The most important rules and tips: Everything you need to know about camper vans

There is a real camping boom going on in Switzerland: Demand for camper vans and motor homes has been high for years. We reveal the most important things you need to know about this popular kind of holiday – from accessories to the journey.


Finding the right model

Which camper van model is right for you? This is the first question to ask. AMAG has a range of models of the legendary VW California for camping fans to either rent or buy. If you are a beginner, maybe you could start by renting a camper van for your first adventure and then buying or leasing a vehicle when you discover how much you enjoy it. And what is more: If you have a camper van of your own to rent out, you can use the MyCamper platform!

Even at the entry level, the California boasts extensive fittings – from a table and chairs through to a kitchenette (see below) and a mobile toilet, a gas system and water tanks, it has virtually everything a camper van needs. But it is important to clarify any specific requirements, such as: How much additional space might be needed? Do you need a double bed or multiple beds? The latter is possible with the California’s elevating roof. Awnings also create more space. For a family, we would recommend the Grand California. This model comes with an optional additional bed in the elevating roof and is then automatically supplied with a large panoramic roof, which is perfect for kids.

Arrange a test drive of your favourite model now and the experts at your AMAG Garage can explain it all to you. You can also find out useful information on how the VW California works in this breakdown.



Choosing the right place

Where do you want to travel to? If you have not already found your favourite spot or you are beginners: There are loads of lovely campsites in Switzerland, nearly 400 overall. So you can find the right spot to suit any requirements. You need to ask yourself questions like: Are the kids going? Do you need lots of sports facilities? Do dogs need to be allowed? Or even: Would you like to camp in the forest, by the lake or a river or maybe in the mountains? Some campsites also have a pool. There are lots of lists of campsites to suit all requirements online, including one by the Swiss Camping Association. Reserving ahead is recommended to guarantee yourself a spot.

Pitches have less in the way of facilities, so no toilets, but some of them do allow you to get close to nature, perhaps camping on a farm. Pitches are perfect for those who do not want to stay in one place, who want to visit various places in their camper van and only stay one or two nights in each place. 

If you fancy a spot of wild camping, you need to do your research. It is not completely banned in Switzerland, but nor is it generally permitted. The rules vary by canton, so if you want to get it right, you should make enquiries with the relevant authority or the regional police before you travel as different communities can set their own rules.

If you are heading abroad, you are spoilt for choice. There are 28,000 campsites in Europe, with 8,000 in France alone, some 3,000 in Germany and 2,200 in Italy. Our southern neighbours boast some particularly lovely camping regions, including South Tirol, Tuscany and the area around Venice, plus the Côte d’Azur, Languedoc-Roussillon and the Ardèche in France. In Germany, the most popular areas are Bavaria, the Black Forest, the North Sea and the Baltic Sea.

There are very different regulations on wild camping throughout Europe. It is allowed in some countries (many of them in Northern and Eastern Europe) but strictly forbidden in others. You can find out more in this blog post.



Getting your camper van ready 

It is worth checking out your camper van before you travel to make sure your journey goes smoothly. AMAG offers a camper van check for the VW California models. This covers a range of checks including tyres, the water tank, the gas and the batteries. You can also book any of these services separately.

If everything is in order, you can get packing. You need to make sure that you do not exceed the maximum load for the vehicle. Also: Lock everything away and put heavy items such as suitcases at floor level so they do not fall over in transit. There are optional additional storage compartments, seat back bags and organisers to help you find a home for all your luggage and accessories.

You should also check that all your batteries are fully charged and working well to ensure you do not run out of power during your journey. Solar panels can be worthwhile for longer journeys or frequent travel. Last but not least, the water tank needs to be full. An additional tank can also be useful if you are travelling frequently or covering long distances. The same applies to the gas, especially if you cook and barbecue a lot on your camping holidays.



Important tips for on the road

Here are a few tips to get you to your destination safe and relaxed. Important: If you are driving a camper van, you need to adjust your driving style, as the mass, high centre of gravity and increased weight make it more demanding than driving a car. This is most evident around bends and in the increased braking distances. Despite this, the VW California is very pleasant to drive and feels compact, so narrow streets and parking do not pose a problem.

