However, they do have a place in the world of motorhome and campervan travel in France and throughout Europe. Aires de Service are the official free campervan stops in France and have come in handy on more than one occasion on our travels.
What is an Aires de Service?
The word means an area of service. Simply, they are areas that have been set aside for motorhome and campervan travellers to either use the services (water, electricity and waste disposal), for motorhome parking or to stay overnight. Not all “aires” allow overnight stopovers, but quite a few do.
Aires can be found all over France (and other countries) and usually appear in small towns. Here these municipal campsites are locally funded and maintained. It is a way of enticing travellers into their communities with the hope that they will spend some money locally. I know we do as being able to find somewhere safe to park has its advantages. With a safe, legal park, it gives us time to get out into the towns even if it’s just to visit their fresh food markets sometimes.
Where can I find an Aire in France?
Aires are usually tucked away at the back of a town or in large carparks. Sometimes they are even found in shopping centre carparks, like the large Intermarches. Mostly though, they are small areas either on the side of the road or nearby parks. They really need to be out of the way, especially if they have services attached. Trying to empty your waste in the middle of a town isn’t really something you want to be doing.
Many of the Aires de Service locations in Europe are now run by Euro-Relais. They are leading the way in technology of the service point machines to make them easier to use and also accepting of modern credit cards, making it far easier than having to wait for the staff at the local Mairie (Town Hall) finish their lunch to give you a jeton for the machine.
A list of all French Aires de Services can also be found on this site and can be downloaded.
Aires de Service – Service points
Service points will usually have a stand like the one in the image below where you can hook up to electricity and water. Generally, they don’t allow overnight stopovers. Sometimes, they even have toilet facilities which should be viewed as a bonus.
Aires de Service – Dedicated areas for overnight stopovers
These areas are usually slightly larger and have dedicated overnight parking areas for vehicles.
How do the Aires de Service operate?
Aires are available on a “first in first served” basis. They cannot be booked and in peak season, they have huge demand placed on them. They are simply a matter of finding them and parking up in an approved spot. This is important as sometimes they are adjacent to, or in public carparks.
Aires can be large dedicated areas for motorhomes and campervans, or they can be a few carparks set aside for this purpose. The larger ones, with more services, usually increases the chance of them requiring payment.
Tip: If you are heading to a larger city, aim to get there mid-morning, just as those from the previous night are leaving. That way you’ll be more likely to secure a spot for the night. It can then be your parking spot for the day. We always have bikes so even if the aire is out of town you still have easy access.
What do the Aires de Service cost?
Aires are generally free to stay overnight, but there are some exceptions. In Bruges (Belgium) we stayed at an aire that was €24 overnight (including full use of services). Mostly, however, they only charge a minimum amount for use of services and the actual stopover is free. eg €2 per hour of electricity or 100 litres of water is a standard charge.
Tip: In France, many of the aires rely on tokens (called jetons) to operate the service points. These tokens can only be purchased from such places as the local town hall or tourism offices. It also differs from town to town. It’s the one downside of this service and can be really annoying if you arrive during lunchtime or after hours.
The new aires are starting to adopt credit card technology which makes for a much more efficient process.
How do I find Aires de Service in France?
Our campervan hire company kindly provides us with a guide listing all the aires throughout France. It’s in French though so it can sometimes get a little tricky. Having a GPS is also essential for finding some of them. They are not always out in the open or well signed.
The internet is also a great resource in any country for finding aires and downloading aires maps. We found we got very good at spotting signage as well, although this is more random.
Note: You should always keep your safety and security as a priority. Use your common sense when choosing a location, especially during off-peak periods when you may be camping on your own.
Aires de Service resources
The best aires in France is a useful guide if you prefer having a hard copy book with you.
There is also a Michelin Aires guide.
The Aires de Service Camping Car can also be useful but it is written in French.
All the Aires book is available from Vicarious Media or on We also use Park4night which can be accessed via their website or on a smartphone app. They provide access to a range of Aires de Service in Europe.
Camping Cars Info, despite being an ordinary looking website can also be of value. If you are not likely to have internet when you travel, they also offer a free download of all the GPS coordinates of places to stay.
Rules for staying at Aires de Service in France
- Don’t park for long periods of time in the servicing areas. There is nothing more annoying than pulling up to get an hour of electricity to find that a campervan has been permanently parked in the servicing area. Be mindful, especially in peak travel season that there will be others wanting to utilise the services too. Some might have even driven reasonable distances to get here.
- Like any other camping area, be respectful of other travellers and motorhomes around you and the local community in which you are staying.
- Staying at an aire means you must remain self-contained and take everything with you. If there are no waste disposal units, don’t just throw your waste out here.
- Clean up after yourself. Nothing is more revolting than having to deal with someone else’s waste. It’s not hygienic and it’s definitely not cool.
France, and indeed Europe provides such a welcoming environment for travellers. There are so many free motorhome and campervan stops in France. In association with the France Passion network, travellers can save a considerable amount of money by using this type of service. It costs the municipal councils a great deal of money to create and maintain these environments, that are dedicated entirely to motorhome travel. Don’t abuse the invitation by not looking after the areas in which you stay.
There’s not much that comes for free, or for a few euros a night anymore.