We spent 3 weeks in France as part of our van life travels around Europe and we had an absolutely amazing time. We wanted to share everything that we did and learnt with you in hope that this will help inspire your own van life France trip!
We arrived in Calais via the Eurotunnel from England and this was the start of our time in France, with our dog Lottie. Please read on for all of the places we visited, some facts about van life France and some hints and tips.
Van Life France Quick Facts
Currency – Euros
Language – French (Not so many people speak great English once you get out of Paris! so be prepared with the essential words such as hello, goodbye, please, thank you etc)
Schengen Zone – France is in the Schengen zone, so for people from the UK, it does count towards your 90 day allowance in the EU
Fuel / LPG Cost – Roughly 1.90 a litre (diesel) (in Feb / March 2022, a very expensive time for fuel!!) LPG is around 0.7 a litre and is also available at a lot of service stations.
Toll Roads – There are lots of toll roads but they are expensive and if you are not in a rush, then take the back roads, they are more scenic! However, there will be some places you may want to consider them, such as in the south of France, where the back roads can be very narrow and hectic roads
Places to park / stay overnight – There are lots of Aires all over France, if you download the Park4Night app you will find plenty of different types of places to park such as campsites or free park ups, for the day and for overnight stays. We stayed at some great parkups, both free and paid, all over France, we’ll detail them below!
Water / Electricity / Emptying – There are plenty of places to do this all over France, at Aires or campsites and also service machines at service stations.
Laundry – A lot of the Supermarkets around France have self serve laundry machines in the car park. We used them and they cost around 12 euros to wash, dry and washing detergent was included. It took around 1 hour and 15 minutes in total. In this time we did some shopping in the supermarket and did some work in the van, so it was no time at all to wait.
Supermarkets – There are lots and lots of supermarkets all over France which is great if, like us, you don’t plan to eat out much on your van life travels as you are on a budget!
What do you need to travel to France via a motorhome or campervan?
- Driving License
- Covid Vaccine Pass
- Vehicle V5
- Motorhome Insurance
- Travel Insurance
- Pet Insurance (if you are travelling with a pet)
- Animal Health Certificate (If you are travelling with a pet that doesn’t have a valid pet passport)
- Photocopies of all documentation
- GB / UK sticker
- A European Travel Car Kit – Warning Triangle, Hi-Vis Jacket / Waistcoat, First Aid Kit, Fire Extinguisher, Headlamp Adjustment
- If you have a bike rack on the back of your vehicle (it doesn’t seem to be compulsory as far as we could tell) but we have a rear warning sign
Our Van Life France Journey
Embry was our first stop in France after we had arrived on the Eurotunnel. This was just a stop for us to get settled in on our first night, we didn’t really plan to do too much here. We found an amazing Aire on Park4night which was 10 euros with toilets, and services were available at an extra 3 euros. We went for a short walk into the small commune Embry, where this is not much to see and do but the Aire is in the countryside so there are some nice walks around it to go on.
Whilst we were at this campsite we made friends with Mary and Paul who were from Holland, we shared tea and cakes with them for Paul’s 60th birthday! It was a wonderful start to our van life France journey.
If you are looking to do the same as us and just find somewhere quiet and peaceful to stay for your first night in France then we would highly recommend this Aire – , Embry, 18 Rue Principale, Pas-de-Calais, France (park4night.com)
Next, we headed to Deauville which was our first real stop in France in terms of exploring. We found a central park up which was free, just outside of a church, which we found on Park4night – , Deauville, 18 Avenue F de Kergorlay, Calvados, France (park4night.com)
Although the park – up was quite busy in the day, it was peaceful at night.
Deauville is a seaside resort on the Côte Fleurie of France’s Normandy region. It is famous for its grand casino, golf courses, horse races and American Film Festival. It has a beautiful, wide sandy beach which we walked down at sunset and it was stunning.
The houses and architecture in Deauville make it look straight out of a fairy-tale!
They also have a hippodrome, where we were able to watch the horses training in the morning.
We really, really enjoyed ourselves here and would recommend Deauville to anybody who is travelling in this area of France.
Mont Saint Michel
Mont Saint Michel has to be our favourite place of all of our time in France. Nothing prepares you for actually seeing this spectacular sight in person! It was honestly one of the most incredible things we have ever seen.
We parked at a motorhome car park which we found on Park4night which was the closest car park to Mont Saint Michel. We spent a quiet night here and felt safe so we would recommend this car park – , Beauvoir, Le Bourg, Manche, France (park4night.com)
We first visited Mont Saint Michel in the afternoon and we loved it so much that we just had to go back the next morning at sunrise and we’re so so glad we did, the colours from the sun rise made Mont Saint Michel look even more incredible.
Mont Saint Michel is an absolute must see for anybody travelling France!
