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Following the Tour de France in a motorhome: 2023 Planning tips and advice

**Updated to include Tour de France 2023 route**

Each year, the Tour de France makes its grand départ – usually from France, Belgium or Spain – in July. It signals the start of the largest and most well-known cycling race in the world. While cycling fans from all over the world descend upon France in their thousands, ready to watch their favourite riders, following the Tour de France in a motorhome has become one of the coolest ways to see the event. Mixing the slow pace of motorhome travel with the fast and furious – sometimes crazy – pace of the road races creates a vibe around the event like no other.

Follow our guide full of great tips and hints so you can make the most of your motorhome trip and see the best the Tour de France has to offer at the same time.

General information about the tour

Apart from the two world wars, it has run each year, predominantly in France since 1903. The race continued, even through the pandemic years of 2020-2021, although for the first time since World War Two, it took place in August, not July. The world’s best cyclists come to the Tour de France to show their skills and plenty of grit, determination and stamina over a torrid course covering several weeks.

From time trials to tortuous mountain climbs and brutal sprints, the riders participate in 21 stages across 23 days.  Those who make it to the end at the Champs-Élysées, the jewel in the crown of the Tour de France, will have ridden around 3,404 kilometres (2,115 miles).  In anyone’s language, that is a herculean effort. 

Taking place in July each year, the various stages weave through the beautiful French countryside, small villages and towns.  Occasionally, they are in or close to some big cities, but the beauty of regional France is usually at the forefront.  The tour sometimes pops into other countries, with six out of the last ten years commencing in countries such as Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany and even the United Kingdom. In 2023, the tour starts in Spain.

The event

Even if you aren’t a Tour de France or cycling fan, seeing it unfold in front of your eyes on television can have you wanting to visit France in a heartbeat.  Aside from the pure beauty of the country, the tour creates a carnival atmosphere in these towns.  The towns celebrate the tour, encouraging visitors to come and spend time with them.  Sometimes, depending on the area, when the Tour de France rolls through, it shuts the town down for a while.  

watching the tour de france on the big screen
Watching the tour on the big screen in one of the stage towns © Image by Dino – used with permission

The Tour de France publicity caravan is quite a spectacle to behold.  With many decorated vehicles in the entourage, it runs ahead of the tour, whipping up the crowd into a party mood and giving out all manner of promotional material.  It’s a sight that can only be truly witnessed when you are there.  

Following the tour in a motorhome – tips and hints

One of the best ways to follow the Tour de France is by hiring a motorhome and creating your own itinerary that follows the stages of the race that you are interested in.  There is plenty to think about, but at the same time, it also doesn’t need to be over-planned.  Following the tour can still allow you to travel slowly and go where the road takes you, as those who love motorhoming know and love.

I spoke to Dino, a motorhome and tour fan, to get some insight into life on the road following the Tour de France.  His journey in saw him hit the French roads with two of his friends, keen to enjoy the race and see some of what France had to offer.

Following are his reasons why you should hire a motorhome in France and follow the tour.  Each year there are approximately 10,000 motorhomes that join in this event, and over ten million spectators along the way, so we’ve also some great tips for making the most out of your motorhome holiday.

©Image by Dino – used with permission  

Interview with a fellow traveller

What made you decide to hire a motorhome and follow the Tour de France?

“We were three middle-aged men in a motorhome, only one of whom (Peter) had done some camping, let alone motorhoming.  It was Peter’s suggestion we do this, principally to see the French countryside because every year he’d watch the tour on television and drool at its beauty.

I have been a cycling fan for a long time having been a very competitive cyclist until recently, and would watch Le Tour with my daughter.   She too, competed at a very high level, having raced for Australia. So naturally, I jumped at the chance to go.

Our third member was Frank, was neither a cyclist nor a Le Tour fan, but he is one of those great guys you love to have around who loves life.  He’s also a great cook and would create magic meals even within the confines of the motorhome”.

the three stooges on tour de france
©Image by Dino – used with permission  

Did you stay in the campgrounds every night? 

