Confused about motorhome & campervan parking laws in the UK and Europe? Wondering where you can park your van overnight, how long you can park a motorhome in a street or if it’s even legal with the new law changes? Here’s everything you need to know…
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Motorhome and Campervan Parking laws in the UK
Most of us buy a motorhome or campervan because we want freedom. We want to be able to travel at will, explore, enjoy epic road trips and stay overnight in incredible places without needing to book up a campsite three months in advance.
After all, we don’t always have the time or inclination to pre-plan our trips.
The problem is- how do you know where you can park your motorhome or camper overnight?
Some of the most common questions I get from motorhome owners are:
- How long can you park a motorhome in the street?
- Can you park anywhere with a camper van or motorhome?
- Is it legal to sleep in a campervan on the road or in a residential area?
- where can I park a motorhome or campervan overnight?
- Can you park a camper in a National Park?
So, let’s go through these and discuss the campervan parking laws for the UK and Europe in more detail.
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Where can I park a motorhome or campervan overnight?
There are two reasons for this question. Firstly, if you’re a new motorhome owner and want to know where to keep it long term, that will depend on what resources you have available. The most common solutions for long-term motorhome parking are:
- your driveway (if it’s big enough)- be aware of motorhome security
- On the road outside/ near your house – you might want to fit additional motorhome door locks
- In secure motorhome parking areas, such as a storage facility
Alternatively, are you asking where you can park a motorhome or campervan overnight while you’re travelling? If so, the answer is:
- In a campsite
- In an aire or approved overnight parking spot
- Off-grid/ free parking (learn how to find motorhome wild camping spots here)
How long can you park a motorhome in the street?
The good news is that, in both the UK and Europe, if you’re on a road which doesn’t need a parking ticket, a permit or have parking restriction signs, you can park a motorhome up in a street as long as you like!
Obviously, the vehicle needs to be legally allowed to be on the road, so it must have insurance and a valid MOT, but otherwise there are no restrictions unless the local council have imposed them.
You can stay overnight in the vehicle whilst it’s parked on the street, but please don’t dump any waste or rubbish- they should be disposed of in the proper locations.
If you live on the street and are planning to keep your motorhome/ van outside or near your house, I’d suggest increasing your motorhome security– there are plenty of tales of motorhome theft from vehicles left long-term parked on the road.
If you can’t park outside your own house, pay a friendly call to the home owner you’re parking outside to explain who you are and why you’re leaving your van outside their property.
If you’re just motorhome wild parking for a night or two before moving on, I’d suggest finding a quiet spot which doesn’t affect other home owners too much and, if possible, finding a large hedge or fence so that your van isn’t so obvious or intrusive to those inside the houses you’re parked near.
Can you park anywhere with a motorhome?
Nope. The short answer is you cannot just park up in your van wherever you feel like. This applies to the UK and much of Europe.
In the UK, all the land is owned by someone, and you need the landowner’s permission to stay, even for a quick overnight stop.
Yes, even in Scotland (where wild camping with a tent has some rights- which is where some people get confused.) The Scottish wild camping freedoms don’t apply to motorised vehicles (ie, motorhomes and camper vans.)
I love wild parking in my motorhome. I’ve wild camped all over Europe and the UK, including every night of my 6-week motorhome tour of Ireland.
However, the truth is that wild camping or free overnight parking with your motorhome in the UK and many countries in Europe is not a legal right (like it is if you go motorhoming in Norway or some other countries.)
It also doesn’t help that the UK parking laws recently changed- so there’s even more outdated information on forums or old blog posts. (More on Scotland shortly!)
You also can’t park overnight in places which are prohibited by local laws or signs, blocking entrances, or passing places on a road.
The UK overnight parking laws for motorhomes and campervans
Most of us heard the recent news about Dartmoor, where land owners successfully won a case to limit wild camping of all forms on their land.
Even before this, hardly any UK National Parks tolerated wild camping with a vehicle (without a permit), and most seaside locations don’t allow it either.
(No, this doesn’t include field campsites, freedom camping sites, or places like Brit Stops or car parks where you can pay overnight to stay- those are allowed as the landowner has given permission for it (if you want to know how to set your van up for off-grid parking, here’s what you need- and what you don’t!)
We have wild camped with our motorhome in all sorts of beautiful locations (most notably we spent the night in our motorhome next to Stonehenge), but you must remember that van camping isn’t a RIGHT. You could be asked to move on at any time.
In reality, many landowners don’t care if you stay overnight somewhere discreet in your vehicle, take all rubbish with you and don’t empty all your waste into the hedgerows.
