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Where can I park my van?

Van parking is important for vanlifers, whether it's for a short break or a long-term trip. Finding the right places in 2024 to park your van is essential for your comfort, safety and peace of mind. But it's true that it's not always easy, as parking bans are becoming increasingly common.

When you hire a van from us, many of you ask us: "Am I allowed to sleep anywhere? Well, no. In France (and in other countries), there are certain rules to be respected, and even more so today. Vanlife' is often seen as an idealised experience, but the reality can be quite different depending on the region. Here are a few ideas and a quick reminder of the rules so that you can leave with peace of mind.

Translated with (free version)

Advance planning :

Before setting off, it is "essential" to plan your itinerary, taking into account the parking options available at your destination. It is also important to find out about local rules and laws (even if they are not always legal, unfortunately).

Types of parking :

These days, thanks to the internet, it's pretty easy to find parking for your van roadtrips. There are various solutions:

  • Campsites are often the most expensive but also the safest option. Rates vary from region to region, and you have access to all services, which can sometimes be useful.

  • Landscaped areas : Provided by local authorities or sometimes by private companies, car parks are often less expensive than campsites. Services are basic, generally allowing water to be emptied and refilled. Their proximity to towns and villages is a significant advantage.

  • Park4night spots : An invaluable application in the field, with a free and a paid version, it allows you to find both paid and free spots, and recently even private sites set up by individuals for a small fee (generally the rates are lower than for camping).

  • Camping on the farm : Some farms welcome vans and camper vans free of charge, and also offer short educational tours to present their activities. This allows you to participate in the local economy and consume more responsibly. There's also the France Passion association, which you can join. You'll then receive a sticker and a complete guide to over 2,000 winegrowers and farmers where you can park your car.

  • Camping with local people : another solution that is slowly developing. There's already a website where you can book directly and see what other travellers think: Homecamper.

Safety :

Don't forget to look carefully at the reviews of the locations you choose, and in some regions or countries, avoid being too isolated for safety reasons. Also listen to your instincts: if you don't feel comfortable in a location, don't stay.

Environmental and social impact :

We can't stress enough the importance of responsible parking that respects the environment and your neighbours (homes and other recreational vehicles).

The rule is simple: don't leave anything behind - you'll always find bins further on to dispose of your rubbish. Keep it as clean as you'd like it to be.

And what does the law say about all this? :

When it comes to parking for the day, a van is considered to be a car, so you can park in any car space during the day. However, when it comes to sleeping, that's where things get tricky.

Wild camping is banned everywhere in France. So you can't park in one parking space and take your table and chairs out in the next, because that's considered unauthorised camping. Of course, this rule applies depending on where you are. If you're lost in the middle of nowhere, nobody will mind! On the other hand, there's nothing to stop you sleeping in your vehicle (without a pop-up roof) in a normal parking space, as long as you don't take your things out. In practice, however, the situation can be unclear in places.

What's more, the rules vary from one commune to another, as mayors are free to ban certain areas or not. Be sure to look out for the prohibition signs.

It is also forbidden to sleep in the vicinity of dwellings, historic monuments, public roads, classified forests, national or nature parks, the seashore and within 200 metres of a water source.

If you are travelling abroad, find out about the regulations in force in the country concerned.

You can also read this very interesting article on the subject on the "Le monde du Camping-Car" website.

Photos by Evelyne Oustrain, photographer in Pau and Alexis Bechet.

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