So, you better don’t drink and drive in France, at all! 😉 

Other things you should know about driving in France

When driving in France, you must:

  • have a valid driving license
  • not use your mobile phone while driving
  • wear your seatbelt at all times
  • have your passengers wear their seatbelts
  • have a reflective jacket within reaching distance
  • your car must be equipped with a safety triangle

Vanlife in France in general

Let’s get to the information you were actually looking for! 

France is a great country for vanlife. There are tons of designated motorhome places where you can spend one of more nights, free of charge. 

Before we started cruising the country with our campervan, we didn’t know half of what this amazing country offers for van lifers and RV travelers. We also didn’t know how many French people are traveling through France, for free, in their own motorhome. 

That so many French are traveling through France might annoy at times, as you seldom meet any other travelers than the French themselves. But that might have been because of virus-related restrictions as well.

Anyway! You plan on traveling through France with your campervan. Here’s the information!

France Passion - Travel through France with a campervan

Wild camping in France for motorhomes

Wild camping in France is pretty much of a grey area!

Well, that’s good news! It’s not really forbidden then, right? 

In most cases, wild camping is tolerated, but much depends on your behaviour. Everything depends on your behaviour, actually. It’s the places you select and how you act.

Let’s start with land that actually belongs to a landowner. You can only camp on this type of land with the permission of the landowner, obviously. Sounds logical! If you’re looking for this type of land, keep scrolling until you see France Passion.

Then there’s all the other land: parking lots in nature, just places in nature, parking lots in rural areas, … places in nature, … You know, these magical spots where you smell mountain rivers and pine. How about wild camping there?

Let’s keep it simple. You can sleep in your van in a public place or a parking, as long as there is no sign that forbids it. This goes for parking lots, places in nature, anywhere actually.

And don’t worry, France is full of these signs! There are signs and height barriers telling you that campers are not welcome there. France has experienced decades of RV and camper travelers, finding their way to the best spots around. If you’re not supposed to be there, they have put up a sign already.

So, if you find a parking spot without the sign, park up and spend the night!

Just make sure that you’re not on private ground, because then you’ll need permission of the landowner.

Camper places in France

Aside from the wild camping, you’ll have no trouble finding great places to park up for the night. 

France has so many camper places, you won’t have trouble finding some. A lot of them are free. Others are cheap. And some are expensive.

Some aires in France have a fee during high season, but are free during the low season.

We usually check Park4Night or CamperContact when we’re looking for nice places to spend the night.

If you’re trying to find camper places in Google, these words are the ones you want to use: 

  • Motorhome Aire
  • Aire Camping Car
  • Parking Camping car

You can also get the ACSI camper guides and camper apps. A lot of the free camper places are listed in there. With the ACSI guide, you can also find nice places when your mobile data runs out. 

Campings in France

France has many campsites where you can park up and enjoy a few nights of peaceful sleep. These campsites usually offer all the amenities you might have missed out on: shower, washing machine, swimming pool, and so on!

The ACSI app and ACSI guides are a great place to find nice campings all over France. The books are also interesting if you don’t want to use up your mobile data.

If you’re a fan of spending time in a campsite, and you’re traveling off season, the ACSI camping card is a great way to save money on accommodation.

We have the ACSI camping card each year, just as a backup. We don’t use it much, but sometimes, a camping is a great place to be, take a shower or power up your battery. It’s cheap enough to have it for a year, even if you only use it a few times. If you use it often, it’s definitely a brilliant choice.

Rest assured, the first few months into vanlife, you will be more inclined to spend a night at a campsite now and then!

France Passion

France Passion is the French edition of Fefi.eu.

The idea for this concept is simple, yet amazing. 

You buy a one-year pass in order to spend the night on farm land with farmers who are part of the program. 

Stopovers are free of charge, but prepare to buy something of the land. You’re not obliged to buy something, but you will feel that way. We actually bought something everywhere we went, so it ended up being more expensive instead of cheaper! Then we switched to wild camping :p  

There are over 2000 hosts in France Passion. Anywhere you travel in France, there will be a farm nearby where you can spend the night. There are a few rules though:

  • first come, first serve
  • if the designated places are full, you move on
  • you can only stay for 24 hours

The year runs from the end of March until the end of March the next year. 

A one-year France Passions card will set you back around 30€.

