EXPLAINED: Where in France you can park your campervan

What are the rules about parking your campervan, motorhome, camping car in France?

Published: Mon 31 Jul 2023 12:39 CEST
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There are rules on where you can park a camper van in France. (Photo by MYCHELE DANIAU / AFP)

Campervans - or motorhomes, if you must - offer the illusion of complete traveller freedom. Set off, go somewhere on a whim, and wherever you park your van that’s your home… for a while.

But in France, as elsewhere in Europe, there are rules. While, for example, it is possible, and legal, to park your camping car, as they’re known in France, by the side of a road (not a motorway, obviously), you wouldn’t be allowed then to set out a table and chairs and watch the traffic go by. Nor, unsurprisingly, can you empty your chemical toilet at the roadside.


So, what are the rules about parking your RV, campervan, motorhome, camping car in France?

Many French towns and large villages have dedicated areas for motorhomes to stay for a short period away from campsites, and some provide electricity or water points. 

Access to these areas is often limited to a few days per vehicle. Meanwhile, as previous mentioned, you can park at the side of a quiet road outside towns, as long as you don’t block the carriageway, but you may get a visit from a local police officer wondering what’s going on. 

And, of course, the big downside is that there’s nowhere for you to empty your chemical toilet. There are numerous designated areas for doing that, including service stations along motorways and campsites.

It is, in fact, illegal for local authorities to outlaw campervan drivers from parking up in their town. It does not, however, follow that authorities have to allow campervans to park everywhere in their town. In the summer of 2023, the mayor of Saint-Malo banned campervans from stopping overnight at a particular carpark with a view in the town. A larger parking area elsewhere remains open to overnight campervan stays - but the decision didn’t necessarily go down well with motorhome-driving visitors.

In general terms, if you see a sign clearly forbidding overnight parking, pay attention to it - it's generally a circular sign with a red border, but it may be a different shape and even more obvious. If there isn't one, you're generally safe to park overnight. It's accepted you'll move on the following day if it is not a designated campsite or camper van halt, and if you stay for an unspecified "too long" you could get into bother. Be aware, there may be limits on vehicle weight - this, too, should be signposted.

There are, however, overarching rules. You are forbidden from parking up your vehicle/temporary home in the following areas:

  • sea shores or beaches;
  • on or within 500m of sites registered for historic, artistic, scientific, legendary or picturesque character - such as such as woods, forests or nature reserves - or close to classified historic monuments (be aware: this includes sites in the process of being registered);
  • on public roads or paths;
  • within 200m of water points for consumption.

In these areas, there's no need for authorities to put up a sign.

What about national parks?

Local authorities or those in charge of designated natural sites, such as national or regional parks, have specific rules for their land.


France has 11 national parks and more than 50 regional ones, so it’s a good idea to check local rules before you park up. A local tourist information office or the mairie is the best place to start.

What are the penalties for ignoring local rules?

Penalties for ignoring the rules include fines of up to €1,500 – but the amount may be adjusted upwards in cases that also involve excessive noise, fires, littering and / or environmental damage.


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