Motorhome Aires In Spain
Touring inland regions of Spain this Summer using Motorhome Aires, brings a reminder of just how easy touring is here. Ultimately, Spain is an all-year travel destination thanks to the mild climate in its coastal regions. So, it’s no wonder us Brits flock to the Mediterranean coast each Winter, in search of escape from the dismal British weather.
In January 2016 we did our first trip to Spain’s Eastern and Southern coastal regions. Since then, we’ve used Motorhome Aires in Spain throughout various the regions. These include: Catalonia, Aragón, Navarra and The Basque Country, Valencia, Murcia and Andalusia, so here’s what we’ve found out.
1. What Are Aires
First of all, the word Aires is French and is short for Aires de Camping Car.
This basically means a Motorhome Parking Area. Most importantly, it’s a designated area provided by either the local authority or a private organisation. Here, motorhomes can park overnight for a limited time frame within the designated parking area.
I’m simply using the term Aires, because France has the most well known system to us British. Other countries in Europe also have Aires, but they are known by the language of that country – for example Germany has the Stellplatz and Italy has The Sosta.
By the way, not all countries have Aires. Each Aire is different with the number of spaces varying as well as the amount of time you can park overnight. This is generally between 24 and 72 hours.
In Spain, motorhome parking is usually signposted as Aparcamiento Autocaravanas. But for this article I’ll refer to these as Aires.
2. Local Authority Motorhome Aires in Spain
These are provided by the local town, city or community. They are usually within walking distance to the main centre or local attraction.
Parking is often mixed, so there may be other vehicles within the parking area or adjacent.
3. Are Aires Free?
This varies, so some motorhome Aires are free but many do have a parking fee. Expect to pay anything between 3 Euro and 20 Euro a night depending on where you are.
4. What’s The Parking Area Like?
The parking areas can be anything from tarmac bays to sand or gravel. Some will have marked places where the motorhome spaces are, others will be an open-style parking.
5. Private Motorhome Aires in Spain
Some Aires are operated by a private company or individual. This could be an area at a tourist attraction, for example at a Vineyard or even a waterpark or farm and anything in between.
Once again these may be free, subject to you using their facility, e.g buying a bottle of wine. However, there could be a charge payable direct to the person or establishment.
specifically built Private Aires
Some private Aires are built especially and may have a fence compound set up. Usually, they have someone working or living at the Aire too.
These type of Aires are often seen in coastal areas of Spain. These may have shower blocks and toilets as well as laundry facilities and electric. You can sometimes book ahead and stay for longer periods than a public Aire.
6. Are There Motorhome Service Points In Spain?
Yes there are motorhome service area points, but they may not be at each Aire. These are usually located either on the Aire parking area or somewhere in close vicinity.
Sometimes, there may be a water tap without the toilet dump and waste drain. Occasionally there won’t be any service point at all.
Generally, there’s two systems:
This is where a tap, ground drain and toilet emptying point are built separately. So this will have an outdoor style tap for fresh water, along with a hole of some description going into sewer for toilet waste. The waste water would usually be a drive-over drain in the ground.
It’s a one-stop unit for filling up the fresh and emptying the toilet. These are usually always fee paying and directly on the unit by card, cash, token or code (maybe printed on the parking ticket).
The waste water will go into a drain in the ground but it maybe set into a purpose built concrete or tarmac area.
7. Are Motorhome Service Points Free?
This varies, sometimes the service points are totally free to use. If there’s a barrier entry system, the overnight price of the Aire often includes use of the service point.
More often than not, there is a charge for using a service point and this can be anything from 1Euro to 6Euro. Basically, there’s no defined charge.
Purpose built units will usually be fee-paying whereas freestyle service areas may only charge for fresh water, if at all.
8. How Long Can you Stay?
The amount of time you can stay is different at each Aire, but expect it to be a minimum of 24 hours and maximum of 72 hours.
Private Aires may offer longer stays, especially purpose built compounds like those found in coastal areas.
9. Do Aires in Spain Have Facilites?
Local authority provided Aires won’t usually have any facilities, although there may be a public toilet near but not often.
Electric isn’t always an option and showers are rare.
