Top 10 Questions Asked by UK Campervan Owners: Expert Advice
Are you a UK campervan owner looking for answers to some of the most common questions? Look no further! In this post, I'll be calling on my 40 years of camping, vanning, and travel experience and answering the top 10 questions voted for by our community. From the legality of sleeping in a camper van on the street or in a layby to whether it's possible to live in a camper van full-time, we've got you covered. We'll also share additional tips and tricks for camper van owners, including the best apps for finding parking spots and planning routes, essential safety gear for any trip, and staying connected while living in a camper van.
1. Is it legal to sleep in my camper on the street overnight in the UK?
In the UK, the legality of sleeping in your camper on the street overnight is somewhat of a grey area. Here's an overview:
- Parking: If you're legally parked (i.e., not violating any parking restrictions, not causing an obstruction, and your vehicle is taxed and has a valid MOT), there's generally no specific law against sleeping inside your vehicle on a public road.
- Local Bylaws: Some councils may have bylaws that make it an offense to sleep in a vehicle overnight in certain areas. These rules are more commonly enforced in places popular with tourists or where there have been issues with large groups of people camping out in vehicles. Always check local regulations if you're unsure.
- Residential Areas: While it may be legal, sleeping in your camper in a residential area can sometimes lead to complaints from residents. Concerns can arise over obstructions, potential noise, or just the presence of an unfamiliar vehicle in the area. If the police receive a complaint, they might knock on your door to check on you, even if you're not breaking any laws.
- Anti-Social Behaviour: If your presence is deemed a form of "anti-social behaviour," the authorities might ask you to move on. This can apply if you're causing a disturbance, leaving litter, or there are a large number of campers congregating in one area.
- Drink Driving Laws: Remember that being in your vehicle while over the legal alcohol limit can lead to you being charged with "being drunk in charge of a motor vehicle", even if you had no intention of driving. If you have consumed alcohol, it's essential to be aware of this and ensure there's no likelihood of you driving.
- Safety and Courtesy: Beyond legal considerations, think about safety and courtesy. Ensure you're parked in a safe location and be respectful of locals and the environment. Don't leave litter behind, and try not to block anyone's view or light.
While there's no strict national law against sleeping in your camper on the street overnight in the UK, the above points demonstrate that there are many factors to consider. It's always a good idea to research local bylaws and be courteous and considerate to minimise potential issues.
2. Is it legal to sleep in my camper in a layby overnight in the UK?
In the UK, sleeping in your camper in a layby overnight isn't explicitly illegal, but there are various factors and nuances you should consider:
- National Laws: There isn't a national law that directly prohibits sleeping in a camper in a layby. If your vehicle is legally parked and isn't causing an obstruction, you're generally within your rights to sleep inside.
- Local Bylaws: Some local authorities might have bylaws in place that restrict or prohibit overnight parking or sleeping in vehicles in certain areas, including laybys. This is especially true in areas popular with tourists or where there have been previous issues.
- Safety Concerns: Some laybys, especially those on busy or high-speed roads, can be dangerous due to the proximity of passing traffic. Always ensure you're in a safe spot and that your vehicle is visible to other road users, especially at night.
- Duration: While you might be okay to rest or sleep for a night, extended stays in one spot can raise concerns. Authorities might view it as an attempt to set up a longer-term camp, leading to potential enforcement actions.
- Anti-Social Behaviour: Similar to street parking, if your presence is deemed a form of "anti-social behaviour" or if you're causing a disturbance, you might be asked to move on. This can also apply if you leave behind litter or if there's a large congregation of campers in one layby.
- Signage and Restrictions: Always look out for signs in or near the layby that may indicate any restrictions, including no overnight parking.
- Courtesy and Environment: As always, be respectful of the environment. Don't leave waste or litter behind, and if you're in a scenic or rural area, be especially mindful of the local wildlife and ecosystem.
In summary, while it's generally not illegal to sleep in your camper in a layby in the UK, it's crucial to be aware of local regulations, safety considerations, and the potential impact on the surrounding environment. If in doubt, it might be a better idea to find a dedicated campsite or parking area that allows overnight stays.
3. Can you sleep in a camper after drinking?
Sleeping in a camper after drinking poses both legal and safety issues in many jurisdictions, including the UK. Here are some important points to consider:
- Being Drunk in Charge of a Vehicle: In the UK, you can be charged with "being drunk in charge of a motor vehicle" if you're found inside your vehicle with a blood alcohol level above the legal limit, even if you had no intention of driving. This applies to any vehicle, including campers.
