Wondering how to find LPG in Europe? Looking for refillable gas stations as you travel? This post has everything you need for motorhomes, campervans and caravans to find and use LPG in Europe, as well as the biggest gas mistake we have ever made and the chaos it caused…
What do I mean by LPG in Europe?
First, let's clear up a teeny tiny confusion. By GAS, I mean the stuff you burn for your cooker or hob (or fridge and maybe heating.) I do NOT mean petrol or diesel and I'm not talking about LPG for your car/ motorhome or anything which makes the vehicle MOVE.
This is not about fuel for your motorhome so you can get more mileage. This is about cooking, eating, heating, hot water- all that fun stuff which you need on a road trip.
Our BIG gas mistake…
Once upon a time, in March 2018, we headed to Europe in our motorhome. I had just quit my job so we could travel Europe in a motorhome and we were feeling buoyant.
We were chilling out in France, making a cup of tea when the gas spluttered and died. “Not a problem,” we thought. “We have another bottle…”
It took about 20 seconds for the light bulb to go off, but go off it did.
We are in France.
With two UK 6kg Calor gas bottles.
You can't exchange UK gas bottles in France.
You can't refill UK gas bottles in France.
If you buy a French gas bottle, they don't fit the fittings of our UK system!
We are also going to Germany. If we buy a German bottle, they don't fit the fittings for the French bottles… or the UK ones. (Seriously, who designed this stuff? It's crazy)
So we're in France, on a chilly Spring evening, suddenly feeling short on gas. (I'm mature- that sentence didn't make me giggle out loud at all. Honest.)
You can watch the whole thing play out (including us nearly freezing to death over the Bank Holiday weekend before the shops open!) in the video below:
Somewhere in between leaving work, moving house and onto the boat and having a million little jobs to do, we'd forgotten our plan to buy and install a refillable gas system, which allows you to refill the bottle via a pump at a petrol station- just like you refill your car.
Which is great, and useful…. but we hadn't done it.
So the big question is- How do you get gas in Europe??
How to get gas in Europe- the options
These are the options available to UK motorhomes, campervans and caravans if you want to bring your vehicle to Europe:
1- Bring Enough Gas with you
– Option 1 is straightforward if you're going on a week or even two-week holiday- bring enough gas! There's more on how to decide how much gas you need for a European road trip below.
2- Refillable gas bottle system
– Option 2 is to install a refillable gas bottle system. Throughout Europe (and the UK), there are easy-to-use gas refill stations in some petrol stations- especially on motorways.
You just pull in, get the hose with the nozzle on and refill your tanks. More on that further down this post.
We did try to get a Gaslow system in France. They do sell them, but you need a French address and they need to order them in. We didn't find anywhere that had a system in stock. I think this is true for most places in the UK too, so don't be expecting to drive in and drive away on the same day.
3- Install an LPG tank
– Option 3 is to install a fitted LPG tank. We thought hard about this option, but for us it made more sense to get bottles as we plan to visit some of the countries where finding refillable gas is apparently very difficult- like Morocco.
In these places, we can take one of our refillable gas bottles out, strap it somewhere safe and connect an exchangeable bottle instead that we buy as needed. But if you're not planning on doing something crazy like Morocco then a tank might be a good option for you. I believe Gaslow do the fitted tanks but I'm sure there will be other companies too.
4- Use exchangeable gas bottles in each country
– Option 4 is to use exchangeable gas bottles in each country you visit. This really worried us as we had been told that you had to have an address in each country in order to get a bottle. And there's the issue with the connectors and the whole system not fitting each other from country to country.
It can also get pretty expensive as you buy a gas bottle (and pay the deposit) and obviously can't return it to get your deposit back! It's probably worth visiting a larger chain, such as Carrefour or Intermarche supermarkets in France to get your bottle- although we've heard these places are a lot stricter on paperwork than others.
5- Don't use gas
– Option 5 – don't use any gas. Stay on campsites and use electricity.
So, those are your options. Let's ignore option 5 and say there are 4. So which is best?
