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

Is it ever possible to camp or sleep on the beach in Spain? Read on to find out the rules and restrictions on where you can and can't camp along the coast.

camping on the beach
Can you camp on the beach in Spain? Photo: Duncan Tran / Pixabay

It’s the ultimate Spanish camping holiday dream, setting up your tent right on the beach and waking up to a spectacular coastal view and the sound of the waves gently lapping against the shore.

But is this even possible or legal? Are you actually allowed to camp or sleep at any beaches in Spain?

The short answer is that unfortunately wild camping on the beach in Spain is not allowed.

Why is it not allowed?

The reasons for restricting camping on the beach range from health and safety to security and respecting the environment. This means that there are very strict regulations when it comes to camping or sleeping on the beach. 

Is camping on the beach ever allowed under specific circumstances?

As mentioned above, generally wild camping on the beach, meaning not at a designated campsite, is not allowed in Spain. You are however able to request specific permission from the local authorities to do so under very specific circumstances. 

Keep in mind though, according to the Spanish Federation of Campsite Entrepreneurs (FEEC) the local authorities rarely grant such permission, unless you have a particular reason or need to camp by the beach, such as for environmental research. Simply camping on the beach for tourism will not be allowed. 

What about sleeping on the sand without a tent?

How about if you don’t intend to camp on the beach, but you just want to sleep on the sand in a sleeping bag? Unfortunately, this is generally not allowed either and if you’re spotted, you could be fined by the local Ayuntamiento or Town Hall or told to move on.

But it’s not just a question of being fined, it’s also a health and safety risk to sleep on the beach. If you’re in an urban area you’re at risk of people stealing your belongings while sleeping.

Big tractors and other vehicles will often also drive along the beaches at night or in the early hours of the morning, cleaning and raking the sand, and may not see you if you’re sleeping there in the dark.

While changes in the tides are minimal in Spain, depending on where you are, tides and big waves could also be a risk factor.

Can I park my campervan or caravan next to the beach?

OK, so you can’t camp in a tent on the beach or sleep directly on the sand, without the risk of incurring a fine, but what about parking your caravan or campervan right next to the beach and still waking up to that incredible sea view?

As mentioned above, wild camping in Spain is not allowed, even in a campervan, you must find appropriate campsites to stay the night.

However, there is one main caveat to this rule. 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. This means that you can’t set up awnings, tables and chairs or other camping equipment, it must look as though you are simply parked.

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 rural area, counted from the seashore”.

This means that as long as it doesn’t look like you’re camping, you may still be able to find an official parking area that meets these rules and still offers a stunning sea view.

Read here to find out the campervan and motorhome rules for each region in Spain and how long you’re permitted to park in one place. 

Places where you can still camp near the beach

The good news is that camping is very popular in Spain and there are hundreds of campsites all over the country. The latest figures available showed that there were 527 campsites across the country in 2020 (in 2019 there were over 700).

Many of these campsites are indeed located along the coast and several are in fact right next to the beach. This means that you can still fulfill that dream of unzipping your tent door in the morning and waking up to that fabulous seaside view.

Some of the most popular regions for coastal campsites in Spain include the Costa del Azahar and the Costa Blanca in Valencia, the Costa Brava and the Costa Dorada in Catalonia, the Costa Tropical and the Costa de la Luz in Andalusia, and across the Balearic and the Canary Islands.

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TRAVEL NEWS

What you should know if you’re travelling to Spain in December

The rules, the least busy travel times, the strikes, the free travel deals, what you can’t check in - here’s what you need to know if you’re travelling to Spain in December or at Christmas.

What you should know if you're travelling to Spain in December

December is a busy travel period with many foreigners leaving Spain to celebrate Christmas with their families back in their home countries and many others travelling to Spain for a holiday or to spend time with their loved ones here.

Airline strikes and an increase in passengers could make travelling this winter a little more challenging, but here’s everything to need to know, so you can be prepared. 

According to Spain’s airport operator Aena, the number of airline tickets sold for travel to Spain over the winter season is set to exceed the number in 2019-2020, before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Also, last winter saw the rise of the Omicron variant and some countries introduced new restrictions, so many foreign residents decided not to go back to see their families over the holidays. This means that this year could see more people wanting to return after several years of not having celebrated together with their families. 

Therefore, airports could be particularly busy this December, so make sure you leave plenty of time for getting through security and passport control.

There is still one important Covid travel rule in Spain

Although the majority of Spain’s domestic and travel Covid-19 restrictions were lifted before the summer of 2022, one of the only rules that still remains in place is the obligation of wearing a face mask on public transport.

This includes aeroplanes, buses, trains, taxis and some ferries, but mask wearing isn’t compulsory at airports, ports or bus and train stations.

