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Old August 28th, 2016, 11:52 PM   #1
Fargo Wolf
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European Camping/Caravanning

My parents spent some time out in Alberta, my Dad to help a friend move a shed and then to visit family out there. At both campgrounds they stayed at, there were several visitors from Europe (in rental motorhomes).

Today, over lunch here at home, the topic switched from Europeans camping in Canada, to what camping in Europe is like. I have a general idea and know the general differences, not to mention the difference in quality/services/activities.

My Mom was curious about Caravans and motorhomes and what they are like, while Dad was curious about climate and where European "snowbirds" go in the winter.

I'd love to know more and would love to see pics, too. I'm also curious as to how many North American motorhomes/carans there are in Europe, too.
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Old August 29th, 2016, 12:24 AM   #2
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When I was a kid in the '80s and early '90s (I was born in '83), our family always went to Southern Europe on camping vacations in the summer. That was very typical of Dutch working and (lower) middle class families at the time. Entire traffic jams to the South would form in July.

Our caravan was very typical as well, it basically looked like this:

More photos (interior as well) here.

We would drag that thing to Southern France or Northern Spain or Northern Italy. That typically took 2 days of driving. On the way, we would stop and spend the night at major parkings by the side of the motorways. This type of place.

Once you'd get to the camp site, you'd set up shop. In Europe, we always attach tents to caravans. I don't know how common that is over there. You don't sleep in the tent, but you use it for storage of outside furniture or you might put an additional little cooker in there or something.

Spaces on a camp site in Europe will typically fit a caravan and a tent like that and have another 10 feet or so to spare in the front and maybe 3 feet on each side. Just enough to put out some deck chairs and stuff. It might look like this:



As you can see, it all looks very suburban with little paths and cut grass and all that stuff. That's very typical of the European camping experience I think. There are 'wilder' places to go camping, but there's fewer of them and they may not be easy to find in popular destinations like the Western Mediterranean.

You would, in Europe, expect any half decent camp site to offer toilets, showers, dish washing (not machines, just sinks) and laundry facilities. The caravan (being small) typically doesn't have a whole lot of stuff on board apart from a small chemical toilet that most people only use when they're on the road but not once they get to the camp site (because emptying it out is icky ).

Finally, I get the feeling that people these days are less and less willing to drive a caravan over longer distances. That means more and more camp sites are offering trailers for rent and tents for rent (they'll have it set up when you get there).

EDIT: I don't think I ever saw an American caravan or RV in my entire childhood in Europe. I don't know if that's changed (I haven't gone camping in almost 20 years). As for winter trips; we never went on those so I can't really answer questions about that either. Activities weren't much our thing either, we would do our own stuff (go to the beach, visit the sights, whatever).
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Old August 29th, 2016, 01:18 AM   #3
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Last time I drove across Canada I spotted two German caravanners in motorized RV's, still with German license plates

One was a Mercedes-based cutaway-van style from Muenchen and the other a VW Eurovan / Westfalia poptop with Berlin plates...
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Old August 29th, 2016, 09:01 AM   #4
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European caravans are much smaller than North American ones. They can be pulled with a midsize car and they usually don't have a shower or slide-out compartments like most travel trailers in North America have.

I'm typing this from a campsite in Southern France by the way...
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Old August 31st, 2016, 05:06 PM   #5
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Yet, luckily all European campings have a shower building, most of the times clean and not too crowded. And yes, the one that Slagathor posted is a really typical caravan. Of course, the newer ones are prettier and slightly larger, but most people have one of 10 till 20 years old for obvious reasons.
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Old August 31st, 2016, 06:58 PM   #6
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So if you really want to hate yourself:

- buy a caravan
- spend 4 days traveling at 90 km/h (retour-trip)
- arrive at an camping full of people who also hate themselfs by now, and where a swimming cap is often mandatory
- be unable to sleep of the immense heat inside your caravan
- bring your own faeces to the chemical disposal and/or share the showers and toilet with everybody else on the campsite

While an all-in holiday to e.g. Greece, just a 3/4-hour flight, is often as expensive (if not cheaper).