“No, we didn’t stay in any campgrounds.  We wanted the flexibility of staying wherever we wanted, whenever we wanted.  We didn’t want to be tied into being at a certain pre-booked campground on a certain day.

We wild camped and made use of the France Passion network”.

More reading >> Read our guide to learn more about the France Passion network for motorhome stopovers

Did you have time for other sightseeing?

“We only caught 5-6 stages of the tour, which is plenty.  For the mountain stages, you need to get there 2-3 days beforehand anyway. We did plenty of sightseeing”.

Were you often stuck in traffic jams on the roads?

“Never. It’s amazing how quickly it clears out after the last bike passes.  The mountain stages with only one road up and down are busier. On Mt Tourmelat we stayed the extra night and drove off the mountain the next morning”.

What’s the atmosphere like?

“I cannot describe the atmosphere. Whatever I say would not do it justice.  It’s simply amazing. Everybody is very welcoming and friendly.  People will help you in any way they can, such as suggesting where to park and where to see the race”.

Can you set up outside your motorhome to watch the event?

“It depends on where you are.  The high mountains have very narrow roads, so you can’t park roadside.  We parked in a paddock and then walked to the roadside with our picnic chairs and table”.

parking in a paddock at tour de france
Parking along the TdF route for motorhomes in a dedicated paddock ©Image by Dino – used with permission  

Did anything surprise you about the trip?

“It exceeded my expectations and then some”.

Would you follow the Tour de France in a motorhome again?

“Yes, absolutely”.

Travelling in a motorhome in France for the first time?

Doing a road trip in a motorhome for the first time? Here are some tips to help you make the most out of your road trip, provided by Dino.

  • Just do it!
  • Check whether your motorhome has an inverter and decide whether you want one.  We didn’t have one and needed it since we wild camped so much and couldn’t plug into mains power.  The battery only lasts so long when you are stopped for long periods of time.
  • Have some spare hose connector fittings for the motorhome’s water inlet hose.  They are such an easy thing to leave connected to the water tap after you have finished filling up.  Also, we found that at different locations, the sizes of the taps were different which made things a little tricky as well.  Fortunately, there were often fellow motorhome travellers around us who were more than happy to help out.
  • Paper maps are good to have as well as GPS and Google Maps.
  • The backroads and scenic routes are the way to go and we tried to incorporate as many of these into our trip, even if it meant driving in the wrong direction to where we would ultimately want to be.  The Back Roads France is a great book to buy and have with you.
  • Learn some basic French, it helps but is not essential.  I speak French at an intermediate level which is helpful.
  • Get a portable BBQ or grill with a bag of charcoal.
  • If you are precious about the coffee you drink, buy a stove-top espresso coffee machine and make your own.
  • In my opinion, the food in cafes and restaurants in France is overrated.  Go to the markets, buy fresh and cook it yourself.  It’s a great experience and saves you money.
resting along the way in france
©Image by Dino – used with permission  

Editors note – Lots of great tips in there, thanks Dino. We certainly agree with the need for an inverter.  We’ve been using one for many years when we hire a motorhome in Europe and couldn’t do without it. We also have a huge one in our motorhome back home in Australia.

Love the portable BBQ idea.  We cook onboard a lot, but it does get a bit messy sometimes.  When we travel in Australia in our motorhome, we have a small portable gas stove for use outside.  They are great also.  If you don’t like gas, induction cooktops come in a portable version too.

It’s a shame French cafe food hasn’t inspired him, as it’s one of our favourite world cuisines.  However, we do agree that not all cafes and restaurants are created equal, and you need to sift through them all and do your research to find the good ones.  Sometimes, in really small locations, it’s not always possible.  We love the markets and we buy from local markets every day when we are on the road.

