Is there any resource (website, book, etc) that lists all European countries, and the state of free camping?
Specifically, I want to see in which European countries I'm not fined when I place my tent somewhere outside of an official camping ground.
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After a bit of digging I found this, which covers some in Europe (not extensively as I first thought!)
It's worth pointing out that while for some (and probably most people here) wild camping means free-camping wandering around with a tent and supplies on foot, for many others it can mean driving around and parking up somewhere in a motor home. I refer to the first variety here, and this is the sort that is much less likely to give you problems (especially in countries where it's borderline.)
In any country, but especially those where it's more of a grey area, if you know where you're going beforehand then a quick call to the landowner (if any) to check that it's ok won't do you any harm. While it may not always be necessary, it may help to put your mind at rest so you're not worried about being approached or asked to leave during your stay.
Anyway, a general summary of countries in that link and elsewhere:
France (See above link) A legal grey area, but is generally tolerated with the permission of landowners, or if you're well away from tourist sites. Don't light any fires.
England and Wales (See above link) Generally not allowed without prior permission, though there are some exceptions (Dartmoor being the biggest one.)
Scotland (See above link) Legal pretty much anywhere.
Ireland It's tolerated in the more rural places, though it may be wise to obtain permission beforehand if you can.
Spain and Portugal I believe it's tolerated but only in certain locations. Best to check with the landowner first to be sure.
Germany Most of the links I can find suggest that it's not strictly speaking legal, but that many people have done it without any issues (providing you follow sensible precautions of course.)
Note: German wild zelten [zelten = camping] does not mean wilderness camping. The wild here means illegal/without permission. With permission, camping is OK in many places and there are a few places where blanco permissions exist for particular situations. More details in this other answer
Netherlands Generally not allowed. There are a few spots where it is allowed, near a designated pole for so called 'pole camping' (paalkamperen) '2020 note, the end of paalkamperen is announced, it is currently suspended due to COVID 19 but is said not to return.'
Italy (See above link) It doesn't seem to be tolerated, in fact most sources I can find seem to say it's explicitly banned in many places. Having said that, the same link also says there's lots of good campsites in a lot of nice locations around, so that may be your alternative. (Edit: This may be a little harsher than reality, see Tullochgorum's comment below.)
Greece (See above link) Illegal, but the rule is apparently rampantly ignored, with many unpoliced areas. The risk is on you if you try it here.
Norway Legal pretty much anywhere. Right to Roam.
Sweden Legal pretty much anywhere. Outdoor Access Rights.
Finland Legal pretty much anywhere. Everyman’s rights and the code of conduct on private land.
Bulgaria (See above link) An interesting one - I can't find any sources saying whether it's legal or not, but in the summer apparently hundreds of hippy families relocate to the beaches, wild camp there and often strip nude for good measure.
Estonia (See above link) A legal grey area, widely tolerated but best to obtain permission from the land owner beforehand.
Albania Legal here on public land, but sometimes restricted for environmental reasons. Check first.
Austria Can't find any authoritative sources. General consensus is that it seems to be discouraged, but as long as you're sensible then there shouldn't be an issue.
Faroe Islands Not permitted. Camping is only permitted at designated campsites.
Generally in England and Wales it is illegal to wild camp anywhere without prior permission from the land owner. Although some UK national parks are more tolerant than others!! In my experience certainly in the English and Welsh national parks it is tolerated as long as you are not seen and you leave no trace including not starting any fires.
For more information check out the national parks website: http://www.nationalparks.gov.uk/visiting/camping.htm
As @StephenPaulger says it is different in Scotland (thankfully) under certain conditions. Please check this link out:
Being on holiday in France, some places get very iffy about wild camping!! So as in the UK its probably best to check with the land owner first.
This is a pure theory, if you're asking about permission... you have to understand that the rules and laws are set up for people that park 3 cars, make 5 big tents, lot of noise and leave a lot of rubbish. Practically, when you are a good outdoor person, quiet and never leave any rubbish behind you, and you need just sleep for one night somewhere with just a sleeping bag or maybe small tent when it rains / it's cold, then I think this is not a real "camping" and it's not a problem almost anywhere. I'm normally doing this without any problems even in countries like Austria (once we slept under the sign "Kampieren verboten" which translates to "Camping prohibited" in english :-))
So, just don't provoke the land owners too much, build your tent somewhere hidden and after it gets dark, and leave the place soon in the morning. The less people know about you, the better, also for your safety. Sometimes the land owners notice you and are very friendly, especially in countries like Spain and even in Austria :) I didn't have any problems after years of this practice.
Don't sleep this way in big cities, it's dangerous. You may get robbed. The more abandoned / outdoor site it is, the safer for you.
In Scotland, it is allowed, with conditions.
One restriction that I know of is that camping is not allowed on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond. There are likely to be restrictions during the hunting season as well, there are phone lines where you can find out about hunting activities.
It is generally illegal in Denmark. You may sleep on all beaches, but you are not allowed to pitch a tent on beaches. In some state-forrests you may camp where you like.
