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Campsite 101: The most important rules for campers

Going on holiday at a campsite for the first time is exciting and not without its pitfalls. To avoid any surprises, here’s what to expect – from booking to proper disposal.

Reservation

At many campsites you don’t need to or can’t book in advance. This is a little unusual for new campers at first, but you will soon learn to appreciate it. It’s the only way to maintain flexibility for everyone. It only happened to us once – during the high season in Slovenia – that we really couldn’t find a single free place in a wide area. Normally, however, you will find a free spot at the second or third campsite at the latest.

However, if you are dependent on the holidays and/or absolutely want to spend your holiday at the campsite of your choice, you should make your reservation early so that you don’t have to change campsites. Then the time of anticipation and travel planning is longer ;)

Arrival and check-in

On arrival, you usually stop with the caravan/camper in front of a barrier or in a marked area of the entrance and then register at the reception. Most campsites require an identity card or passport, which sometimes has to be left behind.

A good alternative in Europe is the Camping Key Europe, which is also recognised by campsites as an identity document and can also bring great discounts, especially in the low season. In Scandinavian countries, the Camping Key Europe is compulsory at campsites. So far, the card is only available in Germany through the ADAC, but don’t panic! In Scandinavia, it can also be bought on site at the campsites.

On the plot

After checking in, you will often be given a map of the site, especially at larger sites, which will show you the site’s facilities, such as sanitary blocks, waste disposal stations and restaurant, and describe the “house rules”. Your plot will also be marked on the map. On some pitches you will even be accompanied to the plot and shown and explained the electricity pillar or the water connection. When it comes to manoeuvring on the pitch, in most cases you will be offered active help from your neighbours. Some will even manoeuvre the caravan into position or casually move it to the right spot. It is recommended that your own power connection is no further away from the power point than the length of the power cable you have brought with you ;) You can find out more about shore power here. Once the caravan is in the desired position, level it using a spirit level (these are also available in pocket size). Sometimes ramps are necessary if the terrain is steeply sloping. Then you lower the supports and put up the awning or the awning. Fill the fresh water tank with water using a hose or jug. The cassette toilet (if available) is also filled with water and, if necessary, with a sanitary liquid.

Accommodation costs

Prices per night vary from country to country and from site to site. In our experience, the average price for a 3-star campsite in the high season is between 25 and 35 euros, and it can be as much as 40 to 50 euros for 4 or 5-star campsites.

When you arrive, you should find out which services are included in the price, as there are often additional costs for electricity, hot water and internet.

Discounts

In addition to the Camping Key, there are the camping guides of the ADAC or the Dutch camping association ACSI, which can also be ordered with a Camping Card and thus used for discounts. Other discount cards are the German Camping Club card, the Mein Platz discount card and the CampingCardInternational.

The amount of discount you can get varies from site to site and depends on the season. You can find an overview in our article “Save like the pros – camping discount cards in comparison”.

There are also other portals that offer discounts, such as Landvergnügen, SVR and Vekabo. To find out how you can save money on camping in general, read our savings tips for campers.

Supply and disposal

Power

At some campsites, electricity is charged per kilowatt, while others offer a flat rate (usually between 4 and 5 euros per day). We have a few tips for those who don’t want to experience a miracle when they leave the campsite if they are charged by the kilowatt.

Since there are two types of connections throughout Europe, we recommend a camping power adapter (we use the CEE-Schuko set of two) so that you don’t suddenly find yourself without “juice”!

Water

You will usually find water connections to “fill up” your camper either directly at the campsite or nearby. Some campsites also offer proper water stations with hoses at the entrance or exit, so that you don’t have to carry a canister around.

Hot water is available – sometimes for a fee – in the sanitary facilities and often also at the dishwashing sinks.

Before using the water, please find out whether it is of drinking quality and can therefore also be used for cooking, or whether it should only be used for washing hands and washing up. Drinking water is available in 10-litre bottles, especially in southern countries. It is best to put one of these on your shopping list for your first local purchase.

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Waste water (grey water)

The waste water from rinsing and washing your hands is collected in your waste water trolley, which is simply placed under the sink plug of the caravan. If it is full, dispose of the contents at the waste disposal facility. If there is no such facility on the site, you can dump it in the sanitary facilities without hesitation. Some sites also offer pitches with their own water disposal facilities. If you have booked one of these, we recommend that you bring a hose with a wider diameter.

