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The pandemic has forced us to rethink how we do many things in our lives, from working and schooling remotely to social distancing wherever we go.

Travel too has been greatly impacted and many are now seeking out COVID-friendly holidays as travel restrictions ease; looking to adventurous RV holidays as a way to avoid hotels and public transport, joining the millions who have already embraced vanlife.

Vanlife is the movement that’s rocking social media. It’s about simplifying your life and realizing what’s truly important. It’s easy to see why so many people are embracing the lifestyle as it offers a great deal of freedom, flexibility, and adventure.

Renting an RV is a great way to decide whether you want to commit to vanlife as a lifestyle or simply wish to experience it as a travel break from everyday life. The flexibility allows you to change your plans at a whim; stay an extra day in a place that invigorates you or easily escape somewhere where the weather may not be cooperating.

If you want to experience a holiday where the possibilities are endless, check out these top tips for renting an RV and taking a vanlife holiday around Europe.

European Vanlife: Top Tips for Taking an RV Holiday Around Europe

Renting an RV in Europe

Most travelers looking to take an RV road trip across Europe choose to rent as opposed to purchase unless you’re planning to travel for a very extended period of time.

You can now easily rent an RV in Europe thanks to Yescapa which allows you to connect with verified local RV owners looking to rent out their vanlife vehicles.

Both European and non-European residents can find an ideal campervan, converted van, motorhome, or caravan simply by joining the free community and browsing the listings. Just input the city or town where you want to book your RV, along with the dates you want to travel.

You’ll be able to select an RV that suits your size requirements to accommodate everyone, and you can select from a range of added comforts including kitchen facilities, bedding, heat and air conditioning, and onboard toilet and shower.

Pro tip: As an added bonus, renting an RV through Yescapa provides you with included comprehensive insurance and breakdown assistance.

You can also narrow your search results to display RVs that offer disability access, child car seats, and allow pets if that’s what you need. Many RVs also come with handy extras like GPS, reversing cameras, bike racks, and winter tires or chains for European winter road trips.

After sending a booking request to local RV owners through Yescapa, you’ll usually get a response within 24 hours. You’ll also be able to compare RVs and read advice and reviews.

Where to Take a European Vanlife Holiday

Norway road RF

Europe is one of the best places to take a vanlife holiday for the simple fact it offers many different countries with easy border crossings (great thing about Yescapa being that you can rent an RV anywhere on the continent).

A European RV road trip allows you to explore the hidden gems and less touristy regions of Europe that many travelers don’t experience. Getting off the beaten path allows you to explore the natural side of Europe along with its charming villages where you’ll engage with locals instead of other expats and tourists.

You’ll encounter lesser known attractions that are often times equally as impressive as the big city attractions and can take time to explore the many national parks that Europe offers.

Pro tip: Try to avoid the big popular cities like Paris, Rome, or London when taking a vanlife holiday for the simple fact these cities are quite expensive and make things like camping, parking, and navigating traffic quite difficult and stressful.

It’s also important to know that certain regions of Europe can be quite expensive for RVing such as Western Europe and even more so Scandinavia. One exception in the west is Portugal.

If you’re needing to stick to a strict budget or simply want your travels to be extended, stick to Eastern Europe with countries like Romania, Poland, Bulgaria, Slovenia, and Slovakia.

You may also want to consider avoiding the peak European travel season, which are the summer months of July and August. Taking a vanlife holiday at this time will force you to compete with both foreign tourists and locals getting away from the big cities for their summer holidays.

You can create an itinerary based on what countries you want to see or around famous European drives like Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, Italy’s Stelvio Pass, Croatia’s Adriatic Highway, Romania’s Transfagarasan Highway, or Norway’s Atlantic Road.

European RV Driving Tips

Woman drive van RF

There are a number of different driving laws to be aware of when RVing around Europe and they can vary between countries. However the great thing about booking with Yescapa is that their owners are available to address any concerns and make sure you’re aware of the rules and regulations of the countries you’re be visiting. 

Some things to keep in mind is that while most European nations drive on the right side of the road, several are the opposite and drive on the left including Ireland, Cyprus, Malta, and the U.K.

