Campervan Rental in France
The Ultimate Guide (Part 1)
Setting Your Itinerary
If you really want to explore France by campervan, you’ll need more than just a few days. The country is vast with varied terrain and you will travel more slowly in a vehicle of this size. Plus, you will want to linger and wander instead of rushing from town to town and city to city. You won’t want your campervan trip to end too soon so take your time and surrender to France’s laid-back and intoxicating “enjoy the finer things in life” attitude.
Most motorhome hire companies require you lease a vehicle for a minimum number of days – five days is standard. If you don’t want to spend longer than that in a campervan then try basing yourself in one of France’s many cosmopolitan cities for a few days before you pick up your vehicle and head for the motorways.
Almost everyone who has done this sort of trip in France will tell you to plan less and do more. If your itinerary means hours behind the wheel instead of mingling with locals, wandering markets and sitting in charming cafes, then you may want to rethink your plan. It is also good to be flexible: your route may evolve as you find out about hidden gems that take you off the beaten path.
One French RV rental company offers the following as good guidance on the distances you should plan to travel:
Ideal/relaxing: 100 to 600 km per week
Comfortable but less relaxing: 700 to 1000 km per week
Challenging/a bit too far for most: 1,100 to 1,400 km per week
Don’t do it! It won’t be fun: Anything over 1,500 km per week.
Remember, every 60 to 100 kilometres of distance you spend driving a motorhome will deprive you of approximately one hour of something that’s more fun.
These are some popular routes and will offer up some of the best things to see and do in fabulous France:
Start in Montpellier and end in Nice — This is a spectacular route that will guide you up the coast. There are vineyards along the way and natural wonders such as wild horses and charming seaside villages along with amazing cities.
Start in Calais and end in Provence/Côte d’Azur — Stop in Arras for lunch and to see its splendid squares then head to Reims for a tour of its gorgeous gothic cathedral. Continue through the picturesque Champagne countryside and then onto the beauty of Burgundy, stopping in Beaune.
Explore the Backroads of Provence — Begin your journey in Avignon with a fabulous lunch and tour the town on foot before departing for L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue for a Michelin-rated meal. Next is the hill-town of Roussillon, which you reach after following winding roads with mountain views before you get to the village of Les Baux-de-Provence.
Your dream trip is yours to design and there’s no shortage of wonderful cities and delightful destinations around every corner in France. Whether you are into WWII history, gastronomy, arts and culture or family-oriented fun, you can design a trip to match your interests.
The Best Times of Year to visit France
The weather in France varies by region and elevation, so check forecasts for each destination before you begin your packing. In most places, you can expect four seasons with temperatures that fluctuate accordingly. Shoulder seasons such as spring and autumn are excellent options, not just for milder weather, but also because popular sites are less crowded before tourism peaks in mid-July to late August.
In general, climate won’t be a major consideration in deciding when to go. Northern France can be wet and unpredictable but Paris rarely reaches any extremes of heat and cold. West coast weather, even in the south, is tempered by the proximity of the Atlantic but storms can brew up in summer. The centre and east have more continental climates. The most accommodating weather is along and behind the Mediterranean coastline and on Corsica.
Choosing the Right Vehicle
Motorhomes are called camping cars in France and are a welcome and frequent sight on roads and in small towns. There are many varieties available so you can select what is just right for your budget, the size of your group, and what you want to see and do. There are also many upgrades on offer which may greatly improve your comfort during the trip so don’t be afraid to splurge a little – you are on holiday after all!
These are essentially tricked-out vans that are great for road-trips and very popular with younger travellers. They are rather basic in their amenities with only a bed, gas stove and some sort of cooler or icebox (what Australians call an “esky” and New Zealanders a “chilly bin”). Two berth vehicles are great for those on a budget who don’t need a ton of frills to make them happy.
Two Berth with a Shower and Toilet
Just as it sounds, a van that sleeps two people easily but also has a shower and toilet on board so you can camp almost anywhere without inconvenience.
Picture a traditional campervan; ideal for small families of two adults and one child. They are lightweight and easy to drive and you won’t be intimidated by their size.
