Folks contemplating motorhome travel in Europe are naturally curious as to what it really costs.
As with US RVing, it’s not a question that is simple to answer. Much depends on your travel style, whether you stay in fancy campgrounds or free-camp, how many miles you drive per day and how much you spend on sightseeing & going out.
Plus in Europe EVERY country is different.
For example Spain is known to be a pretty low-cost country to travel both in terms of gas costs, road tolls and the basics such as groceries (can you say EUR 1-2 for a bottle of wine? Oh yes you can!). Scandinavia on the other hand is known to be notoriously expensive, especially for things like gas and groceries.
So, as I’ve always said when it comes to camping costs it depends…..
We’re Newbies & We Let Loose On This Trip
We’re also newbies!! Well at least as far as European motorhome travel goes. And as with all things new, it takes a little while to figure out all the ins and outs.
This particular trip was our first major trip abroad in LMB and it was just a little 16-day mini-swing into the northwest corner of Spain. Our goal was to enjoy ourselves and let loose, so we didn’t really try to save on costs. In general we went for comfort and efficiency over costs, choosing to stay at developed campgrounds rather than Aires/Camperstops (or wild-camping) and driving toll roads wherever they showed up rather than actively trying to avoid them.
We could easily have cut our costs in half by simply choosing cheaper places to stay (especially Camperstops) and/or taking more B-roads, but that’s just the way we decided to roll this time around.
With that said, here are the specs of the top-level costs for our first little mini-trip abroad.
Km Traveled: 1,137 (~706 miles)
Days Spent Abroad: 16
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Km/Miles & Route
All in all we traveled 1,137 km, or around 706 miles over a period of 16 days or so. We made a total of 7 camping stops and kept our driving down to no more than ~1-2 hours between each one. Our longest day clocked in at ~227 km (just over two hours) while our shortest was only 4.6 km! (around 10 mins?). We didn’t push it at all.
How Does This Compare To Our US Travels? The length of drive between spots is not tooooo different to what we used to do in the old “beast” (we never liked long drives), but because we moved so much (around every 2-3 days or so) this is about three times the pace we used to travel when we full-timed in the USA. It was still a VERY reasonable slo-mo for a quick trip abroad.
Gas costs are obviously a major part of any road travel budget, and in Europe the prices would shock most Americans. Thankfully the vehicles here are made to be MUCH more efficient than their US counterparts, so even though diesel is outrageously expensive by US-standards it’s actually cheaper to RV around Europe if you take advantage of the local motorhome tech.
In Spain diesel averaged around EUR 1.25/liter (equivalent to ~$5.3 per US gallon), which was nicely cheaper than the first fill-up we did in France at around EUR 1.45/liter (equivalent to ~$6.1 per US gallon). Prices vary by time of year, but those were the rates we paid when we went in March, 2019.
How Does This Compare To Our US Travels? I didn’t keep track of exactly how many liters we put into our new motorhome (or how much of a tank we started/finished with), so I don’t have our precise mileage but I can certainly tell you that this is undoubtedly cheaper than what we would have paid with the old RV in the USA. Our old “beast” was a heavy ~33,000 lb gal with a massive 400 HP engine which made her a bit of a diesel guzzler. She only managed ~8 mpg, so the equivalent km/miles would have cost us quite a bit more at around ~EUR 252 or ~$283 (using today’s US retail price average of $3.20 per gallon) if we’d RV’d a similar-length route in the USA. Our new gal is pretty darn gas efficient!!
During our next trip I’ll keep better track so I can get a more accurate usage.
Road Toll Costs
Paying road tolls are a fact of life in Europe. Some countries charge highway tolls while others feature bridge and tunnel tolls so it just depends. In Southern Europe (Spain, France, Italy, Portugal) you pay road tolls on the major highways and they’re collected as you travel through toll booths (either in cash, by credit card, or electronic transponder,if you have one) along the way.
During our mini-trip we paid a total of EUR 93.3 (~$105) in tolls, most of which was in Spain. We thought that was pretty reasonable, especially since we made literally zero effort to avoid toll roads and simply took them wherever they were offered. With a bit of effort, we could easily have reduced this, so you could consider this a higher-end budget.
As an added bonus our little mini-rig did help us save some money here, especially in France.
In France tolls are charged by vehicle class. Regular cars are considered Class 1 and are charged the lowest rate. Light motorhomes (less than 3.5 tonnes and under 3 m in height) are the next step up and are considered Class 2. These toll costs are around 50% more than regular cars. Heavier motorhomes (> 3.5 tonnes) are considered Class 3 or higher depending on their exact weight and number of axles, and that can become expensive. Rates increase rapidly here, hitting around 3 times the regular car rate. It’s the one of the big advantages of traveling in a lighter/smaller motorhome in France.
In Spain it’s a bit easier. Motorhomes are charged the same as cars (Class 1, tourist), no matter their weight so everyone pays the same.
How Does This Compare To Our US Travels? In the USA we paid ZERO road tolls out West during the first 5 years or so of our travel, but paid several when we RV’d our East during our last few years. Our costs in the East ranged anywhere from zero to $60 (in Florida) and up to $180 per month (e.g. around NY, Boston etc.). I would say all-in-all there’s no doubt road tolls are much cheaper in the USA. Plus if you stay West, you avoid them altogether.
This is easy. We traveled during winter and chose ASCI campgrounds the whole way, so we were able to take advantage of their low season discount. This means we paid ~EUR 20 whenever we stayed in developed campgrounds.
We did wild-camp/boondock several nights (where we paid nothing), so our total costs (EUR 280 = ~$315) came in a little below this, but that’s pretty much where we ended up.
As we RV around more in Europe it’ll be interesting to see how/if this cost changes. I expect it might come down as we get more comfortable with wild-camping, and Aires/Camperstops, but it could also increase in high-season and/or whenever we travel north. We’ll just have to see….
How Does This Compare To Our US Travels? In the USA we averaged about half this (~$10/night) when we RV’d out West (where we boondocked and workamped several months each year), but our costs rose to about the same level as above (~$23/night) during our last couple of years when we RV’d out East. So, pretty equivalent I’d say.
That’s It For Top-Level, Plus Maps Are Back!
Those were our top-level costs. The detailed stuff like motorhome insurance (cheaper in Europe than USA so far), health insurance (MUCH, MUCH cheaper than USA so far) and groceries (about the same, give or take) I’ll leave for another day.
If you’re dying for more info right now, then there are a bunch of good blogs with lots of details on European travel costs. Here’s a few:
- Tour Europe By Motorhome: See their travel map & costs HERE covering ONE year & 21 countries across Europe. Very detailed!
- Our Tour: See their most recent 3-month trip to France/Spain costs HERE. These guys have been touring all over Europe for many years and have tons more info on European motorhoming on their website/blog.
- Wandering Bird: They have a good example of a 2-week budget trip to Germany HERE.
Lastly, as you might have noticed from the first pic on this post, I’ve started mapping our travels again. I’ll be doing the same kind of maps I did in the USA, keeping track via Google MyMaps of our current travel route, and then transferring all that info into UMaps at the end of each travel year (Note/ for privacy purposes our start/end spot on these maps is not exactly where we live, but it’s close enough). That’s it for the wrap-up!
Coming Up Next -> Twinsie Motorhoming Friends Drop By, And We Prep For Another Mini-Trip Abroad….