So what is vanlife? This is the ultimate guide to all things #vanlife in the UK! 🇬🇧 #vanlife is a way of life that’s becoming increasingly popular in the UK. It’s an approach to life that combines adventure and freedom, with the comforts of home.
Originally, van life referred to converting a van into a mobile home, but it has since expanded to include a variety of vehicles, such as campervans, caravans, and motorhomes. The heart of van life is about simplifying your life, embracing minimalism, and focusing on experiences over possessions.
🚐💨 Vanlife: Defined
Living the van life can be a full-time commitment or a way to enjoy weekend getaways and road trips. It’s all about exploring new places and immersing yourself in nature. The van life community is welcoming and supportive, and it’s easy to connect with like-minded individuals through online groups and social media.
In this guide, we’ll explore the ins and outs of van life in the UK, including the benefits and challenges, how to prepare for van life, finding places to park up, and answering some frequently asked questions. By the end, you’ll have a better understanding of whether van life is right for you and how to get started if it is.
Whether you’re looking to escape the rat race, travel in style, or simply enjoy a slower pace of life, van life in the UK offers endless opportunities for adventure and self-discovery.
🇺🇸 In the US? Here’s our ‘Comprehensive Guide to Living on the Road in a Van (US)’
🇪🇺 In the EU? Our ‘Comprehensive Guide to Living on the Road in a Van (EU)’ is coming soon!
What Is the History of Vanlife in the UK?
The history of vanlife in the UK dates back to the 1950s and 60s, with a movement known as “hippie trail.” These young adventurers traveled across Europe and Asia in campervans, buses, and other vehicles, chasing adventure and enjoying a simpler way of life.
This trend continued into the 1970s, when even more people started converting vans into cosy homes on wheels. These early vanlifers were inspired by the “free festival” movement, which reveled in music, art, and communal living.
In the 1980s, van life in the UK became more popular, as more people started embracing a minimalist lifestyle and looking for ways to escape the stresses of modern society. Today, vanlife has come a long way and vanlifer influencers lead the way! It’s easier to connect with each other than ever, so vanlife is a thriving community who share travel routes, park-ups, and other life hacks.
Today, #vanlife in the UK is a thriving community of people who value adventure, freedom, and living on their own terms. It’s a popular way of life for people of all ages, from folks on gap years to empty nesters seeking a new way of life. The UK’s stunning countryside and rugged coastlines make it an ideal destination for vanlifers looking to explore the great outdoors.
Why Choose Van Life?
Vanlife is a lifestyle that has been embraced by a growing number of people in the UK, from adventurers and retirees to digital nomads and young families. But why choose vanlife over more traditional forms of housing and travel?Let’s explore the advantages and disadvantages of vanlife in the UK, so you can decide if it’s the right lifestyle for you…
Advantages of Van Life:
- Freedom and flexibility to travel wherever and whenever you want
- A simpler and more minimalistic way of living, with fewer possessions and lower living costs
- A connection with nature and the outdoors, with the ability to park up in beautiful and remote locations
- A sense of community and camaraderie with other vanlifers, both online and in person
- The ability to work remotely and earn a living while on the road, thanks to advances in technology
Disadvantages of Van Life:
- Lack of permanent housing and the stability that comes with it
- Limited space and amenities, which can make it challenging to live with others or accommodate specific needs
- The need to constantly move and find new park-ups, which can be tiring and time-consuming
- Potential legal and safety issues related to parking and driving a van or other non-standard vehicle
- The possibility of breakdowns and mechanical issues, which can be costly and disruptive to travel plans
And…dare we say it…weather. The weather in the UK can be quite unpredictable and often not ideal for vanlife. It’s not uncommon to experience frequent rain, wind, and even snow, which can make outdoor activities challenging and dampen the overall experience.
This can be especially difficult for vanlifers who rely on solar panels for electricity or need to dry out wet gear or clothes. Additionally, during the winter months, temperatures can regularly drop below freezing, so staying warm is a challenge.
While there are ways to mitigate these challenges, such as installing a diesel heater and good insulation…but it is a challenge. If you have the flexibility to travel abroad, this is also a good option for the winter months!
Van life can be a fulfilling and rewarding way of living, even with its challenges. However, it’s important to consider the advantages and disadvantages before committing to this lifestyle to ensure that it’s the right road for you!
🙋♂️Frequently Asked Questions about Van Life in the UK
Vanlife is an exciting and unique lifestyle that comes with its own set of challenges and rewards. As with any major decision, it’s important to consider all aspects of vanlife before diving in. In this section, we’ll answer some of the most common questions people have about vanlife in the UK.
From practical concerns like parking and facilities to lifestyle considerations like socializing and working on the road, we’ll provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision about whether vanlife is right for you. So let’s get hit the road!
Are You Allowed to Sleep Anywhere in a Van in the UK?
The short answer is no, you can’t just park up and sleep anywhere you want in a van in the UK. That doesn’t mean you can’t, or that people don’t. However, it would be irresponsible of us to not give the official answer: It is illegal to park on private land without the owner’s permission, and you risk getting a ticket or being towed away if you park illegally on public land.
Many vanlifers will talk about “getting the knock” – which refers to someone knocking on your van, probably to tell you that you shouldn’t be parked there and you need to move on. In our experience, if you park considerately, this is very rare.
