It has been a few years that we bought a campervan. In the time, we have driven around Europe in our van from east to west and covered many countries.
We drove to 11 different countries on our campervan, that includes three national parks, mountains, beaches as well as two music festivals.
With very little knowledge at the start of our first trip, we made a few rookie mistakes. Nothing serious but we laughed a lot at our stupidity and eventually learned how to explore Europe in our campervan like pros.
A lot of information that we needed about traveling Europe in a campervan wasn’t really available online because most of the website focused on living in a van, versus traveling in one.
Anyway, before we share our essential tips for exploring Europe by camper van, we’d like to discuss a few things to help you decide if van-life is really for you, and if it is – then what kind of van you really need.
Why Should You Consider Traveling Europe by Campervan?
I’m sure you know how a typical first timer’s Euro Trip looks like. A little bit of Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, Venice, London, Berlin, Vienna, Zurich, Porto, Lisbon, Budapest and Prague – usually all on trains and buses.
Guess what, these are really the most expensive European destinations. Moreover, the train transportation is expensive in Europe, especially in Western Europe.
If you’re on this page already, then I’m sure you’re looking for something different. Maybe you’re looking to explore the lesser visited and under the radar places in Europe that you can’t easily reach by trains or buses.
The best part about travelling around Europe by campervan is that you can go literally anywhere you want.
You don’t have to worry about high internal transportation costs, schedules, and connections. It makes your itinerary super flexible and as a result, an entire layer of possibility opens up for you.
Europe is one of the best continents for road trips because of super easy border crossing.
For instance, if you start driving in Belgium, you can be in Germany or France or Luxembourg or even the Netherlands in just a matter of 2-3 hours, and you won’t even realize that you’ve crossed the border because there aren’t any check points.
Just to recap, the below points summarize why exploring Europe by campervan is awesome.
- Public transport cost,
- Super easy border crossing,
- Flexible itinerary
- Access to smaller towns, natural sites and offbeat areas
Camper van vs Normal Van vs Caravan
Many people interchange these terms but they aren’t the same. We all know what a van is, but let me define a camper van for you.
A campervan is a van that’s specifically made for camping with a sleeping space inside. Or, a normal van converted into a campervan.
Apart from a place for sleeping, ideally a campervan also has a place for cooking. Some camper vans also have toilets inside.
A caravan also has all of this inside or even more, but it isn’t a camper van. Just for clarification – a caravan is a wagon what you attach onto your car and drive. You can’t drive a caravan without a car that tows it.
What Kind of Van do You Need?
If you’re a couple on a budget that loves adventure, then get yourself a small campervan. A smaller vehicle will give you an advantage of letting you enter smaller lanes. Moreover, the cost of camping, toll and parking is much lower for smaller vans.
On the other hand if you’re a family with more than one kid, then it makes more sense to get a bigger campervan so that you have the space and comfort you need. These are the typical RVs (Recreational Vehicles) that you see in American movies.
These are further divided into Class A Motorhome (looks like a big bus), Class B Motorhome (looks like a cargo van, bigger than a truck) and Class C Motorhome (looks like a moving truck house). Normally the Class C Motorhomes are the most common campers that you see on European roads.
If you’re enjoying your retired life with your partner and driving around Europe, then get yourself all the comforts you need. Get a spacious campervan that has a nice bed, kitchen and sitting area.
Renting a Van in Europe vs Buying
Should you buy a camper van for the purpose of exploring Europe on it, or should you just rent one? The answer depends on many factors.
If you’re visiting Europe for a few weeks or a few months, then obviously you will rent a camper van and not buy one.
However, if you’re going to travel on the van for a longer period of time (say a 6 months or a year), then renting can end up being expensive. In that case, buying makes more sense. You can find vans to rent on this car rental search engine.
Buying a campervan isn’t as easy as renting one. Below are the points you need to consider before deciding whether you should rent a camper van or buy one.
- First, you need to have enough money. Campervans aren’t cheap and even if you look for a used one that’s very old, be prepared to spend at least ten to fifteen thousand euros.
