Taking the decision to live in a motorhome full-time and opting to live more freely has drastically changed our way of life as well as reducing our monthly outgoings. After spending our first few months in our van in the UK, we decided on trying out van life in Europe in search of more adventure.
Looking at our spending previously, from renting a house with bills, taxing and insuring a vehicle, groceries and other general day-to-day costs in the UK. Then comparing this to living in a van full-time, we have discovered that for us, living in our campervan is not only less expensive but is a far more enriching way to live. Living well for less is something we have managed to achieve, mainly through focusing on what it is that is really important to us both and ridding ourselves of the excess of possessions and with that the sense of need and ownership that we had adopted.
Once we left the UK we really wanted a comparison to see if van life in Europe was going to work out less expensive still. So we recorded everything we spent for our first month on the road in France. Here we will share that with you along with the highlights and details of our route.
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On The Road In Europe – Van Life France
France is so well set up for motorhomes and campervan life. The legendary ‘Aire de Services’ are abundant in almost every town you travel trough. Two apps which have been indispensable for us are Campercontact and Park4night which have pretty much every aire de service and parking spotlocated on their maps. Both apps can be used with GPS as well as mobile data/wifi. With user reviews on each and photo uploads of most spots and also useful information such as services available, number of parking spots, height restrictions, payment information and more. We highly recommended both, they are user populated and great if your are looking for a spot to park or to spend the night. Camper contact is £5 subscription for the year but in our opinion is worth every penny.
Here is a map of our route through France showing the main places we stopped in our first month of exploring Europe in our motorhome.
Travelling Through France In A Motorhome – The Costs
Total Days In France : 31
Total Spent (2 people) – €1,105.74 | £967.82
Fuel – €322.47 | £282.25 – A big portion of our budget, understandably as we travelled close to 1,604km through France stopping quite a lot and zig-zagging a little to take in our chosen sights. In our experience its great to have a nice balance between traveling between places and staying put for a few days so you can get to know the area.
Groceries – €338.07 | £295.90 – France’s produce is in our eyes some of the best if not the best in Europe, the supermarkets are jam packed with amazing quality, veg, fish, cheese and meat all at really good prices.
Campsites | Aire de Services – €132.68 | £116.13 – With an aire de service in nearly every town, city or village you will never be short for a place to stop. All aires are different, from a little station where you can empty your waste and fill up with water (sometimes you can pay by card or on your phone) or a full car park service area where you can also stop the night as well as use all of the services. Prices vary, some are even completely free of charge. You can also find out loads more information on Aire de service’s and how to camp for free by checking out Off Track Travel’s guide.
Eating Out – €190.05 | £166.35 – Eating out can be expensive in places but like anywhere the touristy spots are a little more expensive. Small villages, roadside restaurants or anywhere off the beaten tourist track normally work out a lot better value for money and deliver more authentic French cuisine.
Museums | Sights – €20 | £17.51 – This was spent visiting the amazing city of Bayeux and the great museums such as the Bayeux Tapestry and War museum there. You can find out more of what there is to see and do in Bayeux in one of our previous posts which details the World War II graves and beaches. Other points of interest we stopped at were the stunning Mont Saint Michel which is free to see (apart from parking nearby) as well as the town of Oradour-sur-Glane which has been left as it was out of respect, since World War II. This town has a chilling and saddening story behind it which we would definitely recommend going to discover for yourself.
Laundry – €36 | £31.51 – Laundry places in France can be found generally at the big SuperU or other hypermarkets in cites or towns which is great as you can head in and get your groceries whilst your clothes are washing.
Gas – €25.28 | £22.13 – Before we left the UK we invested in a refillable gas bottle by Gaslow that uses LPG gas and is easily fill-able at petrol stations across Europe (note – different adapters are required and can also be purchased as part of a refillable system). Our first month in Europe resulted in our new purchase pretty much paying for itself as it saved us money. Filling the 6kg bottle up costs about 7-8 Euro and lasts us about a week (if we are off-grid with no electricity). For more information check out their website. This bit of kit is on our recommend Europe van life essentials list!
Parking – €21.39 | £18.72 – This covers our daytime parking costs. A good place to check is Park4night app which also lists suitable parking for campers all around France. Some car parks do offer the chance to pay for 24 hours so you can stay the night.
Tolls – €9.97 | £8.73 – The tolls in France are avoidable by keeping to the D-roads. The journey may take you a little longer but as we have found the views are a lot lot better and gave us the opportunity to take more of this beautiful country in!
How Cheap Is Van Life?
Since being fully committed to van life in Europe we have found that our monthly living expenses have dropped dramatically compared to the UK. Our recorded living expenses for France were still us living on as we do, a budget but still going out for meals and visiting sights and working in coffee shops.
People have already asked us ; How much money do you save living in a van? For us the costs above really do outweigh the money we used to spend on daily life back at home. We work hard and are lucky enough to have our own online business, which living in a van full-time has allowed and given it the space to grow and flourish. By aligning what we do with what we really love, we get to travel and work harmoniously together.
Make no mistake though, the costs of getting into a position where we were fully able to live sustainably and sometimes off the grid took investment and a lot of compromise at the start. For us purchasing our van along with what we needed to function in it, including four season tyres and getting our refillable gas system installed were costly but now we are fully set-up with van life these things really are worth their weight in gold.
We have totally changed our way of life but with the whole of Europe at our feet and the freedom to go anywhere, we feel all of the compromise has most definitely been worth it. Whether we feel like going into the mountains, to the coast to check out the beaches, go surfing, or want to fully immerse ourselves in a different culture -the adventure is ours to choose.
Van Life Europe – Where Next?
After spending some time in the surf town of Biaritz our last stop in France, we have headed into Spain and into Basque country where we have visited Bilbao eaten a lot of Pintxos (basque style tapas) and then headed into the massively underrated Picos de Europa National Park – keep an eye for more blogs, as we will be writing all about our snow-filled time there soon.
Finding the perfect spot in Posada de Valdeon to set up camp for a while, getting some work done whilst hiking and exploring the local area, for us, brought a whole new meaning to work-life balance.
We hope you have found this post both useful & inspiring.
If you have any questions or comment please leave them below!
Adam & Kelly x