It is also mandatory in a number of European countries to have a physical toll sticker placed on your vehicle or purchase an online digital motorway vignette when driving on motorways or expressways.

This includes places like Austria and Switzerland. Failure to obtain a vignette can result in hefty fines and possibly even the seizure of belongings from your vehicle.

Pro tip: If you do get fined for a traffic violation, know that you may be required to pay immediately in some European nations, while others may allow you up to a week to pay.

There are then European low emission zones to be aware of as well as making sure your sidelights remain on at all times in countries like Sweden, Italy, Denmark, and Switzerland.

Some countries feature many roundabouts to navigate, while others contain a lot of one way streets. Some countries like Bosnia & Herzegovina even have warnings about only driving on paved roads due to the possibility of old landmines that may be off-road!

Border control may wish to search your RV despite many European countries having open borders, and you can be stopped for random alcohol and drug tests.

Lastly, it’s always a good idea to measure your vehicle to know your height and length limits which is important when parking, entering parking garages, and passing under bridges.

Never let your fuel tank get too low either, as petrol stations may be spaced far apart in some regions and stations may be closed on certain days like Sundays.

Dealing with Language Differences

Russian road sign RF

Take a vanlife holiday across Europe can be a bit more complex than road tripping across countries like the U.S. or Australia due to the simple fact that the language can change as you cross country borders.

While you may be able to get by on limited vocabulary and translation apps when communicating with locals, you will need to read up on what various road signs mean. In many cases, you’ll be able to recognize various road signs simply based on shape and color but others will require a bit of research.

You also have some countries like Belgium for instance where you may encounter various road signs in either French or Dutch depending on where you are.

Pro tip: It’s worthwhile carrying a foreign language dictionary for the countries you will be visiting or have that translation app handy in case you need to ask locals for directions.

Keep in mind that in addition to language often differing between European countries as you cross borders on your road trip, you will need to also check whether the currency changes. While 19 European nations all use the Euro, a number of countries including Denmark, Sweden, and Romania all have their own individual currencies.

You may also want to brush up on the local customs and traditions in each country you’ll be visiting so as to not experience any social faux pas.

Keeping Costs Down

US Flag Euro RF

While certain areas of Europe can be expensive for RVing, there are thankfully a number of ways you can reduce costs.

Staying away from the big cities and doing a bit of wild camping will go a long way to minimizing costs, as will planning a trip in the winter off-season or shoulder seasons of spring and fall. Not only will attractions and campsites be cheaper, so too will RV rentals.

It’s wise to set a budget to give yourself an idea of how much you can spend each day. This will allow you to better select campsites, destinations, driving distances, and attractions that are affordable for your budget.

Pro tip: Set your GPS to avoid toll roads as they can add up quickly in countries like France where they are plentiful. While avoiding tolls may add journey time, the whole idea of vanlife is to slow things down while traveling.

Another huge way to reduce travel costs is to cook your own meals, something that can be accomplished with a mobile kitchen. Many Yescapa RV rentals come equipped with kitchen facilities, allowing you to cook meals and refrigerate perishables and leftovers.

Use a fuel price app to seek out the cheapest petrol stations along your chosen routes, keeping in mind the stations along the highway are often costlier than most in Europe.

You’ll also want to make sure to budget for potential repairs like flat tires as well as things like possible traffic fines, ferries, and travel insurance which can provide coverage for international medical treatment.

Making Life on the Road Easier

Van kitchen roadtrip cooking camper RF

It may not always be easy to find stores and supplies along routes in remote regions, so be sure to stock up on things like food and toiletries in larger towns and cities. Unlike road trips across America, there aren’t Walmarts around every corner.

You’ll want to make sure your propane tanks are filled in order to run your RVs heating, hot water, kitchen stove, propane fridge, and barbecue if you have one. RVs generally have a permanent built-in RV propane tank but you can also get portable ones to run things like a barbecue for when you’re camping.

You should always turn off your propane systems while driving and shut off propane appliances, valves, and pilot lights when refueling your RV. When it comes to refilling propane tanks during your European vanlife holiday, keep in mind that different bottles are used in different countries so you may need adaptors.