- Second, buying a van comes with the hassle of paperwork.
- Third, buying makes sense as long as you’re sure you will actually end up using it enough and as long as you can sell it back when you’re done.
- Four, buying comes with an expense of insurance and repair costs – keep all of that in your mind.
If you’re a total van newbie and would like to just get a glimpse of VanLife to determine if it is really your thing, then just rent one. This will also give you an idea about what kind of van you actually need.
VAN LIFE TIPS SECTION 1: Sleeping in the Van
The best part of “VanLife” is actually sleeping in your own little home on the road and waking up to an amazing view. In reality, you won’t have an amazing view everyday, but you can at least try.
Van Life Sleeping Essentials
There are many van life aspects where you can be cheap, but your mattress shouldn’t be one of them. Invest in a comfortable mattress otherwise you will hate your van.
If you’re not able to find a compact mattress that is easy to travel with for the size of your van bed, then just look for just a mattress topper.
Carry your pillow as per your sleeping habits. Make sure you’re carrying thin as well as thick blankets so that you are good to go for different weather conditions. European summers can be strangely hot and suddenly very cold in a matter of hours or days.
You will also need to get insulated covers to stop the condensation on the windows when it is cold, and also to keep the insides of the van cool during summer.
A silver thermal insulated window screen will also act as a black out curtain so that you can peacefully sleep after the the sunrise. [Btw, the sunrise occurs around 4:30 am in most of Europe during summer.]
Don’t have an air conditioner in your van? Neither do we. We do however have a battery operated Makita fan that works for 10 hours after a full charge.
I highly recommend this fan to you if you want to sleep comfortably during Europe’s summer heat. Summer means mosquitos, and Citronella mosquito repellant stickers will keep you safe. Plus they’re natural!
- Mattress or Mattress topper
- Pillows, blankets, bedsheet.
- Insulated window covers / Silver thermal window screen
- Makita Fan
- Citronella mosquito repellant stickers
VAN LIFE TIPS SECTION 2: Cooking in a Campervan
Apart from sleeping in it, another amazing aspect of traveling on a camper van is cooking your own meals on the road.
No, you won’t cook while you’re driving but at parking places or camping spots. We have a lot of information to share about cooking on a road trip outside and inside the camper van, so we decided to create an entire section about it.
Do You Really Need a Kitchen Inside the Van?
Not Really. If you have a travel stove and a small cylinder, you can cook outside. We have both – a stove inside the van and a smaller portable stove but we cook most of our meals outside.
Why? Well, because baby K was usually sleeping inside when we cooked our dinner and it made more sense to cook outside. It was generally more convenient to cook outside after spending most of our day inside the van.
Van Life Kitchen Essentials
If you’re building your van and converting it yourself into a campervan, then here are a few things we have in ours that are essential for any motorhome kitchen.
You will need a small countertop stove, a slot for the cylinder that’s preferably built into one of the kitchen cabinets, a sink, a small refrigerator, and multiple kitchen cabinets to store things.
It will make your life simple if you have one drawer that’s just for the cutlery, a hanging bag for plates, cutting board, cooking oil, a kitchen tissue roll fitting and small hooks where you can hang things.
Don’t carry a lot of kitchen dishes but only the basic stuff. Carry at the most two pots – one small and one medium-ish.
A small hand sized non stick pan is also a good to carry cookware. A cutting board, a big spatula (or two) for the non stick pan and pots, soup bowls, plates and cutlery and you’re good to go.
I haven’t seen a campervan that doesn’t have a refrigerator inside. In case yours is a van converted into a campervan, then it maybe doesn’t have a place for a fridge.
You can buy a small cooling box to store your food and use it as a makeshift refrigerator.
Your van also needs to have a small exhaust window on the top if you’re planning on cooking inside. If you don’t have a sink, then you can carry a bucket where you can keep your dirty dishes and wash them outside when you’re done.