Click on the links below for our videos and recipes for easy motorhome meals we’ve made and you can make yourself

How to make quiche lorraine in a motorhome

Our version of potato dauphinoise – easy to make in a motorhome

motorhome tour de france
©Image by Dino – used with permission  

Tips for first-timers following the Tour de France in a motorhome

  • Download the official Tour de France app to help you plan.
  • Decide early which stages you want to see and where they are located.
  • Plan your route well in advance and choose locations you are comfortable with. i.e if you are worried about driving in the mountains, these stages might not be right for you.
  • Expect there to be crowds everywhere. Plan your arrival and departure times well.
  • For a different perspective, try to see at least one starting and finishing stage and don’t forget the mountain climbs and finishes.
  • Do not attempt to drive right into the towns at the centre of the stages, or you might get stuck.  Park out from the towns and walk/ride in.
  • You will need clothing for all types of weather. 
  • Download the official Tour de France app to help you plan.
  • The time taken to travel on French roads, particularly the back roads or in the mountains, should not be underestimated.   Roads can be narrow, not well sealed, winding, and in a large motorhome, travel is always much slower.  Allow time to drive, stop in at places along the way and appreciate the scenery.
  • Keep the motorhome stocked with fresh water and food/beverages before pulling up.  Once you are parked up, you can’t move (or it’s not easy to move) until the stage has passed through.
  • Keep an eye on your waste and be aware of where the dump stations are so you don’t get caught whilst parked up.
  • Always be mindful of other drivers on the roads and when you are looking for somewhere to park to watch the tour.
  • Remember to look after your motorhome when parking, especially when reversing or parking in a tight spot.  There are bound to be areas where you park which will be offroad so also watch out for rocks and low banks.  Use a spotter to be on the safe side.  Read how to keep you and your motorhome safe.
  • Keep your motorhome locked up and secure when you are not in attendance.
  • The rest days of the Tour de France are a great opportunity to park up and spend more time in one place.  
  • Spend money locally, they will love you for it.
  • Have some wet weather equipment available, as well as a hat and sunscreen.
  • If you are hiring a motorhome, especially for the first time, plan to pick it up before the tour starts in order to acquaint yourself with the vehicle and the roads.  If you have flown in on a long-haul flight, it’s also good advice to give yourself time to re-adjust to your new surroundings and time zone.
  • Hire or have bicycles.  They are a must on our list of things to have in a motorhome.  When following the tour, you can trace the cyclists’ paths or use them to get into the smaller towns.
  • If you are staying at campgrounds, especially at the start and finish, booking early is a must.

Extra tip for the mountain stages

Watching the mountain stages are a must-do!  These are very popular, especially the signature climbs like Alpes-D’Huez, Ventoux and Tourmalet, and they often have these stages on the weekend, so the locals aren’t working and join all the tourists making it very, very crowded

Get there early. The Mt Tourmalet stage was Saturday afternoon. We got onto the mountain Thursday afternoon, and it was already busy with all roadside spots taken.  By Friday, the whole mountain was full. By Saturday, the mountain was closed.

tour de france mountains
Setting up early in the mountains  ©Image by Dino – used with permission  

Additional tips for following the Tour de France

Planning a motorhome European itinerary?  Read our planning tips

Motorhome stopovers in France

Motorhome touring in France is openly welcomed, which makes finding a motorhome stopover much easier.  Motorhome travellers are spoiled for choice in France with a range of options for overnight parking spots.

drinks near the motorhome
©Image by Dino – used with permission  

Campgrounds

There are thousands of official campgrounds found all over France.  They offer a safe place to stay with facilities such as electricity, showers/toilets, water and dump stations.  Ranging from one-star to five-star, additional services can include washing and drying facilities, wifi, convenience stores, playgrounds, inclusion for pets etc.  All will charge commercial rates for these sites and will vary depending on the time of year, location and facilities offered.

If you are planning on staying in campgrounds at all during the Tour de France period, it is highly recommended to book well in advance.  With so many motorhomes following the tour, campground sites book up early and fast.  This is particularly true for the areas immediately around the starting and finishing stages.

Tip: If you plan to be in Paris for the final stage on the Champs-Élysées, we recommend the campground, Camping de Paris, at Bois de Boulogne.  We’ve been staying here when we visit Paris since 1997, and while it has changed owners a few times, it’s the best campground near Paris for motorhomes.  

