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Most common in France and known there as Aires de Service - these are networks of stopping places designed specifically for motorhomes. They are usually run by the local town council, but may also be privately owned on farms and vineyards for example. They can be large (150+) with motorhomes packed quite tightly together, or completely off the beaten track and accepting only one or two vehicles at a time. There are more than 2,000 Aires in France alone.
French law forbids caravans and tents from using Aires so they are entirely for the use of motorhomes! Aires are a great alternative to a campsite: they allow you to use your motorhome for what it was designed for and that is independent touring. Even better, they are either very low cost or free of charge. Park up next to a canal with the narrow boats floating by, or next to the beach in the south of France - the variety is immense and you will wonder why you ever bothered going to a campsite!
Aires symbolise the freedom of motorhoming. You are welcomed into local communities, were you can stay overnight at unique locations unavailable to other travellers. These are a luxury not a right, so park your motorhome hire sympathetically to your neighbours and use service point and facilities responsibly
The facilities on Aires does vary, but most have a kind of 'one stop shop' machine for filling up with clean water, emptying grey water and chemical toilets, and sometimes even an electric hook up. Tokens or coins are usually required to operate the machine which will probably have time limits. The tokens can usally be purchased from the newsagents, bread shops or the local filling station.
It is sometimes the case that your stay at an Aire is limited to one or two nights, particularly in popular areas. Aires cannot be booked in advance and it may be necessary to turn up mid afternoon at the most popular locations to ensure a pitch. It is generally recommended that the motorway stopovers are avoided as they can be a magnet for thieves, but reports of criminal activity elsewhere are few and far between.
There is an excellent English guide to the French Aires, produced by Vicarious books, while French versions are also available. Vicarious also has stopover guides for Spain and Portugal, Benelux and Scandinavia, Germany (Stellplatze) and Italy.
|All the above titles can be bought from the online Vicarious book store >>|
There is no equivalent system to the Aires in the UK. There are two options that provide quite minimal motorhome provision while travelling with your motorhome hire.
Motorhome Stopovers http://www.motorhomestopover.co.uk
These stopovers are a network of pubs that are willing to allow overnight stopping by motorhomes in their car parks, for free. You pay an annual on line subscription of £30.00 (or £35.95 for postal membership) and can then choose where to stay the night from the stops across the country – currently about 500. The only catch is that the pub expects you to buy something … that can be a single drink or a meal, it's up to you. These are not campsites and do not have campsite facilities; most will allow you to stop for more than one night but it is important to check beforehand to establish if there are any restrictions.
Stopovers and Service Points (http://www.ukmotorhomes.net/uk-motorhome-stopovers
This listing is of locations where overnight stops by motorhomes are accepted or at least tolerated, and mostly consists of car and lorry parks. There are not many of these sites and the situation is always changing so it is important to check the website for the most up to date information.