As things stand, the general rule is that cabin crew from all airlines have to tell passengers on planes bound to Spain that they have to wear masks.

If on the other hand the aircraft is flying out of Spain, the mask rules of the country which the plane is flying to apply, which in almost all cases means face coverings aren’t required.

Spain’s flagship airline Iberia has criticised the Spanish government’s ongoing mask requirement for passengers on planes bound to the country, stressing that it “doesn’t make any sense” and “it affects tourism”.

Although it is no longer compulsory to present a negative Covid-19 test to fly, Spanish health and airport authorities ask that anyone with Covid-19 symptoms avoid travel.

It is no longer necessary either for travellers to fill in health control forms before flying to Spain as was previously the case, and there are no bans or restrictions on non-EU or other specific countries.

Which are the least busy days for travelling to Spain in December?

According to flight search engine Skyscanner, which has analysed nine million searches for people looking to travel to Spain over the festive period, some of the quietest days to travel to Spain are from the 18th to the 23rd, with the 23rd being the least popular before Christmas.

If you’re wanting to fly to Spain after Christmas, however, you’ll find it even quieter on December 28th, as well as January 1st, 3rd, 4th, 6th and 7th. You may find Spanish cities to be fairly busy however as December 6th and 8th are public holidays.

Conversely, the most popular days to travel are between December 12th and the 17th, so avoid those days if you want to avoid the crowds. 

Who is travelling to Spain this December? 

According to new data released by Spain’s Tourism Ministry, during the last month of the year, 7,066,101 people have booked seats, which implies a recovery of 97.4 percent compared to the same month of 2019. 

Forecasts for the early December holidays reveal that Italians, Germans and French are the main tourists who will be visiting Spain. During the puentes and public holidays on December 6th and 8th, Italians will make up the majority of tourists travelling to Spain (23 percent), followed by Germans (17 percent), French (16 percent), British (10 percent) and finally the Portuguese (6 percent).

Airline strikes

Several airline strikes have also been called for this winter, mainly involving low-cost airlines Vueling and Ryanair.

The Vueling strikes are due to take place on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays and public holidays. They began on November 1st 2022 and will run right through the Christmas period to January 31st 2023.

Specifically, this means that those travelling on December 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 8th, 9th,10th and 11th may be affected by cancellations. 

Additional days that will be affected include December 24th, 31st and January 5th 2023, affecting those passengers who plan on travelling for Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and Three Kings’ Day.

The workers are demanding a wage increase in line with the rise in prices due to inflation, as well as protesting over the precarious work conditions that have been experienced within the sector since even before the pandemic.  

Many passengers are currently being offered alternative flights, refunds or other compensation if their flights are cancelled. 

Ryanair baggage handlers and on-the-ground staff have also been striking and will continue to do so until January 7th, 2023.

It’s likely these airports will include Alicante, Barcelona, Madrid, Málaga, Palma de Mallorca and Seville, however, it’s worth noting that Ryanair has said that it doesn’t expect this strike to cause that much disruption.

Bringing food and goods in from the UK and other non-EU countries

One of the advantages of going back to your home country for Christmas is not only to see your friends and family but also to stock up on treats and ingredients you’ve missed while living in Spain. Think mince pies, custard powder and Marmite for those going back to the UK.

But as this is the second Christmas since Brexit came into force, many may still not be totally aware of what they’re now allowed to bring to Spain from non-EU countries.

The EU’s strict rules mean that all imports of animal-derived products are not allowed. This means no Christmas puddings with suet, no British bacon and blocks and Wensleydale or Cheddar cheese to bring back with you.

If you want to know exactly what you can and can’t bring in this Christmas, read our detailed guide here

Bringing food from Spain into the UK, is a little easier as you’re still allowed to bring in EU products, so packets of jamón and Manchego cheese are ok to take.

Travel within Spain

Those who are planning on travelling within Spain this Christmas, either to visit friends and family or simply for the fun of travel should know that there are currently lots of travel discounts, particularly on trains.

Multi-journey tickets are currently free on Cercanías, Rodalies and Media Distancia trains and are worth paying the €10 or €20 deposit for if you’re going to be making the same journey several times during your trip.

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For example, if you’re planning on spending the holiday in the small Catalan town of Sitges, but know that you’ll be making several trips to Barcelona during that time for sightseeing, shopping or eating out, then it could be worth it.

Unfortunately, the free tickets are not available on long-distance trains, but you can still get a bargain on these this winter as Spain’s new low-cost train operator Iryo recently launched.

This means that you can get tickets from Madrid to Barcelona as well as Valencia and Málaga for an average of €18 each. 

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