Saint-Malo is a port city in Brittany, in France’s northwest. We parked at a campsite for the night whilst we were here and it was such a busy campsite! We were really surprised considering it was off season, but it was a Saturday and also the weather was beautiful, I think we had a 20degree weekend in February which is crazy! it was a good campsite though with all facilities which we found on Park4Night.
We did a lot of walking in Saint Malo! The campsite we stayed at was around 45 mins – 1hour from the centre of Saint Malo so we walked in, walked all around Saint Malo and walked back, so we definitely got our steps in on this day!
Saint Malo has a beautiful, long, sandy beach and with the lovely weather we were lucky to have, the atmosphere was great! There were lots of people surfing and having fun on the beach.
We walked all the way into the city centre where we wondered around and had some lunch at one of the many restaurants which was delicious. Tall granite walls surround the old town, which was once a stronghold for privateers.
Saint Malo was home to the only British fish and chip shop that we found in France, and it was closed when we got there, so disappointed!! The chip shop is one of the things we have really missed about the UK on our travels!
Bordeaux is is a port city on the Garonne River in southwestern France. Bordeaux was the first big city that we visited in France. Whilst it was a beautiful city with amazing architecture all over, it was quite busy even in off season. We don’t love busy, big cities too much. We feel like once you’ve done one city, it can feel like you’ve done them all! But Bordeaux was definitely worth a visit and we’re glad we did it whilst we were there, to see beautiful monuments such as the Cathedral and the Place De La Bourse.
We parked at a car park which we found on Park4Night which was around a 30 minute walk from Bordeaux . It was free and it was safe – , Bordeaux, 14 Rue Daniel Guestier, Gironde, France (park4night.com)
We also stayed at this wonderful chateau the night before we went to bordeaux which we would highly recommend! – , Saint-Loubès, 39 Chemin de Bernes, , France (park4night.com)
Dune Du Pilat
The Dune Du Pilat is the tallest sand dune in Europe. It is an incredible thing to see, we haven’t seen anything quite like it before!
With miles and miles of sand, thick forest on one side and the sea on the other, it is a truly unique sight.
It is quite difficult to walk up to the top of it but the sights once you are up there making it totally worth the effort.
We parked at the car park that is on site below the dune, there is plenty of space for motorhomes and campervans.
We visited a few different spots in the French Pyrenees, all so beautiful in their own ways. Some of the views we saw from the winding, mountainous roads that we drove were some of the best we have ever seen. Although some of the mountainous roads can be nerve wracking!! The views make it all worth it!
Saint Jean Pied De Port
Saint Jean Pied De Port was our first stop in the Pyrenees. Saint Jean Pied De Port is a commune in the Pyrenean foothills. One of the main attractions of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port is its citadel. The Citadel has a city wall all around it which was used to look out during battles which is really cool to see!
Lac Du Castet
Lac Du Castet is a lake in the Pyrenees. The activities were closed when we went in off season but in season there are lots of water sports and activities to do at the lake. It was nice to go to anyway to have a walk around and the lake has really beautiful views of the mountains in the background.
Lourdes is a religious and holy place in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains, famous for the millions of pilgrims that go there every year as the holy water at the sanctuary is said to have healing powers.
in 1858, the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to a local woman at the sanctuary.
The sanctuary is absolutely stunning and well worth a visit if you are ever looking for things to do in the Pyrenees.
We found roadside parking a short walk from the sanctuary. We visited in off season on a Sunday afternoon so it was quiet, roadside parking may not be so easy to find in high season.
Cauterets is a spa town, a ski resort and a commune in the Pyrenees. We obviously didn’t do skiing as we were with Lottie, but it seemed to be a really lively ski resort, we arrived late on a Saturday afternoon and there were lots and lots of skiers in the town centre.
Cauterets is a great location to start hikes in the mountains also as it is in the heart of the Pyrenees national park.
There was more that we would have liked to do in the national park but everything that we had been reading online said that unfortunately dogs are not allowed right in the heart of the national park due to wildlife protection which we were really disappointed about! I don’t know if we would have just tried it anyway whether we would have got away with it, but we didn’t want to take the risk.
We did a great walk anyway which we found on All Trails – Cauterets – Haut de Catarrabes – Cambasque – Hautes-Pyrénées, France | AllTrails which had amazing panoramic views over Cauterets and the mountains so we would recommend this walking route if you are looking for something dog friendly.
We stayed at a park up which we found on Park4Night – , Cauterets, Avenue Charles Thierry, Hautes-Pyrénées, France (park4night.com) It wasn’t the best, it was noisy as the town was very noisy as it was a Saturday night! And the facilities were not great, but it was ok to stay for a night with a good central location and it was safe.