However, I’m sure we’ve all read the disgusting headlines where a small minority of the van life community are causing damage and vandalism with no thought for the landowner or the environment and, frankly, I can’t blame the landowners for being upset and wanting more rights to protect their property and the landscape they live in.
The new UK overnight parking law
Which brings us to the recent changes in UK campervan parking laws.
In 2022, there was a new UK law introduced called the Police, Crime, Sentencing and courts bill. I’ve created a video sharing the important things you need to know about overnight parking with your motorhome or campervan here:
We hope you found the video useful. If you did, we’d love it if you followed us on Youtube. New videos with tips for motorhoming and campervanning in the UK and Europe are released weekly.
Campervan Parking laws- the changes
If you can’t or don’t want to watch, here are the important points:
- This bill is 300 pages long and I am not a lawyer, but one of the things it focuses on is moving the crime of trespass from civil to criminal.
- And to do this effectively, they have introduced tougher punishments if the law is broken and increase the powers for the Police and other agencies to move people on if they are causing problems for the landowners.
- Also, the police CAN seize a vehicle if the owners refuse to move after being asked to. Seizure powers were conferred on police in relation to failure to comply with a police direction to leave land under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.
- All they are doing is giving them this power now that the bill is making it a criminal offence.
- Frankly, not a lot changes for those of us who just park up for a night then move on without causing damage. The law clearly states that: “Those residing on land in a vehicle who do not cause significant harm will not be caught by the new offence.”
- Sure, you may be asked to move on by the landowner or an official- that’s one of the risks of wild camping with your van instead of paying for a campsite. And if you comply, there’s no problem or charge to be bought against you.
- In my opinion, you should NOT be wild camping in a group. That’s just asking for trouble. If you turn up at a spot and there are other vans there, we generally try and move on and book a cheap campsite or a field so we can camp together without causing issues.
So, how might this law affect motorhome wild camping or overnight parking in the UK?
Firstly, I don’t believe the police or any other agency have any interest in going around and rounding up motorhomes and campervanners. But if they are called out by a landowner who is upset that people are parked up overnight on their land, they need to have the power to ask them to move on.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I think the UK is woeful in its provision for motorhomes and campervanners who don’t want to use campsites. Having toured so much with a motorhome in Europe, it’s so frustrating just how rubbish the facilities in the UK are- from everything from getting safe drinking water and hygenically emptying waste, to being able to park up near a town.
More and more carparks have height barriers on- WHY? What is the big deal with letting a motorhome stay overnight and paying for the space they use? It drives me nuts.
Having said that, there are more places wising up to providing overnight parking for motorhomes.
Leisure centres, local rugby and football clubs and many council run buildings allow aire-style overnight parking if you ask in advance (and usually pay a small fee). But finding them is a pain in the butt. (Learn more about aires in Europe here)
So, if you enjoy spending time off-grid with your van, and you’re worried about the new laws, use one of these new places- support them, respect them and show them it’s a great use of their space.
But, in all honesty, if you are respectful, stay in discreet, out of the way places and don’t cause noise or damage (and move on if asked), I don’t believe this bill will change how we wild camp in the UK with our vans.
Overnight Parking with a motorhome or campervan in Scotland
Ahhh Scotland. This always opens a can of worms…
Our very first time wild camping was when we were motorhoming in Scotland several years ago. We had no clue how to find good spots, what to do, and I was terrified. I genuinely thought I’d be murdered in my sleep.
Or arrested… (and I wasn’t sure which would be worse!)
Thankfully, neither of those things happened and I’ve since been back to Scotland many time, including a great tour of the NC500 in my motorhome.
The trouble with overnight parking in Scotland is that people get confused by the ‘wild camping’ law- which does NOT apply to motorised vehicles.
Motorhome & Campervan Wild Parking laws in Scotland
We’ve created a post entirely about wild camping with a motorhome in Scotland, but here’s a quick summary for you.
There are 3 different campervan parking laws we need to pay attention to in Scotland.
Scottish Outdoor Access Code
The Scottish Outdoor Access code says that wild camping a non-motorised recreation and does not extend to activities that are based on the use of a vehicle such as sleeping in cars, campers, vans or caravans. There is no legal right to park beside the road overnight but there may be no objection in some instances so extra care is needed.
Land Reform Act of 2003
The Land Reform Act of 2003 says where you park your vehicle is important.
You should not cause any damage or create an obstruction by blocking an entrance to a field or a building, making it difficult for anyone else to use a road or a track. You must be aware for the safety of others, you should not damage the verge and you must use a car park if there is one nearby.
