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Hello. My husband and I are coming to the South of France in a campervan next month. We have read a few reports of some of the campsites on Park4Night being unsafe (vans being broken into and valuables stolen) and are just wondering what everyone's experience is with this. We will be heading south from Lyon towards Cassis, up to Nice, and then North towards Annecy and back to Lyon. Any advice or guidance on the safety of spots along this route is welcome as we are from South Africa and this will be our first campervan holiday and thus are newbies to camping in France.

Thanks!
Amanda
 

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France is pretty safe really although around any major towns you will get the usual petty crime. Not a lot of Aires / motorhome parking on the cote d'azur though. I know the park4night Aires you talk about but I don't use them, preferring the out of the way traditional Aires in rural villages etc. In well over a decade of extensively touring France I've never had anything nicked. Don't worry about it would be my advice.
 

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@jiwawa uses Park4Night a lot. She will, no doubt, be along soon.

Camping Car Park is another one. We have used them a fair bit. They have a card or coin operated barrier but, of course, that does not stop someone ducking under it :( As Barry says, above, it is quite rare. We put a sign in our window "Attention Chien!".
 

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Have you read the other 10,000 reports stating they didn't get broken into in France, no probably not :)

No harm in using Park4Night as a guide, if the place makes you feel uneasy then pick somewhere else,
at least there's usually a choice in France. I've stayed in many aires and P4Ns Europe wide and well beyond, came across incidences of thefts, but none that I can recall in France. I've overnighted on French motorway aires countless times, as felt expedient at the time, a definite no no, for many motorhomers, but I've never witnessed a notable theft let alone a scary incident. Except for a midnight truck drivers xdressing party and a few other experiences of a similar order!

There's always a few caveats of course, as a general rule, as already stated the closer you get to a city the greater the risk of crime, think particularly Paris, Marseille (if you change your itinerary). I'm sure a similar situation pertains in S.A.?
As you are travelling more less in the holiday season, you can probably expect company from fellow motorhomers, probably adds to the security if leaving van and going off for a local tour, on the whole m/homers are trusty types.....I think!

The winter season can be another matter, some aires official or not, can I'm sure appear a bit isolated/risky for the slighty/nervy/sensible?
 

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We live in France and have never had any problems, neither do we know or have heard directly of anyone having problems.

We have read reports in the British “press” about people having been broken into and always having had about £1000 cash, lots of expensive jewellery, credit cards and ALWAYS a very expensive camera - funny how the list is almost always virtually identical…….

We have never heard reports of such incidents with ANY other Nationalities either…..

Make of that what you will……, maybe they just target Brits as they are cross about Brexit, WW1 or 2 or even the 100 years War- we don’t know and have never tried to find out as it all seems too much like a coincidence…..

Not that I am saying the people involved might have exaggerated/made up or similar, maybe too much Chateaux Supermarche was involved, I do not know.

But from our experience, relax, be sensible and not flashy and remember to close the MH up when you go out. I think you will enjoy the experience, but probably NOT the experience of trying to find space near Nice, although the French Holiday season is now over, so there may be more space. Campsites may not require a 7 day minimum stay for any booking. Small sites are quieter, often with excellent facilities and helpful staff. If you try French speaking they will probably reply in English, but be supportive of any efforts you make (sorry if you happen to be totally fluent and eg a Modern Languages teacher….🤣).
 

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I do have to declare, here, that we have actually spoken to someone who did have his van broken into and was held at knifepoint to give up his wallet. He was in France and, from memory, it was in the South East.
We met him when he was having some work done to the bodywork of his van so that he could sell it because he did not feel able to carry on motorhoming. He was on a motorway services at the time. People had, since, told him to just leave a spare wallet, containing a small amount of cash and some old credit cards, within easy reach of the door. He was new to motorhoming and did not feel able to continue. Sorry to put a damper on things. It did not deter us from continuing our much loved hobby.
 

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No harm in using Park4Night as a guide, if the place makes you feel uneasy then pick somewhere else,
Yes, I do use Park4Night quite a lot but I read some reviews and make a decision based on them. If when I get there I'm not sure, I react like Camion.

Here's a recent post with some links you might find useful.


France is motorhome heaven! Relax and enjoy. And welcome to the forum.

Why not do a thread about your journey? It would be interesting to hear about it from a South African perspective.
 

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You might find a couple of the guides I wrote for the south of France useful.
 