More than 1.000 primitive campsites are scattered around the country. Most are free - some cost 1-3 euro pr. night. They may just be a lawn but some have shelters, firewood and access to water and toilet. These campsites are only for walking and biking users, so if you travel by car or motorcycle, you may not use them.
You can see the locations of camping-sites and forrests here: http://udinaturen.dk/?searchid=7653dbbf-b087-4c30-9edc-2517a02fd28e
In Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland You can camp almost anywhere in forest and near public waters. Latvia is forest country, and You can camp almost anywhere. There are no restrictions. If the land owner doesn't want to allow it, he must place a sign. There are restrictions on national parks only. In national parks it's allowed in specific places only, but it's free anyway. It's similar in Estonia. You can camp almost anywhere except for nature reserves. If a landowner doesn't want you they must place a sign saying so. Try to avoid places near to houses.
Some extra info about France.
In general, wild camping is forbidden in France, except when stated otherwise. As any other country, France has a number of regional and national natural parks, where "bivouac" (setting up your tent after 7pm and packing it back before 8am) might be allowed. Regulations are specific to each park, and you should get to know it before you enter it and plan to camp there.
A park's regulation can also depend on factors:
I have never seen natural parks allowing campfires, or leaving your tent up at the same location at daytime. Might exist but I seriously doubt it. Don't be an idiot and light campfires in the wilderness; bring a stove and a gas can.
If you scroll down a bit on this web page, you will find a map of France with all said parks and their current regulation. I am sorry, everything is in French. If some things are still cryptic through Google translate, feel free to ask me.
Worth noting that like other European countries, France also has a number of free, non-guarded shelters, mostly in mountainous areas. Most of these shelters consist of a small room with a stove for heating, and a second "floor" right below the roof where you can sleep. These shelters are quite rustic, and are mostly maintained on a volunteer basis, by local people, or alpine clubs, for example. You can expect to find wood there for using with the stove. Common practice is bringing back into the shelter as much wood as you have used, obviously. Such shelters are marked with a "empty red house" pictograph on IGN maps (those are the reference maps in France). On this website, you can find more or less updated infos about most shelters, like, if it has been vandalized, water access, a stove, wood, etc. Once again, it's all in French.
As most people already have said, if you are discrete enough, you probably will not get caught even when camping in illegal areas. However, the author's question specifically asked about where it was legal. Obviously, camping on private land is OK if you have the owner's approval.
One last anecdote: during my teenage years, I went hiking for several days in Corsica, where wild camping is strictly forbidden. Putting up your tent close to guarded shelters was allowed, as long as you paid something like 5€/night/person. At the end of the trip, we were all lacking money, and could not pay this fee (yes, we were pretty stupid back then). We ended up playing it fair and going to the guards saying we could not afford it. All of them were OK with that, as long as we stayed close to the shelters. They insisted on warning us that if we were to be found wild camping in forbidden areas, they would fine us hard. They actually did that to another group of people. Moral of the story: just play it fair and remember that the guards' main concern is the protection of the park.
Romania: I have some experiences here, and I can say that wild camping is permitted, unless it is someone's land surrounded by a fence, however loose or abandoned it may seem (although in Romania you can never know who owns which patch of land, but mostly it is safe and fine). There are plenty of good places for wild camping, especially if you get a bit away from the main tourist tracks, which tend to have some trash here and there, as a result of the irresponsible city people.
Additional for Greece:
I'm a wild camper for many years in Greece. I have never any issue with locals or police.. Ok, I am careful in general but I guess also lucky. :) Yes, it is illegal and you must know where to go. The best is to ask the locals, or other campers that you will find there. As a general rule, after sunset you wont have any issue putting the tent. If you have are not sure about the place and have a relatively small tent then the safest is to just flatten it by day. Nobody is going to give you a fine for having a picnic.. Also is a little difficult to give you a fine if you are in the beach, or just somewhere away from the tent.. All these of course vary from place to place.
I will list a few places that come in mind bellow:
Samothraki: Extremely beautiful island. You can easily camp in the forest and near the natural bathtubs and waterfalls. Also there is a government "wild living "campsite" that is nice and really cheap.
Other islands: Skopelos, Limnos (unfortunately is not that green), Lesvos: highly recommended for camp in different place every night. There are so much to see in this pretty big island. Crete is also highly recommended.
Halkidiki: Its mainland and its separated in 3 peninsulas. Forger about the southern (1st as we say) as is the most touristic and mainly full or hotels, clubs and nightlife. The middle peninsula has places like, Kavourotrypes (too many people the last years unfortunately), Kriaritsi, Kalamitsi. If you are driving on this route you can also find countless quiet and nice places to camp. The northern peninsula is more wild but not less beautiful. Around Olympiada and further towards the edge of the peninsula there are many beaches. I would also recommend to take the mountain road above Olympiada. The forest is vast, wildly beautiful and full or natural fountains.
