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Why can’t I just start camping on the side of the road in Germany?

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Germans love to travel with a mobile home or caravan and go camping. As an Expat, you should to! It is one of the best ways to have a chill holiday in and around Germany and Europe. However, you should be aware that parking vehicles and overnight stays are not allowed everywhere.

Ok, so you have rented a caravan or camper. What is cool about it is that for the duration of your holiday, you have your: kitchen, toilet, sleeping area and car – all in one place. Especially in times of the corona pandemic, this not only offers a feeling of freedom, but also ensures distance from other travelers. No wonder camping is all the rage.

However, campsites are still currently closed to tourists and day visitors due to the ban on accommodation. And in the summer they will be fully booked in many places. If you still really want to go camping, you have to look for another pitch for the night. Now you are probably asking yourself: Where can I park for a hike in the countryside or a short sightseeing tour in a city? And can I spend the night in the caravan on the side of the road?

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It is forbidden to spend the night in a motorhome on parking lots – camping is allowed with one exception  

The  road traffic regulations (StVO) explain this. It specifies exactly where and when you can stay overnight in the caravan. There is actually no way around a campsite. Because: Sleeping in the vehicle is  generally prohibited in public parking lots or even on the roadside in Germany.

There is one exception: To “restore the driver’s ability to drive” if they are too tires. Then parking and a one-off overnight stay is possible wherever it is not expressly prohibited by the StVO or traffic signs. This means that anyone who is too tired to continue driving, for example, can officially spend one night in a motorhome or caravan in a parking lot. 

Up to 2500 euros for violations of overnight stays and parking bans. No, you can’t go camping anywhere you want

But you shouldn’t make yourself too comfortable. If you are all decked out with folding chairs and barbecue in front of their motorhome you can can expect a fine of up to 200 euros, depending on the federal state. 

  • In a landscape protection area, parking alone is illegal. Anyone caught there has to shell out up to 1500 euros
  • In a nature reserve even up to 2500 euros are due

But even if you are only planning a day trip with the camper without an overnight stay, there are  numerous rules to be observed . Here is an overview:

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Where can I park my motorhome – and where not?

  • If a parking space is only designated for cars, campers who are registered as “other (see above) motorhomes” or trucks are not allowed to park there – regardless of their weight.
  • In addition, there is a parking ban on every parking space, where an additional sign explicitly excludes mobile homes.
  • On the other hand, where parking is permitted, the delimitation strips can become a problem. Because if the motorhome does not fit into the gap, it is not allowed to park there either.
  • Where parking is permitted on the sidewalk, only vehicles up to 2.8 tons are allowed – but most motorhomes exceed this weight.
  • No manholes, manhole covers or other closures may be blocked when parking.
  • Motorhomes over 7.5 tons are not allowed to park in built-up areas in residential and recreational areas from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and on Sundays and public holidays.
  • Many rest stops divide their parking spaces into spaces for cars and trucks. Campers who weigh less than 3.5 tons and are registered as other vehicles are actually not allowed to park there. It is only allowed on pitches specially designed for motorhomes.
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Where can I find parking spaces?

Campers can find suitable parking spaces on various websites and in apps. 

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