Individual campsite reviews are not given as there are so many campsites, reviewing the few visited would be of little use of anybody. Just generalities.
August: Prior to departure I had been warned that August in France becomes difficult as campsites fill-up and have no space. Although travelling in July, with August coming I checked with many of the campsites I visited and they all said that for a small tent and a bicycle they would always find space. But, I tended to be travelling away from the beach resort areas. I had left France by August so have no experience of August availability.
Non-Camping: In the NW France section of the trip, most camp sites were being used by people visiting to camp (tents, caravans, camping cars) i.e. people arrive, set-up, stay for a bit and depart. However towards and in NE France campsites increasingly seemed to become low cost and migrant worker accommodation. Many sites had large numbers of old caravans as permanent fixtures, with all sorts of sheds attached (to increase living space), patios, gardens, etc. Even odd fencing panels to build additional shelter. These “pitches” have become long term accommodation for people who live there long term (all year round in those campsites that remain open). Some campsites seemed to only such permanent fixed caravans and I was the only shorter term visitor. Whole communities seem to develop like a small housing estate.
Most campsites seem to offer long term rates for pitches but the old tatty permanent caravan/housing estate seems a step beyond this.
Quite a few sites have tents one recognises as being used by somebody spending their day working and using the tent for overnight (deserted during the day and in the evening a company van arrives, one person uses tent, etc. and early next morning they depart, etc.). Some campsites seem to provide accommodation for teams of migrant workers with vans arriving at 06:00 to collect people to take them to work.
Municipals vs Private: Municipals seem cheaper and provided for camping (i.e. sanitary facilities, pitches, occasionally a recreation room) – basic but more than adequate and well maintained. Private campsites were more expensive and tried to be more of a “holiday camp” with things like swimming pools, bouncy castles, cafes/bars/restaurants, etc.
Loo Paper: Many municipal and a few private campsites do not provide toilet paper. This is deliberate (i.e. not just that it had run out) as there were no toilet paper holders fitted.
Listings: Archies Camping was used to locate campsites. Campsites were generally telephoned the day before to check for availability. On several occasions the campsite was closed down (no longer operating) or was a “specialist” campsite e.g. Camping Cars only).
Wi-Fi/Internet: Variable. some sites offer free Wi-Fi/internet, others charge and some don’t offer any. some sites have complete site coverage whilst others only around the Accueil. Where charged for costs can be around €3 for 3 hrs and often for only one device (so connect your phone and you can’t then connect your tablet). Many of the charged for €3/3 hrs allow you to pause your access so you can spread the 3 hrs out. If you want Wi-Fi/internet always ask on arrival connection details are not always offered if staff are busy.
Unable to comment having only spent one night in Belgium
Limited experience as limited time spent in Germany
Language: Not speaking German is more of an issue in Germany when calling campsites. Several campsites were unable to speak English when called in advance to check availability. Several managed to ask to be called back later when somebody who did speak some English would be available.
Music: Weird but campsites seem to play inoffensive pop music (German equivalent to UK’s Radio 2) throughout their toilet/sanitary blocks 24/7.
Types: There seem quite a few different types of campsite and the type can dramatically affect what the site is like.
- “Mini”: Generally a farm or private property which has converted a field (or garden) into a campsite. Small but the owner/operators seem to have put every effort into making the site as good as possible and to ensure your stay is as good as possible. Owners are friendly, do whatever they can to help (I had one owner deciding to bring chairs and tables for me from their own garden as I was just a tent/bike). The campsites are generally low cost and excellent value for money. Some do allow people to rent pitches for the long term (e.g. for the year) but unlike the French equivalent, the caravans are well maintained and the pitch does not become live-in home. “Mini-camping” sites are fairly common. Generally everything included in the low price i.e. showers do not require additional token purchase, Wi-Fi/internet included, etc.
- “Boerderij“: These seem to be larger private campsites based on farms (rural locations). They are slightly more expensive than the “Mini-camping” but still reasonable and generally good quality. Many try to offer more to attract families e.g. bouncy castles, kids play areas, etc.. Free Wi-Fi/internet but as they are larger this is generally only around the recreation room/office.
- Others: Very variable. Some are akin to trailer parks/shanty towns whilst others are excellent. It was difficult to identify the nature of the campsite prior to arrival (meaning some nights were spent in some pretty dreadful campsites). Wi-Fi/internet provision & cost variable.
Availability: As in other countries campsites were generally telephoned the day before to check availability. Most campsites said “We will always find space for a person on a bike with tent” almost like it was some moral code for campsite owners. However in one area when telephoning the day before, several campsites said they were very busy and full. The particular area had a lot of campsites and if one just arrived without advance calling, on a bike, looking exhausted it might be they would (or would not) find space anyway.
Loo Paper: Some dutch campsites did not provide toilet paper (not just run out – no toilet paper holders fitted).