I think that as long as you are away from villages and the road, respect the people around as well as the nature you'll be fine in many places and islands.
There's quite a good guide I've found on wild camping in the UK here: Wild Camping.
In general, there's more acceptance than you'd expect from simply reading the laws, if you show respect.
In Greece wild camping is illegal in general. The more famous/well known is the place where you camp, the more probable is to have a visit from the police. Checks more often take place during summer in islands and in general near tourist sites. On the other hand there are certain places where wild camping is silently permitted since it is a boost to their economy and other places that it is encouraged (eg Tilos) but these are the exceptions to the rule. Camping is also not allowed in mountains but you will not find much trouble there, specially if you decide to camp near a refuge. Of course you are not allowed to make any campfire in the forest and specially in national parks.
Camping by small van or large estate car mpv, overnight without problems in Spain, beach parking areas and beach, especially Castel de Ferro area, Almeria coast line, you come across a few camper vans and also local rod fishermen night fishing forming tents with umbrellas and the like.
France - Parked all over BUT discreet! Places in villages as in center parking, back lane, or grassed parking areas, some have designated areas in small towns, there's also lay-byes that are well off road in places, on the main route's lay-byes are used by many and some have toilets, I am always aware to park either where others are or completely out of vision for safety, I have only been moved once, there was a big boules tournament following day, I should have noticed adverts, so always check!!! Could end up in middle of a car boot sale in morning, thats been done!
So really just use common-sense and respect.
all farmland and forest area is owned by someone who has to give you permission.
However, I never bother, but I apply strictly no/low impact techniques: Cooking only in designated recreational areas, and not where I will camp and sleep; camp and sleep in a "stealth camp", sneaking in when night falls, disappearing in the morning before anyone notices you are there. Above the alpine grasslands, and even in the grasslands if there is not yet or no more stock present, bivouacking is accepted if you leave no trace (trash!)
A lager group or a longer stay should always go for the landowners prior consent.
I think this is also called "Freedom to roam". Here is a list of countries with detailed information of what is allowed and not allowed around Europe: Freedom to roam.
I've wild camped in Italy around Lake Como, Sardinia, Norway, all over the UK and all over France including bang outside Nice airport in the central reservation of the dual carriageway. Never had one problem in 15 years.
Like everyone has said be discreet. Camp late, leave early, noise to a minimum, no fires. Basically tuck yourself away out of site and you'll be fine.
After all, if someone is wandering around in a remote spot, in the middle of the night they are either lost or a nutter! And they'll think the same of you.
Croatia: Generally, it's prohibited anywhere to camp (strictly prohibited in national parks). Not even if landowner gives you a permission. Camping is allowed only in camps that have permission for that business.
However, law says that local authorities can allow camping in some areas during specific events.
If you plan to do wild camping in Croatia outside of tourist regions, as long as you don't do any damage to your surroundings, they will NEVER try to fine you. In most cases they will even ask if you need any help...
Wild camping in Italy is actually not directly regulated (the link is only in Italian, sorry). In general, if camping is not forbidden, then it is legal; laws concerning camping are usually deliberated by local government (e.g. region, country, town). I remember vaguely, from my studies of private law, that the civil code (and thus an ensemble of national laws) that it is possible also to camp in farm fields--if you do not damage the crop, and even without authorization from the field owner, but at the moment I do not remember the reference law that applies to this case.
In Slovenia it is technically not legal, but in reality it depends where you pitch it.
If you pitch tent near populated areas, private land and stay more time than just sleep till morning you can get fined.
In case you are hiking in the hills or mountains it is not so strict. As long as you camp off the trail in forest and leave no trace policy, leave early in the morning, nobody will fine you. I did it a lot and had a great time. The exception is national park, where fines are higher and regime is stricter.
In Italian remote hills or mountains I had no problems and the fines are probably low as I know it. In Austria the fines are very high so I wouldn't dare to pitch it even in hills or mountains. I can't say how things are precisely, because I am not from Austria.
In some countries, they do not allow tents, but camping is technically legal if you do not use a tent, except national parks and other protected areas where you can not enter during the night. In summer months rules are more strict, for fire protection reasons,so they can stop you, just for being outdoors, anytime, even during the day. Of course if you camp somewhere, even with no tent, if it is private land, they may charge you with trespassing.
In some European countries, things are more easy, like there is more public land, benches, wooden tables etc. Other places you see everywhere fences and signs and it is quite sad. I do not use tent, and use a tarp only when it is raining. On raining use of tent applies to act of extreme weather,or unpredictable events so no problem on tents, there. Camping on mountains, tent law is of little concern, you concern more about wild animals, hunters is some places, food resources etc. Camping law apply to protect the environment and improper use of public resources, and it can be fair sometimes.
Tents offer no protection, except maybe for the wind, but there is almost always a wind protected spot. Tents also do not offer good view and sense of surrounding, and in low temperatures get full of mist. Tents are heavy, bulky. Even if I carry one, I rarely use, so I have to retire mine.