This website provides general information on tent camping in France and links to more specific pages.

This site and supporting pages will be under continuous development and revision. There will be an attempt to address a variety of tent camping styles. However, the initial focus will be on small family tent camping, with an interest to enjoy French culture and history.

France abounds with many 'playground' campgrounds, which are highly advertised in web-based promotion pages and travel brochures. Such campgrounds are designed to be a 'vacation' in themselves with swimming pools, beach locations, and entertainment facilities.

However, camping in France is an excellent way to travel about the magnificent country to visit the extensive variety of landscapes as well as some of the Western World's greatest historical sites and related museums. France, as well as most Western European countries, has numerous campgrounds that serve much as would motels for travelers who wish to visit the natural scenery and places of historic interest in towns and cities. The special advantages tent camping offers in such a pursuit are explained in the General Remarks below.


CONTENTS



GENERAL REMARKS

Advantages of tent camping in France:

  • The 'price is right'. For about $25 per day you can pitch a tent in a well provisioned campground close to the Marne, in a park, at the very outskirts of southeast Paris; or along the Seine in a quiet suburb northwest of Paris. See section on 'Tent Camping In and Near Paris' for details. Many locations away from Paris can be visited for less than $20 per day. These figures are 'as of 2003', and expect the prices to be slightly highier as the dollar falls against the Euro. However, July 2004 campground prices did not seem to rise as much as would have been expected. Hopefully we can provided an update by mid summer of 2006.

  • France has an abundance of very fine campgrounds that permit casual and independently paced visits to the country's wealth of cultural and scenic locations. Tenters should always be able to find a place to stay. Generally, French road signs are good at marking nearby campgrounds (However, a clutter of signs near the big cites places emphasis on pre-planning with a detailed road map). Many of the campgrounds are well developed and allow for camping under trees and near rivers.

  • Only a modest French speaking ability is need. Americans will find many British and English-speaking campers of other nationalities at most all medium to large campgrounds. Most of the camp managers either speak English or have staff that do. Many of the museums have tours in English at designated times.

  • Arranging for travel between America and France is outside of the scope of this report. A good travel agent can usually get reasonable round-trip fares if one's departure and return times are flexible. The trip reports linked to this page involved air travel crossing the Atlantic. A recent experience in arranging for relarively inexpensive flights to Paris in mid June, returning early July 2003, was with FlyEurope. They have a website, http://www.1800flyeurope.com and can be reached by telephone at 1-800.359.3876 [1-800-FLY-EUROPE]. Unlike the attempt to contact airlines directly, FlyEurope has someone ready to assits when one makes a call. The website is very user friendly for examining trip planning options. Further, the company is linked to an office that will set up car rental arrangements.


Guide Books:

Besides the Internet pages, there are some fine print-published guides. As campgrounds in France do not change dramatically, a year or two old guide can remain a pretty good source. The general travel books are usually skimpy on referencing campgrounds and reflect the authors' preferred association with the hotels etc. Some printed guides and books are:

  • Traveler's Guide to European Camping; Explore Europe Economically at Your Own Pace Using RV or Tent by Mike and Terri Church (Rolling Homes Press, Kirkland, WA, 1996) is excellent. The book is a straight forward report by campers who felt the need to publish "the book" they "searched for but couldn't find." The book is based upon the couples' first time experience camping in Europe during the winter of 1994 and the spring, summer, and fall of 1995. They camped in a Volkswagen camping van. They note that van camping is increasing in Europe, but so far the vehicles are mercifully modest in size. The book's RV perspective does not detract from the many overall observations that apply equally to tenters. Their First Chapter on "Why Camp Europe?" is one of the best summaries on camping in Europe. The Second Chapter, "The Camping Vehicle" also addresses backpacking and automobiles, covering the interests of tenters too. Chapter 3, "Details, Details, Details," is full of tips mostly for RVers. Chapter 4 explains how the rest of the book is a guide for traveling to specific countries. Highly recommended for anyone new to camping in Europe.

  • Guide Officiel Camping Caravaning. The 2001 through 2003 editions are like the 1998 edition described here. It is published by Ediregie for Fédération Française de Camping et de Caravaning (FFCC). It list some 9,000 campgrounds and nearly 2,000 'rural' or 'farm' camping areas. The half-inch thick, 6X9 inch page-size book is easy to take about. It has 15 very fine maps that locate the campgrounds that are listed in the book. Information of the specific campgrounds are grouped under the political department in which they are located. The departments are arranged in the book by their numerical order. This may cause some frustration for those -- and there are many -- who can not remember the numbers associated with the 97 departments. The maps give the department names and associated number, but print for these is in a very light pink and one has to be alert to find them. This FFCC guide is far more comprehensive than most, but not easily obtainable in the US book stores' travel sections. Users of the FFCC guide might find of value a webpage sponsored by this site at Numerical List of Departments.

  • The Michelin Camping Caravaning France. The map references and the standardized symbology made this a worthy guide for many years. Also it is probably the easiest to find in American book stores. It is not published every year and leaves out many campgrounds. While the Michelin undoubtedly excludes some campgrounds for obvious reasons, experienced campers have been surprised that there are many fine ones not listed.
    In particular, the Michelin book [at least prior to 2002] is a not very useful for locating convenient grounds supporting visits to Paris.

