A Guide to Camping in Europe
If you have spent many a fab family holiday under canvas and enjoyed the best Britain has to offer, you may decide to venture slightly further afield and try camping in Europe. The beauty of camping abroad is often the weather; enabling you to enjoy the great outdoors without some of the less appealing aspects, but there are a few things to consider. It is wise to plan properly before you go, researching sites and places of interest, although a more flexible holiday approach is possible rather than your average package. France is a very popular camping destination, and with good reason – it can be excellent value as well as an opportunity to explore in rather more detail than a traditional break.
The first thing to consider is a Camping Card International (CCI), a plastic identity card which costs about a fiver annually and can be lodged with campsites instead of your passports. It also confers very useful third part damage insurance; currently to the value of 2.5 million Swiss Francs, and covers accidental damage to any hotel or campsite you may choose to stay in. An ASCI card (www.campingcard.co.uk, around €9.95) might also be worth looking at; this provides discounted off rate prices at over 2000 campsites across 19 different countries.
When choosing a site, most of the same points apply to booking a UK holiday – check the facilities, location and any available reviews, and if they have an English website, check the terms and conditions to make sure it will be what you are looking for. In France, there are a large number of local authority run sites, with good facilities and helpful staff. Many campsites throughout the EU employ a slightly different tariff to those in the UK, charging a fixed fee for the pitch, as well as a per person cost, and in some case, an extra fee per vehicle. Some sites also charge a local tourist tax, which is usually minimal but may need to be factored in if costs are tight. Most reputable sites are well set up for overseas tourists, and many will have a website outlining all charges and fees as well as facilities. You may be expected to pay upfront, but quite often you will settle a final bill at the end of your stay.
Some sites offer ready erected tents with some furniture and equipment, and like UK sites, many have a variety of entertainment facilities from clubs and bars to pools and other leisure activities. Of course, plenty are much more basic, and those sites that are coastal and contain plenty of facilities and attractions are likely to be much more expensive than those without, particularly in peak season.
Points to remember:
- Electric hook-up will often be an important consideration. This may carry its own charge aside from your pitch fees. It is Worth checking out your camping accessories supplier for any converters or extensions you may need for small appliances.
- Water will usually be charged either for a specified quantity or perhaps a running time; and again this should all be made clear at reception or check in. Toilet cassette emptying facilities and drinking water will also be available, as you would expect, although different charges may again apply.
- Calor Gas, although used extensively in the UK, is not available in Europe, and you cannot refill empty cylinders. Instead the supply which can be used as an exchange is Camping Gaz, which is fairly costly. Most markets have other brands and containers; some of which may need different connectors, so again, a call to your camping supplies outlet is crucial to make sure you have what you need.
- Toilets and grey water are another issue. Lots of fluids are available for use in your cassette toilet, and as these contain very strong chemicals, you need to follow the instructions properly. Most sites will have a very clearly marked disposal point for toilet waste, and sometimes come with a proper water supply. The risk of contamination is of course high, so again, follow instructions and respect the site. Grey water disposal is less of an issue, but used shower water and so on can become unpleasant slightly faster in hotter countries. Avoid food wastage entering the tank via the sink, and empty regularly.
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