Choosing a campsite
There are between 9,000 and 10,000 registered campsites in France – that is almost half the total number of campsites for the whole of Europe. In addition, there are roughly 2000 farm campsites and other camping areas.
French campsites can be found online or in holiday directories. Alternatively, companies that have campsites throughout France can help arrange a camping holiday for you. At bigger campsites there will be the option to stay in a static tent, which will be far more spacious and fully equipped with the basics, or you will have the option to rent a mobile home or chalet.
Although many people associate camping in France with the hotter coastal regions of the west and south: Poitou-Charentes, Aquitaine, Languedoc-Roussillon and the French Riviera, how to get there needs careful consideration. Most people who go on a camping holiday will drive and use the ferry or Eurotunnel. There will be a lot to take especially if bringing your own tent. If driving to France with small children the journey time will be a particularly important factor when deciding on which area to holiday – it can take 7 hours to get from Calais to La Rochelle and 5.5 hours from Roscoff to La Rochelle. While to get to the Languedoc-Roussillon or Mediterranean coastline you are looking at 10 hours, plus. It is best to allow an extra night on the way and way back to stay at a travel lodge mid-journey. There are many reasonably priced hotels such as Formule 1 en-route which are a cheap and comfortable place to stopover.
Brittany, Normandy and Pays-de-la-Loire in Northern France also have fantastic beaches and are much easier to get to. While if it is beautiful countryside you are after then you really are spoilt for choice as to which French region to go camping in. Many people wanting to go camping in the Languedoc-Roussillon or on the French Riviera will fly to the nearest airport and stay in a static tent or mobile home. There is also the option to hire a car from the airport.
French campsites are classified according to a star-rating system, from one star to four stars, according to their amenities and facilities. Compared to a one-star site, a four-star campsite offers much better facilities. Prices generally reflect the number of stars, the number of people per pitch, and vary according to the period. The French tourist board, Atout France classifies them in the following way:
One star campsites: Individual shower cabins, washing area, dish-washing sinks, pitches of at least 90 m². Warm water is not compulsory but many do have it. Prices are variable, starting from about 8€ per night for a pitch.
Two star campsites: Individual shower cubicles with hot water, individual washbasins, power points for electric razors and small electrical equipment.
Three star campsites: Tiled floors in washing / shower areas, private washing cabins, equipped children’s play area, vegetation between pitches, safe-keeping for valuables, food store on site or in the immediate vicinity, soft drinks available, English-speaking wardens, etc. In peak weeks, prices will normally be in the range of 32€ – 40€ per night for four people.
Four star campsites: Private washing cubicles with hot water, dish-washing and clothes-washing sinks with hot water. Larger pitches (at least 100sqm), tarred vehicle ways within the site, games room, common room. Depending on the location and the time of year, prices tend to vary from 20€ a day off season, to between 40€ and 50€ a day during peak weeks, for four people with a tent, a bit less for just two people. It is important to book well in advance for the four star campsites because the summer months will get booked up well in advance.
“Camping à la ferme” is a label offered to farmers who offer a small area for camping, with a maximum of six pitches; the similar “aire naturelle de camping” is an area with a maximum of 25 pitches. They must all provide toilets and wash basins, electric power points, and dustbins for rubbish, as well as at least one warm shower.
These are just the minimum criteria used to classify campsites in France. Many three- or four-star campsites also have a bar and a restaurant, as do some one or two-star campsites. Some even have swimming pools, sports facilities, shops and snack bars.
What to take
What you will need to take will depend on where you choose to go camping in France. However, there are some practical things that all campers will need:
- Tent with pegs and mallet, and ground sheet
- Mats or blow up beds to sleep on
- Sleeping bags or sheets and pillows
- Cooking and eating utensils
- Gas stove
- Bottled water
- Teabags and long life milk
- Washing up liquid and sponges
- Fold up chairs
- Toilet roll
- Bottle opener and can opener
- Lighter for stove/BBQ
Make sure you that have your campsite’s contact details on you so that you can phone them if you are running late. Most campsites will have 24hour wardens but you should check that there will be someone there to direct you to your pitch if arriving late. They will also be able to connect your pitch to the electricity supply.