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Old August 31st, 2016, 09:07 PM   #7
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Yes, lock your children up in a hotel for 2 -3 weeks ;-)
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Old August 31st, 2016, 11:07 PM   #8
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Well, you don't have to be in hotel 24/7, but camping also has its charm, because you're in nature all the time.
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Old September 1st, 2016, 11:06 AM   #9
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Awesome, Slagathor. Any pics and any interesting places visited?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kanadzie View Post
Last time I drove across Canada I spotted two German caravanners in motorized RV's, still with German license plates

One was a Mercedes-based cutaway-van style from Muenchen and the other a VW Eurovan / Westfalia poptop with Berlin plates...
Yup. most are from Germany nowadays. That said, I've seen my share of Dutch and Swiss plated, too, as well as Fiat motorhome (a home built one) registered in Denmark. The best one I saw was a couple years ago when I had an Australian Ford Ranger (not sure of the State/Territory though: white plate with red 3 letter, three number combo and a silhouette of a kangaroo between letters/numbers) with a little camper/tent unit on the back

Quote:
Originally Posted by UnequalSine View Post
So if you really want to hate yourself:

- buy a caravan
- spend 4 days traveling at 90 km/h (retour-trip)
- arrive at an camping full of people who also hate themselfs by now, and where a swimming cap is often mandatory
- be unable to sleep of the immense heat inside your caravan
- bring your own faeces to the chemical disposal and/or share the showers and toilet with everybody else on the campsite

While an all-in holiday to e.g. Greece, just a 3/4-hour flight, is often as expensive (if not cheaper).
While flying gets you to your end destination faster, traveling with a motorhome/caravan gives you far more flexibility. You're also not stuck for accommodation if something goes sideways enroute. Most RVs now have good heating/cooling systems, so you're not roasting and/or freezing. The toilet bit I can understand. European RVs don't have holding tanks, or if they do, it's for "grey" water (from the sink(s) and shower) only.

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Yes, lock your children up in a hotel for 2 -3 weeks ;-)


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Originally Posted by Verso View Post
Well, you don't have to be in hotel 24/7, but camping also has its charm, because you're in nature all the time.
If you're in western France, Sweden Norway and Finland, that may be true. Most of the caravan sites I've seen on Google Maps, as well as the few I've found online, seem to be predominately in urban areas. Not that that is a bad thing.
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Old September 1st, 2016, 01:27 PM   #10
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Caravanning is not popular at all in Estonia. I don't know anybody who does or has done it on a regular basis.

I think there may be several factors at play:
  • Relatively low income means there are not a lot of people willing to spend their money on a caravan.
  • Most people live in apartment buildings so there isn't space to store the caravan somewhere.
  • Very short summers mean that the caravan is sitting idle most of the year.
  • Poor camping infrastructure in Eastern Europe, especially when it comes to caravans.
  • It's a long drive to the Mediterranean.
  • Flights and holiday packages to places like Egypt, Turkey and Bulgaria are quite cheap, although the popularity of Egypt and most recently Turkey has fallen quite a bit.

People still drive to Southern Europe but in that case they are usually staying in B&Bs or cheap hotels or camping in tents.
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Old September 1st, 2016, 05:45 PM   #11
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I always go camping in a tent. There are tens of thousands of campsites in Europe, and you usually don't need to book in advance if you're not going to the most popular places in late July or August. I never do, it's very flexible.

Campsites are very cheap, right now I'm typing this from a marvellous location in the Pyrenees, and it cost me € 9 per night including free wifi. A hotel on this location would be ten times more expensive. Low budget hotels are usually in a commercial area, good for a one night stopover but not a great ambiance to spend multiple nights.

But it depends on what you're looking for, an all-inclusive vacation is usually not expensive, but the duration is quite short, when I was going with my parents we would camp in a caravan / tent for 3 to 3.5 weeks, such a long vacation would be incredibly expensive in a mobile home or hotel with a family of 5.

Camping is very popular among the Dutch, you see hordes of caravans with Dutch plates pretty much anywhere in Europe. The possibilities are almost endless, France is said to have 10,000 campsites alone, and many aren't even listed in the camping guides. I usually google an area for campsites and pick the most convenient / beautifully located one. The ones not listed in the ANWB or ACSI camping guides tend to have much fewer Dutch.
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Old September 2nd, 2016, 01:19 AM   #12
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Even city-campings are hot. I spend four days in Copenhagen's suburbs, dirt cheap (compared to a hotel) and fifteen minutes by S-Tog to the centre.

