Ever thought about RVing in Europe? It was a dream of ours for a long time, so last year we moved to France and did exactly that. And it’s been just as incredible as we imagined! Perhaps you’ve wanted to do the same, but just haven’t known where to start. Well hopefully this article will cover a few of those burning questions so you can make your own European RV dreams come true.
What is European RVing Like?
I guess the first thing everyone wants to know is what is it like? In many ways European RVing is similar to the US, and in others very different.
First of all RV’s are called motorhomes, campervans or camping cars in Europe. They tend to be much smaller (~20-26 ft in size), have no slides and no air-conditioning (typically) and use little cassette toilets instead of black tanks. They take a bit of getting used to, but they are really well-made and laid out. I’ve come to love them.
Europe tends to be denser than the US, with narrow roads and tons of charming little cobblestone towns, old churches and historic castles, many of which are centuries old. But there’s also lots of nature, high mountains and wild coasts, and you can switch between them all in less than a day of driving. I like to say that’s it’s dense and intense.
Campgrounds have smaller sites and generally only offer electric hookups (maybe water), but they come in all ranges and tend to have excellent facilities. Plus there are plenty of places to stay for free or almost free. And of course European RVers are super friendly, just like RVers in the USA. I think that’s a worldwide thing.
When is the Best Season to RV in Europe?
RVing in Europe is lovely any time of year, but there are certain seasons we prefer.
Summertime (June-Aug) is high season and frankly our least favorite time to RV. Kids are out of school so it’s crowded, rentals and campgrounds are more expensive, and you often have to book ahead, especially in popular areas. The only exception we make to summertime RVing is Scandinavia, where crowds remain low and summer temps are near-perfect. That’s a special experience.
The shoulder seasons (April-May, Sept-Oct) are lovely just about everywhere, so they’re our top-recommended time to explore UK and Continental Europe. Crowds are gone, temps are mild and prices on rentals and campgrounds are all lower. Some sites start to shut-down towards the end of September, but otherwise it’s near perfection. We just love these months!
Winter RVing (Nov-Mar) can be fabulous in southern Europe, especially in countries like Spain and Portugal. Lots of retirees head south in winter, so there’s a decent number of campgrounds that stay open all-year, plus rentals are reasonable, weather is fab and travel is wonderfully easy. It’s another great time to go!
How Do You Rent an RV in Europe?
If you’re coming to Europe for a short stint, then renting an RV is the easiest way to go.
Most folks end up paying ~$1000/week, but prices can go as low as $350/week or as high as $5000/week. Big rental agencies like Motorhome Republic (www.motorhomeseurope.motorhomerepublic.com), France Motorhome Hire (www.francemotorhomehire.com) and McRent (www.mcrent.eu) are good places to start your search.
What About Buying an RV to Travel Abroad?
If you plan to travel for more than a few months in Europe, then buying will be much cheaper than renting! The only problem is that most European countries require you to be a resident to do so.
If you have (very good) friends in EU who are willing to help you, that’s a possibility. Otherwise there are agencies that offer specialized sell-and-buy-back services for non-residents. You buy from a dealer who registers & titles the RV for you, then you simply sell it back at an agreed-upon percentage of the purchase price when you’re done with your trip. For longer-term travel “rental costs” can easily drop to less than $100/week this way!
How Long Can You RV in Europe?
Americans traveling to Europe are limited by the 90/180 rule. Basically you are allowed to stay visa-free for 90 days in the 26 countries that make up something called the “Schengen Area” (= most of Continental Europe and Scandinavia), then you have to be out of Schengen for the next 90 days before you can come back again.
What this means for longer-term RV travel is that you just have to watch your dates.
So, for example you can RV through Spain, France & Germany (all Schengen) for 90 days, then go to a non-Schengen country (e.g. UK, Ireland, Croatia, Romania, or Ukraine) for the next 90 days, then drive back into Schengen, and so on.
There are other ways to stay longer-term in Europe (e.g. long-term visas) but sticking to the visa-free limits is the simplest option.
How Much Will it Cost to RV in Europe?
Last topic just because I know you’re dying to know, but this is also the toughest one! SO much of RVing costs depend on when, where and how you like to travel.
So, it all depends! From the budgets I’ve seen and our own experience, I’d say typical daily RV expenses for a couple can vary from $50/day (lower end) to $150/day (high-end). It’s a big range I know, but so are RVing styles!
Hopefully that gives you a taste for what European RVing is like and how to get started. Here’s to keeping those dreams alive, and maybe we’ll see you on this side of the pond down the road!
Nina Fussing SKP#106238
Nina Fussing is a blogger, photographer and all-around nature-lover who spent 8 years fulltime RVing with her hubby & 12 paws around USA. They are now in Europe continuing the adventure there.
Follow their story at: wheelingit.us
Did you like this post? Pin it to Pinterest!