Our customers Heath & Alyssa enjoyed their campervan vacation with us. Thank you heathandalyssa.com for writing this article for us:
When people think of visiting Europe, RVing probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.
Hopping trains or buses or other public transport? Definitely.
Motorhomes? Not so much.
And while RVing is just as popular for Europeans as it is for Americas—if not more!—you don’t often hear of Americans “motorhoming” abroad. However, we just completed our second extended RV rental in Europe and it was one of the best experiences!
In this blog, I want to share some of what we’ve learned about renting an RV in Europe.
This was one of my first thoughts when Alyssa brought up the idea of RVing in Europe. Also, while I’ve got you here I’ll let you in on a not-so-little secret: nobody actually says RVing in Europe. It’s often referred to as motorhoming or hiring a campervan, but never RVing. However, if you’re from the States then you’re probably used to the term RVing. Same concept, different use of words.
Moving on. 🚐
So, why rent an RV in Europe? The norm when visiting major cities in Europe is to stay in an Airbnb or hotel. This makes total sense if you’re only visiting for a few days. However, if you’re planning an extended trip abroad (two weeks or more) and want to spend some time meandering through smaller villages and backroads, renting an RV is a great option.
For us, we prefer to stay in walkable Airbnbs in major cities and then rent an RV for visiting the countryside. 2019 was the first time we’d rented an RV in Europe and the experience hooked us so much so that we went back again and for twice as long.
Why we’ve loved traveling by motorhome abroad:
1. How else would we find hidden gems?
One of the first days of our Italian RV trip, we were driving over a mountain pass and stumbled upon the most epic gondola. We had no idea it was there. If left to our own planning, we’d never have seen it. Traveling by RV gives us a chance to randomly stumble upon gems like this (you can see our reactions below in the video).
2. We prefer sleeping in the same bed every night—especially with kids!
Motorhome rentals are small, but they have all the conveniences of a home (except air conditioning) and even with the tiny European roads, we can drive almost anywhere and always have everything we need. Traveling with kids who still take naps every day, having a bed with us at all times is priceless. Plus we always have snacks + a bathroom + a kitchen + a shower for when someone inevitably gets covered in mud and dirt.
We stayed in Airbnbs while in Europe and used public transport as well, which is the best way to see European cities for sure. But if you’re looking to really explore a country outside of just the tourist stops, you’ll want a vehicle. We prefer the motorhome because it lets us see more places and still have the comfort of sleeping in the same bed every night.
3. Hello million dollar views that cost $0 😍
White motorhome parked in campsite overlooking mountain
Parked at our first free campsite in Spain!
The best part of renting an RV in Europe is the beautiful places it takes you—like camping on the edge of a mountain in the Pyrenees watching the sunrise.
We’ve camped on mountainsides, on beaches, in national parks, and in some of the most beautiful parts of southern Europe because of our motorhome rental. In remote places especially, you don’t have the option of hotels or Airbnbs, making campsites like the one above accessible only for RVers.
4. You get to actually visit a country.
Hear me out.
After spending two months in Tuscany this year, we spent two nights at a hotel in Florence before flying to London. Walking around Florence we saw beautiful historical buildings, ate delicious pizza, and savored one final gelato. But we also a) didn’t talk to any actual Italian people, b) didn’t need to speak any Italian because everyone spoke English flawlessly, and c) were surrounded by tourists the whole time.
Florence is one of our favorite cities in the world—but after exploring more of the country of Italy, being in the city didn’t really feel like Italy anymore. It was more commercial and catered to Americans like us.
To really experience a country—see the people, experience the culture, eat the food—you’ll need to get out of the cities somehow. For us, a motorhome is the best way to do that.
What It’s Like Driving an RV in Europe
The majority of vehicles in Europe are manual transmissions. And my first day of driving ANY manual vehicle was our RV rental in Europe (circa 2019).
I’d practiced for all of ten minutes before departing to Italy and decided I’d gotten the hang of it (probably not my best idea). To say I was nervous was an understatement. My exact words while driving in the Italian Dolomites were “I’m going to crap my pants”.
But, after that incredibly stressful first day, I got the hang of driving a stick. Yes, the roads are small — however, more stress actually came from my lack of experience driving a manual than the roads themselves.
Flash forward to today, I’ve driven a motorhome in Switzerland, France, Andorra, Italy, and Spain. Here are my two cents.
Are the roads significantly smaller than what I’m used to in the US? Yes.
Do they sometimes look like I’m driving on a golf cart path? Yes.
But it’s honestly not been that bad. For one, the motorhomes and vans are much smaller in Europe. Second, you somehow adjust to the roads. Similar to the movie Santa Clause where Tim Allen contorts a chimney to enter a house and deliver presents.
Chimney santa christmas movies GIF – Find on GIFER
Okay, so the RV doesn’t get smaller but you do become accustomed to smaller roads.
Plus, only once did we run into a road that was literally too narrow for us to navigate.
We were heading to a campground in Italy and the road suddenly got narrow right in front of us. I had to back up 100 yards and make an 846-point u-turn while my wife strategically moved the world’s largest collection of rubbish bins—all of which were chained to the fence and only moved a few inches in either direction.
Against all odds, we escaped unscathed (and promptly walked one block over and dove into the Mediterranean).