Campervan Cooking Equipment
The stove inside your van can be a propane cooktop or even an electric cooktop. If your van doesn’t have one, then get yourself a portable stove and gas. A camping stove with 2 burners doesn’t cost double but is is surely useful so that you can boil rice or pasta on one and make sauce or curry on the other one.
If you have electricity in your van then get an electric kettle, it will make your life much simpler. An outside camping grill won’t cost much and it is surely a good to have item.
Campervan Food Essentials + Camping Meals
Simple rule – keep it short, fast and efficient.
We ended up buying a lot of useless cooking stuff before our first trip but we realised much later that we don’t need it all. We just need enough of the basic stuff when we’re on the road. Some of the easiest meals to make on the road are pasta and rice with daal.
Buy premade pesto, sauces and a lot of pasta to shorten your cooking time. Visit local markets and grocery stores to buy fresh vegetables to put in your pasta.
You can make a really good pasta sauce using avocados and you don’t need to cook it. Just mash avocado pulp with olive oil, garlic, lime juice, salt and chili. Add this to your hot pot of newly boiled pasta and your epic camping meal is ready.
Cook daal and rice together with salt and a few spices – it is called khichari in India. It is a “one-pot-meal” that’s perfect for camping and it always tastes good. Instead of daal, you can also add vegetables to make fried rice. In that case, you will just have to roast garlic, ginger and veggies for a few minutes in the pot and then add water and rice.
Just a recap, here are some awesome camping meals that you can cook in a jiffy. Most of them are vegetarian options but you can un-veganize them by adding smoked salmon or eggs or chicken.
- Pasta (raw avocado pesto, pre made sauces, or just with veggies)
- Daal and Rice cooked together (Khichari)
- Stuffed wraps or Burritos (Get tortilla wraps and stuff them with kidney beans, garlic, peppers, corn, jalapeños, avocado, salmon – try everything)
- Toast with bananas / eggs / avocados / cheese
- Bratkartoffeln (as called in Germany) or Aloo ki sabzi (as called in India) – potatoes sautéed in oil, garlic, chili, onions and herbs. You can add spring onion greens on top for the extra oomph. Or, meat eaters can add bacon.
- Sautéed veggies. Buy or pick fresh veggies and sauté them in a pan with oil and herbs.
VAN LIFE TIPS SECTION 3: How to Make Your Life Simpler on the Road
Alright, so you have your van, your kitchen is all set and you’re ready to go. What’s next? Most likely you have your destination picked out already. But hey, road trips are more about the journey and not much about the destination.
You will end up spending most of your time driving your van, so it makes total sense to consider the apps and tools to make your life simpler on the road.
Invest in a decent GPS Navigation system
Get one that covers all the countries in Europe – at least most of them. You will be surprised to know how some of them don’t. With a decent navigation system like TomTom, you won’t need to depend on your smart phone all the time.
Apps for Planning the Road Trip Itinerary and Route
You may have a rough idea of the route already, but you can modify it while you’re on the road using Google Maps, we discuss this in detail in the next point.
We also use an app called CamperContact, it has a database of almost every camping spot in Europe and they’re geotagged so it is easy to open the app and find a spot near you. If you upgrade the app to buy a full version, you will be able to view more details about the camping spots.
The biggest headache of driving a van in Europe is parking it. There’s an app called ParkMe, it will sort your life out by helping you find parking spots near you and how much they cost.
Getting the Most Out of Google Maps on your Road Trip
It is the most obvious app to use for road trips but not many people use all the awesome features to maximize their experience. If you know how to use Google Maps really well, you don’t need any other app. Really!
Google Maps will help you find anything around you, not just restaurants or gas stations but also camping spots.
Although there are many dedicated apps for finding campgrounds in Europe, we end up using Google Maps more than anything. Just type “camp” or “camping” in the search box and you will get a list of suggestions. You will also be able to usually see pictures, read reviews and see the prices of the camping spots.
Do you know you can search for waterfalls on your way to your destination so that you can make an epic stop? Try it. Just put “waterfall” in the search box and you will be amazed to see the result. Similarly, you can just find anything anywhere.