If you have up to four people in your party this is the way to go. You get more room to move and larger sleeping spaces. Often the dining area converts into a secondary sleep area. They come with a cooking area and bathroom.
Five Berth and Six Berth
These are usually up to 7.2 metres in length and, while they vary in layout, they typically have three double beds. These large vehicles are great for families or couples who want room to move around. They run on either diesel or petrol with your choice of transmission and come equipped with kitchen and bathroom facilities. They often have extras such as TVs, air conditioning/heating, freezers and DVD players.
The vehicle images shown are for illustrative purposes. Actual vehicles will vary by rental brand and location. Full vehicle specifications are provided in search results. Click here to do a search.
Campervan Rental Basics
Each company includes different gear in its leasing package such as kitchen crockery, pots, pans, linens, and so on. Inquire as to what is included before you book your camper. Saving a little on extras may not be much of a cost-saver in the end if you find you need to purchase lots of essentials you can’t take home with you. Your vehicle will need to be returned empty so, if you have a bathroom on board, an understanding of sewage disposal and greywater is required.
Camping in France
France is an ideal destination to camp not just because of the extraordinary scenery but also because there are tons of campgrounds to choose from. The country welcomes motorhome drivers with open arms (or, rather, kisses on the cheeks!), and you’ll have ready access to amenities with ample parking even in popular tourist spots.
Most councils have strict rules about overnight campervan parking and in urban areas it is most likely illegal. However, there are wonderful mobile home parks with close proximity to public transport, so you can travel into the heart of any city in no time. Parks are not just clean and comfy; they often have very cool extras such as pools, spas, restaurants and more!
Public Holidays in France
- January 1: New Year's Day (Jour de l'an)
- April 14: Good Friday – applicable only to Alsace and Moselle/Lorraine.
- April 17: Easter Monday (Lundi de Pâques)
- May 1: Labour Day (Fête du premier mai)
- May 8: WWII Victory Day (Fête du huitième mai or Jour de la Victoire 45)
- May 25: Ascension Day (Jour de l'Ascension, 40 days after Easter)
- June 5: Whit Monday – also known as Pentecost Monday (Lundi de Pentecôte)
- July 14: Bastille Day (Fête nationale)
- August 15: Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Assomption)
- November 1: All Saints Day (La Toussaint)
- November 11: Armistice Day (Jour d'armistice)
- December 25: Christmas Day (Noël)
- December 26: Boxing Day/St Stephen's Day (Deuxième jour de Noël): applicable only to Alsace and Moselle/Lorraine
MAJOR EVENTS IN FRANCE
- Tour de France - Finishes in France each year at end of July
- Mardi Gras - anytime between February and March, depending on when Easter falls
- Monaco Grand Prix - late May
- The Cannes Film Festival - mid- to late May
- Bastille Day, or La Fête de la Bastille - 14th July
- Festival de Carcassonne - July
Road Safety in France
Here are a few things to keep in mind while driving in France...
- The number 112 can be dialled to reach emergency services – medical, fire and police – from anywhere in Europe
- Snow can be heavy in certain areas and chains may be required to drive
- Avoid driving into Paris – it’s not worth the trouble
- In common with other countries on the Continent, France drives on the right side of the road. Make sure you are driving on the correct side!
- Driving through historical towns and villages is often difficult as they were built many years before the car was invented and some of them are simply unsuitable for traffic. Instead, park elsewhere and walk around or take public transport
- In the countryside and mountainous regions you may come across poorly-maintained roads so drive with caution
- France has a low legal blood alcohol limit for drinking and driving, so do not drink and drive as even one cocktail can put you over the limit
- Drivers of a vehicle in which any occupant is not wearing a seatbelt face getting three points on their licence and a heavy fine
- Children under 10 need to be seated in a car seat or on a booster.
There are things that you need in your vehicle in France:
- Driver’s License
- Insurance Documents
- Proof of Ownership (V5 Log Book)
- Headlamp Converters
- Warning Triangle
- Spare Bulbs
The Definitive Guide to Campervan Rental in France
Planning Your Trip
Ensuring your camper van tour of France is the very best...
Everything you need to know for a motorhome road trip in France...
Information about key motorhome brands in France...