If you’ve done a lot of camping in different countries on the continent, you’ll already be painfully aware of just how standards differ.
In France, for example, where camping is something of a religion, the facilities are usually excellent. But they’re also usually fully booked up during August when the French nation as a whole tends to go “en vacances”.
The great thing about camping in France for those of us who like to tour around a bit are the “Camping Municipale” sites. Every commune in France seems to have a municipal camping which is provided and run by the public sector. As a consequence, the facilities are almost always excellent and the rates are incredibly cheap. So these really are an absolute boon if you’re travelling on a budget or you simply want somewhere quiet and clean to stop for a night or two on your way to another camping location. These sites aren’t usually as picturesque as the privately run ones, and don’t usually have flashy facilities such as swimming pools etc., but they’re always clean and well-run, and that’s much more than half the battle.
The same cannot be said of the publicly provided sites in most other European countries – so it’s essential to plan your journey well in advance if you’re planning to travel at the busiest times of the year. Spanish campsites, for example, are generally inferior to the French ones. The same can be said of Italian campsites.
Having said that, there are some excellent ones in both these countries, but these tend to get booked well in advance as they’re more like mini holiday parks (though the same can also be said of a lot of French sites).
For many of us, though, the real ideal of camping is the ability to move around as and when we want to by bike, motorbike, car or camping car – so if that’s your plan, then France really does beat the rest hands-down.
Elsewhere, it really is case of doing your own research thoroughly before you go. But as a busy and lazy camper who tends to get around most often in a camper van, I love the ease of going to France on a quick and easy cross Channel ferry – and the fact that I really don’t even need to think about planning ahead. Spontaneity and freedom are the things that make camping so wonderful for me – and I love to move on or stay depending on my mood, a whim and the weather. So France really has it all on that basis thanks to the fact that each of its regions offers something so markedly different from the next and the provision on campsites – whether public or private – is generally excellent. I don’t need to worry about it or plan ahead – just drop my sleeping bag in and I’m away!
This article is written by Kieron who is a VW Camper Van enthusiast, keen walker, camper and Francophile – who spends a lot of time with his wife in France and their backpacks stuffed with baguettes!