The southern coast of Spain is popular with motorhome travellers and full-time van lifers for a reason. When we visited Spain for the first time in 2021, we had heard so much about how Camper friendly Spain is, but even this couldn't prepare us for just how wonderful it is to travel Spain by motorhome.
We spent almost 5 months travelling along the Southern Coast of Spain, from October 2021 to March 2022. During this time, we learnt a lot about the legalities and practicalities of Wild Camping in Spain.
Is "Wild Camping" legal in Spain?
The answer to this question is – no, it is not legal. Wild camping is not allowed in Spain. However, you must understand the difference between parking and camping. It is illegal to park in any wild, non-designated for camping place and take out your table, chairs or open your awning - perhaps even open your windows - as that would be considered camping. However, if you park your vehicle and spend the night in it (and it does not matter if it is a regular car, a motorhome, campervan, RV or a van) – it's perfectly legal, so long as you are staying in a place where parking is allowed and not explicitly forbidden by way of a signboard (more on this further down).
To complicate matters somewhat, one has to remember that Spain is divided into autonomous regions - 17 of them and each has its own regulations. On the one hand, the state, through the Ministry of the Interior and DGT (Dirección General de Tráfico – literal translation, Directorate General for Traffic) has power over road traffic, and on the other hand, the autonomous regions can establish their own regulations and restrictions, also in terms of road traffic. In order to avoid problems resulting from misinterpretation of the law, in 2008 the Ministry of the Interior approved the Instruction/Directive 08/V-74 DGT where you will find some important information about campers, but most of all understand the difference between parking and camping.
Parking vs Camping in Spain
By knowing and understanding the differences between parking and camping, you will easily avoid potential problems in Spain. The motorhome is considered parked (aparcado, esctacionado) when: It has contact with the ground only by the wheels, without stabilizer legs. You can use levelling blocks, although the law is not very clear. There are two types: chocks, which are used to prevent the car from rolling, and levelling blocks, which, as the name suggests, are used to level the vehicle. If we use levelling, it may be considered camping, if you use the chocks it's parking. It is obligatory for cars weighing more than 3.5 tons to use chocks by law! When parked, you may not have any additional elements, “protruding” beyond the campervan (e.g. awning, windows, doors or tables, chairs). If following those rules, the passengers of the motorhome can sleep inside, even lift the roof or open the roof window, bearing in mind, however, that no element can protrude beyond the perimeter of the vehicle.
When a motorhome is considered not parked but camped (acampado): It has stabilizer legs deployed; There are elements that go beyond the perimeter of the vehicle, such as awnings, tables, chairs or outward-opening windows; It emits annoying and loud noises, for example, a generator – not necessarily at night; Dumping of any liquids – grey or clean water. From the above, it is obvious that we must comply with road traffic regulations, and the article mentioned in the above paragraph says that municipalities have the right to introduce various types of restrictions and limits, as long as they do not conflict with generally applicable law.
However, the municipality MAY NOT DISCRIMINATE against motorhomes. Translated extract: “… In the opinion of the General Directorate of Traffic, it is undisputed that the exclusion of certain public road users must necessarily be justified and based on objective reasons, such as the external dimensions of the vehicle or its maximum permissible weight, and not by its construction or criteria for use, or for subjective reasons." “As a result, motorhomes can perform stopping and parking manoeuvres under the same conditions and with the same restrictions as any other vehicle.”
The point is, of course, that, under the abovementioned directive, any sign which concerns ONLY motorhomes (but not other vehicles with similar dimensions but with a different function) is discriminatory. This does not stop some municipalities from using these 'illegal' signs and even issue fines accordingly - which you may be able to challenge by appeal if you have the time or inclination to do so. Signs you should pay attention to are those that do not discriminate but restrict activity to ALL vehicles (parking overnight, or only certain hours for example) or those signs that limit the size or weight of vehicles.
Can I Wild Camp in Spain?
The answer to this question is both yes and no. No, you are not legally allowed to wild camp anywhere in Spain. But yes, there are plenty of designated parking places where you can park a Camper and overnight in it for free and in accordance with the law. Just be sure to look for any prohibition signs or you may receive a hefty fine!
The maps below show our 2021 and 2022 routes along the Southern Coast of Spain. The blue "P" locations are where we overnighted at designated Camper Parking Areas (some free and others paid), the yellow tents are where we stayed at official Camp Sites and the green tree is a free wild camp location that we overnighted at for a few nights - legally of course.