Key features:

  • Extensive motorhome site and campground very close to the centre of Paris
  • Open 365 days a year 
  • Located in a huge expanse of natural parkland with campsite access to the River Seine
  • Many facilities blocks are scattered throughout the campground to cater for large numbers of visitors.  Facilities include hairdryers, family bathrooms and heating.
  • Wifi in reception and bar
  • Convenience store (includes delivery of fresh bread and croissants if ordered the day before) *
  • Bar and cafe on site
  • Bikes and barbeques for hire during the summer period
  • Free shuttle to Porte Maillot in Paris centre.

*At time of writing, the grocery store and restaurant were temporarily closed.

Location: 2 Allée du Bord de l’Eau 75016 Paris

For a list of almost 10,000 campgrounds, go to Camping France.

Aires de Service

Aires de Service are locations in France that provide some basic services for motorhomes, like electricity, water and dump stations.  Not all aires have all facilities. For example, some may only have electricity and water, but no dumping of waste is possible.  Others provide a small number of spaces for motorhome parking during the day, while some allow overnight stays up to 24 hours.  Services will attract a small fee.  Parking and overnight parking may also attract a fee but are usually offered free of charge.

More reading >> Read our detailed guide on Aires de Service in France

France Passion

This is our favourite part of driving through France in a motorhome.  We love being able to stay as local as possible and buy directly from the owners and the farmers themselves.  We’ve always managed to find some incredible spots to stay.  If you love camping a little more freely, love mixing with locals and even want to save some money, France Passion is the perfect option when looking for somewhere to stay in a motorhome. 

Staying at a France Passion location is free and without obligation. Bookings are not required.

More reading >> Read our comprehensive guide on France Passion and why we highly recommend wild camping for motorhomes and using the France Passion network in the south-west of France.

stirling at france passion
Stirling kicking back at a France Passion olive grove

HomeCamper

HomeCamper is a little similar to France Passion.  Here, anyone can put their piece of land that they have available up for rent.  A homeowner might have a spot in their back yard or a  farmer might have space on their property, for example.  The key difference here is that they will usually have some services on offer (water, electricity) but will also charge a nominal fee to cover the use of such services.  Bookings must also be made online.

Wild camping

This is also one of our favourite things to do.  Wild camping, or staying somewhere that is not a dedicated campground or area to stay is legal in most parts of France.  It’s not possible in large cities, and in some, like the French Riviera, it’s expressly forbidden, but elsewhere in France, opportunities abound.

Find a nice spot on the side of a road near a lake or river and pull up for the night.  Just be respectful of the area around you, always take your rubbish, don’t drop your waste and make sure it is in a secure location.  We don’t recommend staying at the major service stations on the highways as they can be unsafe.

Tour de France timeline 2023

The Tour de France 2023 starts on Saturday, July 1 2023, in Bilbao, Spain.  The final stage of the Tour de France ends in Paris on the Champs-Élysées on Sunday, 23 July 2023. 

Tour de France route 2023

  • 1 July – Stage 1: Bilbao – Bilbao (Spain)
  • 2 July – Stage 2: Vitoria-Gasteiz – San Sebastian (Spain)
  • 3 July – Stage 3: Amorebieta-Etxano (Spain) – Bayonne
  • 4 July – Stage 4: Dax – Nogaro
  • 5 July – Stage 5: Pau – Laruns
  • 6 July – Stage 6: Tarbes – Cauterets Cambasque
  • 7 July – Stage 7: Mont-de-Marsan – Bordeaux
  • 8 July – Stage 8: Libourne – Limoges
  • 9 July – Stage 9: Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat- Puy de Dôme
  • 10 July – Rest day
  • 11 July – Stage 10: Vulcania (St-Ours-les-Roches) – Issoire
  • 12 July – Stage 11: Clermont-Ferrand – Moulins
  • 13 July – Stage 12: Roanne – Chiroubles ou Belleville-en-Beaujolais
  • 14 July – Stage 13: Châtillon-sur-Chalaronne – Grand Colombier
  • 15 July – Stage 14: Annemasse – Morzine
  • 16 July – Stage 15: Les Gets – Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc
  • 17 July – Rest day
  • 18 July – Stage 16: Passy – Combloux (ITT)
  • 19 July – Stage 17: Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc – Courchevel
  • 20 July – Stage 18: Moûtiers – Bourg-en-Bresse
  • 21 July – Stage 19: Moirans-en-Montagne – Poligny
  • 22 July – Stage 20: Belfort – Le Markstein
  • 23 July – Stage 21: St-Ouentin-en-Yvelines – Paris Champs-Élysées