Our RV rental in Europe on a small road making a turn
We almost ended up stuck! Our RV rental in Europe was 7.4 meters long.
A major reason I don’t stress too much over driving in Europe is that we use an app called Park4Night. It not only lists out free campsites but height and length restrictions. Before longer drive days or visiting a new town, I’ll research to find the best places to park or drive our motorhome. If there’s going to be some kind of restriction on parking or roads, we typically learn about it in advance. Park4Night is $30 for an annual membership and 100% paid for itself during our monthlong trip.
Why We Decided to Do a One-Way RV Rental
There are quite a few options for companies who do RV rentals in Europe . We’ve opted for a one-way RV rental on both of our trips to give us the flexibility to cover more ground versus having to loop back to the same drop-off point.
Our first RV trip in Europe was a little over two weeks from Venice to Rome.
The second rental was from Paris to Barcelona and we rented for 30 days. With the one-way rental, we were able to explore six different countries during this trip!
What RV Rental Company We Used
Both times we did an RV rental in Europe we used the same company, Anywhere Campers.
They are one of the few RV rental companies that do one-way RV rentals in Europe and include sheets. They have 4.9 stars on Google reviews and most of their RVs are less than one year old.
We had a great experience (that I’ll talk about more below) on our first trip, so we opted to rent from them again on our last RV journey.
A few highlights for why we’ve enjoyed using Anywhere Campers:
They do one-way rentals.
Simple booking process. The Anywhere Campers staff we spoke to were professional and easy to communicate with, even with time differences and language barriers.
The RVs come fully stocked with what we needed, including linens, coffee maker, towels, bikes, grill, roadside assistance kit, etc.
The floorplan of the motorhomes could fit our family of four easily.
Car seats! I didn’t have to haul a car seat through airports and train stations because our rental included them.
They’ve taken care of us when small service issues have popped up.
As a bonus, Anywhere Campers has recently added automatic motorhomes to their fleet! Yay for Americans like me who can maybe drive a manual, but feel 100% more confident without having to remember how the clutch works.
What Does It Cost to Rent an RV in Europe?
In 2019 we rented a motorhome in Italy for 16 days and paid roughly $162 USD per day. In 2022 our RV rental was 30 days and we paid $158/day. Anywhere Campers includes all of the add-ons and there are no extra fees for mileage. We traveled in September and October for both rentals, which is shoulder season for RVing. Rentals will be more expensive during peak summer months.
Outside of expected travel costs, campground fees are very reasonable (especially in the off-season) and at least in France, Spain, and Italy we found plenty of free camping options. Our most expensive campsite cost $45/night in Andorra, but most campgrounds charged $30 max per night for a family of four.
One of the biggest unexpected expenses we ran into in France was the toll roads. We split our time between the faster toll roads and the winding country roads and still spent well over $300 in tolls over the course of a month. If you aren’t on a tight timeframe, avoiding these will save you a lot of money. Plus, you’ll see some amazing French villages you’d likely miss on the highway. (The biggest offender was a $60 toll tunnel connecting France and Italy in the Alps…but it was that or a three-hour mountain terrain detour through Switzerland!)
What Countries in Europe Can You Do a One-Way Rental?
Anywhere Campers specifically covers 35 countries and they operate year-round.
(But you can see a more comprehensive list of which countries offer RVing here.)
What if the RV breaks down?
While there are definitely cheaper alternatives to Anywhere Campers, a major consideration for us was support for service issues. RVs break. We full-time RVed for years and that’s one constant we’ve always experienced. RVs break.
We wanted peace of mind to know we would have support if we broke down somewhere in Europe.
On our first two-week trip through Italy, we had an issue with our AdBlue sensor. Even though we’d added more AdBlue in the diesel engine, it wasn’t registering. We had a message on our dashboard that said in 50KM we would not be able to turn on the engine. We went back and forth with Anywhere Campers to help us find a service station that could help but to no avail.
Ultimately, Anywhere Campers allowed us to leave the RV parked at a campground a few hours from our drop-off point where they came to retrieve it (luckily, this was on our last day of the trip and we were able to carpool in our friend’s RV rental).
Here’s a video that shows our experience searching for a service station while communicating with Anywhere Campers.
On our most recent trip, our friends experienced an issue with their RV brakes. Anywhere Campers made an appointment for them and they were in and out in a couple of hours.
A major reason we’ve enjoyed renting with Anywhere Campers is their responsiveness to these things when they pop up. In addition to being available for support, they provided us with three emergency numbers in case of a breakdown (luckily never needed them). If you’re going to spend the time and money to book an international road trip, it’s good to know the company you’re renting from will take care of you.
Renting an RV In Europe
If we hadn’t started RVing in America, we probably never would’ve learned about RVing in Europe. But now it’s our de facto mode of travel when we go abroad. We’ve got four more countries we’re hoping to RV across during 2023 (across three continents!).
There are a lot of questions when it comes to renting a motorhome abroad and hopefully this blog post answered a few of them. For more information on RVing in Europe, see below 🙂
Author’s Note: If you’re interested in an RV rental in Europe and reach out to Anywhere Campers, let them know we sent you and we’ll get a few dollars towards our next RV trip abroad.