The Ultimate Guide to Traveling Europe in a Campervan

So as you all know, for the past 5 months or so Kyle and I have been travelling around Europe in a camper van. As I have been asked how much we have spent and how much is needed to save to survive Europe’s high prices I thought I would write a post on all the ins & outs of travelling on a budget in a campervan. As we have only ever travelled in the van most my tips and advice are going to be based around that particular type of travel. For those looking to travel in a van, or who are currently, than you are about to receive some life saving advice that I wish I had before heading out on the road. I now regret not doing my research more, because it would have saved us some serious dollars, and some serious stress! The tips I am going to share have only been learnt through months of travelling and gaining advice from other travellers along the road; especially our friends Naomi and Jared who we travelled with for over a month & inspired us from the beginning to embark on this adventure (check out their Vimeo). No way would we have gained this type of information without them. Thank you for opening our eyes to camper stops & the guidebook bible, avoiding tolls, maps me, amazing camper meal ideas & shopping at Lidl. Don’t know where we would be without you both & your Veggie Chilli (with extra sour cream) 😝.

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Why travel in a camper van:

  • You have a lot more freedom as to where you want to go and how long you want to stay. We got to see places that we would in no way had the opportunity if we were taking public transport.
  • Save money on accommodation through free camping or staying at cheap campsites or aires.
  • Being able to park up right on the beach for somewhere to sleep – and then waking up with beach front views.
  • Save money on food through cooking meals.
  • Not having to deal with constantly carting around heavy luggage.
  • Having your own home to sleep in every night instead of random hostel beds that are known to give bed bugs!

Why not to travel in a camper van:

Yes as much as I wouldn’t change it for the world, there are a few downfalls which I thought I should share.

  • Not being able to stay city centre was pretty frustrating at times. There is rarely a campsite or aire city centre, so you’ll have to catch buses or other modes of public transport in.
  • Sometimes harder meeting new people due to the fact that you aren’t staying in shared accommodation such as hostels or air bnb.
  • Getting stung with extreme toll prices (which can be avoided. I’ll discuss further down).
  • Having to pay high prices for petrol in certain areas.
  • Harder to access wifi if you are free camping or staying in a camper site which doesn’t offer wifi.

Things to look for when purchasing the perfect van:

  • Enough height to stand up in (A MUST). One thing we don’t have and wish for!
  • Comfy bed
  • A sink with running water
  • Cook top
  • Cupboard space for both your clothes, belongings and food
  • Shutters for your windows
  • A leisure battery that can charge off the alternator
  • Toilet if you aren’t too keen to go outdoors when wild camping

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How Much Money to Save etc.

For everyone wanting to know how much we spent in the 6 months we were travelling around in our van, it was close to $30,000. Thats including travel insurance ($900), purchasing our van ($5000), car insurance ($1000), petrol ($5000) & all other travel expenses including food, campsites etc. (These prices are a close estimate).

Now don’t freak out, cause I know that sounds like a tone of money! But take into account there was 2 of us, it was spent over a course of close to 6 months, and we travelled through 10 different countries. As time went on we got better with our money and learnt tricks on dodging prices and spending less. Our next stint out to Europe we aim to only spend around $15,000, which is totally doable now that we have some experience and know all. If you are smart about it, you can set a budget for around 50 euros a day (including petrol).

If you are still freaking out at this number, remember that you can earn money back when you sell your van. Just think, how much money will you end up just throwing away on plane, train, bus, and taxi tickets? Probably thousands. And how often will you have to wait around at an airport or train station with all your luggage waiting to get from one destination to the next? Yes, we spent $5000 on petrol, but yes we got to travel wherever and whenever we pleased. No waiting around or struggling to get to areas that are hard to reach by public transport. And at the end of it all, you can sell your van and have the extra couple of thousand dollars to go home with. How good is that!