Pro tip: Propane tanks need to be refilled and replaced by certified service technicians, and service stations across Europe may vary in the services they offer and the hours they operate. Carry alternative fuel sources for cooking just in case, like a camping stove.

You may also want to look into getting an RV with an inverter which will allow the RV’s battery to convert DC power to AC power which allows you to run your appliances and charge devices. You’ll need to make sure the inverter has a high enough watt rating to power everything you need at one time.

You can also look into getting a portable solar generator or solar panels to be able to charge things like laptops, camera batteries, and tablets.

And while many RVs provide onboard bathrooms facilities, you should keep in mind that not all roadway bathrooms in Europe are free. Always carry change for public bathrooms and maybe carry a supply of toilet paper in case the public facilities are out.

When wild camping, be sure to make use of bathroom facilities provided or practice safe and sanitary bathrooms habits in nature by using biodegradable toilet paper and carrying a shovel to properly bury your waste.

Finding RV Camping Spots

RV camper van night RF

Because you can’t spend all day and night on the road and seeing attractions, you’ll eventually need to secure a camping spot for your RV.

Some apps like Park 4 Night and the Camper Contact app work well across Europe while other countries offer their own specific campsite locating apps.

While finding European RV camping spots in the peak summer season can be difficult and expensive, they can actually be nonexistent during the winter season since many European camping locations close down for the season.

When it comes to choosing a location, you have the choice of free, paid, and wild camping options. While the free option may sound enticing, it often involves camping out in a roadside rest stop or parking lot, so don’t expect a lot in terms of scenery.

Pro tip: While these free camping spots are well-marked on the road, don’t expect very much in the way of amenities either. You may have to pay to use the toilets and there may or not be a restaurant on site.

Paid RV camping spots are plentiful throughout European towns and offer up gorgeous locations along with amenities like share kitchens, clean toilets, waste disposal, playgrounds, game rooms, bars/restaurants, and small stores with goods.

Wild camping is both adventurous and romantic, but it’s sadly not always legal in European countries. Wild camping rules differ between countries and it’s actually banned in a large number of European nations such as Italy.

In certain countries like Switzerland, it may only be illegal in certain regions. Other countries may technically prohibit wild camping but it may be tolerated in specific locations.

It always pays to check the laws around wild camping, as penalties can be quite harsh if you break them. A few notable countries where you may have better luck wild camping is in Spain, Sweden, Norway, and Ireland.

I hope I’ve enticed you even more to want to experience a vanlife holiday for yourself. There’s no better place than Europe to get your RVing feet wet (or tires wet in this case)!

I hope these tips will help make your next European Yescapa vanlife getaway a memorable one.

Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 50+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.

    

    2 Comments

  1. Far better to rent a car, and bring a tent, sleeping bag and a small kit including a portable propane stove. Much easier to find tent sites, wild camp, or stay in the plentiful B&B’s, hostels, hosteria’s and auberges located across Europe.
    I’ve driven extensively on month long trips in France, Portugal, Iceland, the Czech Republic and Morocco without issue. Car rentals are cheaper than RV’s and easier on the gas (petrol) too! Invest in good Michelin maps to get around and plot your trip, rather than using your mobile, which are too small and get expensive to use with roaming charges!
    Hope this helps!
    Cheers!
    Frederic Hore,
    Montréal, Canada.

    • Great to hear you’ve had wonderful road trips Frederic! I love RV’s for the flexibility of driving your accommodation with you, but there are definitely amazing accommodation options throughout Europe which make regular road trips a fantastic choice too.

      Great point on Michelin maps, I’ve been on the receiving end of one or two high phone bills because of roaming! I usually now take a portable WiFi hotspot with me like TEP which you can connect to without needing to use roaming, local SIM cards are also great too but obviously that gets a bit annoying when you’re hopping through countries so frequently like in Europe, so the multi country hotspots have worked really well for me.

      Thanks for sharing! Here’s to many more amazing roadtrips ahead :)

      Happy travels Xx

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