Want to save money and avoid toll? Set your Google Map’s navigation setting to avoid tolls and highways. It is as simple as that. As a result, your route may end up being a bit longer but will be cheaper and more scenic.
ADAC Membership will Save Your Life
ADAC is the largest automative club in Europe and it was founded in Germany. They have a massive fleet of mechanics on the move that help motorists. They also provide air ambulances in urgent needs.
I do not know of any single camper van or a caravan owner here in Europe that doesn’t have an ADAC membership. Not just for vans, but is for any kind of automobile as the organization helps the members in case of needs and emergencies on the road. If you sign up for a “plus membership” (ADAC Plus-Mitgliedschaft), you get services all over the world.
I am not affiliated with ADAC in anyway, but I’d just like to share their details with my readers because I truly see a value in this membership. You can check more details here on their website.
2021 Update: Our ADAC membership saved us. In 2021, we did a road trip to Italy and towards the end of the trip, my husband had a cliff jumping accident in Puglia. It was a very difficult time but thankfully ADAC coordinated everything for us.
They arranged for my husband’s surgery in Italy, they flew our family of 3 back to Germany for free, sent a car for us to reach the airport, and also got our car back from Puglia and delivered it right at our doorstep with all the luggage inside.
VAN LIFE TIPS SECTION 4: Finding Camping Spots
While traveling in Europe on a campervan, there are three kinds of camping spots that you will find:
Paid Camping Spots
An awesome thing about traveling in Europe on a campervan is that there is no shortage of decent camping areas.
Almost every town or village has a paid camping area that’s specifically designed for motorhomes and tents, and includes shared toilets, kitchen, bar, restaurants, a small supermarket, toilet disposal unit for vans.
Free Camping Spots
Yes, it is possible to find free camping spots too. Keep in mind that these “free” camping spots aren’t exactly beautiful. These are usually in gas stations parking spots or in rare cases, even supermarkets.
As you drive along the highway in most of the countries in Europe, you will see many resting spots along the way. Usually there is a sign that says what all you can expect in that resting spot. Some of them have a fast food restaurant, a paid toilet, an overpriced gas station shop, or even a children’s play area.
Finding these resting spot that you can use for parking are very easy because they’re well marked on the road. In any case, you can use Google Maps and park4night app to find them.
On all our road trips in Europe, we did not do find much of free camping spots that were picturesque. We mostly spent a little money to park in a scenic spot and enjoy our evening in a proper camping area with all the amenities. Only the times when we had to drive till the night was when we slept in our van in the fuel station parking.
Wild Camping in Nature in Europe – Is it Possible?
Wild camping isn’t allowed in most of the countries in Europe and most likely you won’t end up doing this. You can get arrested for this in most of the instances.
So, as opposed to what it appears in a typical “VanLife Europe” instagram post, you can’t just stop at any random scenic spot and camp in a majority of countries.
Out of all the European countries, there are just a few countries where wild camping is allowed on land that’s owned by the state. These are Spain, Norway, Sweden, Ireland, Estonia and Latvia. Even so, it is not easy to find land that’s not privately owned. We don’t encourage this because you can get into trouble for this.
How to Find the Best Camping Spots
The best part about traveling on a campervan is being outdoors. It is about finding a scenic spot, setting up the camp and enjoy being outside instead of the comfort of a hotel room. This is why I make an effort to find the best spots in the area while traveling on our campervan.
I use a combination of Google Maps, CamperContact and Booking.com apps. Yes, booking.com also has camping spots.
I prefer Google Maps because I can zero down on an area, search for something that’s next to the river or lake (based on the satellite image), read reviews and see pictures.
Many Campgrounds in Europe are Closed During the Low Season
How to save money while travelling Europe? Travel off season. Ironically it doesn’t quite work out like this because most of the places are closed during the low season.
Many campgrounds close operations towards the end of September and at the beginning of October. We got a big shock while we were driving in Spain, Portugal and France in October.
