Holiday on wheels
If you’re interested in a self-drive camping trips, Zoë McIntyre explains the hire options available
One of the joys of a holiday in France is exploring the highways and byways at your own pace and going where the fancy takes you. Hiring a camper van or larger motorhome gives you that flexibility and is cheaper than renting a car and staying in hotels. Hire companies, based both in the UK and France, offer vehicles with a range of facilities; here are some of the best.
Pick up from the UK
The UK’s largest VW camper van hire company is based in Forest Hill, south-east London, just over an hour from the Channel Tunnel and south-east ferry ports. Staff are experienced in catering for European adventure tours, be it surfing in Biarritz, cycling in the Dordogne or mountaineering in the Alps, and can hire out the relevant equipment, such as bike racks and wine storage, to suit your plans. Features on its new VW California camper vans (pictured left) include electrically powered pop-up roofs, bike racks, comfortable beds, folding picnic table, satnavs and media ports for MP3s and iPods. Prices start from £743 a week.
Tel: 0208 291 6800, www.campervantastic.com
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Motorhomes tend to have more room and facilities than a camper van, making them ideal for family travel or longer trips. Just Go, based in Flamstead near Luton Airport, has the largest self-drive motorhome hire fleet in the UK, ranging from a single-bed vehicle for two people to one catering for seven people. The motorhomes have an equipped kitchen and bathroom, plus a TV and DVD player. Free parking or free transfers from Harpenden railway station and Luton Airport are provided, as well as a European travel pack that includes beam deflectors and breathalysers. Prices start from £350 a week.
Tel: 01582 842 888, www.justgo.uk.com
The Southampton-based company is just 20 minutes from the ferry port at Portsmouth, which has crossings to Cherbourg, Caen, Le Havre and Saint-Malo. Kamperhire originally specialised in vintage campers, but moved on to the modern VW T5 Californias in 2007. The vehicles sleep up to four people and come with a mini-kitchen, sink, fridge and utensils. Prices for the camper van (pictured above) start from £70 a day, with discounts for bookings over 14 days. Tel: 01489 877 033, www.kamperhire.co.uk
Pick up from France
Anyone with a nostalgic yearning for the swinging sixties can enjoy an adventure around Provence and the Côte d’Azur in a retro VW camper van (main picture left). 69 Campers has three models from the 1960s and 1970s that were imported from the US and reconditioned, with a hand-made interior that includes solar showers, a kitchen and iPod connection. The vehicles can sleep from three to five people. To collect your camper, fly to Nice, Marseille or Toulon and then head to the firm’s office in Seillans, one of Provence’s famous hilltop villages. Prices start from €650 a week.
Tel: (Fr) 4 83 11 17 75, www.69campers.com
Freewheelin’ Classic Campers
English couple Sarah Farnborough and Rusty Higgins, a former Volkswagen mechanic, have been camper van enthusiasts since the 1990s and set up their own hire company in the Breton village of Louvigné-du-Désert in 2012. The two lovingly restored 1970s VW campers, called Joan Mary and Harry, sleep four and two people respectively, and are fitted with all the necessary equipment for a comfortable holiday. Sarah and Rusty are happy to use their expert knowledge to suggest an itinerary to suit your interests and length of holiday – be it along Brittany’s coastline, the beaches of Normandy or the western Loire Valley. Prices start from €475 a week.
Tel: (Fr) 2 99 17 14 09
We Dub You
If you want to re-tune your inner hippy to the ways of the 21st century, then driving around south-west France in a high-tech VW camper van (pictured top right) could be the answer. We Dub You, based in Monflanquin, half an hour’s drive south of Bergerac, is a new venture by British couple Yvette and Tony Martin, who combine retro charm and digital technology in their five 1970s Kombis. Each vehicle is equipped with iPads preloaded with films and games, as well as an iPhone with music and navigation. With two double beds and a pop-up roof fitted to take a bunk bed, the van sleeps four adults and a small child. Cooking facilities are provided and electric bikes, a pop-up tent and food hampers are all available upon request. You will be met at Bergerac Airport (or the town’s railway station if you fly to another airport) and then taken to your camper van. Prices start from £375 a week.
Tel: 0207 193 9058, www.wedubyou.com
Lille, the vibrant capital of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, is only 80 minutes by train from London, so it makes a convenient starting point for a camping adventure. Origin Campervans, based in Lille-Hellemmes to the east of the city centre, specialises in hiring out modern and fully equipped VW campers that are less than three years old. Two models are available: the T5 California, with a pop-up roof that can sleep four people, and the more compact Transporter with room for two adults and a child. Vans come with camping equipment including linen and have a distinctive floral design (pictured above) to help get you in the holiday spirit. Prices for fewer than eight days’ rental begin from €59 per day.
Tel: (Fr) 6 80 01 72 77 www.origin-campervans.com