In addition to the usual things you need for traveling abroad—a valid passport and vaccinations for certain countries—there are a few other things to think about if you plan on camping overseas. The laws regarding camping and related activities vary by country, and in fact, some countries do not allow wild camping. It is important to do extensive research before embarking on your trip. While laws vary greatly from country to country, camping etiquette is pretty much universal. That means keeping noise down at night, not allowing children or dogs to run wild, and practicing fire safety if you build a campfire.
Camping in Europe
Europe alone has more than 10,000 campgrounds, however, many of them differ from typical American campsites. Some European campgrounds are located in or on the outskirts of an urban area and can range from offering modern amenities to extravagant vacation experiences with restaurants and small waterparks. Many European campsites are far less private than those in the U.S. and do not allow open campfires, which may come as a surprise to American campers. Prices vary by facility and charge by the tent, person, or vehicle.
Wild camping means pitching your tent in the wilderness and not in a designated, official campsite. This is fine if you are very careful and a real adventurer, but you need to know if it is legal first, or your dream destination could turn into a nightmare. To give you an idea how laws/rules differ from country to country, here are a few intriguing camping, swimming, and driving rules, courtesy of Pitchup.com and TransitionAbroad.com.
Cyprus: It is illegal to eat or drink while driving, nor can you toot your horn within the vicinity of a hospital.
France: Wild camping is legal, but you cannot build a fire. France legally requires that drivers carry a portable breathalyzer test, but the good news is they are inexpensive and available in most French garages and supermarkets. You also need to carry at least one high visibility vest in your vehicle. Men must wear Speedo-style swimming trunks in the pool and everyone has to wear swimming/bathing caps.
Great Britain: Wild camping is tolerated, but you cannot camp on marked private land and you must keep a reasonable distance from any people.
Greece: Wild camping is illegal, so alas, that means you cannot pitch a tent on the majestic cliffs of Santorini.
Norway or Sweden: You can camp in the wilderness if you clean up after yourself and are careful with your campfire.
Spain: You need to carry one high visibility vest per passenger at a minimum. You also cannot wear sandals, flip-flops, or go barefoot when driving and you also must wear a shirt.
New Zealand: Fines of up to $10,000 are imposed for illegally dumping campsite waste or litter.
You might wonder if camping abroad is safe. As long as do your research and don’t venture into dangerous areas, you should be fine. Obviously, you need to avoid any countries or regions that are experiencing civil wars or other political strife. Be very careful not to cross a country’s border, especially in the Middle East—you probably heard about the three young Americans who did just that in 2011. While hiking near the Iranian border in Iraqi Kurdistan, Iranian border guards captured the trio for crossing into Iran, albeit unknowingly and they were thrown in jail.
Wild Camping Tips
• Buy a good map and look at the landscape for clues as to an appropriate place to camp. For example, vineyards or farm fields are not good because you cannot camp on privately owned land.
• Find a site outside towns and villages and hidden from the main road.
• Buy a green tent which will make you less conspicuous.
• Avoid spots that might turn into drinking holes at night. If you see litter, discarded liquor bottles, or cigarette packets, move on.
• Bring extra water for drinking and washing, unless there is a nearby lake or river from which you can filter water.
• Wait until dusk to set up, reducing the risk that somebody will see you.
• If you find yourself in trouble, don’t be afraid to ask locals for help.
• Bring baby wipes to clean off the day’s dirt and grime.
• Never camp in a dry riverbed because a sudden rainstorm can cause rivers to quickly spring back to life.
• Beware of any areas with potentially dangerous wildlife.