You can find the map of the Tour de France cities here.

tour de france paris
Watching the final stage of the Tour de France along the Champs-Élysées

Tour de France stages 2023

  • Flat – Stages 3,4,7,11,19,21
  • Hills – Stages 1,2,8,10,12,18
  • Mountains – Stages 5,6,9,13,14,15,17,20
  • Time trials – Stage 16
  • Rest days – 10 and 17 July

Tour de France tours and packages

Finally, if you aren’t in a motorhome or plan to leave it behind at some stage to pick up more of the tour in another way, it’s best to use one of the official tour operators accredited by the Tour de France.  That way, you can be sure that you are dealing with authentic tour groups who have a history of working with the tour.  There are cycling tours, packages that include grandstand access on the Champs-Élysées (which I have to say look amazing!)  and other related sightseeing tours.

The list of official travel agents for the Tour de France can be found here.

Where can I find a motorhome in France?

So you’ve decided to follow the Tour de France in a motorhome but have no motorhome to do it in?  We’d better fix that part of the process up!  There are several options available to those who want to do a road trip in a motorhome.  Here are the options we recommend.

Hiring a motorhome in France

We use and recommend Apollo Motorhomes.  There are other providers around, but we have been hiring from FMH/Apollo since 2012 and use them exclusively when we return to France.  Why?  They are easy to work with, we know what we are going to get when we get these and getting to (and out of) their depot is easy. Their pricing is also transparent.

Pro tip: If you are thinking about hiring a motorhome to follow the tour, you need to gert in very early. This is peak summer season in Europe and motorhome hire books out well in advance.

⇓Use our special promo code – APDEBEERCROI in the Apollo online quote to receive €50 off your hire cost ⇓

screenshot of apollo motorhome europe booking site

More reading >> Read our comprehensive review on hiring a motorhome in France

Buying a motorhome in France

Alternatively, if you are looking to buy a motorhome in France to travel before, during and/or after the Tour de France for an extended period of time, we also have a solution for you.  Travellers who are not residents of the EU find it hard to locate reputable sellers of motorhomes.  Buying motorhomes in France legally is also a major factor to consider.

If you are planning on buying a motorhome in France, you can’t afford to miss our comprehensive article on how to buy one legally. We use and recommend a reputable, French-based motorhome company. Read this before making any of the necessary decisions and before you hand over your cash!

Read now >> Buying a motorhome legally in France

Motorhome guides and advice

Motorhome itineraries in France

motorhomes in paddock in france

Many thanks to Dino for taking the time to share his experiences with us as he followed the Tour de France for the first time in a motorhome!  A special thank you to him for giving us access to his personal photos.  All images provided by Dino have been noted accordingly and are used with his permission.

About The Author

2 thoughts on “Following the Tour de France in a motorhome: 2023 Planning tips and advice”

  1. Hi Paul and Nikki, now that definitely sounds like the life. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and for your comments. We have driven extensively through Eastern Europe in a motorhome, bypassed Croatia as it was too hard to stay overnight at the time (but came back later under our own steam). Have a great summer!

  2. Hi Kerri & Stirling

    A fabulously interesting and informative post guys. A really great read.

    We toured part of Europe in our motorhome last summer and have discussed joining the Tour de France ‘throng’ so this is so incredibly helpful. We’re heading to Croatia, Montenegro and Eastern Europe this summer so definitely one to consider for next year.

    Thanks so much

    Paul & Nicki

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