My aim for this post is to help people save money when embarking on a similar adventure. Cause hell, if we had this kind of advice before we hit the road, we probably could have saved thousands of dollars. So please keep reading because I want your trip to be as smooth and inexpensive as possible.

Petrol and How to Save

For all Aussies, you think petrol is pricey back home.. Try coming to the UK and Europe! It’s double the price. Unfortunately it’s around £1/L plus in the UK and 1 €/L plus in Europe. Little cheaper in Europe which is good but we still ended up paying around $5,000 aus dollars in total. Ouch right!

Whilst in Venice we met someone who told us we could offer lifts to other travellers trough this social networking site called Bla Bla Car. You can literally just add your journey into this site (e.g. Venice to Rome), pick a price per passenger and wait for any responses. This is a great way to save money on petrol, and to also meet other travellers!

Toll Roads & How to Avoid

Don’t make the mistake we made, by thinking toll roads weren’t really going to cost that much. Cause they do! We spent around €100 euros on tolls driving down the west coast of France. It was rather upsetting especially when you are trying to budget. So before you hit the road make sure you have an updated sat nav that is able to ‘avoid tolls’ & try purchase a book that shows what roads do and don’t have tools, and how much they cost. A good reference is The European Drivers Hand Book – which will give you some vital information on driving through all European countries. Including all toll roads and costs.

If you’re going to avoid tolls through your sat nav, you’re most likely going to be taken on a much longer route – and most likely through small towns. This is where you’ll need to weigh up your options whether the extra miles is worth avoiding those costly toll roads. If you’re in no rush and don’t mind detouring then this is usually the best option to save some money.

Tip: France is by far the most expensive country for tolls, so if you’re not all that keen on taking non toll roads your whole journey through Europe, I would advise to try skip France’s toll roads if any. Spain is probably the best when it comes to toll roads. Aren’t anywhere near as expensive and there’s less of them. Phew!

Camperstops, Campsites, Wild Camping & Urban Camping

Camperstops

If you want to take away any advice from this post, let this be it! Go online and PLEASE PLEASE purchase yourself the latest Motorhome Guide Camperstop: Europe book. It will become your bible! It features almost 9000 motorhome stop overs (also known as aires) throughout Europe, detailing their facilities, prices and location. Typically, prices vary from absolutely free to 25 euros. These camper stops are meant specifically for camper vans. They are ALOT cheaper than campsites and are a great alternative when travelling on a budget. The only downfall is that camper stops don’t have great facilities, and sometimes no facilities at all. If you are lucky you will get clean showers, wifi & electricity.

Another great option for finding camper stops is through an app called All Motorhome Parkings. I also used this app ALOT to find detailed information about motorhome sites, their location and price range. We slept in a lot of motorhome friendly carparks for free because of this app. But beware that some of the locations it takes you too are a little dodgy and questionable. Can’t remember how many times we slept on a slant and with one eye open. Haha! But don’t worry, we slept safe and sound every night.

Campsites

If you are looking for far better facilities, wifi, electricity, atmosphere, pool etc. than campsites are the way to go. Campsite pricing usually varies between 15 euros to 40 euros a night. An easy way to spend money right? On average we stayed in campsites maybe 2 nights a week, cause geeez some days you just wanted to have a clean shower, be able to call home or browse the internet without having to sit in a McDonalds for hours on end. Haha!

When visiting most cities, campsites are a better option as you feel safer leaving your van there the day, and can usually catch a bus close or directly from the campsite into the city centre.

Wild Camping

Wild camping is amazing when done right. If you’re lucky you will find an amazing location – like next to a lake, or beside a mountain, or on the shores of a beach; and you get to stay for free! One night we backed right up on the beach in Nazare, Portugal and watched the sunset over the ocean from our bed. It was such an amazing moment!

Some nights do not go according to plan though, and you may find yourself driving for hours trying to find a spot to wild camp for the night. This can be rather stressful at times, and can result in a very uncomfortable sleep. You could try do some more research past this post and find out where other people have wild camped throughout Europe. Scotland is the easiest and greatest country to wild camp in. We were able to sleep next the lochs, on farm land and on cliff faces over looking the ocean.