However, private Aires are different and very well may provide a toilet, shower and a washing machine or at least one of these. Those in purpose built compounds are more likely to provide facilities.
Remember, there’s not a guarantee of facilities. So if you need any, whether it be EHU or toilet, then check first.
Finally, we see non-self contained day vans and even people sleeping in cars using Aires in recent years. Typically Aires are for self-contained campervans and motorhomes because it’s not a place with campsite amenities.
If there’s no facilites, there’s sometimes problems with guests using nature as a toilet and washroom. This isn’t ideal bringing smells of pee etc but is unfortunately quite normal to see.
10. How To Find Aires in Spain
Most Aires in Spain will have a road sign to show the location. This sign is usually an outline of a motorhome on a blue background.
There may be a sign saying “Aparcament Autocaravanes” or similar, (Motorhome parking).
We also use Park4Night on our phone, which now lists more dedicated Aires. Originally this French company were more the place to go for wild camping spots, but as this has become more difficult, they seem to now have more and more official locations.
11. Is It Safe To Stay On Aires?
Aires are overall very safe but obviously bad things can happen anywhere. We never stay on motorway Aires which are really just like a motorway services.
When we stay on aires, we’re aware of who and what’s around us. If there’s anything we don’t like the look of we move on.
Ultimately, being safe aware with usual precautions, such as keeping valuables out of sight, closing and locking doors and windows and even roof lights if we go out. Everything helps but it’s not foolproof.
We use Aire type systems in various countries and in those 20 years we’ve never had a problem whilst staying on one. But, we do know people who have, so we try not to let our guard down.
12. Can You Sit Out on an Aire in Spain?
This is where Spain differs from some countries such as France and Germany. Unfortunately, there are lots of rules in Spain when staying on an Aire that’s local authority run.
One of these rules is that you can’t sit outside the motorhome, as this is then defined as camping behaviour. We find this really difficult, especially in really hot weather when it’s 40+ degrees inside the campervan.
Private Aires are different, so some may allow camping behaviour, although not all will.
13. Can you put the Awning Out?
Usually no. This again is then classed as camping behaviour, so generally you can’t put out the awning either.
14. How Do You Find The Rules?
Each Aire will have different rules which are more often than not displayed on a sign somewhere. These rules are sometimes in Spanish and English.
Typical rules are:
No Camping behaviour, which is sitting outside with a table and chairs out. Also, no BBQ’s, no emptying waste water onto the ground, no awnings and properly disposing of rubbish.
15. Can you Book Aires?
Some private Aires do offer a booking service, especially those in a compound style like you find on the Spanish Mediterranean coast.
However, public Aires usually are first come first served but there are some other systems that do offer a booking option via an App.
Camping-Car Park is one such company that operates Aires throughout France but is now beginning to open some in Spain. They have a card that you top up and is needed to enter each Aire, this can be sent to your home address in the UK if you buy it first online. You can also purchase one at the machine on the Aire and each Aire has a similar set up – spacious pitch, EHU and a good service point area.
There is also a similar system in Spain, which requires an App to download and pay for entry and overnight stay.
16. Are Aires Everywhere in Spain?
No, unfortunately not, but there are a lot of them. Each region and locations within each region is different. It does seem motorhome parking overall is less now than we first started, particularly those provided by a local authority or community.
Although motorhomes and campervans are welcome in many areas, there are definitely places where they are not!
17. Which is Best For Aires France or Spain?
Undoubtedly France is better in our opinion for providing Motorhome Aires. There are more of them and rules such as camping behaviour has a more common sense approach.
For example, in France most Motorhomers will sit outside without any bother and have the awning out, which makes it so much more enjoyable, especially in extreme heat.
However, even France no longer has the amount of Aires that it once did and each year we certainly notice changes. Some have gone altogether, with campsite stays the only option.
It seems that France is going to a more regimented system of Aires. Many that were once local authority Aires, are now operated by Camping-Car Park, which is a formal set-up but a good one at that. Having said that, there are still plenty of more traditional small town and village Aires available.
So, equally Motorhome Aires in Spain are greatly appreciated. For us, if they allowed eating and sitting outdoors then they would be perfect!