Staying at a farm - France Passion

Regions of France

France is a pretty enormous country. You’ll notice when you drive through. Especially if you’re used to small countries like Belgium!

France is divided into different regions, all of which have their own specifics and charms. We haven’t had the chance to discover them all, but in time, we will!

So, you’ll see extra regions being added.

In this section, we want to talk about the regions we already explored (not just driven through) and how we liked vanlife in these regions.

France regions map

Hauts de France

Hauts de France is the area closest to Belgium. It’s a beautiful region to spend some time. We enjoyed visiting Cap de Gris Nez and Cap de Blanc Nez during a day trip. We didn’t spend the night there, as there is not really a place where you can stay for free.

There is, however, a camper place in Wissant, but we passed it by before we knew it and drove on to Montreuil. Not really a dreamy place.

After that, Stella Plage was up! The Stella Plage camper place is very nice!

Cap Blanc Nez Haut de France
Cap Blanc Nez Haut de France

Vanlife in Normandy

Normandy is a beautiful region by the North Coast of France.

It offers some cities, but also a beautiful coastline where you can learn a lot about WW2. 

Of course, Normandy is also famous for the Mont Saint Michel. We had a glance at the Mont Saint Michel island while passing by on the highway. We avoid touristy places, but we might visit this gem on our next fly by!

We actually passed through Normandy pretty fast, only stopping for a few nights in Lessay.

Vanlife in Brittany

Brittany is an amazing region to live in a van! We fell in love with this area of France and will go back there soon. We’ll also write up a separate post about vanlife in Brittany soon.

The peninsula of Brittany is rugged and wild. I’m pretty sure you’ll fall in love with it too!

We made our way through the peninsula, following most of the coastline. We need to do it a few more times in order to fully explore the area. But we already have some insights to share about Brittany.

The favourite overnight camper spots we visited in Brittany are the beach Camper place in Guidel Beach and Camper parking in Asserac.

Vanlife in Alsace

The French Alsace is a beautiful region in the East of France, near the German border. The region surprised us a lot. We found 2 beautiful camper places we loved a lot.

I’m pretty sure that we will find many more interesting places in this area over time!

For now, check out the Citadel de Bitche and the overnight parking at the Lac de Pierre Percée.

Vanlife in Midi-Pyrenees

The French Pyrenees is also a region that needs a lot more time to fully explore. We were in the area for a short period. I’m pretty sure we will be back in the next few years, because we found a place we completely fell in love with during our time there.

We visited Lac De Payolle, which has a large camper place right there. At first, we thought we would not like it, because it was full of massive motorhomes. But then, the place grew on us pretty fast. Lac de Payolle is definitely worth a visit!

Hiking in France - Lac de Payolle

Other regions - still to explore!

Well, we’re nowhere near done exploring France. You can expect for this vanlife in France guide to expand. We will also add more of our favourite places to the guide.

Obviously, we have spent the night in a lot more places than just the ones we’re mentioning here. I guess you will too. But these are just the spots we absolutely loved!

Getting the necessities

When traveling to France by campervan, you’ll end up needing things after all. No matter how off-grid you are, want to be or try to be. You’ll run out of gas, diesel, or water after a while.

With our van setup, we try to be off grid as long as possible before we need to refill or replenish. That means that we have to frugal about our resources sometimes 🙂

Our setup has been altered and improved over time, in order to be in places we love for longer. Our second goal is to produce less waste. 

We have a British Berkefeld water filter for drinking water. We should be able to filter river water or lake water and then drink it, but we haven’t done that just yet! 

To charge our electronic devices, we use an Ecoflow Delta solar battery with 2 solar panels. If we can catch the sun, it can last us a very long time!

Then, we swapped our PortaPotti for a self-built composting toilet, because the PortaPotti was getting smelly way too soon. With the self-built composting toilet, we don’t really need a place for black water disposal anymore. We will publish a dedicated post about out vanlife toilet setup soon!

But, even with all these moderations, we still need to get water, LPG, diesel, in time!

Getting fuel in France

You can find each type of fuel all over France. Whether you need gasoline or diesel, each gas station will serve you that.

We recommend getting off the highway in order to fuel up. Prices in gas stations along the motorway can be extremely high. Expect to pay 10 to 15% more there.

We recommend fuelling up in gas stations at the larger supermarkets. These places sometimes have complete service stations for motorhomes and campers. 