We knew some places would be closed during the low season but we didn’t know everything would be. There were days where every campground that we drove to was closed for the season. That’s when we decided to just park our van in the parking area of a fast food place on the highway.
If you’re traveling in Europe with your campervan during the low season, then be sure to call your camping spot in advance to see if they’re open.
VAN LIFE TIPS SECTION 5: Avoiding Costs – How to Make Your Van Life Affordable
How to Avoid Toll in Europe
I had no idea how expensive the toll fee can end up being while road tripping in Europe. There are some countries where the toll is super high (like France), and the others where it is non existent (like Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands).
There was one particular day as we drove from Normandy (France) to Bordeaux (France), we paid total toll of close to 100 Euros.
It is easy to avoid the toll most of the times – just change the setting of your in your car’s navigation system. You can set up your navigation settings on Google Maps app to avoid tolls and highways.
Just go to any gas station and ask for a vignette. You can find one based on the number of days you’re going to spend in that particular country. If you ever get caught without a vignette, it is going to be super expensive for you. I know a friend who paid EUR 200 in Austria for this.
Just go to any gas station and ask for a vignette. You can find one based on the number of days you’re going to spend in that particular country. If you ever get caught without a vignette, it is going to be super expensive for you. I know a friend who paid EUR 200 in Austria for this.
Lower Fuel Costs
A little effort and a few good driving habits can help you save a lot of money on a road trip. Not just with campervans but in general you should pay attention to how you drive and make an effort to lower your fuel costs.
Too much accelerating and pushing breaks is not good for the fuel efficiency. Drive at 60 as often as you can and on the right gear. Keep checking the air in your tyres frequently. A little drop in the air pressure can significantly increase your fuel costs.
Whenever possible, hunt for a cheaper gas station along your way and fill up the tank to 90% before it gets close to empty. GasBuddy app is great for finding current fuel costs as per your location and can help you find cheaper gas stations.
Avoid Gas Stations Along the Highways
Gas stations along the highways are way costlier than the others. A few cents make a difference and can add up to 8 – 10 Euros when you’re filling up your tank.
Most of the Western Europe is Expensive
Road tripping in France, Switzerland, and Austria is expensive because of the toll, fuel prices and camping costs. If you’re on a budget, then you may want to spend less time here or skip these countries entirely.
The Balkans are Beautiful and Affordable
I have said this before and I will say this over and over again. The Balkan countries are beautiful and affordable. The difference in costs is significant and should be enough for you to pick where to go.
I did write a very detailed Balkan road trip itinerary, and our favorite country for a road trip in that area is Bosnia-Herzegovina. If you are lucky, you may just find a beautiful camping area here like we did, and it was for free.
I also like the ease of road tripping in Croatia, as well as Montenegro. For me, the most interesting was Serbia because it is so offbeat, pretty and mysterious.
Big Cities = Parking Problem
Skip the likes of Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, Belgrade, and all the big cities.
First, parking will be difficult to find and expensive. Second, most likely there will be traffic and it will kill your mood. Third, everything is usually expensive in the big cities.
Save Money on Camping when You Can
Camping costs can be very high if you’re traveling with a big van during the peak travel period – the summer. San and I paid normally 20 Euros per night at most of the places with a small van.
The cost goes up if you have a bigger van and if you need an electricity recharging point.
Some of the most beautiful parking locations in Europe are on land that’s owned by farmers or the government. Not many of them will let you park there – unless you’re very lucky.
While I agree that camping at a scenic spot and waking up to an amazing view is the best part of van life, it can turn out to be expensive.
If you want to be smart with your money, you shouldn’t aim to find a beautiful camping spot every night. Parking your van near such scenic spots is never cheap!
From time to time, try to find free camping spots such as gas station parking areas along the highway in countries that allow like Germany and Belgium, or supermarket parking in other countries. Of course, you can only do this if none of the travelers need to put up a tent to sleep.
Save Money on Eating
If you have read this article thoroughly, then you probably know what I’m about to say, but I reiterate here: Cook your own meals to save money.