You have more space, more relaxed atmosphere and are still close to all the places you want to finish. Being able to cook yourself instead of going to hotel-restaurants is a nice (financial) bonus as well.
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Old September 2nd, 2016, 10:39 AM   #13
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Some of my Camping-photos

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rebasepoiss View Post
Caravanning is not popular at all in Estonia. I don't know anybody who does or has done it on a regular basis.

I think there may be several factors at play:
  • Relatively low income means there are not a lot of people willing to spend their money on a caravan.
  • Most people live in apartment buildings so there isn't space to store the caravan somewhere.
  • Very short summers mean that the caravan is sitting idle most of the year.
  • Poor camping infrastructure in Eastern Europe, especially when it comes to caravans.
  • It's a long drive to the Mediterranean.
  • Flights and holiday packages to places like Egypt, Turkey and Bulgaria are quite cheap, although the popularity of Egypt and most recently Turkey has fallen quite a bit.

People still drive to Southern Europe but in that case they are usually staying in B&Bs or cheap hotels or camping in tents.

Yes, I have seen very few caravans from eastern europe, but I actually saw a czech registered caravan a few weeks ago. As you write low income and no tradition of camping may be the reason, but the times are changing.

In Sweden camping has always been very popular although we also have short summers. Most people with caravans drive within Sweden though, due to expensive ferry and bridge tolls for vehicles longer than 6m. Long distance drivers prefer to bring a tent or rent a cabin instead.




Småängens camping, Sweden

RV-parking, Ullared, Sweden

Camping in Varberg, Sweden. Here's plenty of space.




Camping in Assens, Denmark +13 C in late june 2013


Big camper vehicle at a parking lot.

Typical camping in Italy.



Camping, Northern Germany in april 2012. In Germany the caravans are parked very close.
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Old September 2nd, 2016, 03:43 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NordikNerd View Post
In Sweden camping has always been very popular although we also have short summers. Most people with caravans drive within Sweden though, due to expensive ferry and bridge tolls for vehicles longer than 6m. Long distance drivers prefer to bring a tent or rent a cabin instead.
Camping and caravaning are two slightly different things. The habits vary a lot even in the Nordics.

During my first trip to the southern Sweden, I was quite confused in Malmö. I thought that I checked in a camping site, but the area looked a suburb. The caravans stayed permanently on a fixed slot, there were bush fences, flowers and post boxes. The area had even a club for model railway enthusiasts. After some wondering around, I found a distant area for tents.

Later on, I have found zillions of similar camping sites in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, especially in the south. In the north, the camping sites seem to be more for single-night visits.

In Norway, the permanent-staying caravans seem to often be without tires. They do not even try to give an illusion that the the caravans would be for traveling.

In the Nordics, most camping sites have huts, villas and other inside accommodation available.

In Finland, the camping was most popular in 1960's and 1970's. Since that, the number of camping sites have collapsed, and people setting up a tent are quite rare. Because of the short season, it is quite hard to build huts fulfilling the requirements of people on 2010's. People want to have a private toilet and shower, and decent cooking facilities. That is why hotels gain more and more popularity among leisure travelers.
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Old September 2nd, 2016, 04:02 PM   #15
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In Spain camping sites are usually full of French and Dutch tourists. Camping is not as popular among Spaniards as it is in other European countries, but the country is full of camping sites for tourists from other countries.

In any event I've seen some tv programs about Spanish camping sites where Spaniards (usually retired people or families with young children) spend the whole summer. There are even people who, while working from Monday to Friday, spend every weekend in summer in the camping site where they have their caravans, usually not far from their hometowns.
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Old September 2nd, 2016, 05:18 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NordikNerd View Post
Yes, I have seen very few caravans from eastern europe, but I actually saw a czech registered caravan a few weeks ago. As you write low income and no tradition of camping may be the reason, but the times are changing.
I've seen a couple of RVs with Slovenian and Czech plates, and even one from Bulgaria, but, indeed, they're rare.
Most of foreign caravans and RVs in Italy are from Germany and the Netherlands.
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Old September 2nd, 2016, 05:46 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by arctic_carlos View Post
In Spain camping sites are usually full of French and Dutch tourists. Camping is not as popular among Spaniards as it is in other European countries, but the country is full of camping sites for tourists from other countries.

