Europe is much more motor home friendly than the UK, and that means that sometimes motor caravanners from all over the place just pitch anywhere for free. On the long drive through Spain and France, we’ve occasionally parked up for the night when we couldn’t find a campsite or a safe truck stop, and we always wondered if we were unintentionally breaking the law.
However, this new Facebook page seems to explain it well, along with all other traffic-related matters. It’s run by the Torrevieja Traffic Department, and they post articles and short posts about the traffic laws in Spain, as well as answering questions from followers.
It’s illegal to discriminate against motor home drivers, and local authorities cannot ban motor homes from parking in an area where other vehicles are allowed to park. However, all vehicles must respect the parking guidelines, so if there is a parking area marked off along a residential street, you can park there, but you must keep the vehicle within the marked area. It’s the same with parking spaces on a car park. Park within the lined spaces, even if you need to take up two bays.
When the motor home is parked and the engine is turned off, you can eat in it or sleep in it. However, if you put out the awning, or get the tables and chairs out, you are classed as camping, and that is illegal. So basically, all those people around Playa Flamenca and La Marina who have their generators out, the satellite dishes set up for TV and the tables and chairs tastefully arranged are breaking the law. And it’s also illegal to dispose of your waste water just anywhere. The same rules apply in France, and in fact some Aires where you are permitted to park up overnight for free or for a small charge also stipulate that you mustn’t set up awnings or camping furniture. This applies particularly to Aires in town centres.
The best plan would seem to be to use wild camping wisely – think parking not camping. If you want the tables and chairs out, take them down to the beach or into the countryside, or book into a campsite, but don’t set up your tapas table right outside somebody’s casa. That’s just good manners anyway, isn’t it?
Another option – which many motorcaravanners don’t seem to know about – is to park up at a ‘Venta.’ That’s an independent roadhouse, rather than one of the chains of eateries that are strung out over Spain’s autopistas. You’ll need to come of the motorway to find one, but if you go in and buy a meal, they’ll be happy to allow you to park up overnight for free. In most ventas, a home cooked meal for two will cost less than a night on a campsite anyway, and you can really relax and enjoy your overnight stop.
Again – remember it’s parking not camping, so don’t get out your collapsible rotary drier and wash your smalls in the car park. It will only put people off their dinner, and the venta owner won’t want that! When you’re looking for an overnight stop with a motor home in Spain – which is a very motor home friendly country – just remember you need to be people friendly, and park up in a way that won’t cause annoyance or disturbance to others. It’s all about good manners, as I said before.