Camping in France: A beginner’s guide
France is a fantastic country for a camping holiday. It’s also the most visited country in the world, and for good reason too. It’s wonderfully diverse and each of the 22 regions offers something different from rolling countryside, stunning mountain ranges and gorgeous sandy beaches to world-class cities. You could holiday in France all of your life and never get bored.
Camping in France
The French love camping so campsites are in a whole other league with fantastic swimming pools, beautiful manicured grounds and every amenity you could possibly need. Of course this varies between campsites – some are designed to be all singing, all dancing but then others are a rural retreat with the emphasis on relaxation.
If you’re planning your first camping holiday to France, you may be wondering where to start. With so much choice, narrow it down to what the most important part of your holiday is. Is it:
a) The location – what’s available surrounding the campsite
b) The campsite – do you want a site where you don’t need to leave to have fun
For campsites that have everything:
Domaines des Ormes and Camping la Croix du Vieux Pont (or fondly known as Berny) are two of the biggest sites and are fantastic if you want everything waiting and ready for you. Best of all, if you’re travelling with younger children, they’re in very easy reach of the UK and they have FamilyExtra on site. Trust us, you won’t have to leave the campsite unless you really want to. For bigger families Berny is perfect because the lodges sleep 10 people. Our blogger Amy has 5 kids and she loved the lodges for their spaciousness. Here’s her top tips for a fab holiday at Berny.
Campsites are fantastic for a relaxing holiday. Everything’s more laid back than if you were staying in a hotel. The open green spaces are there to be explored and there’s something so wonderful about sitting out on your decking, underneath the stars enjoying a glass or mug of something and listening to the general chatter about the campsite.
In the large towns and cities in France, the majority of people speak English. It’s always nice to have a little bit of the local lingo though to pull out to show you respect their language. In more rural locations English will be less widely spoken so it’s good to know the basics. The rest of the time, the good old international language of pointing and smiling can be called upon.
Goodbye: Au revoir
Thank you (very much): Merci (beaucoup)
Please: s’il vous plait
I would like…: Je voudrais…
A baguette please: une baguette s’il vous plait
Milk: du lait
Count to 10: Un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq, six, sept, huit, neuf, dix
Where is…? : Ou est…
The swimming pool: la piscine
The restaurant: le restaurant
The toilets: les toilettes
You can’t talk about holidaying France without mentioning swimming trunks. In France a lot of places have very strict rules about what can and can’t be worn in swimming pools. This doesn’t make a lot of visitors very happy as it means for the men, whipping out the speedos or tight trunks. It’s basically down to health and hygiene rules which are enforced by each French department. To get more information, check out our article on the rules of swimming attire in France.
If you plan on eating out, lunch is generally served between 12 and 2pm and then the café will close until around 5pm for dinner time. Particularly in low season, places may close at short notice if there isn’t much demand. In some towns, cafes and restaurants won’t open on a specific day of the week – usually a Monday or a Wednesday. It’s always best to keep some food in your accommodation just in case.
It’s always nice to bring a little memento of your holiday home with you. We find it helps to prolong that holiday feeling!
The obvious one is wine – not many countries produce wine as well as France.
Cheese – did you know that France produces over 400 types of cheese! With so many varieties pick out a few to take home with you. Maybe air your case once you get back…
Tips from the Canvas team for a first camping holiday in France:
- Make sure you eat plenty of baguettes. Campsite shops sell them or you can pre-order at the smaller sites. Nowhere makes a baguette quite like the French. Serve with good butter and jam. Delicious!
- When looking for a place to eat out, don’t go for the quiet restaurant – the busy restaurants are the ones favoured by the locals.
- Red wine from the fridge is better than red wine at tent temperature!
- A must try dish: Moules-frites (mussels and chips) – very popular with the French – excellent and usually good value for money.
- Learn a few key phrases to help you get by – the French really appreciate those who make the effort and it immerses you a bit more into the culture.
- Take layers! The weather in the north can change quickly (especially if you’re going in low season) so it’s good to have a fleece/jacket on hand just in case.
- Going to the supermarket is fun! Pick a really big one and have fun looking at all the stuff you don’t get at home.
- Drink local wine (then take some home!)
- Hit the local supermarket before you go home and take home affordable, edible souvenirs like jam (so many more Bonne Maman flavours in France!), cheese, mustards, biscuits etc. Makes the memories of the trip last longer!
- Visit local markets for local colour and good fresh food.
- Take your bike or hire a bike when there and go and explore the local area on 2 wheels… when I was a courier in the Vendée is was so easy to cycle places as it was very flat!
If you’ve got any top tips you’d love to share, please do! We’d love to hear them!