If you are abroad, you need to know the local rules of the road. There is a summary of the most important ones in this blog post. Also, plan your route: Where can you take a break, where is good for filling up? What are the roads like, especially off the motorway? Tip: Give yourself plenty of time to get there so that you can stop spontaneously in the lovely countryside. This means your camping adventure can start on the journey there.

You also need to know the speed limit. It is 120 km/h for motor homes of up to 3.5 tonnes and 100 km/h for heavier vehicles. There are also a couple of admin rules you should know about. You must have your driving licence and vehicle documents with you, plus an exhaust certificate, a warning triangle and a ‘vignette’ motorway permit sticker. Replacement bulbs, hi-vis jackets and a first aid kit are also recommended and can come in very useful in an emergency.



The camping essentials

As well as the basic equipment for your camper van, there are all sorts of things that should be part of any camping holiday. For example, there are two different starter kits available for the California models containing products which are indispensable for any camping adventure. Also useful:

  • Chocks: Helpful for levelling the camper van on uneven ground.

  • Sleeping: The Fanello mattress provides an extra level of comfort.

  • Tools: A tool kit, camping mallet, mounting brackets and sticky tape will always come in useful.

  • Cleanliness: Don’t forget cleaning materials, a dustpan and brush and bin bags to keep the van and the area around it clean. 

  • Showering: You can choose from a range of shower sets or mobile showers.

  • Toiletries: Make sure you have other basic supplies, as it is not always possible to buy them on your travels. Always keep one or two rolls of toilet paper, as you might find that the campsite (especially if it is an older one) has no toilet paper or has run out. You also need to think about shampoo, shower gel, toothbrushes and toothpaste, sun cream, insect repellent, earplugs and blister plasters.

  • Bike racks: Some people like to get active during their holidays, which means taking the right equipment with them. For example, a handy bike rack can be fitted to the VW California. 

  • Games: The California models come with a folding outdoor camping table which even extends. This is perfect for leisurely games of Monopoly, Scrabble, Uno, etc. (in bad weather or in the evenings).



What you need in a camping kitchen

The California camper vans boast the luxury of a kitchenette with a sink, ice box and gas cooker. There is also a fold-out dining table and storage space, which can be extended with extra compartments, including roof shelves. You will also need a few bits of basic kitchen equipment for cooking and eating in the camper van. Many of these things are available in the AMAG accessories catalogue, including melamine crockery that is stable, shatter-proof and lightweight, a gas bottle for the cooker, pots, pans and cutlery. Other useful additions include tin openers and bottle openers, scissors, a Thermos flask, a lunch box, a cool box and everything you need for washing up. If you spend your holidays on campsites, you can also barbecue, although this is not allowed on pitches. For this, we recommend a portable gas barbecue.


The most important camper van rules

Whatever kind of camping you opt for, there are a few rules that apply to campsites, pitches and wild camping. These are based on friendly mutual consideration and treating the site with respect. People in camper vans are generally friendly to one another and usually use informal greetings. Campsites normally have rules on quiet times and facilities for waste disposal, laundry and washing-up. Some of the things that are allowed on campsites are not allowed on pitches, including putting up awnings and camping furniture and barbecuing. 

Respect for nature is particularly important on pitches and when wild camping. This means not making noise to disturb the wildlife, leaving the site as you found it, taking all your rubbish with you and only doing ‘number twos’ in the wild in an emergency. Lighting a fire is an absolute no-no. Not only is it a wildfire risk, it also disturbs the wildlife.


After your trip 

Like any holiday accommodation, the camper van needs a good clean after use: clear out any rubbish, strip the beds, check all the compartments to make sure no food has been left behind and then give it a thorough clean. At the same time, you can clean all the crockery in the dishwasher at home. AMAG also offers a range of camper van cleaning services, including a water tank cleaning service.