Fuel prices in France are the lowest at Leclerq supermarkets and Hyper U supermarkets. 

Getting LPG in France

LPG can be found all over France, but not in every fuel station. We found it difficult to get LPG sometimes, even when we used a dedicated app to find it. Sometimes the station just wasn’t there or there was no LPG.

We recommend keeping your eyes open for LPG stations and top up if you get a chance. Don’t wait until you’re all out of gas to fill your tank back up.

If you use bottled gas, you might need to find a camping store. Those are spread all over France and you won’t have a difficult time finding one of these! 

Getting water in France

Water is freely available in France. We only paid for water once. The other times, we got our water for free. We got an extra 10 liter jerry can for water, so it would last longer.

Most camper places have water, but you can also fill up water at the fountains in the village centers. We even filled up at a tap near a cemetery, but had a strange feeling about that, so we stopped doing that quickly.

Tap water in France is OK for drinking. But, watch out with the fountains in villages, as they don’t always serve you drinking water. If you want to be sure you can safely drink the water, look for signs saying:

“eau potable”

There’s also an app called Freetaps. And there are other apps just like that one. These apps show you places in your area where you can get drinking water. But some areas don’t have any. Other areas only show you the cemetery. I guess cemeteries are an OK place to fill up a bit of water!

Getting electricity in France

Electricity was not available in a lot of the places we spent the night. Luckily, we could use our solar panel to charge up a little.

A lot of the official camper places in France are equipped with a paid service station. Some places offer electricity for free. If you go to the more rural places or to the “day and night parking” spots, you won’t be able to charge there. 

Either you visit a camper place where you can charge up for a few hours or check into a campsite for the night. Or you get a solar panel and park your van in the sun!

Doing laundry in France

Doing laundry in France is not too difficult. They have a thing called: Revolution Laundry.

These are laundromats that are sitting in the parking lot of supermarkets. Pretty convenient, as you can park right in front of them, do laundry, and visit the supermarket at the same time. Combine that with a diesel fill-up and you’re ready to go!

We loved the combination of all these things. This way, we only lost like one day, with all the tasks we needed to do. After that, we’d be all ready for quite some time!

Getting the necessities in France - Vanlife

Bringing your dog to France

A campervan trip to France is definitely best if you bring your dog along. 

There are a few things you must get in order to bring your dog along with you into your vanlife trip in France.

Your dog must have:

  • European pet passport
  • Valid microchip
  • Rabies vaccination ( 3-year validity)

Remember, a lot of the beaches in France have prohibition signs for dogs, so you need to do a little research if you dream about long walks on the beach with your dog. Stella Plage is one place where you can definitely bring your dog, but there are many more! 

Vanlife with a dog in France

Banned dog breeds in France

France has a classification for dogs that are considered as ‘dangerous’. 

Category 1 is banned dog breeds in France: Staffordshire Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Japanese Tosa Inu and the Boerbull Mastiff.

If you have a dog of one of these breeds, you must take some precautions when traveling to France. They must always be on a lead and wear a muzzle in public places. You’re not allowed to bring them into public transportation or other public places where many people gather.

Category 2 dog breeds are the restricted breeds: Pedigree Tosa Inu, Pedigree Staffordshire Terrier, Pedigree American Staffordshire Terrier and the Rottweiler. These dog breeds must wear a muzzle in public and always be on a leash.

To travel to France with your dog, there aren’t too many differences between category 1 and category 2 dogs. For people living in France, the differences are more visible. Category 1 dogs can not be bought or sold in France, while category 2 dogs are much more controlled than the other dog breeds you could have.

In real life, chances are slight that anyone will stop you to check your dog. Of course, our dog just looks like a teddy bear, so nobody cared too much about him being dangerous.

This part of the vanlife guide gives you a little more information about traveling to France with your dog, but we are not the law. If you’re in doubt about whether your dog is welcome, read up on the official website of the French douane.

Our favourite camp places for vanlife in France

This guide about vanlife in France will probably become even larger when we get to travel more in this beautiful country during the next few years. So far, this is the information we can give you.

Are you looking for the very best places to spend the night in various areas in France? We collected our most precious camper spots so far. Check them out and be kind to nature when you’re out there!

Don’t leave trash in nature! We want to enjoy these places for a long time!

Share it with your friends!

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