Nîmes is such a unique place that we hadn’t ever heard anything about, we came across it by chance but we’re so glad we visited here! It’s a Roman gem, in France! Nîmes is known for well-preserved Roman monuments such as the Arena of Nîmes, which is an amphitheatre still in use for concerts and bullfights. It genuinely felt like we were in Rome at the colosseum, so surreal.
We were absolutely taken by surprise at how many beautiful roman monuments there were here, and what a stunning place Nîmes is.
Some of the monuments that we went to were –
- Les Arènes
- Maison Carrée
- Jardins de la Fontaine
- Temple de Diane
- La Tour Magne
- Castellum Divisorium
- Les Halles de Nîmes
- Nîmes Cathedral
- Place aux Herbes
We absolutely would recommend a trip to Nîmes if you get the chance!
Gorges Du Verdon
Gorges Du Verdon (Verdon Gorge) is one of the very popular tourist attractions in France. It is a river canyon in south-eastern France with the most glorious turquoise and green waters that you have ever seen! The landscapes of the Gorges Du Verdon are simply spectacular.
In the height of summer this Gorge would be absolutely full of people doing all sorts of activities such as hiking, kayaking, swimming and even paragliding (we did see a few people paragliding when we were here!)
We visited at the start of March and we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves which was just amazing. It was quite a nice sunny day, around about 13degrees and we did brave it and go into the water which was freezing!! We went into the Lac De Sainte-Croix which you can travel down into the gorge from.
We stayed at an Aire just down the road from the Gorge which we found on Park4night -, Les Salles-sur-Verdon, Perafabre, Var, France (park4night.com) the Aire was closed so we stayed for free but in high season there would be a charge.
The Gorges Du Verdon is just a MUST see – and if you would like to brave the cold waters, then visit in off season as you may just have the place to yourself! We did say we would love to go back and do it again in the summer, the atmosphere would be fantastic.
If we’re being totally honest about Saint Tropez, it didn’t quite live up to what we thought it would be like! We felt like we had heard and seen so much about it being such a glamorous and amazing place, and to us we just didn’t quite get the feeling we thought we would.
It was a lovely place, and the harbour was great with all of the stunning boats. The town was also nice to walk around with the quaint little streets filled with shops and restaurants. Other than that, it felt to us like there wasn’t much more to it!
We’re sure in the summer it would be a completely different story and the place would be buzzing, as a lot of things were still closed when we visited, but in off season Saint Tropez didn’t have such a great feeling to us.
We also really struggled to find any decent parking on Park4Night in Saint Tropez, but we did end up finding a beach front car park which had plenty of spaces for motorhomes and wasn’t too expensive at all, just be aware that Saint Tropez is not the easiest place to drive with a big vehicle, there are lots of narrow roads.
Last but definitely not least on our tour of France was Monaco. Monaco had been on Ryan’s bucket list to visit for a really long time, so this was somewhere we were super excited to do to.
Monaco is a sovereign city-state and microstate on the French Riviera.
It is a completely glamorous place, home to the Monaco Grand Prix which is a Formula One motor racing event held annually on the Circuit de Monaco, in late May or early June. The stands for the race were actually being built when we were there at the start of March which was cool to see, and we also drove through the tunnel which is part of the race!
Monaco attracts lots of rich and famous people for this reason! It also has a beautiful harbour with some of the most amazing boats and yachts!
Monaco is also not an easy place to drive to in a large motorhome so please be aware of this if you consider visiting in your motorhome or campervan! We did manage to find some good parking on Park4Night -, La Turbie, 2407C Route de Beausoleil, France (park4night.com)
This car park was high above Monaco, so it was a steep walk down, and a very difficult walk back up! To tick off this bucket list location, it was worth it!
And that marks the end of our 3 weeks travelling around France. We had the most amazing time and writing this blog post has really made us realise how many amazing things we saw and did. We really hope this helps to inspire your own van life France trip. If you have any questions that you would like to ask at all, please leave them in a comment on this post, we would be more than happy to help!
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I love everything about travel, from seeing new places, learning about new cultures and trying new foods! I believe that travel is one of the best forms of education you can get, I have learnt so much about myself and about the world from travelling all over. Travel is something I feel so passionately about, and I love the fact that we are now lucky enough to have this opportunity to do what we love as much as we can, it’s a dream come true.
Before we started travelling, I worked in local government in administration. I had been in this job for several years and had reached a complete brick wall where I was so fed up, but didn’t know what else to do. The only thing I knew that I wanted to do was to travel, and had wanted to do that for many years.
There were hundreds and hundreds of places on my wishlist that I wanted to go to, and I knew that going on a weeks holiday maybe twice a year if we were lucky wasn’t going to cut it.
After being in lockdown due to the Covid pandemic, and working from home staring at the same 4 walls every day, 2021 seemed like the perfect time for us to take the risk to finally do what we had dreamed of for so long.
It was a hard decision to completely change our lives, but so far it has been the best decision we have ever made!