Make sure you research wild camping regulations within the country you are travelling because it can be illegal in some places. For instance it is illegal in Croatia, and if you are caught you are slapped with a huge fine. Lucky enough though campsites are generally cheaper and are usually in good locations.

Urban Camping

Urban Camping is when you park the night in an urban or industrialised area (i.e. a neighbourhood side street or on the side of the road). It is not the most ideal option, but you’ll be surprised at how often you will have to do it. Too many nights we left it to chance and ended up having to park in a random carpark or out the front of somebodies house. 

If you want to park out the front of a shop or a restaurant for example, than you can go and ask permission first. That way you’ll feel more comfortable sleeping the night. Usually they will say yes, & sometimes they’ll ask you to make a purchase of a drink or something cheap, which is fairly reasonable. Urban camping is definitely not something of first choice, but it did save us a lot of money. 

Saving on Food

Spending lots of money on food is so so so easy! There’s nothing more I love than to eat out at a restaurant and experience local cuisines. The first few months we were eating out almost every night. The excitement of it all was blinding us on this so called ‘daily budget’ we had planned. We spent way more over budget in those first few months because we literally had no self control and would most times eat out even when we weren’t hungry. I do not regret it though. I mean, we were in Europe after all! What is travelling if not for the different types food!

After we realised our bank accounts were getting drained at a rapid rate we had to start being smarter about our choices. We eventually decided to put our little make shift kitchen to more use and started doing weekly supermarket shopping so that we could make our own meals. Our weekly food expenses dropped from about 50 euros a day to 10-20 euros a day.

The best supermarket to shop at is definitely LIDL. It is exactly like Aldi but even cheaper. It’s perfect for basic camper meal supplies. We would do a weekly shop there, and only spend 30 euros. I couldn’t believe how much money we were saving and how good camper meals could actually be! It’s a great way to eat healthier too. I started eating a lot more vegetables, fruits and salads. Cooking in the van became a regular thing, oonly really allowing one or two nights a week to treat ourselves and enjoy a night out.

Some camper meal ideas include:
  • Oats with fruit for breakfast (literally our staple)
  • Veggie Chilli (add lots of vegetables & beans)
  • Veggie Curry
  • Lots of different kinds of Pasta! (Our regulars were Pesto and Tomato)
  • Tuna on rice cakes for lunch
  • Salad sandwiches
  • Tuna sandwiches (Yes we ate ALOT of tuna & a lot of sandwiches)
    • sandwiches are a great option for when you’re heading into a city for the day & don’t want to spend money on food. Pack more than 1 though.
  • Nachos (if you have a grill)
  • Soup (tinned tomato soup was my fav)
  • Fried Rice
  • Tacos
  • Stirfry

Meals were limited to mostly dry foods, as our fridge could only be plugged in when driving or when connected to electricity. Our cupboard was always stocked with tuna, beans, spices, oats, crackers, pasta, sauces, vegetables (especially cauliflower because it lasts forever!), bread rolls, rice etc. All supplies can be bought at LIDL.

If you’re a lover of meat than your budget may look a little bigger. Kyle loves his meat but pretty much became vegetarian on the road because it saved more money, and more trips to the supermarket to eat fresh that day. Way to risky keeping meat in an unreliable fridge.

Navigating at ease

Get yourself a sat nav before anything else! It will help avoid toll roads and save a lot of arguments between you and your partner (or whoever you’re travelling with). If google maps was accessible offline it would be my first choice of navigation preference. Sat navs can sometimes be unreliable and take you on some tedious routes.

Another useful navigation system we used was an app called Maps Me. You can use it offline as long as you download the region first. Maps me is really good if you are looking for a point of interest: restaurants, tourist destinations, petrol stations, shops, accommodation etc. It can not avoid tolls though, so keep that in mind. You are only able to avoid tolls through your sat nav or Google Maps.