Buy fresh local produce and cook some epic camping meals to make your road trip memorable. Scroll up to the cooking sections to read about easy camping meal recipes.
Quick Country Specific Tips for Road Trips
Germany’s highways are free but most of the toilets along the road are not. If you stop at Sanifair or Serways, the toilets will be extremely clean and will cost from 50 to 70 cents.
The parking and resting stops along the highway are really big. You can normally park your van in these spots for the night to sleep.
While driving in Germany, be very careful about the traffic rules and road signs. You can stopped at many random spots for an alcohol or drug test. Even if you have not consumed drugs on the same day but consumed a week before, you can be in trouble.
Apart from Liefkenshoektunnel in Antwerp, Belgium’s roads are all toll-free. The signs are mostly in local language. Did you know 60% of Belgium is Dutch and 40% French? So expect to see the road signs in either French or Dutch but not both of them together often.
The roads are very good in the Netherlands but expect congestion in summer near beach destinations such as Zandvoort. When driving in towns and cities on smaller roads, always give priority to the cyclists.
For affordable parking near cities in the Netherlands, look for “P + R” (Park and Ride) signs. You can park your van here and use the public transport to enter the city.
Of course, if you’re including a busy city like Amsterdam in your itinerary then this is where you can park and get inside Amsterdam using public transport.
Out of all the countries that we have road tripped in, France has the most expensive toll. There are really good resting stops along the highway with free toilets.
France is one of the few countries where the toilets also featured a super tiny WC for the toddlers. It was adorable and thoughtful. The only other one I saw was in Belgrade, Sebia.
When entering the highway, you will get an entry ticket at the toll station which you will have to present later at the exit toll station and make a payment. If you lose your entrance ticket, then you will be charged for the longest length – so keep it safe.
The expressway class S roads, national roads and motorway class A roads are very well maintained in Poland. However, the same can’t be said about the smaller provincial level roads. Certain A level roads are tolled.
Poland is infamous for reckless and aggressive driving behavior, so watch out when you’re there.
Many travel guides mentioned that driving in Spain can be nerve wrecking and many roads are “one-way”, but we did not face any challenge ever.
With the help of our GPS and Google Maps, we thoroughly enjoyed driving in Spain. Not just along the coast but the landscape was spectacular even in the middle of the country.
Spain completely lifted our spirits up when we arrived here form dull France. The weather was petter, people had massive smiles on their faces, the food was more flavorful, and things were affordable.
While in Spain, we loved stopping in small Spanish towns and visiting the coffeeshops / bars for a quick snack and drink. Eating and drinking in Spain was generally affordable for us as compared to France and Germany.
We were warned by many about watching out for erratic driving behavior in Portugal but we did not encounter any. The experience of driving through small Portuguese towns, from the mountains to the coast was beautiful.
When in Portugal, make sure you stop at smaller road side bakeries and try the famous custard tarts / egg tarts (pastel de nata). I talk about the egg tarts in almost all of my blog posts from Portugal.
Driving in Slovenia was a good experience for us because of the road condition and landscape. Be sure to get a vignette as soon as you enter Slovenia. You can get is from a gas station and it comes out to around 15 euros per week (2019).
Croatia has highways that connect the major cities and they are not free. Upon entering the roll road, you will get a ticket. You will need to present this ticket at the time of exiting the toll road. The toll fee isn’t expensive in Croatia. The Croatian highways have frequent rest stops and some of them also have play areas for children.
When in Austria, you need to get a vignette – failing which, it can get very expensive. The vignettes can be bought in gas stations in Austria as “Vignetten” for 10 days €8.90. If you’re just driving through Austria and not staying, then get a Korridor-Vignette instead. It is valid for a single trip for €2 or a round trip for €4.
If you’re caught driving in Austria without a vignette, it will end up being very expensive for you. It starts with a little over €100 and can go up to €300 on the second day if the fine is unpaid. Post that, valuables can be seized from your car.
The vignette needs to be stuck on the windshield to be valid, preferably in the top centre or the driver side corner. Do not share the vignette with anyone otherwise you will have to pay a very high fine.