  • EUROPA Camping + Caravaning guide book, like the Michelin, has a campground rating system. It is over two inches thick, expensive and not easily found in the US. However, the guide is handy for camping trips across borders in Western Europe. Obtaining one can be useful for a few years, as the good campgrounds seem to continue.

  • The many regional tourist offices [which now have English-speaking staff] in France provide free brochures on local camping. These can be picked up as one travels in France. They can also be requested, along with an extensive amount of other travel information through the French government-sponsored tourist website.

Equipment needs are not much different than for doing the same camping in the US. Camping items are easily purchased in and around campgrounds. Definitely, one should first camp for a few weeks, here in the US, so as to become familiar with what you need and are comfortable camping in a tent. One important item is that propane bottles cannot be taken on aircraft, and the American type bottles are almost impossible to get in Europe. In Europe, one should rely on the fuel-powered stoves, etc. that use the blue cartridge international Gaz system. Not all American camping stores have these. So do not wait until the last minute to obtain and to learn how to use one. See the trip report for July 1995 for more details.

International Camping Carnet (ICC) It is highly recommended to obtained this card before leaving the States. The ICC for camping in France is worth it. The carnet (card) saves having to give up a passport temporally to the camp managers. The ICC card is also recognized in England and allows automatic privileges of their leading camping associations. IMPORTANT CHANGE to this page made February 2011: the ICC is no longer available to Americans though 'Family Campers & Rvers. Since mid 2010. US citizens can obtain the CCI through CAA (AAA's sister agency in Canada).

General instructions are at: "Camping Card Application, AAA Members" http://www.caa.ca/travel/travel-camping-aaa-e.cfm
Read the directions and conditions. Note the telephone number if one has more questions. Note text at the bottom of the page: "Camping Card Application for AAA Member" Place cursor on it and it lights up, click and go to pdf file at: http://www.caa.ca/documents/Camping-Carnets-AAA-members-Eng.pdf

A VISA credit card is another useful item to have, as it is accepted by car-rentals and modestly-priced restaurants. Recently, however, most French merchants and campgrounds do not accept credit card payment for amounts under 50 or 60 €. Otherwise, expect to pay cash for short stays at campgrounds. In the past, users of VISA cards generally enjoyed a good exchange rate. However, there are initiatives afoot by the individual banks that sponsor VISA cards to charge for the money conversion. Check with your bank.

Transportation Some campers tour Europe via the well structured train network. However, European rail travel is more expensive than when it was very popular three decades ago. Biking has become popular, but most who are not familiar with the language do so in group-arranged tours. Car travel is the most common transportation for tent campers in Europe. Outside of the large cities, driving is easy in Western Europe, but the gas is expensive. A manual transmission, small economy car is recommended not only for lower gas costs, but for ease of parking and navigating some of the rural roads. Also, the new diesel economy cars in Europe will surprise many with their performance -- not like the old 'cuggers'. Real cost savings here. Suggest seeing the trip report for 1998.

Car-rental reservations should be made in the US, before departure. It works out better if you have discount coupons. Also, good travel agents seem to work better deals, even with the European operated car rental agencies, than if one approached a rental desk in Europe. Regardless what the car rental agency or travel agent say, it is recommended that an American obtain an International Driver's License. This is done easily at AAA offices for a modest fee. In case of some incident, European police understand the standard international form better than an American state's driver license.

Eating is hardly a worry in France. In fact, it is the prime reason why some visit the country. A sit down dinner is expensive, though not so much so in the countryside away from the big cities. An advantage of the low-cost accommodations offered by camping is to enjoy dinning out in the evenings. Groceries are easily purchased in the many small stores at or near the campgrounds. If one is planning to take a small stove, one should be aware that it is nearly impossible to obtain in Europe the bottled fuel for the American propane-operated camp burners. One should take the equipment which operates with the blue international Gaz cans, which are readily available in Europe.

While many of the campgrounds may not have a restaurant, they often have a place where one can purchase coffee and croissants or bread in the morning. At the very minimum, one usually can place an order to have fresh French bread and croissants delivered at a central pick-up point in the camp early the next morning. Experiencing the morning bread delivery really lets you know that you are in France.

Visiting Paris is inescapable for most Americans flying into France. When arriving in France, the American visitors are probably anxious to find a campground within easy distance from the Charles de Gaulle airport, as well as a base for visiting the city of Paris. When departing France, there are considerations of getting to the airport for a late morning or early afternoon departure next day back to the US. Over the past few years, we have collected some information on camping options to address these consideratons. These are covered in a separate webpage: Camping In and Near Paris.


Return to: top of page / General Remarks / Webpage Links / Camping Reports / Published Guides / Equipment / International Camping Carnet / Transportation / Eating / Paris Region Camping.





GENERAL COMMENTS on this web site:
It is preferred that this information be hosted on a web site with a more central location, and one that serves a broad interest of tent campers. A site which provides campers' reports on other geographical areas, as well a 'tips' and topics pertinent to tent camping.

Viewers comments are welcome


Page last edited 17 March 2011.