Best way to navigate is through GPS coordinates (well in my opinion anyway). You can google any location’s GPS coordinates and easily insert the numbers into your sat nav, google maps or Maps Me. Also the Motorhome Guide Camperstop: Europe book will detail every camper stops GPS Coordinates, making it super easy to punch into your sat nav and get directions immediately.

If you have any questions please feel free to ask! I hope this will help you on your adventures, and hopefully make things cheaper and a whole lot easier. I have enjoyed sharing my little secrets.

Hayls x


38 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Traveling Europe in a Campervan

  1. Hey 🙂 I love your detailed Post and your pics are amazing, how do you shoot them and edit them that it always Looks like sunset 😀
    I am from Germany btw 😛

  2. Hi lovely

    Did you just get your van on gumtree or similar? Heading over in June and trying to work out how to get the van in the first place, register it etc!

    Thanks
    Stacey x

  3. As a single woman with a teen, would you recommend camper vaning when it comes to cleaning out wc’s, grey water etc. How is this done and do I need “male” strength to manage this and gas bottles etc. I have no idea what’s involved. You don’t read much about the yucky stuff.

    1. Hey Linda,

      We didn’t have a wc we just went outdoors or at a campsite toilet. I don’t think they are very hard to clean out thought an easy job :). Gas bottles are pretty easy too you can usually find someone who will regas and re attach for you 😊😊 no male strength needed 👊🏼 most campsites can arrange for a gas change for you! Feel free to ask any other questions

  4. Excellent tips! We’re going to road trip around Europe next summer. I haven’t realised how much money those tolls will require. We definitely have to check our car’s navi if it has tolls. In Finland you never have to use that feature because we don’t pay any tolls for driving around.

  5. I believe you can use Google maps offline, as long as you have sufficient storage on your SmartPhone to hold the relevant maps, and make sure they do not expire. I use it fairly regularly; happy to share “how” if you are unsure.

  6. Hello, just really wanted to say thank you for the article on motorhoming it around Europe and your tips! We’re looking at 3-6mths next spring/summer and was really useful to read your advice & things to look out for. Lidl here we come ;)!

  7. This is SUCH a helpful blog. We are about to embark on a 7 month holiday in Europe with our 14 month old son – 6 months of which we will be travelling via a camper. We (mostly my husband) have done quite a bit of research already which will come in handy, but admittedly your blog has given us some pointers that will aid in us saving money even further. Which is a huge relief as we are conscious of our budget with the 3 of us! I intend on writing a couple of blog entires whilst we are travelling. I would love to reference your blog when I write mine, letting others know we founds useful and handy tips from it. Only if this is ok. There are only a handful of well written and helpful blogs on this sort of subject and yours would have to be right up there with one of the best. Thank you for being so concise and honest in your blog. It really was a great read and I will reference it whilst I am away. I was meaning to ask – where abouts in Australia are you guys from? We live in Brisbane 🙂

    Jessica xx

    1. Hey Jessica! Thanks so much 🙂 so happy this has helped people. If we had this information prior we would have saved ourselves heaps. So glad I can help out for your trip! Of course I am more than happy for you to reference my blog 🙂 I wish you all the best in your travels! xx

    2. Hi, I would love to follow your journey when you start. We are looking at doing a year around Europe in 2019 with our son who will be 8 going on 9.

  8. Hello Haylsa,

    love your blog and we got great tips and ideas from it. We are looking at hiring a campervan for 2 weeks in September and to travel through France, Monaco, Italy, Switserland, Germany and back to Paris. We are campers in South Africa, so we were planning on using our little kitchen quite often.

    We probably want to spend more evenings in camp sites and now know what budget for. We have purchased the camperstop guide for Europe (should receive it in about 10 days) and hopefully we can plan our route and timetable (except when we find somewhere we would like to stay longer).

