VW California ocean in front of a mountain lake
VW California ocean in front of a mountain lake

Wild camping in Europe

It could be so simple: rent a camper and head out into nature, breathe fresh air, watch the sunset and then spontaneously set up camp and spend the night in the most beautiful place. The idea of wild camping feels like the dream of unlimited individual travel.

Permitted, tolerated or strictly prohibited?

Unfortunately, this dream is subject to many country-specific regulations that are so intransparent that the idea of unlimited freedom is quickly overshadowed by a legal maze of exceptions and grey areas. Regulations often differ not only from country to country but also between regions.

General information on wild camping in Europe

What is wild camping?

Wild camping means spending the night outside of designated pitches or campsites. For example, setting up a tent or parking freely with a car, camper or RV. The fascination of wild camping lies in its individuality and connection to nature which is why forested areas and coastal regions are particularly popular for these kind of trips.
But regulations are often confusing and in the vast majority of cases wild camping is so vaguely regulated that one has to rely on the tolerance of authorities as well as the goodwill of locals.

What are the common rules for wild camping?

  1. Naturally, a distance to residential buildings must be maintained. A minimum distance of 150 metres serves as a rough guide.
  2. Most countries have bans on wild camping in nature reserves and national parks.
  3. Wild camping is almost always limited in time: Even the right of public access limits the stay to a maximum of 2 days. After that you should move on!
  4. In the vast majority of cases wild camping is only an option for a limited number of people or tents: groups of campers with large tents are not welcome even in countries that allow wild camping.
  5. There is a clear distinction between free standing (i.e. sleeping in a campervan), camping and bivouacking: Even in regions that allow wild camping you should always check whether this also includes sleeping in your car or campervan.
  6. Respect for nature and the locals is the number one priority in wild camping.

Why is wild camping prohibited?

Wild camping bans primarily exist to protect nature. Setting up tents or parking vehicles is an extreme burden on both flora and fauna. In addition, campfires, litter and noise leave great damage behind and animals are driven out of their natural habitat by noise, campfire smoke and pollution.
Unfortunately, wild camping also often impacts the locals in the area: it not only regularly conflicts with property rights and regulations regarding land usage but completely self-sufficient travel also harms local tourism. By using local campsites and restaurants you support the local economy and give back to the locals living in the holiday region.

What are the fines for unauthorised wild camping?

Depending on the country fines usually vary between €50 and €500.
In some cases – and if severe damage to nature was left behind – fines can even reach a four-figure amount.
Different rules in each county

Wild camping in Europe

We did some research and summarized all regualtions regarding wild camping for differen European countries.

Right of public access and Wild Camping in Scandinavia

In the Nordic countries the right of public access makes wild camping comparatively easy. This is an old regulation that grants everyone a right to nature. Wild camping outside of public campsites is therefore allowed. This even applies to private land! Only nature reserves and national parks are exempt in many cases – but this is usually clearly marked.

Respect nature & humans

Rules for wild camping

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    Leave the campsite as clean as you found it!

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    Be careful not to disturb animals and nature with noise or fire!

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    Dispose of grey water and waste properly!

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    Be considerate of locals and fellow campers!

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    Support local tourism and give back to your vacation region!

Be friendly

Wild camping Tip No.1

Calling the local authorities will usually provide you with helpful tips and clarify things a lot more. In addition, most farmers will be happy to offer you a spot in their fields to spend the night saving you a sleepless night full of feeling uncertain.
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