- Intent to Drive: If you're charged with being drunk in charge of a vehicle, the authorities will consider whether there was a likelihood of you driving while drunk. For instance, if the keys are in the ignition or if you're in the driver's seat, it could be argued that there was an intent to drive. However, the burden of proof falls on the individual to show that there was no likelihood of driving.
- Safety Concerns: Even if you don't intend to drive, sleeping in a vehicle in a public area while intoxicated can pose safety risks. You might not be fully aware of your surroundings, or you could accidentally set the vehicle in motion.
- Location: The location of the vehicle plays a significant role. If you're in a dedicated campsite or a private area where you have permission to be, the risk of legal repercussions might be lower compared to if you're parked on a public road or a layby.
- Alternative Arrangements: If you've been drinking and need to sleep in your camper, it's advisable to make clear arrangements that demonstrate you had no intention of driving. This could mean giving the keys to someone else, sleeping away from the driver's seat, or even placing a note in a visible location stating your intent to sleep and not drive until sober.
It's always essential to prioritize safety and ensure that you're not putting yourself or others at risk. If you're planning to drink, it's best to have a clear plan about where you'll be staying and how you'll ensure you won't drive under the influence. If you're unsure about the legal implications, you might consider seeking advice from local authorities or legal counsel.
4. Can I live in a campervan full-time in the UK?
Living in a campervan full-time in the UK is feasible, but there are several legal, practical, and logistical considerations to bear in mind:
- Parking and Overnight Stays: It's not illegal to live in a campervan, but where you park it overnight regularly can become an issue. While parking on the street outside a residential address may be allowed, many councils have regulations against "living" on the street. Also, some areas, especially tourist hotspots, have specific bylaws prohibiting overnight stays in vehicles.
- Legal Address: For official documentation (e.g., driver's licence, bank accounts, voting, etc.), you'll still need a permanent address. Some people use the address of a family member or friend, while others might use a mail forwarding service.
- Insurance: It's crucial to ensure your campervan is appropriately insured. If you're living in it full-time, you'll likely need a specific type of insurance policy that covers both the vehicle and its contents.
- MOT and Tax: Like any other vehicle, your campervan will still need to be taxed and, if applicable, have a valid MOT.
- Facilities: Consider how you'll access essential facilities. While campervans come with many built-in amenities, you'll still need places to refill water tanks, empty waste, do laundry, etc. Campsites and dedicated truckstops can provide these services.
- Winter Conditions: UK winters can be cold and wet, so consider how you'll heat the campervan and deal with potential condensation issues.
- Safety and Security: Always be mindful of your safety. Park in safe areas, especially at night. It might be worth investing in additional security measures for your campervan.
- Local Communities: Be respectful and considerate when parking or staying in one area for an extended period. Engaging positively with local communities can make your experience smoother and more enjoyable.
- Planning Ahead: Living full-time in a campervan requires a fair amount of planning, especially regarding where you'll park each night. While it offers a lot of freedom, it also comes with the need to be proactive about your next steps.
In summary, while living in a campervan full-time in the UK is possible, it requires careful planning and consideration of various regulations and practicalities. Many people have embraced this lifestyle and found it rewarding, but being well-informed and prepared is essential.
5. Can I park my campervan on the road outside my house?
In the UK, you are generally allowed to park your campervan on the road outside your house as long as:
- No Parking Restrictions: There are no parking restrictions in place (e.g., yellow lines, residents' parking zones, etc.).
- Obstruction: You aren't causing an obstruction. For instance, if your campervan is too large and is causing visibility issues for other road users or pedestrians, it could be deemed an obstruction.
- Tax and MOT: If applicable, the campervan must be taxed and have a valid MOT.
- Insurance: You should have appropriate insurance coverage for the vehicle.
- Duration: While you can park outside your home, you should be mindful of how long the campervan is stationary without being used. A vehicle can be considered "abandoned" if left in the same spot on a public road for a significant amount of time, leading to potential removal by the local council.
- Local Bylaws: Some areas might have local bylaws or covenants that could affect parking. It's always a good idea to check with your local council for any specific rules or restrictions.
Lastly, while it's legally permissible to park outside your house in many cases, it's also worth considering the courtesy aspect. Large campervans can sometimes cause annoyance to neighbours, especially if they block light or views. Communicating openly with your neighbours about your intentions to minimise potential disputes is a good idea.
6. Do I have to pay Council Tax if I live in my van full time?
No. Since you may pass through many districts, counties or even countries on any given day, no Council Tax is payable.
