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What’s the law on camping in Spain?

Spain is full of beautiful spots in nature, but is it possible to camp anywhere you want? What are the rules for wild camping, the potential loopholes and the fines to avoid?

What's the law on camping in Spain?
Can you go wild camping in Spain? Photo: Dominik Jirovský/ Unsplash

Camping is a popular pastime in Spain and there are many great dedicated campsites dotted all over the country.

But with so many natural and national parks, mountain ranges, forests and rivers, many people want to make the most of them and wild camp overnight.

So, is wild camping permitted in Spain?

Unfortunately, the short answer is that wild camping in any area in Spain is generally forbidden.

The reasons for restricting camping in natural areas ranging from health and safety to security and respecting the environment.

The general rule is that you must find an appropriate campsite to stay the night.

READ ALSO: Can you camp or sleep over at any beaches in Spain?

What about camping in a campervan or caravan instead of a tent?

Wild camping, even in a campervan, is not allowed, however, you are allowed to sleep in your own vehicle overnight, according to article 93 of the General Road Traffic Regulations and Manual 08/V-74. This means that you can actually park your campervan somewhere and sleep in it, as long as you don’t appear to be camping.

Practically it means that you can’t set up awnings, chairs and tables or barbecues outside your caravan and must look as though you are simply parked.

Be aware that parking by the coast is forbidden. General Traffic Regulations state that they “prohibit parking and circulation, as well as camping and camping sites, 20 meters from the beach in an urban area or 100 meters in a rural area, counted from the seashore”.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Spain’s campervan and motorhome rules

Are there any exceptions? What if I camp without a tent?

Vivac in Spanish or bivvying, as it’s referred to in English, is the practice of sleeping outside in the wild without a tent or a campervan. This is a bit of a grey area when it comes to camping law in Spain and you may be able to get away with it in certain rural areas where you can’t be seen. 

Are there any other situations I might get away with wild camping?

Wild camping is strictly prohibited in national and natural parks, on beaches, or by the coast, but there are similar grey areas when it comes to free camping on private land.

Technically you can camp in someone’s garden or field if you get permission from the owner. Remember, they may ask for a small fee for doing so.

Wild camping may be more accepted in some rural areas such as in the Pyrenees, but remember it’s still illegal so you can be fined if you’re caught.

What are the fines for camping illegally?

If you are found to be wild camping, you can be slapped with some hefty fines. According to the Coastal Law, you can be fined from €40 for each metre square of space you occupy if you’re caught camping near the coast.

You can also be fined between €50 and €150 for not parking properly near the coast.

Like most rules in Spain though, each region has its own when it comes to how much you can be fined. Here’s what you might have to pay for wild camping in nature in certain regions.

Madrid: €60.10 up to €601.01.

San Sebastián municipality: From €50 to €3,000.

Asturias: From €60.10 to €601.01. 

Murcia: Anywhere up to a maximum of €1000.

Valencia: Between €751 and €1500 for camping on the beach during high season. 

Catalonia: A minimum of €60.10, but if you’re found camping in natural areas, such as the Delta del Ebro, this can rise to €6000, the highest camping penalty in Spain. 

Extremadura: From €30 to €150.

Granada provice: €100. 

Be aware that the fines could be higher for wild camping in natural or protected areas.

General camping rules 

Campfires or bonfires are strictly prohibited in wild and natural areas, particularly due to the risk of forest fires, which caused devastation across many regions of Spain in the summer of 2022. Starting a fire is considered a criminal offence and you may get a lot more than just a fine if it gets out of hand. 

Remember to take all rubbish away with you and leave the place exactly as you found it and to bury all human waste away from water sources. 

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TRAVEL NEWS

UK border strikes threaten Christmas travel chaos to and from Spain

Planned industrial action by British border force staff is threatening to complicate or even ruin Christmas travel plans for thousands of people going between Spain and the UK over the festive period.

UK border strikes threaten Christmas travel chaos to and from Spain

Travellers arriving at the UK’s biggest airports over the Christmas period could face severe delays entering the country and even risk having their flights cancelled as a result of strike action by British border force staff.

A senior UK Border Force official told Britain’s i newspaper that “travellers can expect long queues at the airports affected by the strikes. We’re looking at similar waits as when we had all the Covid protocol issues in summer 2021 when queues of 10 to 12 hours were not unusual.”

“Passengers should also expect flight cancellations due to staff shortages,” they added, “so should keep in touch with their airlines before travel.”

READ ALSO: What you should know if you’re travelling to Spain in December

The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) has voted for strike action over pay and conditions from December 23rd until the end of the year, with the exception of December 27th, that will affect all major UK airports.

