Camping is a fabulous and extremely inexpensive way to see Europe. It’s fabulous because you really do feel like a nomadic explorer when you travel with your home on your back – or in your car – so to speak. And it’s inexpensive of course because you’re not paying for the ‘luxury’ of sleeping surrounded by four walls because you’re in a tent. And when you’re saving money on accommodation well, then you can spend your hard-earned cash on really investigating what a city or country has to offer by way of day trips, historical sites and fun attractions.
Firstly though, probably the most important thing for your health (both physical/ mental) and comfort is the fabric home you’ll be staying in (ie your tent). If you’re camping by foot then obviously you want to go for the most lightweight product possible. Having said that don’t go out and look for the cheapest model you can find. It’s important to have a tent in Europe that can stand up to changeable climates – wind, rain and – God forbid – snow.
A tent such as the Easy Camp Go Spirit is easy to assemble and take down, so is perfect for all the frequent pitching involved in touring. If it’s more of a family-holiday jaunt you’re embarking on then you might want to take a look at something like the Avantegarde Arkansas. This is large, spacious and fits easily into most cars. Prior to planning your camping journey it’s a good idea to break down your holiday into subject areas and focus on one at a time such as:
Food and Cooking
You’ll find that most campsites in Europe either have a restaurant or a shop on-site. As such it’s not necessary to haul heavy tins or annoying packets of food around with you. Items can be more expensive in an on-site shop than the supermarket though so bear this in mind if your budget is very restrictive.
If you’re planning to cook over an open fire check with the campsite owners beforehand that it’s OK to do so. Many don’t allow it due to health and safety reasons. BBQs are usually tolerated – provided they don’t cause too much smoke.
This can be split into day and night time activities. Hiring a bike (many campsites in Europe offer this facility) is a great way to explore a new place. Hiking, especially if you’re in the countryside, also comes highly recommended – but remember to take water with you.
Spending a day wandering round practising your photography skills can really open your eyes to new places and it’s practically free. Foraging is fun! If you’re near a forest look for mushrooms (but check they’re edible before you try), berries and plants.
Evening entertainment back at the campsite tends to be more sedentary. There’s the old staple of ghost stories around the campfire of course (do some internet research before you leave home) or some star gazing. Does anyone in your company play a musical instrument? Sing songs are always fun as well. Toasting marshmallows always goes down well (and is a great accompaniment to any of the above).
Getting Around (on foot)
If you’re planning to hitchhike remember there are rules about where you can and can’t ask for a lift. This varies from country to country but mainly it’s not permitted near motorways, intersections and bus stops. It’s a good idea to read up on this before you head for a particular country as you don’t want to end up spending part of your holiday in a cell!
The best way to improve your chances of getting a lift is to secure a good spot ie somewhere where the car will have room to stop and where it’s not too busy. If there’s plenty of cars around drivers will assume someone else will pick you up. You could invest in a cheap CB radio to find out if lorry drivers are passing the service station you’re waiting in. Petrol stations in Mexico are a good way to secure a lift.
If you’re crossing a border make sure it’s okay to do so on foot. It’s illegal to cross the Turkey/Greece border for instance if you’re not in some form of transport. Also, in some countries such as China, Cuba and India your driver may expect some payment for the lift!
Be prepared for the fact you might not get a lift and will have to do quite a bit of walking. Never hitchhike at night – no-one wants to pick someone up in the dark (unless they have a disturbing motive!).
Money and Currency
The Euro is everywhere currency-wise in Europe although sterling is still in use in the UK.
Cash (or ‘hole in the wall’ machines) are a good way to access cash when abroad (provided you use a debit rather than a credit card otherwise you’ll be charged huge interest). It’s also a good idea to have two cards with you in case you lose one (which is easily done).
When it comes to buying souvenirs or goods some places, such as smaller corner shops, will only take hard cash so it’s worth bearing this in mind. When changing currency it might be tempting but try to avoid doing so at the airport or a train/bus station as you won’t get a decent rate here.
Politeness & Cultural Norms
Again, it’s worth reading up a bit on this before you go. Tipping is one area where cultures vary enormously. In Switzerland for example, the tip is usually taken care of in the bill whereas in Britain it is customary to tip around 10 per cent of the cost of the meal.
You shouldn’t address someone by their first name in Finland or Portugal unless you were invited to do so or wanted to seem very rude. And never describe a Spaniard as ‘stupid’ as it’s a much stronger derogatory and insulting term there than in other cultures. Don’t flout your opinions in France. The French believe these should be kept to oneself or discussed with family/friends and not for public consumption. And when dining in Italy don’t cut up your spaghetti (which is seen as very poor behaviour) – try just using your fork or curling it up up against a spoon.
We hope the above tips help and that wherever you go, your European camping adventure is one you’ll remember for years to come. Do leave your tips in the Comment box below.
Author Bio: This article about travelling in Europe with a tent was written by David Scotland, a keen outdoor enthusiast, who himself has travelled across Europe with only a tent, a roll mat and a road bike, courtesy of his workplace, who sponsored him – an online camping retailer called Outdoor World Direct.
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Packed fill article. I´d like to add that in Spain even the most basic category site must provide a bar/restaurant and that most campsites now no longer allow barbecues but many have an shared bbq area that can be used.
Thanks for info re Spain Rachel – always good to get up-to-date info.
If I had the chance I would live in a tent! I love it. We have spent many a summer holiday under canvas around Europe – even with 10 month daughter and dog! I have found people to be more sociable / friendly on a campsite than in a hotel.
If you are not sure about whether you are going to like it or not why not try out sites that have tents already set up and kitted out. Not as cheap as bringing your own but a good halfway ‘house’ if you are not really sure whether its for you or not. Lots of good tips in this article thanks.
Good tip Catherine. I got converted to camping some years ago on an idyllic week in Devon. The main thing we never have enough of are torches – to hang inside the tent and take to the washblock the journey to which at night can be one of the most dangerous adventures known to man, woman and child!
In Eastern Europe you can still wild camp if you like this and you’re ok with the legal “grey zone” (not in the big towns but in wilderness or at periphery). A small solar panel to charge your phone and gps is a good idea, a petrol cooker, a torch, a pepper spray… and as you say a light and quality tent!
When you going for the travel or camping, you must think about the Best Family tent for living in outdoor location.
Good advice Alina 🙂
Great post, I and my friends mostly camped during our travels around the world. These tips guide and provide an appreciation for more travelling with tents, Thank you:)