7. Where can I shower if my camper doesn't have an installed shower?
If your campervan doesn't have a shower, several options are available. Many campsites, truckstops and caravan parks offer shower facilities for a fee. You can also find shower facilities at gyms, leisure centres, and swimming pools for a small fee. Additionally, some public restrooms may have showers available for use. Another option is to invest in portable shower options like solar showers or camping shower bags.
8. How much do campsites with electric hook-ups tend to cost per night?
The cost of campsites with electric hook-ups in the UK can vary considerably based on several factors:
- Location: Campsites in more popular tourist areas or near major attractions might be more expensive than those in less frequented or off-the-beaten-path locations.
- Facilities: The range and quality of amenities provided by the campsite (beyond just the electric hook-up) can affect the price. Sites with well-maintained showers, toilets, laundry facilities, Wi-Fi, and other conveniences may charge more.
- Season: Prices can fluctuate based on the time of year. Peak seasons (e.g., school holidays, summer months) generally see higher rates compared to off-peak times.
- Type of Pitch: Some campsites offer various pitch types, such as hard-standing, grass, or super pitches (which might include water and drainage in addition to electricity). Each type may come with a different price tag.
- Size and Type of Vehicle: Some campsites adjust their pricing based on the size and type of vehicle. Larger motorhomes or campervans might incur a higher fee compared to smaller ones.
- Additional Charges: There might be extra costs for additional vehicles, awnings, or gazebos. Some campsites might also charge per person, rather than per pitch.
- Membership Discounts: Some campsites offer discounts to members of specific clubs or organisations, such as The Caravan and Motorhome Club or The Camping and Caravanning Club.
As of my last update in October 2022, for a general idea:
- Budget campsites might charge anywhere from £10 to £20 per night for a pitch with an electric hook-up.
- Mid-range sites with more facilities and in popular locations might range from £20 to £35.
- Premium sites with high-end facilities or in very sought-after locations might charge £35 and upwards per night.
It's important to note that these are general estimates, and actual prices can vary. It's always a good idea to check directly with campsites for the most accurate and up-to-date pricing.
9. Where do you find fresh water for your camper van?
Discovering sources of fresh drinking water for your campervan is crucial, as buying water in bulk in supermarkets gets expensive when you're using it for everything from cooking to washing. Look for water filling points at campsites, truckstops and service stations, or consider options like carrying portable water containers or using water filters for natural sources while wild camping.
10. Can you sleep in your campervan in supermarket or pub car parks if you are a customer there?
Sleeping in your campervan in supermarket or pub car parks in the UK depends on the specific policies of the establishment and local bylaws. Here are some general guidelines and things to consider:
- Permission: Always ask for permission from the supermarket or pub management. Some establishments might be campervan-friendly and allow overnight stays, especially pubs that benefit from customers dining or drinking there. However, others might not permit it due to concerns about potential disturbances, security, or other issues.
- Signage: Pay attention to any signs in the car park. Some will clearly state that overnight parking or sleeping in vehicles is not allowed.
- Local Bylaws: Even if the establishment is okay with you staying overnight, local bylaws might prohibit it. Being aware of local regulations is essential, as ignoring them could lead to fines.
- Stay Discreet: If you've been given permission to stay, it's good practice to be discreet. This means avoiding setting up camping chairs, BBQs, awnings, etc., as it's still a private car park, not a campsite.
- Duration: Limit your stay to one night. The idea is to rest for the night and move on the next day. Extended stays could lead to issues with the establishment or local authorities.
- Behaviour: Always be respectful and tidy. Ensure you don't leave any litter behind and try to maintain a low profile to avoid disturbing other customers or drawing attention to your vehicle.
- Safety: While many supermarket and pub car parks are well-lit and reasonably safe, always be aware of your surroundings, especially if you're in a remote area or a place you're unfamiliar with.
Additional Tips and Tricks for Camper Owners
The best apps for finding campsites and planning routes
When you're traveling in a motorhome or campervan, there are several apps that can help you find suitable places to stay overnight. Here are some of the best apps and websites for finding motorhome and campervan overnight spots, based on user reviews and features as of my last update in September 2023:
- Park4Night: This app offers a comprehensive database of places to park overnight, from full-service campsites to wild camping spots. Users can leave comments, reviews, and even photos to help you decide.
- Campercontact: Managed by the NKC (Dutch Camper Club), this is one of the largest motorhome parkings databases in Europe. It covers over 50 countries and provides details like services, prices, and reviews.
- Search for Sites: This website and app offer a directory of campsites and motorhome parking spots across Europe. It provides user reviews, photographs, and details about facilities and costs.
- Brit Stops: This guide (available as a physical book and app) showcases places in the UK where motorhome owners can stop overnight for free. These are often pubs, farms, and vineyards that allow you to stay in their car park in hopes that you might make a purchase from them.
