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What you need to know about Spain’s campervan and motorhome rules

If you're considering a campervan or motorhome holiday in Spain this summer, there are several rules you need to be aware of, from the difference between parking and camping to the number of nights you can legally stay in one place.

campervan rules in Spain
Photo: Ian Usher / Unsplash

According to Aseicar, the Spanish Caravan Industry Association, campervan and motorhome sales rose by 20 percent during the summer of 2021, as the Covid-19 pandemic encouraged people to avoid busy hotels and crowded tourist areas.

In 2022, even though Covid-19 restrictions have been almost entirely removed and the virus isn’t dominating daily life, demand for caravans and motorhomes has continued to rise, as people’s desire to go on holiday and experience the great outdoors is higher than ever after two difficult years.

Currently in Spain there are approximately 70,000 motorhomes and campervans and 230,000 caravans, but only around 1,000 service areas designed for them.

This means that there is a shortage of spaces, and many people choose to park in wild or natural areas instead. 

Where can I camp and where can I park?

As a general rule, wild camping in Spain is not allowed, even in a recreational vehicle, and you must find appropriate campsites to stay the night.

According to Furgoneteate and On Road Magazine however, there are several caveats to this rule, meaning you can spend the night somewhere that is not a campsite. You are allowed to park your campervan anywhere where parking is permitted and sleep in it for the night, providing that you are not showing that you’re camping there.

READ ALSO: Can you camp or sleep over at any beaches in Spain?

What does this mean? Essentially that you can park somewhere for the night, cook, eat, sleep and do whatever else you want to do inside your private campervan, but you cannot extend your living area to the outside.

This also means that you cannot set tables and chairs up outside your campervan, you are not allowed to set up your awning or anything else that shows you might be there for some time, and you cannot turn on an electric generator. From the outside, it must look as though you are simply parked and not camping. 

Sometimes you can find specific camping areas in National and Natural Parks, however as a general rule, wild camping is prohibited within these parks.

There are also rules about parking and camping next to the coast. General Traffic Regulations state that they “prohibit parking and circulation, as well as camping and camping sites, 20 meters from the beach in an urban area or 100 meters in a rurual area, counted from the shore of the sea”.

Campervan and motorhome rules in Spain. Photo: Fabian / Unsplash

To make things more confusing however, each region, and sometimes each municipality has slightly different rules when it comes to how long you can park your campervan in one spot. 

The regions mentioned below have specific campervan rules or limits on the number of hours you can park one. If a region is not mentioned, it doesn’t have specific limits on the number of hours you can stay, but wild camping is still prohibited, so make sure you are parked and not camping.

Catalonia

Last summer, Catalonia brought in a new law, limiting the amount of time that a private campervan or motorhome could be parked in one space (other than a campsite) to a maximum of 48 hours.

Valencia region

In January 2021, the Government of Valencia brought about changes to its decree on regulating tourism accommodation. It added the word ‘motorhome’ to the decree that wild camping will be prohibited. It defined ‘wild camping’ as “the installation of tents, caravans, motorhomes or other mobile shelters, intending to stay overnight in places other than the establishments covered by this provision”.

This law came into effect on May 8th 2021, but has already caused much confusion among camping enthusiasts. So much so that a group of them banned together and demanded more clarification from the Valencian government.

The government responded by saying that the decree doesn’t include any reference to motorhome parking with or without the intention of overnight and doesn’t regulate parking in anyway. Therefore, it can be concluded that it is still allowed to park and stay overnight in your private campervan, providing you’re not camping. 

Andalusia

In Andalusia there seems to be even more of a grey area with regards to campervans and motorhomes than in other regions. Like in many other regions, the practice of wild camping is prohibited. The Decree in Andalusia however defines wild camping as “the installation of mobile shelters, caravans, tents or other similar elements easily transportable or removable outside campsites”. Obviously, campervans are mobile and removable, therefore it’s unclear in this region what is allowed and what is not allowed.

To be on the safe side, stick to campsites and designated campervan parking areas, however if you do park for the night outside these areas, make sure it doesn’t look as though you are camping in any way.