    I agree with you regarding good food, wine and local cuisine – will the camper guide give us any ideas on when local towns have their market days so that we can purchase fresh vegs at theses markets.

    Thank you once again for a great blog!!!

    Regards

    Ron & Sonja from South Africa.

    1. Hey Ron & Sonya!
      The camper guide doesn’t have any info that I’m aware of haha. We used our lonely planet for tips on local cuisine and markets 🙂 You should definitely purchase one!

      Thanks for reading! So glad I can help like minded travellers 🙂

      Haylsa xx

  9. Hey your blog is fantastic! My hubby and I are embarking on our year long adventure in september around Europe in our camper. We have 16K (GBP) is this a realistic budget if we want to wild camp mostly but eat out a few times a week?

  10. Hey! Great info and tips!
    How did u go getting around purchasing a van for Europe without having an address for registration? We are planning something similar we are from central Victoria.
    Thanks!!

    1. Hey Bianca 🙂 we had an address set up cause my boyfriends family lived in Scotland. It’s pretty difficult to do without but I’m sure there is loops holes. Just read up on forums xx

  11. Great tips! Glad I found your write up. Myself and two girlfriends are taking a year to travel Africa and Europe in 2018. We are planning on buying a camper van in Britain for this. We are quite worried about the Schengan zone timeframes tho. Have you any tips on avoiding the 3 months in and 3 months out issue?

    Cheers,

    Julie.

  12. Hello, what dates and route did you drive around Europe? We’re a bit stuck on whether to spend the summer in western Europe and the med or head to northern/ east Europe during summer and spend winter in the Mediterranean. Any advice would be a massive help!

    1. I would definitely head to Western Europe for the summer!! There are amazing beaches which you won’t want to miss out on. You can do cities in Eastern through winter 🙂

  13. Hey Haylsa 🙂 Me and my partner are doing a van trip around Europe atm and have found your blog super helpful! The Camperstop book/app is such a lifesaver! But just wondering what did you guys do gas wise? We left from the UK with a UK gas bottle which may run out soonish and are trying to figure out the best way to replace it (apparently the attendants won’t refill it over here, we’re currently in Spain) what kind of gas bottle did you use during your trip? Did you need different bottles or attachments for different countries?! Thanks, Kelli

    1. Hey Kelli,
      You can usually get your gas bottle refilled at camp sites around Europe. We only had to change it twice and once was at a campsite and one we researched somewhere in the local area. Super easy! You don’t need different bottles 🙂

  14. Great tips! Thank you so much. I’m going to Europe in the winter (Nov-Jan 2017/18). This has given me so much information. Am definitely purchasing the guidebook and app. We are hiring a campervan as only there for 7 weeks, and we are trying to fit in as much as we can.
    Happy and safe travels!

  15. Lovely write-up with great lifesaver tips. (y)

    We are planning small camper van trip to Europe in February-2018. It will be our first trip to Europe and first camper van trip too 🙂

    I want to ask some questions –
    1) Will it be advisable to sleep in camper van in February temperatures?
    2) Can we take Voyager camper van to cities ? Or we have to park it outside city and catch local transport for site seeing in city ?
    3) Is there country specific driving rules we need to follow or its almost same in whole Europe?

    Thanks,

    1. hey there! Amazing what a trip you have ahead of you 🙂

      1. It will be pretty cold! but if you have thermals and warm blankets I’m sure its not too bad!
      2. Usually we would have to camp outside cities which was kind of a downfall 🙁
      3. Pretty well the same everywhere.. Just toll rules are different in some countries. I would just advise to do a little research before visiting your next country.

      Hope this helps!

      x

      1. Hi,

        Thanks for reply and clearing my doubts.

        We are studying and making country wise list of specific driving rules.
        One major drawback for us will be french language, which we do not know yet.
        Will try to learn at least basic of it.

        Appreciate your valuable help.
        Will come back if need any more advice/tips 😉
        x

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