Ask Lonely Planet: Happy camping no problem on Continent

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A Volkswagen camper at Carnaevon Castle in Wales. Photo / Creative Commons image by Flickr user Nigel Hook
A Volkswagen camper at Carnaevon Castle in Wales. Photo / Creative Commons image by Flickr user Nigel Hook

We are interested in caravanning around Europe and understand it is pretty camper-friendly. However, I am struggling to find a guide to which campsites you can take your own caravans and which only have tents or fixed accommodation. Do you have any recommendations?

- Keryn Matthews

Camping is popular in Europe and you should have no problem finding a place to park up. There are literally thousands of campgrounds and holiday parks spread throughout the continent and most of them are suitable for people touring in campervans, motorhomes or caravans.

Two British clubs have websites that are mines of useful information: caravanclub.co.uk and thecampingandcaravanningclub.co.uk. Both provide advice on planning a European caravanning holiday and allow you to search for campgrounds by region.

Most campgrounds and holiday parks will not require a booking, although it is advisable in popular destinations during the high season of June through August.

You might like to consider buying a Camping Card International. It provides discounts of up to 25 per cent at more than 1100 campgrounds across Europe, as well as third-party insurance. It also has a comprehensive contacts page for camping and caravanning associations throughout Europe, and a useful campground search function that allows you to locate campgrounds on a country-by-country basis and obtain their contact details and websites.

You can purchase the card through one of the associations listed or from the New Zealand Automobile Association for $25. Visit aa.co.nz for your nearest AA centre.

A high-quality road atlas and appropriate guidebook will prove invaluable in the planning stages and on the road. The Thorn Tree forum on the Lonely Planet website is also a useful place to pick up tips or get answers to curly questions.

Easy riding in Europe

How much does it cost to travel by motorbike (rider and pillion passenger) through the Chunnel to Europe, and what town do you depart from? My friend in England wants to take me to Europe as I want to see some of the art galleries - the Louvre, but also some lesser-known ones as I hope to avoid the crowds.

- Bradie Paul

Getting over to continental Europe from England is a piece of cake. You board the Eurotunnel at Folkestone in Kent by exiting the M20 motorway at junction 11A. It's well sign-posted. The Channel tunnel crossing only takes 35 minutes, and there are up to four an hour during peak times. The price depends on when you want to go, but can be as low as £22 ($42) per motorbike each way, including your pillion passenger.

This deal, however, is only available for day-trippers or overnighters. For a longer stay, standard tickets start from £58 each way if you can fix your travel dates. Flexible tickets start at a pricey £199 each way.

Get the best deals by booking well in advance at eurotunnel.com and travelling at a quieter time of day. Don't forget to take a valid driving licence with you as well as the V5 Vehicle Registration Document or, if you're renting a bike, the Vehicle on Hire Certificate (VE103).

The UK Automobile Association website has sage advice on driving in Europe and a handy online route planner.

Europe has some of the world's greatest museums and art galleries, including the Musee d'Orsay and Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and the Vatican museums.

You can avoid the worst of the crowds by visiting them either first thing in the morning or later in the afternoon. Try to avoid weekends and school holidays.

Some of our favourite lesser-known galleries include Paris's Institut du Monde Arabe, the Paul Klee Centre in Bern, Switzerland, and the Museo de Bellas Artes), just five minutes from the world-famous Museo Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain.

Lonely Planet's Western Europe guidebook has details on all of these and more.

- NZ Herald

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