Chemical toilets

If you have your own chemical toilet, the liquid must be disposed of in specially designated facilities. Under no circumstances should you dump it in public toilets! The chemicals must not get into the groundwater!

Almost all campsites have such disposal facilities. If not, ask the operator where the nearest disposal station for motorhomes is located.

Sanitary facilities

Public sanitary facilities usually have toilets, washbasins with and/or without cubicles, showers, sometimes also basins for laundry and baby changing facilities. Some showers are equipped with coin-operated machines for hot water, as described above. The number, equipment and cleanliness always depend on the individual campsite operator, of course, but in the case of cleanliness also on the users. Therefore, the unwritten law “Always leave the place as you would have wished to find it” applies here as well as at the sinks and washbasins.

Kitchen and dishwasher sink

At well-equipped campsites, kitchens with dishwashing sinks are available; at simpler campsites, you have to make do with outdoor washbasins. For reasons of hygiene, please take care not to wash your dishes in the sink – and of course not your dirty laundry in the sink!

You should also clean the sink after use to remove any leftover food or other “goodies” and give the surfaces a quick wipe dry. This ensures that your successors can also clean their dishes there without disgust – and if you set a good example and the others also adhere to this rule of etiquette, you will of course benefit yourself too. We are always equipped with the following utensils when washing the dishes:

  • Washing-up sponge and washing-up liquid (clear)
  • Cloth or tea towel (for wiping)
  • Foldable draining rack (for transporting and drying the dishes)

Washing machines and dryers

In our experience, a laundry room is now standard equipment at almost all campsites. As a rule, you will have to pay between 3 and 6 euros per wash and dry cycle.

You should make sure to take your laundry out of the machine as soon as possible after the wash cycle. As a precaution, you can leave your laundry bag (the big blue ones from the Swedish furniture store are popular) on top of the machine so that the next person can put your finished laundry in it and wash it without waiting for you to come back. If the machine is still running, some campers put their full bag next to the machine to symbolise that it is their turn next. We ourselves don’t feel comfortable with this “reservation mentality”, but it seems to be the norm at many campsites.

Pets

If you are travelling with a dog or cat, it is important to find out before you leave whether pets are allowed on the campsite of your choice and what the daily fee is for them. Dogs often have to be kept on a leash on the campsite. It goes without saying that poop must be removed directly, but most campsite rules state this specifically. If your campsite has direct access to the beach, this does not mean that four-legged friends are allowed there. You should also find out about this before booking.

Rest periods

On some campsites – especially in Germany, the Netherlands and Italy – there are still so-called “quiet times”, usually around midday and in the evening at an advanced hour. During these times, the car may not be moved on the campsite and the barrier or the entrance gate remain inexorably closed. It is best to ask when you arrive and, if necessary, plan your shopping trips, meetings with friends etc. outside the closing times. Alternative: If you don’t want to plan to the minute, just park the car outside the campsite. You can always get out on foot somehow!

Internet

Many campsites offer W-LAN for a fee or free of charge. Reception is not always good and the signal is often not available in your own camper, but it is usually sufficient for sending e-mails or brief surfing in the vicinity of the reception.

If, for example, you need internet reception for work, you should play it safe and get a local SIM card. More information on the topic of “Internet while travelling” can be found here.

Living together with the neighbours

As a rule, campers greet each other, especially on campsites. When you see your camping neighbours, enter the washing or sanitary block or meet at the waste disposal station, you say a quick “hello” or perhaps adapt to the local language. As already mentioned above in connection with the washing machine, there are some subtleties that are only known from campsites. For example, you offer your help to newly arrived neighbours in manoeuvring or pushing the caravan onto the plot. Sometimes this leads to a nice evening, sometimes to two silent weeks ;) If you are invited in the evening, you should take your own chairs with you, as well as the agreed food and drinks, because each person usually only has room for the number of chairs they are travelling with. Lost or found objects are always happy to find their way back to their owner, and the same goes for the owner. Some campsites have corners where you can leave things you have found (shampoo, swimming goggles, dishcloths, etc.) or look for them if you are missing something. Furthermore, in most places you look out for belongings such as the awning that has come loose or family members such as the neighbour’s enterprising toddler and help to secure them. Here, too, sometimes the best evenings of the holiday follow on the (stand) foot.

Any other questions about camping? Write to us redaktion@camperstyle.de!

Photo: (c) Depositphotos.com/Jehoede

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