Galicia

In Galicia, motorhomes and campervans are considered as vehicles and, as such, they can spend the night in parking areas, as long as they do not display items outside the vehicle and they do not occupy more than one space. There are however different rules on how long you can stay in each place depending on which municipality you are in. For example, in the municipality of Porto do Son, southwest of Santiago de Compostela, you can only spend a maximum of one night.

Navarra

The Navarra Tourism Board state that campervan stays should be “short and limited”, however they don’t define the exact number of nights or hours.

Castilla-La Mancha

This is a 48-hour limit on parking your campervan or motorhome in Castilla-La Mancha.

Murcia

This is a 72-hour limit on parking your campervan or motorhome in Murcia.

Asturias

In Asturias, only vehicles classified as motorhomes may park in areas specially reserved for them, excluding any other type of vehicles such as trucks, caravans and cars. The maximum parking time in these areas is 48 hours.

Where can I camp or park with my campervan or motorhome?

The user-generated map below shows practically all places where you can camp in Spain. Use the + symbol to zoom in to the area you want to check or open the map in a separate window here

To find out where you can park for the night, the website and app Park4Night offers a global map in which people pin their favourite spots to stay overnight. 

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TRAVEL: Tourists in Spain will also be eligible for free train tickets

In welcome news for tourists and travellers in Spain, holidaymakers will be eligible to take advantage of Spain's 100% discounts on train travel later in the year.

TRAVEL: Tourists in Spain will also be eligible for free train tickets

Tourists will be eligible for Spain’s free train ticket scheme that will be phased in later on this year, as confirmed to the Spanish press by sources in Spain’s Ministry of Transport this week.

“If a foreign tourist is a frequent user of the [train] network, he can make use of this subscription. If they want to complete the trips, they will not be asked for any type of card,” the source said.

Additionally, in further news of particular interest for British and American travellers, no differentiation will be made between tourists nor between EU and non-EU nationals for the discounts. Free train travel will be available to all tourists, regardless of where they’re from.

It is hoped that the free train travel will entice more visitors to Spain and continue the sector’s post-pandemic recovery, which for the first six months of the year exceeded pre-pandemic (2019) levels by 1.1 percent, according to figures from the association of Spanish tourism companies, Exceltur.

Tourism experts expect Spain to surpass the number of foreign visitors in the last four months of 2019 – over 20 million tourists – despite upwards inflationary pressures on the cost of flights and accommodation.

But like everything in life, there are terms and conditions. You won’t be able to waltz on any train in Spain for free, and it isn’t year-round.

When?

This eye-catching travel discount will be available from September 1st to December 31st 2022, during which multi-journey train tickets on the trains outlined below will be free.

Free train travel

The 100 percent discount scheme, which will cost public coffers a reported €200 million, will only be valid on certain lines and comes amid a series of measures put in place by the government to try and ease the pain of rising inflation and prices, but also to lower pressures on fuel following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and ensuing energy crisis. 

READ ALSO: How much can you save on public transport in Spain with the new state discount?

“The government will subsidise 100 percent of the public service of commuter trains operated by Renfe. We hope that the autonomous communities can complement this enormous effort made by the Spanish government,” Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said when announcing the scheme in the Spanish Congress.

But which trains will be free, when, and how can you take advantage of them?

Which trains are free?

Unfortunately, the Spanish government has not given everyone in Spain free train travel on every route and on every type of train.

There are rules.

Simply put, local and commuter trains will be free. Cercanías, Rodalies (Catalonia), and Media Distance (local and medium-distance journeys) will be 100 percent free of charge.

The policy is aimed at encouraging the use of trains as opposed to other fossil fuel intensive forms of transport, and it’s valid for journeys up to 300km.

That in mind, trips on long-distance or high-speed trains, such as AVE and Alvia, are not included in the plan.

Neither will the routes in Avlo, the low-cost AVE option established in 2021, nor the medium and high-speed Avants.

Avlo and Avants will instead have a 50 percent discount on the original price, as outlined by the government in June.

READ ALSO: Spain to offer free train trips: when, where and how?

The Spanish government are yet to announce in detail how exactly the discounts will work, or how to apply for them.

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