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Add to the spare wallet an out of
I do have to declare, here, that we have actually spoken to someone who did have his van broken into and was held at knifepoint to give up his wallet. He was in France and, from memory, it was in the South East.
We met him when he was having some work done to the bodywork of his van so that he could sell it because he did not feel able to carry on motorhoming. He was on a motorway services at the time. People had, since, told him to just leave a spare wallet, containing a small amount of cash and some old credit cards, within easy reach of the door. He was new to motorhoming and did not feel able to continue. Sorry to put a damper on things. It did not deter us from continuing our much loved hobby.
Add to the spare wallet, a small amount of photocopied and cut to size money, an old credit card if you have one that does not have current details on it, and other such peripherals.

Stopping overnight in motorway service stations has always been said to be a no no, when we have done it we park in the lorry park rather than a motorhome area, noisier but perhaps less of a target.

I have to add we have never had any problems on or off motorways although we never stop within 50km of large cities.
 

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I have no actual proof to quote as fact, but I'd stake my pension on France being no worse, and quite possibly safer than the UK, when addressing m/home specific crimes, assuming similar types of locations of course.
i think you would loose your money on Motorway service areas France as one of the worst records of thefts especially near large cities
 

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Hi and welcome

We also travel extensively in France preferring campsites and the odd aire or two thrown in. We have experienced zero problems but like anywhere else we use sensible precautions for our security.

As mentioned above I also carry a 'muggers wallet', with old credit cards, receipts and 5€ in it...plus I carry a very large Maglite torch too! Neither of which I have had to deploy yet :)

The advice given above on when arriving somewhere where you are planning on overnighting is good advice: if you don't like the look of it just move on. There are numerous website and apps which help you find other places near to where you are and failing that you could also buy a book such as Camperstop...


Lastly I'd say. don't worry - you'll have a great time. France is excellent for touring. If you have the time keep off the motorways and main roads and just meander. I have also found French people to be very welcoming especially if you try and use the language.

I can recommend a camp site on the coast close to the railway station for visiting Nice, Antibes and Cannes if you are interested as we stayed there this May.
 

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Does the vehicle you will travel in have security devices?
For actual security some choose to rely on alarms of some sort or another, or like myself prefer physical security i.e. extra locks on all doors, more visible to would be thieves and an obvious deterrent.
Other than the larger cities most everywhere in France is pretty safe especially the rural areas.
Enjoy your touring.
 

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i think you would loose your money on Motorway service areas France as one of the worst records of thefts especially near large cities
I do imply conjecture in that reply, and quoting my own personal experiences, fwiw. Hardly scientific of course. I did state that France has some notable autoroute hotspots regarding theft incidences. Can you be sure that numbers of thefts at selected comparably situated UK motorway services areas aren't greater, when it's generally accepted that we've all but given up on reporting what is loosely considered a "petty crime". Perhaps the French still take these crimes seriously, and more often report them.
I don't see me losing my pension because there are so many factors to consider I doubt if
if it could be proven either way.
 

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I think I read that the advice was that if you have to stay overnight on the motorways then park amongst the lorries. Strength in numbers I guess.

I'm guessing that the numbers of MH's broken in to are very low but if each case gets an airing on a forum or two, then it gets more publicity than it warrants.
 
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I always felt very comfortable overnighting in one of the motorway airs but always parked to facilitate a swift exit if needed.
My logic was that if you were robbed or attacked in the night the robbers would likely have to pass a toll post where if notified could be stopped. imho.

Ray.
 
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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Thank you for the warm welcome and for all your very helpful comments and advice - it really is appreciated!

I think that coming from South Africa, being a crime-riddled country, we are always on high alert. And in South Africa, a simple petty-theft break-in is usually not the case as we have so much violent crime here... and so I am probably biased about crime all over the world (apologies to everyone in Europe as it's certainly not my perception of the place - we are, in fact so looking forward to the peace and tranquility of France and to get away from the crime of our country for three weeks!).

All your advice about motorways vs campsites vs aires is very welcome. We plan to stop at campsites for the most part so that we can feel comfortable enough to take our bicycles and head into the little towns to explore.

The advice about the route we are taking is also great - we are not fixed on this route (I will add our planned route in another thread so as to get some feedback on it) and have just picked something that we thought would be nice, not knowing the logistics. Through forums like this and other research, we are learning slowly ;) We will be travelling from the 8th of September to the 16th of September in our campervan, and so I am hoping that some of the high-season traffic would have died down by then, but am not sure if that will be the case. Either way, we are going to do a mixture of more rural areas around Provence, Aix-in-Provence, the area around the Verdon Gorge, Grasse, Calanques national park, Écrins National Park, and Annecy before returning to Lyon. A visit to the flashy coastal towns and a dip in the ocean would be a bonus but we are not overly fixed on this.