- The Camping and Caravanning Club: If you're looking for official campsites, the app and website of The Camping and Caravanning Club provides listings and details for a large number of sites in the UK.
- The Caravan and Motorhome Club: Similarly, this club has its app and website that provides information on their vast network of sites, many of which have excellent facilities.
Essential safety gear for any campervan trip
Safety should always be a priority when embarking on a campervan trip. Here's a list of essential safety gear to consider for your journey:
- First Aid Kit: Stocked with bandages, antiseptics, pain relievers, tweezers, scissors, allergy medication, and any personal medications you might need.
- Fire Extinguisher: Ensure it's suitable for different types of fires, including electrical fires. Check its expiration date regularly.
- Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Detector: Essential for detecting potentially lethal gases and fires early. Ensure you have fresh batteries.
- Fire Blanket: Useful for smothering small fires, especially in the kitchen area.
- Emergency Reflective Warning Triangle: In case of a breakdown, place it behind your vehicle to alert other road users.
- High-Visibility Vests: Wear these if you need to leave your vehicle due to a breakdown, especially in the dark or in low-visibility conditions.
- Escape Tool: Including a seatbelt cutter and window breaker, in case of emergencies where you need to quickly exit the vehicle.
- Gas Leak Detector: To detect potential propane or butane leaks from your campervan's cooking or heating systems.
- Torch or Flashlight: Ideally, have a wind-up one or a rechargeable version so you're not reliant on batteries.
- Backup Battery or Jump Starter Kit: Useful if your campervan's battery goes flat.
- Spare Tyre, Jack, and Tyre Iron: Ensure you know how to change a tyre, and regularly check the condition of the spare.
- Basic Tool Kit: Including screwdrivers, pliers, an adjustable wrench, duct tape, and zip ties.
- Spare Fuses and Bulbs: For your campervan's electrical system.
- Bottled Water and Non-Perishable Food: Essential in case you're stranded for longer than anticipated.
- Thermal Blankets: These can keep you warm in very cold conditions and can also be used to reflect sunlight and keep cool in extreme heat.
- Whistle: Useful for attracting attention in emergency situations.
- Backup Charging Options: Solar chargers or power banks to ensure you have a means to charge your phone and other essential electronics.
- Rope or Tow Strap: Useful if you need to tow or be towed, or for various other emergencies.
Before setting off on your trip, always thoroughly check your campervan to ensure everything is in working order, and familiarize yourself with the safety equipment and how to use it.
How to stay safe when sleeping in a campervan
Staying safe while sleeping in a campervan is paramount. Here are some practical guidelines and tips to enhance your security and well-being during overnight stays:
Choose Safe Locations:
- Opt for established campgrounds or campsites when possible.
- Use apps or directories that recommend safe parking areas for campervans.
- Avoid areas known for high crime rates.
- Stay discreet; avoid drawing too much attention to yourself or displaying valuables.
- Always lock all doors and windows before going to sleep.
- If your campervan has a deadlock or security chain, use it.
- Consider additional security measures, like steering wheel locks.
- Ensure adequate ventilation prevents carbon monoxide buildup, especially if using gas heaters.
- However, make sure your ventilation methods don't compromise your security.
- Install and regularly test a carbon monoxide detector and smoke alarm.
Avoid Using Cooking Equipment as Heating:
- Never use cooking equipment as a heat source; it poses a carbon monoxide risk.
- Use curtains or window covers not only for privacy but to block out light and keep the camper’s interior less visible.
- Use earplugs if in a noisy area, but ensure you can still hear alarms or any potential security threats.
Keep Essentials Nearby:
- Have a torch, phone, keys, and any defensive tools you may have (like a whistle) within arm's reach.
- If someone tries to break in or harass you, drive away if possible.
- In situations where you feel threatened, it's typically better to leave rather than confront.
Being a campervan owner in the UK comes with its own set of challenges. It's important to familiarize yourself with the legalities and regulations surrounding parking and sleeping in your camper. Additionally, taking care of your safety and well-being should be a top priority. That means having essential safety gear, staying connected while on the road, and considering the lifestyle changes that come with living in a campervan full-time. To make your campervan experience even better, there are helpful apps available to find campsites and plan routes. So, get out there, explore the open road, and enjoy the freedom and adventure that comes with being a camper van owner!
Co-founder of Destiny River, with over forty years of experience camping throughout Europe, I'm happier sleeping under canvas than sleeping under a roof! I hope to inspire others to appreciate and protect the remarkable landscapes that our planet has to offer.More posts by Geoff K.