How much gas do you need for a road trip?
When we toured Italy for two weeks, we didn't need to change our gas bottle at all. In fact, I don't think we used a full 6kg bottle. We cooked with it every night, used lots of hot water for showers and washing up, ran our fridge with it and it lasted forever.
The thing which REALLY cripples our gas consumption is when we have the heating on. In winter, we get through a 6kg bottle every 4/5 days- big difference!
So, think about the length of your trip and the weather (ie- will you need heating and does your heating run on gas?) If in doubt, I would always recommend changing the bottles for refillable ones- it's so much easier to use and reduces the worry about running out.
How to Find Gas Bottles in Europe
As you saw in the video, we found a solution to getting gas bottles in France, which works in the exact same way as the UK- you return one and swap for another one.
But to do this you need to sign a contract & pay for a new bottle from an outlet and this is a very expensive way to get gas unless you are in that country for a long time. (TOP TIP- some places will ask for a French address- use a local campsite)
Just remember to get the connectors (pigtails) so you can switch between French, German and all other gas bottles- because they do NOT all have the same connectors.
Connectors can be found at camping or motorhome stores. Gas bottles are commonly sold in garages, especially big supermarkets. You will rarely find them at service stations on motorways- you're much more likely to find them in towns.
Remember that Europe observes Sunday trading laws so plan your shopping and gas buying in advance. If you can, run two bottles. We don't advocate using the auto switch over- yes, it's annoying at 3am when the heating dies and you think you're going to freeze in your bed… but at least you KNOW one bottle is now empty and therefore you need to exchange it or find an LPG station to fill up in.
We've heard so many stories of people who didn't realise the bottles had switched over and found themselves in the middle of nowhere with no gas!!
Using Refillable gas bottles in Europe
- Finland doesn't have LPG at ALL (neither does Morocco) so we need to make sure we fill up before we head that way.. if we head that way!
How to find LPG stations in Europe- My LPG Europe
These are the sites we have been recommended to use. I'll update this after our trip so you know how effective they are.
- Specifically for Norway: http://www.lpgnorge.no/stasjonsoversikt/english/
The mylpg Europe map does have some places which are out of date, so use with caution, but we've always found one eventually.
How to use an LPG filling station
You refill with LPG almost exactly like you do with fuel. Find a filling station (LPG is normally at a separate pump on its own out of the way).
Pull in, open the filler, connect the hose and press the button. Keep a close eye on the level when you are filling and don't overfill or rely on the auto cut-off
CAUTION- there will be a sharp blast of gas when you disconnect. Every time it makes me jump, and make sure your hands are away. Wearing gloves is a good idea.
Can I take a motorhome on the Channel Tunnel if it has LPG tanks fitted?
Yes… and no. If your motorhome has LPG fitted for use as fuel, even if it can be switched off completely, you are NOT allowed on the Eurotunnel. Ferry only, I'm afraid.
If you have refillable LPG tanks fitted for use as domestic gas, then you CAN travel on the Channel Tunnel. Expect them to stop you and check that the tanks are turned off as you are boarding.
How to get gas in Europe- lessons learnt from our mistake:
- Getting gas in Europe is NOT as scary as Google and motorhome forums will lead you to believe.
- You can buy a gas bottle in France without a French address. If you get stuck, use a local campsite address.
- The french tails fit fine onto the UK regulators. You can buy french tails from hardware shops (like Leroy Merlin) and gas bottles from most petrol stations. Or visit a camping/ motorhome shop.
- You may be able to get a 13kg bottle into your van gas locker. If you can, do- it gives you a bit more freedom
- If you plan to install a refillable system- do it BEFORE you leave.
- Caravan/ motorhome shops are all over the place and we've never met an unfriendly one yet. Even if you don't speak the language, they will know what you mean and help you out as much as they can. Just practice your panicked face in the mirror first.
I hope that helps prepare you more for your trip to Europe. We have other helpful articles in our Travel to Europe section HERE
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