Road Traffic Act of 1988
The Road Traffic Act of 1988 says it is an offence to drive a motor vehicle without lawful authority on land of any description which is not part of a road, a footpath or a bridleway.
Most roads and land (including beaches) are private property and you don’t have the right to just park up whatever you like without permission from the landowner. The parking of camper vans or cars on roads and laybys is subject to the road traffic legislation and regulations. Off-road parking of a motor vehicle on verges or adjacent land without permission is unlawful.
It also states that you can drive a vehicle off-road away from a public road for the purposes of parking as long as you stay within 15 yards of a public road but you do still need the landowner’s permission to park.
Is motorhome wild camping legal in Europe?
Most countries welcome motorhome touring in Europe and have a similar policy regarding staying overnight in your motorhome as the UK does. They prefer you to use campsites or aires (approved motorhome parking places across Europe), but wild camping is tolerated in most places if you are discreet and avoid the main tourist areas (like the French Riviera or the Italian Lakes), so plan your European road trip accordingly.
There are some countries, like Portugal, which used to be very tolerant but have struggled recently with selfish idiots leaving waste behind. Others, like Switzerland and Slovenia, have always been tough, especially in the National Parks. Read more about campervanning in Switzerland.
Motorhome wild camping guides for the UK & Europe
For information on how to find good wild camping places, WHAT to do when you’re there and how to stay safe, check out our step-by-step guide for motorhome wild camping in the UK and Europe, complete with database of 250+ overnight spots we’ve stayed with our motorhome.
Don’t forget to grab your free wild camping checklist here
Practical application of the campervan parking laws
None of the above sounds particularly encouraging for anyone wanting to stay off-grid with their motorhome or campervan. So how do people do it? Let’s break it down into some practical advice.
The fact of the matter is that most land in the UK and Europe is owned by somebody. It’s nearly all private land and we do not just have the right in a motorised vehicle to turn up and park.
In reality, wild camping is generally tolerated as an overnight stop only- exactly like truck drivers are tolerated to stop in a lay-by so that they can get some rest.
It is intended to be a sleeping place, not somewhere where you get out an awning and a load of chairs and make camp for a few days- and that is where I think some of the issues have arisen.
As the numbers of motorhome and campervan owners has risen, especially people living in a van fulltime, there has been increased pressure on the places which welcome off-grid parking. To the point that many of them are now over-run and over-saturated.
The infrastructure is just not there at the moment to deal with the sheer numbers of people who visit. Sadly, there are also a few disgusting individuals who seem to delight in leaving behind waste, litter and damaging their surroundings. I can understand why many places have started putting up ‘No overnight parking’ signs and adding in height barriers.
Can you park your motorhome in a layby overnight?
Yes, you can park in a lay-by overnight, as long as you’re not breaking any restrictions, signs or local laws.
Can I park my motorhome on the street outside my house?
Yup. It’s perfectly ok to park your motorhome on the street outside your house, as long as it complies with any local laws (such as displaying a parking permit) or abides by parking restrictions, isn’t causing an obstruction and is legally allowed to be on the road.
Is it legal to sleep in a campervan on the road?
The answer to this one is complicated and it seems to have been deliberately kept that way in order for the authorities to deal with huge groups of people travelling in caravans and campers who then park up in inappropriate places and cause trouble in the local community.
So you, in your camper or motorhome, are not the issue and, in most places, my opinion (and this is just my opinion) is that you will be absolutely fine in your campervan overnight on the road (I know I’ve slept in my motorhome on the road several times without issue), as long as you’re not breaking any parking restrictions.
Some tips for you:
- Don’t stay in one place longer than one night, especially near residential or built-up areas
- Try to avoid residential streets- people are more likely to worry and call the police. Try to find more remote places where you are away from people
- Avoid car parks- you’re more likely to draw attention and many of these have campervan parking laws which prohibit overnight stays.
- Avoid putting anything outside your vehicle, like washing, chairs, awnings etc
- Never leave waste, damage or litter behind
- Don’t light fires unless they’re off the ground
- Obey any ‘no overnight parking’ signs
Of course, if you own a house and have the camper outside it, there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t stay overnight on the road in your camper.
And while we’re on the subject, yes- it’s perfectly legal to live full-time in a motorhome or campervan in the UK and Europe.
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Kat never planned to buy a motorhome. She also never planned to quit her job as an air traffic controller, go touring around Europe in said motorhome, start one of the UK’s largest motorhome travel websites… or get a cocker spaniel.
If you’d like to connect with Kat, send her an email or follow her adventures on social media.