In any event I've seen some tv programs about Spanish camping sites where Spaniards (usually retired people or families with young children) spend the whole summer. There are even people who, while working from Monday to Friday, spend every weekend in summer in the camping site where they have their caravans, usually not far from their hometowns.
I stayed on a campsite near Lleida earlier this week and most people were Spanish, with caravans for long-term stays. Most seem to come from nearby, judging by the company cars with nearby town names.

Short stay tourists usually don't like these long-term areas, with TVs blaring all day and the attached party tents, etc. In Germany long-term campers often build a garden around it as well.

In the Netherlands, caravans are usually parked at some secured lock-up, often on farms where they use vacant halls to make some easy money. You are not allowed to park a caravan at your house long-term.
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Old September 2nd, 2016, 06:05 PM   #18
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I've seen a couple of RVs with Slovenian and Czech plates, and even one from Bulgaria, but, indeed, they're rare.
Most of foreign caravans and RVs in Italy are from Germany and the Netherlands.
Caravanning has been popular among Slovenes for decades. There are plenty of Slovenian-registered caravans in Slovenian and Croatian camps. I don't have a caravan, but I've used my relatives' and friends' caravans many times. There's a well-known Slovenian company Adria Mobil from Novo mesto producing caravans since 1965 and motorhomes since 1982. You can see many of them in Western Europe, with 6.5% share on the European market, making it #6 in Europe.
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Old September 4th, 2016, 05:19 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisZwolle View Post
I always go camping in a tent. There are tens of thousands of campsites in Europe, and you usually don't need to book in advance if you're not going to the most popular places in late July or August. I never do, it's very flexible.

Campsites are very cheap, right now I'm typing this from a marvellous location in the Pyrenees, and it cost me € 9 per night including free wifi. A hotel on this location would be ten times more expensive. Low budget hotels are usually in a commercial area, good for a one night stopover but not a great ambiance to spend multiple nights.

But it depends on what you're looking for, an all-inclusive vacation is usually not expensive, but the duration is quite short, when I was going with my parents we would camp in a caravan / tent for 3 to 3.5 weeks, such a long vacation would be incredibly expensive in a mobile home or hotel with a family of 5.

Camping is very popular among the Dutch, you see hordes of caravans with Dutch plates pretty much anywhere in Europe. The possibilities are almost endless, France is said to have 10,000 campsites alone, and many aren't even listed in the camping guides. I usually google an area for campsites and pick the most convenient / beautifully located one. The ones not listed in the ANWB or ACSI camping guides tend to have much fewer Dutch.
I've always travelled via (cheap) hotels.
We now bought a big tent for the family, couple of weeks ago, to travel next year. But I'm totally not experienced in camping, unless on music festivals 10 years ago.

In general it looks cheaper, but it isn't always like that if you include all parameters.
You have cheap hotels too, and you have mostly meals included, private bathroom, beds made up,... no cooking, no cleaning.
While the price of € 9 per night for camping isn't always like that. Aside the tent, you have to count all the travellers, and they have to eat meals aswel, electricity, shower,...

Anyway, for me it's just to camp sometimes during a trip further away, to avoid a more expensive hotel for sleepover. Camping in the neighbourhood of a city to be able to do a citytrip or culture aswel, to visit a museum, eat in a cosy restaurant, going out.

I don't know if there are much people doing that, driving away with their car each time during the day, coming back the evening on the camping for their sleepover. Furthermore: I want to travel, discover.

I probably have a total wrong idea of campings. Don't get me wrong or offended.
I don't see myself days and days on a boring camping, cooking and washing. And I'm kind of introvert, not the one going to socialize much with the neighbours in the mobilehomes.

I dislike the idea of mass campings full of caravans, and hordes of loud Dutch people (mind the smiley)
I think I'm going to look for small charm campings.

I'm probably not that guy that will love this kind of holiday, but I'll give it a try to discover it, my wife's idea actually. The kids will surely like it.

Btw, I'm signing in on this thread. Seems interesting for a newbie like me
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Old September 5th, 2016, 08:10 PM   #20
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Caravanning is popular among gypsies.
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