Is it illegal to sleep in a caravan on the road?

In this article, we will explain: Is it illegal to sleep in a caravan on the road? We will differentiate parking vs camping with a caravan. We will also discuss in what places you can stop with a caravan and which ones you must avoid. 

​​Is it illegal to sleep in a caravan on the road?

No, it is not illegal to sleep in a caravan lawfully parked on the road. The first thing to take into account is that it is perfectly okay to sleep, for a nap or for a night, in road rest areas or motorway rest areas. Drowsiness is one of the main causes of highway crashes, we do not play with that. But it also means respecting certain rules. The highway area is not a campsite.

Sleeping in a caravan: Parking is not the same as camping

If you want to take a break or start an evening stopover on a motorway rest area, a car park or in the street, be careful. You have every right to sleep in your car. But if you are in a caravan, motorhome or campervan, you really have to remember the notion of “parking is not camping”.

From the moment you deploy the awning of your van, take out the chairs and the camping table on the sidewalk or the parking lot, take out the chocks to level your caravan, you are no longer parking, but good to camp. It is from this moment that you may be asked to leave the premises.

Sleeping in a car park or in the street on a parking space involves obtaining information beforehand. In fact, in tourist areas, more and more cities are taking orders to prohibit the parking of motorhomes, for example. You can always get information on the site of the local tourist office, or the municipal police.

Parking the caravan

Parking a caravan is a short break in its journey. We speak of parking when the caravan remains attached to the car and can be moved at any time.

  • On public roads, the rules of the highway code apply: the mayors can limit this parking by decree, for traffic reasons or environmental protection.
  • On private land, the parking of caravans is possible after agreement of the person who has the use of the land.

Camping the caravan

We speak of installation when the caravan is immobilized for a stay, even a short one. The installation in a campsite, fitted out to receive caravans, is free.

A caravan can be installed there for more than 3 months a year. However, a priori declaration at the town hall is necessary if the location on which the caravan is installed:

  • was sold to the owner of the caravan
  • or is rented to the owner of the caravan for a period of more than 2 years, renewable.

Places where caravanning is prohibited

Caravanning practised in isolation is prohibited in certain places. Caravanning is prohibited in the following places:

  • Roads and public roads
  • Natural sites classified or pending classification
  • Remarkable heritage sites classified
  • Surroundings of historical monuments
  • Seashores
  • Less than 200 meters from water points used for consumption
  • Woods, forests and parks classified by a local urban plan as wooded areas to be preserved
  • Classified protection forests

Please note: these prohibitions apply even if the land is not a public place.

The practice of caravanning, outside the campsite, may be prohibited by the mayor in any public area. The ban can be temporary or permanent. It can be taken for environmental, commercial, aesthetic or public safety and health reasons.

The public is informed by:

  • town hall display
  • and by a sign placed at the usual access points to the prohibited area.

Where to legally stop with a caravan?

For a caravan, it is important to make a distinction between “parking” and “camping” because they are two different concepts. Parking with a caravan means making a short stopover during the journey while leaving the caravan hitched to the towing vehicle. Thus, it can be moved at any time. Camping, on the other hand, involves unhooking the caravan from the car and immobilizing it for a longer stay.

You should know that the circulation and parking of caravans on public roads fall under the American highway code. As a result, you cannot park anywhere. Indeed, there are parking bans in certain places for traffic reasons or environmental protection.

For security or public order issues, mayors and prefects can also implement restrictive measures. For example, a decree may prohibit access to certain traffic lanes at specific times or prohibit the parking of caravans in narrow streets. 

The text must obligatorily mention the characteristics of the vehicles concerned (length, authorized total weight, etc.). In fact, to avoid any discrimination, this ban must target all vehicles of the same size and not only motor homes and caravans.

Regarding the parking of caravans on private land, it is authorized provided it has the agreement of the owner of the land or of the person who has the use of it.

Where can I camp my caravan in the US?

Camping a caravan can be done freely on a campsite. You are allowed to move there for more than 3 months a year. On the other hand, if the site on which the caravan is installed has been sold to you, you must make a prior declaration to the town hall. The same applies in the event of a rental exceeding two years renewable.

You can also set up your caravan in your garden if you are not using it. If you leave it for less than 3 months a year, you don’t have to make a declaration. However, your caravan must always keep its means of mobility (drawbar, wheels, etc.) so that it can be moved at any time. 

To find out about any restrictions imposed by local planning rules, do not hesitate to contact the planning department at your town hall. If your caravan is to be stored in your garden for more than three months per year, you must make a prior declaration to the town hall.

A caravan can also be set up on another private land, but only if you get permission from the owner. If you plan to store it on its land for more than 3 months per year, you will need to make a prior declaration to the town hall.

You can also store your caravan:

  • On the land assigned to the collective garage for caravans and mobile leisure homes
  • On parking areas open to the public
  • In specific vehicle depots
  • In a building or shed

It is strictly forbidden to practice caravanning in isolation in the following places:

  • On roads and public roads
  • In areas defined by town halls and prefectures
  • On remarkable heritage sites classified
  • On the outskirts of historic monuments 
  • On natural sites classified or pending classification
  • On the shores of the sea
  • In woods, forests and parks classified by a local urban plan as wooded areas to be preserved
  • In forests classified as “protection forests”
  • Within a radius of 200 meters around the water points collected for consumption

As a rule, signs are posted at the usual access points to restricted areas.

Is it illegal to sleep in a moving caravan?

Yes, in all states it is illegal to sleep in a moving caravan, trailer, fifth wheel or motorhome. If the motorhome is on the move, it means that every passenger and the driver must be seated and with the seatbelt on. You are allowed, however, to use the toilet facilities while the motorhome is moving. 

The “convenience” of travelling on a house on wheels often leads to the mistaken belief that, onboard, it is possible to carry out all the normal daily activities that are done within the four walls, such as cooking, cleaning or, indeed, to sleep.

As much as it may seem possible, in reality, sleeping in a motorhome on the move is extremely dangerous, as well as impractical, especially in those vehicles equipped with a drop-down bed which, when lowered, takes away vital space from the dinette and the driver’s cabin.

Not to mention a sudden stop, which can seriously endanger the lives of those who sleep in the motorhome.

Therefore, while driving, it is necessary to always follow the safety rules established for the circulation of vehicles.

Conclusions

If sleeping in a caravane is absolutely forbidden, the use of the motorhome to sleep while parked is allowed, provided that certain rules are respected. However, if sleeping in your camper is an indescribable pleasure, it is always necessary to take some caution and be careful.

Please let us know if you have any questions or comments on the content!

FAQ on Is it illegal to sleep in a caravan on the road?

Is it legal to sleep in a moving motorhome in the UK?

It is illegal to sleep in a moving motorhome in the UK. If the motorhome is on the move, it means that every passenger and the driver must be seated and with the seatbelt on. You are allowed, however, to use the toilet facilities while the motorhome is moving. 

Can you travel in the back of a motorhome without seatbelts?

The answer is no, you can’t travel in the back of a motorhome without seatbelts as long as the vehicle is moving. Even though you may not consider it dangerous, the law obliges you to wear the seatbelt even as a passenger in the back of an RV. 

Can you drink in an RV?

You can drink in an RV as long as you are not the driver, do not plan on driving the RV, and you are parked at a campsite. Needless to say, it is illegal and a criminal offence to drink and drive. It is legal to drink behind the driver as long as no containers, empty or not, are within reach of the driver.

Where to stop with a motorhome?

A motorhome can stop in town in a parking space and spend the night there. It does not matter whether the motorhome operators are on board or not, as long as they comply with the regulations.

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