The walkouts threaten to ruin Christmas travel plans for thousands of people coming from around the world, including Britons who live in Spain hoping to return home for the festive period, perhaps for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as those wanting to enjoy a warmer Christmas break in Spain.

British media outlets estimate that as many as two million passengers have booked to fly in and out of Britain over the Christmas period on at least 10,000 flights scheduled to arrive at the affected airports.

Where are the walkouts?

Around 1000 Border Force staff are set to walk out from all of the UK’s busiest airports, including Heathrow (Terminals 2,3,4 and 5), Gatwick, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Cardiff, and also the port of Newhaven.

The strikes will fundamentally affect passport checks for arrivals into Britain, as 75 percent of passport control staff are PCS union members.

Christmas is already one of the busiest travel times of the year, and walkouts from border staff are likely to cause severe delays and cancellations. Some British media outlets are even reporting that passengers could be left to wait on their planes on the runway, something that would then have a knock-on effect on other incoming flights.

Though passports aren’t usually checked on outbound flights, arriving aircraft often turn around and set off on their next outbound journey within an hour or two. If queues for arrivals become so bad that passengers are kept on the runway, outbound flights will be delayed and departures could be cancelled.

A Home Office spokesperson said in a statement that “passengers should be prepared for potential disruption.”

READ ALSO: BREXIT: Spain and EU suggest removing Gibraltar border

Various affected airports have made preemptive statements expecting major delays and cancellations.

“We expect it will be necessary for airlines to cancel some services on the days impacted by strike action to ensure the number of arriving passengers aligns with lower UK Border Force resources,” a spokesman from Manchester airport said in a statement. “Arriving passengers should also be prepared for much longer immigration queues on strike days, owing to reduced Border Force staffing levels.”

A Heathrow spokesperson said: “The Home Office advises that immigration and customs checks may take longer during peak times on strike days… Passengers are advised to check their flight status with their airline before travelling.” they added.

The British Transport Minister, Baroness Vere, has said that “the government does have mitigations in place,” which is thought to include army personnel and volunteers filling in for the striking staff.

Travel to and from Spain

The border walkouts will affect travellers from across the world, but could hit those travelling to and from Spain particularly hard as there’s such a significant British population in Spain and UK-Spain flight routes are some of the busiest in the world.

Exact figures vary slightly, but by December 31st 2021 there were 407,628 UK nationals officially living in Spain, according to figures from Spain’s Migration Ministry. The latest data from Spain’s National Statistics Institute (INE), however, states that there were 282,124 Brits registered in Spain in 2021, more than 100,000 fewer than the Migration Ministry’s figures.

This may be explained by the fact that INE primarily uses local census information from the town halls (padrón address registrations, birth, deaths, and so on) rather than migration documents.

Nonetheless, it’s safe to say there’s likely tens if not hundreds of thousands of British citizens wanting to return home for Christmas, or host friends and family in Spain for a sunnier festive season.

Major airports such as Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester welcome tens of incoming flights from Spain a day, and others such as Birmingham and Glasgow welcome several a day from across Spain.

If there are delays in the UK, there could be a ripple effect (or last minute cancellations) in Spanish airports, particularly those with multiple daily departures to Britain such as Madrid, Barcelona, Alicante-Elche, Las Palmas, Lanzarote, Málaga, Ibiza, Murcia and Palma de Mallorca.

In 2020, the Barcelona-London Gatwick flight route ranked in the top 10 busiest international routes in the world, with almost 2 million seats available that year, according to data from the Official Airline Guide (OAG).

To compound the travel chaos, several airline strikes have also been called for this winter, mainly involving low-cost airlines Vueling and Ryanair.

Ryanair baggage handlers and on-the-ground staff have also been striking and will continue to do so until January 7th, 2023.

What if I have flights booked?

As the strike action has just been announced, normal cancellation rules still apply (for now) so don’t cancel your flight just yet. If your flight is cancelled by the airline, however, as is expected for many carriers in the coming weeks, your regular rights will apply, including the possibility of being flown via another route, even on another airline if necessary, and hotels should be provided if you are kept overnight.

However, it is worth noting that as Christmas is a peak travel period anyway, finding extra seats as flights are cancelled to soften the impact of the strikes may be difficult.

It remains to be seen if, when, and how many flights will be cancelled. Cancellations are expected by all major airports, who have advised that passengers check the status of their flights before travelling.

For those who are set on travelling, expect severe delays at passport control, and keep an eye on the status of your flight in the coming weeks. 

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