We have rented a campervan through a company called Roadsurfer and they do not have any additional security measures, and were also a bit confused as to why I was asking about break-ins 😂. We are going to stow our valuables away out of sight and locked in a hiding place in the van and, being from South Africa, we never leave anything visible in the vehicle so will be sure to put everything away and lock up at night and before we leave each day.

Thank you, also, for the french speaking advice. I am not fluent by any means but have been learning and practicing the basics - enough to begin a conversation and try before flicking to English.
Hi and welcome

We also travel extensively in France preferring campsites and the odd aire or two thrown in. We have experienced zero problems but like anywhere else we use sensible precautions for our security.

As mentioned above I also carry a 'muggers wallet', with old credit cards, receipts and 5€ in it...plus I carry a very large Maglite torch too! Neither of which I have had to deploy yet :)

The advice given above on when arriving somewhere where you are planning on overnighting is good advice: if you don't like the look of it just move on. There are numerous website and apps which help you find other places near to where you are and failing that you could also buy a book such as Camperstop...


Lastly I'd say. don't worry - you'll have a great time. France is excellent for touring. If you have the time keep off the motorways and main roads and just meander. I have also found French people to be very welcoming especially if you try and use the language.

I can recommend a camp site on the coast close to the railway station for visiting Nice, Antibes and Cannes if you are interested as we stayed there this May.
I would love your recommendation for a place to stay on the coast - thank you!

Thanks again everyone!
Amanda
 

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Nice update Amanda. We do have another lady single camper widow who used to live in SA but kept her van in UK with her son I believe.
Name of 'Viv' and used to post quite frequently. Look her 'name' up in the members list to see where she is now.

Ray.
 

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Thank you for the warm welcome and for all your very helpful comments and advice - it really is appreciated!

I think that coming from South Africa, being a crime-riddled country, we are always on high alert. And in South Africa, a simple petty-theft break-in is usually not the case as we have so much violent crime here... and so I am probably biased about crime all over the world (apologies to everyone in Europe as it's certainly not my perception of the place - we are, in fact so looking forward to the peace and tranquility of France and to get away from the crime of our country for three weeks!).

All your advice about motorways vs campsites vs aires is very welcome. We plan to stop at campsites for the most part so that we can feel comfortable enough to take our bicycles and head into the little towns to explore.

The advice about the route we are taking is also great - we are not fixed on this route (I will add our planned route in another thread so as to get some feedback on it) and have just picked something that we thought would be nice, not knowing the logistics. Through forums like this and other research, we are learning slowly ;) We will be travelling from the 8th of September to the 16th of September in our campervan, and so I am hoping that some of the high-season traffic would have died down by then, but am not sure if that will be the case. Either way, we are going to do a mixture of more rural areas around Provence, Aix-in-Provence, the area around the Verdon Gorge, Grasse, Calanques national park, Écrins National Park, and Annecy before returning to Lyon. A visit to the flashy coastal towns and a dip in the ocean would be a bonus but we are not overly fixed on this.

We have rented a campervan through a company called Roadsurfer and they do not have any additional security measures, and were also a bit confused as to why I was asking about break-ins 😂. We are going to stow our valuables away out of sight and locked in a hiding place in the van and, being from South Africa, we never leave anything visible in the vehicle so will be sure to put everything away and lock up at night and before we leave each day.

Thank you, also, for the french speaking advice. I am not fluent by any means but have been learning and practicing the basics - enough to begin a conversation and try before flicking to English.

I would love your recommendation for a place to stay on the coast - thank you!

Thanks again everyone!
Amanda
Unless I'm mistaken that's just eight days. If I were you I would cut down that itinerary, it's a lot in eight days. I would spend a couple of months doing that list! Annecy and the Alps are fantastic as are the Verdon gorges and lac st croix. I would pick one region and just do that otherwise you will spend all your time driving. Don't be afraid of using the Aires network either. You will find many motorhomers on them tootling about on their bikes. France is about as dangerous as Telly Tubby land! 🤣

All those places you mention most including myself will know really well so if you need any advice on specific areas then do ask but as said, I would cut it down.
 
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