A Quick Guide To Aires In France
Do you know a motorway Aire from an Aire de Camping Car? Have you heard of Aires but don’t really know what they are? Or maybe you’ve just discovered this fabulous French system of motorhome parking and want to know more. Well, you’ve come to the right place! Here’s a quick guide to Aires in France based on our own use of Aires for the last 17 years.
1. What is an Aire? A Quick Guide to Aires in France.
So an Aire is parking for self-contained motorhomes, where you can legally park overnight at a designated area. It’s full term is actually Aire de Camping Cars – French for Motorhome area.
Aires were first introduced through the French government and local authorities who recognised the economic contribution that motorhome owners brought to an area.
2. Why the need for Aires? A Quick Guide to Aires in France
As many people know, there’s a big difference between caravan and motorhome travel and the French know this. On top of this, the French just love motorhomes, probably more than caravans and have done for some time. Finally, the last thing the French want to do is pitch up on a caravan site – after all, why bother when everything is on board?
So, unlike caravans that have portable water containers and legs that need lowering before stepping inside, a motorhome is ready to go!
On recognising the distinction between the two and the fact that motorhome owners move on every day or two, the French authorities introduced the Aire system.
Finally, if motorhome owners could park up easily, authorities knew they would spend their money in the town – and who wouldn’t want that in their economy?
3. What’s The Difference Between Motorway Aires and Designated Motorhome Aires?
There’s often a misunderstanding that Aires on motorways are motorhome Aires. However, this isn’t exactly correct. That’s because Motorway Aires are just areas to park and rest on the motorway for any vehicle. So, as a rule, we never stop overnight on motorway Aires.
Motorway Aires are generally noisy, they can be very busy and often unsafe for overnight stops. Think about motorway services and lay-by’s in Britain and you’ll get the gist.
4. Why don’t we stay overnight on Motorway Aires?
Simply because we don’t feel safe doing so. Also, why would we put ourselves at risk when we can drive off the motorway into a pleasant small town or village and park at a designated motorhome Aire.
5. What’s the full Name for Motorhome Aires?
Although everyone calls them Aires, the full name for motorhome Aires in France is actually Aire de Camping Cars. Of course, Camping Cars is the French word for Motorhome.
6. How Many Aires are there in France?
There are literally thousands of motorhome Aires in France.
7. Where are Motorhome Aires Located? A Quick Guide to Aires in France.
Motorhome Aires can be found in a whole variety of locations across France.
8. Are Aires situated in Scenic Locations?
Sometimes but not always.
Basically, each Aire is different and although many have beautiful settings, some are just located for convenience.
9. Where are Motorhome Aires Located? A Quick Guide to Aires in France
Motorhome Aires in France can be found in various locations.
These can be practical parking areas to make it easier when visiting towns, villages or cities or maybe close to nature, for example beside a pretty canal or lovely lake. They could be at a ski resort or alongside the beach or even at a tourist attraction, such as a Chateau or other historic monument.
There is no hard or fast rule and each area is different on where they want motorhomes to park up.
10. How Long Can You Stay at an Aire?
Firstly, if the Aire is private then you can generally stay longer, but if it’s a public Aire provided by the local authority then this is usually between 24 and 72 hours.
The Mayor of the town dictates the rules and the length of stay and a sign will be displayed showing the details.
11. What Facilities Are There?
On the whole, don’t expect toilets, showers, electric and a spacious pitch for the night. Having said that, there are sometimes public loos close by and occasionally low Amp electric is available for a quick charge off one main bollard.
Aires are generally just a place to park up and not somewhere to embark on a full blown camping trip!
At the end of the day, you should be self-sufficient and self-contained, so anything in terms of facilities is a bonus and not a necessity.
12. Do you get a spacious pitch?
Firstly, you don’t usually get a pitch, it’s generally just a parking space, secondly some Aires are marked out just like a car park others maybe free-style.
Parking maybe right next to another motorhome and I mean literally enough room to open your habitation door!
There are some Aires that have a more spacious feel, particularly some private Aires such as old Municipal Campsites that are now operated by Camping-Car Park . These offer a basic caravan-site type set up for motorhomes.
13. What do you park on? A Quick Guide to Aires in France
This maybe marked tarmac bays, gravel, grass, sand or dust, basically anything is possible.
14. Is there somewhere to empty and fill?
Yes, generally an Aire also has an area within it or close by where you can drive over a waste grid in the ground to empty the waste water, as well as filling up the fresh water and emptying the loo.
These service points come in different styles and some are free, others you pay for or are included in the price for the night.
Sometimes the Aire is just a parking area though without any service point. Then again, you can just get a service area without a parking area – this is called an Aire de Service de Camping Cars.
15. Are Motorhome Aires Free to use?
In recent years, more Aires are having barriers installed with payment machines but some Aires are still free, especially those in less popular areas.
In addition, you can still find Aires that have the local Gendarmerie collect the fee in the evening or sometimes a manned booth at the entrance where someone collects the fees.
Once again, there are different methods to pay along with various set ups, although many are still free to use.
16. How much are they? A Quick Guide To Aires in France
You can expect to pay anything from as little as around 6 Euro up to 20 Euro per night for a busy location beside the coast.
17. Can you put table and chairs out and relax?
If you follow the rule book then by rights this isn’t permitted, simply because it’s then classed as camping behaviour.
However, in some locations, the French certainly do get out the tables, chairs and awnings but don’t expect this to be the norm.
If we do get things out, we put them away before leaving the van and going to bed and also respect our surroundings. For those that want full blown camping behaviour guaranteed, then a campsite is still the way to go.
18. Can you Book?
Normally you can’t book an Aire. However, the company Camping-Car Park offers a service to book in advance at their operated Aires, so long as you buy their privilege pass first.
All other Aires are first come, first served and this suits us because if you don’t like the look of it you don’t have to stay!
19. How do you find Aires in France?
Nowadays there are several Apps that you can choose to download to find Aires throughout France. There’s also books and special signs in towns but sometimes we miss those!
Here’s a link for more details on how to find Aires – Top Apps For Motorhome Stopovers
20. How Many Motorhomes Fit on an Aire?
There maybe just a few spaces or anything upwards of 50 or 60, each is different.
21. Are Aires Suitable For Children?
Probably it’s more practical and enjoyable to stay on a campsite with children, that’s because an Aire is very basic without any facilities or safe space for children to run around and play. There’s lots of traffic movement of big vehicles in an often small area!
22. Can You Meet Up In Groups
No, not really is the short answer, remember the camping behaviour rule? So, if you want to socialise outside your motorhome until late then this won’t go down well.
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For those who want more details on Aires in France, here’s a link to another article from our website Motorhome Aires in France and Europe where you’ll find a whole lot more information about Aires in France as well as other countries across Europe!