Switzerland has some of the most beautiful roads for driving in Europe. Just like Austria, you need to buy a vignette to drive on them, failing which can end up being very expensive for you.
Watch your speed while driving in Switzerland because there are many areas that have speed cameras after every 2 kilometers. Believe it or not, you can be literally thrown into the jail for speeding. Your driver’s permit can be revoked if you’re caught driving 20 KMs per hour more than the allowed speed limit.
Bosnia & Herzegovina
We have driven twice in Bosnia & Herzegovina (B&H) and it was a memorable experience. While driving in B&H, we have been warned not to leave the paved road for even a toilet break because of the threats of landmines.
The country is beautiful and affordable but don’t expect the very good roads. Our best driving experience in B&H was along the river Drina.
Europe by Campervan itinerary ideas – Some of Our Favorite Routes
Nature trail in the Balkans
This is our favorite road trip itinerary for road tripping in Europe and is mostly around the Balkans. This itinerary starts in Croatia where you can start in Zagreb or Pula or Plitvice Lakes. From there, this itinerary goes from one natural paradise to another in Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, Bulgaria, Romania and the Balkan countries. This trip also includes many national parks. You can find more details here in my post about this epic Balkans road trip itinerary.
Germany’s themed routes
Germany has many themed routs that road trippers will love. There’s the famous “romantic road” that most of us have heard of but do you know there’s also the fairy tale route, a castle road and a wine route? We have a post about Germany’s themed road trips on our website, check it out.
Portugal and Spain
Our second visit to Portugal and Spain was in 2019 with our new camper van. We actually started from Germany and crossed Belgium and France but the best part of our road trip was in Spain and Portugal. We suggest you start in Zumaia (Spain), and from there drive along the coast the Galicia area. Make sure you include Valdovino and Playa del Silenco in your itinerary.
From A Guarda in Spain, you can drive to Portugal’s coast starting from Afife, Porto, Vagos and Figueira da Foz. From there, you have an option to continue along the Portuguese coast to Lisbon, or you can drive to the middle of the country to see the mountains in Serra da Estrela Natural Park. From here, you can enter Spain and spend some time in the Salamanca area.
Check my blog over the next few weeks because I aim to publish an epic Spain – Portugal road trip post.
The Best of the Netherlands
The Netherlands is an amazing country to cover on a road trip, especially if you don’t have a lot of time in your hands. The Netherlands is small as compared to many other European countries. We have a post about amazing places to visit in the Netherlands with an itinerary suggestion that starts from Belgium or France. We have another post with a suggested road trip itinerary for Netherlands that includes a few offbeat places.
Northern France Coast – Normandy to Bordeaux
The route from Normandy to Bordeaux in France is lovely and you will get to see some amazing natural and architectural attractions. You don’t necessarily need to stop at the starting and ending big cities. Instead, make a stop at Etretat, Honfleur, Mont Saint-Michel, and a few other small towns of your choice along the way.
Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way
Driving along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way is surely the best route in the country for a road trip. The best part is that it can be modified in many different ways. We did a road trip that started in Kerry, then went on to Westport, Achill Island and Ballina in Mayo County.
East Bohemia in the Czech Republic
Prague isn’t the only destination in the Czech Republic but there are many other picturesque smaller towns, castles, and natural attractions that are worth a visit. Start at Pardubice, then head to Sec to relax in the nature and enjoy the viewpoints, next – head to Litomysl and explore the art scene and end your trip in the magical Svojanov where you can get a break from camping and sleep in a castle.
Tuscany to Selento (Italy)
Drive from Central Italy to South Italy’s beaches. Start in the Tuscany region, which is known for picturesque landscapes and historical art scene. It is where the Italian Renaissance art scene began and spread all over. From here, you have an option to drive to Rome or head to Monti Sibillini National Park and move towards the coast. We recommend the latter because the more you drive, the more you would want to avoid entering big cities.
From the Sibillini mountains, you can make your way to Selento by making stops at small fishing villages on the way such as Termoli, Trani – or find your own new destination.
