Why Don't More Travelers to Europe Camp?
from Travelers Guide to European Camping
If European camping is so great, why don't more people do it? A good question. Our theory is that Americans don't camp Europe because of some fears and misconceptions about conditions that have either changed or that were never true.
It's too crowded in Europe for camping. A lot of people think that Europe is so crowded that there really would be no place where camping would be fun. North Americans tend to think of camping as a visit to the great outdoors. For us it usually is, with our National Parks, our thousands of miles of beaches, and our mountains and deserts.
European camping destinations are necessarily somewhat different. Many campgrounds are near cities. Europeans use these campgrounds as an economical way to travel, and we can do the same thing. Almost every European town of any size has a selection of campgrounds available to the visitor.
Campgrounds are also used by Europeans as destinations for extended vacation visits. Many Europeans get a month off during the summer, usually in July or August, and they flock to the seacoast and to sunny southern locations. The vacation campgrounds that they use are a little more like what we Americans are accustomed to. They are located near beautiful natural areas or places with great weather. Places like the Alps, the Mediterranean coastline, or southern Portugal. Even in these places, though, the campgrounds tend to be privately owned and provide more in the way of facilities and entertainment than we are accustomed to. Best of all, campgrounds are never crowded except in July and August, the rest of the year most places aren't even half full.
It's too expensive. Many Americans probably hesitate to camp Europe because they worry about the cost of a European camping trip. The truth is that once you reach Europe the costs are very much like those of camping in North America. Campground costs are virtually identical. Most campgrounds cost between ten and twenty dollars per night. The more expensive ones are located near important tourist destinations and cities. Those scattered around the countryside cost less. You'll spend more time using these country campgrounds than you expect, they are pleasant because you're off the beaten track, you can experience foreign culture in a rural setting, you will probably find it more traditional and relaxing than the culture of the big cosmopolitan cities.
Food costs are similar to those in North America., assuming that you eat the things that are eaten in the area you are visiting. Most European countries now have supermarkets similar to those we have in the U.S. and Canada, in some cases much larger. Your food costs may be a little higher than back home, but it will probably be because you are experimenting and enjoying things that are unavailable or just too expensive to buy in North America.
Gasoline is the one big difference. The citizens of many European countries pay more than four dollars per gallon for gasoline. They get around this problem in many ways and so can you. First, the distance between destinations in Europe tends to be much smaller than in the U.S. and Canada. The shorter distances will do a lot to lower your fuel bills. Many European motor homes have diesel engines. Diesel gives about a 50% fuel saving over gas because it is cheaper at the pump and provides more energy per liter than gasoline. Propane is also much cheaper in some countries and a lot of campers use this for powering their vehicles. Finally, European campers are just a lot more fuel efficient. They do tend to be smaller than those in North America, and the cost of fuel is the biggest reason. Overall, you will probably find that fuel cost in Europe will approximate what you would spend if you were RVing in North America.
Driving in Europe is too difficult. The thought of driving in Europe probably worries a lot of North Americans. We all have mental pictures of the problems. Those traffic circles in London or Paris where you just can't get out once you get in. Driving on the wrong side of the road with controls on the wrong side of the car. Crazy French or Italian drivers and the German autobahns with no speed limits. Trying to get your RV down a narrow English country lane or under a low French bridge.
The truth is that Europeans aren't supermen. They drive every day and so can you. The freeway originated with the German autobahn, and now there are freeways all over Europe. Most of them, even in Germany, now have reasonable speed limits. The roads are first-rate and can easily handle larger rigs, after all, the trucks use them. The horrific traffic we see in movies is in the big cities, and you can avoid that. Good public transportation makes driving in the big cities unnecessary. Most of Europe drives on the right side of the road, only in the British Isles do they drive on the left. European drivers tend to be better than the ones you encounter in North America, statistics show that they have lower accident rates. You can handle it.
European camping is too complicated. European camping is different. That is why we've written this book. We think that once you read about how easy it really is you'll be a convert.
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