The Dolomites in Northern Italy
Drive around Northern Italy’s little villages up in the Dolomites. You can start this trip in Verona and make your way up to Trento, Alpe Cimbra, Val di Non. This area looks really beautiful in spring because of apple flowers. You can also stop at the lovely Lago di Tovel – a stunning clear lake that’s surrounded by the mountains.
Many Italians say that North of Italy isn’t the “real Italy”, but this trip is about nature. To enjoy the best of Italy’s culture, make a trip to South of Italy.
Austria & Slovenia
Explore the Alps and spectacular alpine lakes. Start in Austria’s Salzburg from where you can go to Mondsee or Ebensee lakes. Next, visit Hallstatt, then Slovenia’s Lake Jasna, Lake Bled and finally Lake Bohinj. Lake Bohinj is spectacular and you can camp right next to it in Camp Zlatorog Bohinj.
Final Thoughts about Travelling Europe in a Van
Living in Europe, we have tried multiple ways of exploring this continent. We have used buses, trains, hopped on to budget flights and also backpacked across Europe, but nothing compares to road tripping.
The experience of travelling around Europe by campervan opens up a lot of possibilities in terms of accessing destinations that are not served by public transport.
Greg Anderson said that one should focus on the journey and not the destination. This quote applies really well to the Van Life experience. It is truly about the journey.
So, are you interested in driving around Europe in a van too?
Did follow our campervan travel tips or are you living the Van Life?
Tag @drifterplanet on Instagram and hashtag it #drifterplanet. We will be happy to share your journey with our audience.
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I found your website very helpful as I plan my family’s summer camper van getaway. I do have a question about stickers that I may need for the vehicle as I enter different countries. We are planning on Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Any info for where to find that out would be great!
Great ! I have a future plan of visiting Europe by campervan.
I’m Eduard from Romania, I saw that you haven’t been here and I tell you it’s a pity ! You should visit sometime also Romania, you won’t regret it !
I have been to Romania in 2018 and I have quite a lot of blog posts about it on my website. 🙂 You can find them under “destinations”
Hi there! I am in love with this article! I do have a question. I want to live on the road. So literally ten years or so be vanlife 100%. How do I as an American, buy a vehicle that I can KEEP.? Everyone does the buyback in 2 years thing but we don’t want to return it we want to keep it and keep traveling. Every country with requirements says you must have residency.
we will be traveling to germany, austria, swiss , france and netherlands via a RV.
any suggested route u think we should be going ?
Excellent stuff, I am also planning to retire in Europe and will need a Campervan
Great post for europe traveling. Thank you so much for sharing.
Glad you liked it. Yes, the best way to travel within Europe is by van or a camper van.
Really appreciate your elaborate details, which I found to be very useful.
We are relatively new to camping and traveling in campervans. My family includes myself, wife and toddler son of 2 years. Our only camper van experience have been in last July when we made a 12 days ring road trip in Iceland in a motorhome. Now we are planning a 15 days trip in Europe starting end of April. Vienna-Prague-Salzburg-Munich-Luxembourg-Paris. My question is, in your opinion, is this route safe for family travelers? Can I find camping spots (paid ones) easily in this route? or is it far away from each other? What’s your advice when we approach cities? Shall we opt for a parking spot on the outskirts of the city and travel by rent a car in the city? Any other things that we needs to take care of? please advice.
Hi Jithu, wow a road trip with a camper van in Iceland sounds really good. I do like your 15-day itinerary but in my experience driving in those big cities that you just mentioned, isn’t so easy with a van. You will have to find paid camping spots that are a little outside. We did drive through some big cities like Paris but the experience was horrible because of the traffic and lack of parking spots to even get out to eat in a restaurant. Of course, things are different if you have a small car but not with a camper van. So, with that experience, I’d suggest you park outside the bigger cities and use public transport or a bicycle with a child carrier to explore the cities. Or, just avoid the cities and pick smaller towns or national parks.
Thanks a lot for your valuable comments dear 🙂