Our advice? As long as you:
- Park safely (don’t block any field entrances etc)
- Leave no trace (rubbish, waste water etc)
- Avoid parking in large groups
- Don’t ‘set up camp’ (i.e. get camping chairs out and hang your washing out)
- Don’t light fires
- Don’t act ‘antisocially’
- Respect nature
- Only stay in a place for a night or two
- Pay heed to any signs or directives (e.g. guidelines for National Parks etc)
You will not experience any difficulties. Most vanlifers join the community because we want to get closer to nature, and that means not disrupting it, or spoiling other people’s enjoyment of it. Generally, if you don’t cause any problems, you can find some amazing places to park in the UK, and go pretty much under the radar.
For this reason, ‘stealth campers’ are perhaps more common in the UK than some other countries. A stealth camper van is a vehicle that has been converted into a livable space, but with an exterior that does not appear to be a traditional camper van.
These vehicles are designed to blend in with their surroundings, and often look like a regular van from the outside. The purpose of a stealth camper van is to allow its owners to park and sleep in urban areas without drawing attention to themselves.
In the UK, where wild camping is not as common or allowed as in other countries, many vanlifers opt for stealth camper vans to avoid being asked to move on by authorities or concerned locals. With a stealth camper van, vanlifers can have the freedom to park up and sleep in cities or towns, as well as in more remote areas without worrying about being spotted.
If you’re concerned about the ‘wild camping’ aspect of van life in the UK, or you don’t have off-grid power, there are options available for vanlifers to park legally and safely overnight.
One of the best options for overnight parking is to find a designated campsite or caravan park. These sites are specifically designed for people living in vans, motorhomes, and caravans and offer all the necessary amenities such as electricity, water, and waste disposal. Some campsites even offer additional facilities such as showers and laundry rooms.
Is there a difference between van life rules in Scotland, compared to England?
Yes, there are some differences between van life rules in Scotland and England. While both countries allow for van life, the specific rules and regulations can vary.
In England, van life is generally allowed as long as you are parked legally and not causing a disturbance. However, some local councils have introduced parking restrictions that make it more difficult for vanlifers to park on the streets for extended periods of time. In addition, some areas have introduced specific rules against camping or overnight parking in certain locations.
In Scotland, there are more opportunities for wild camping and van life, thanks to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
This code allows for wild camping in most areas of Scotland, as long as you follow some basic guidelines such as camping in small groups, being respectful of the environment, and not camping in enclosed fields or on private land without permission. However, there are some areas where wild camping is prohibited, such as around Loch Lomond.
It’s worth noting that in both Scotland and England, there are restrictions on where you can park and camp overnight, especially in urban areas. It’s important to do your research and make sure you’re parking legally and respectfully, so as not to cause any disturbance or run into any legal issues.
How Do People Who Live Van Life Find Park-Ups in the UK?
Finding park-ups in the UK can be a bit of a challenge, especially if you’re not familiar with the area. However, there are several resources available to help you find safe and legal places to park your van. One option is to use a dedicated app or website like Park4Night or Searchforsites, which provide information about overnight parking spots across the UK.
Many experienced vanlifers in the UK also use a combination of Google Maps to identify an area they would like to visit, and add some more detail through Google Earth (which makes it possible to spot laybys and clearings etc).
However, it’s important to always check the local parking regulations and restrictions before settling in for the night. Remember to be respectful of the local community, keep noise levels low, and leave the area clean and tidy.
What do vanlifers do for a living in the UK?
Vanlifers in the UK have a wide variety of jobs and sources of income. A few common ways that vanlifers earn money while living van life are:
- Working remotely or freelance, which allows them to work from anywhere with an internet connection.
- Working seasonal jobs or part-time jobs that allow for flexibility in their schedule, and some also offer the ability to park-up as well.
- Some may have savings or investments that provide a source of income while they are on the road.
- Working agency roles – typically in healthcare – traveling to wherever the work is.
- Entrepreneurial endeavors – such as craft businesses, or similar.
- Temporary or short-term jobs, such as festivals.
There are also those who have turned their vanlife experience into a business, such as writing about their experiences, creating content, or running a mobile business from their van.
Ultimately, the options for earning a living while living van life are limited only by one’s creativity and resourcefulness! Be sure to check out our blog to find out how vanlifers earn money – we’ve got 13 ways!
How do vanlifers stay connected to the internet in the UK?
In today’s connected world, staying online while on the road is essential for many vanlifers. Fortunately, there are several options available for staying connected to the internet while living the van life in the UK. Here are a few popular options:
Mobile Data Plans
Many vanlifers in the UK rely on mobile data plans to stay connected. Most major mobile carriers offer affordable data plans that can be used with a hotspot device or a smartphone. This is a convenient option if you’re planning to stay in areas with good mobile coverage.
This is quite possibly the easiest option. Which is why many vanlifers will double-down on this and have SIMs for multiple different providers. They’ll switch to whichever has the best signal at the time, or have a phone capable of dual SIMs.
Another popular option is to hunt for free WiFi hotspots, which can be found in many cafes, libraries, and other public places – we love McDonald’s and Costa for this because not only do they have free WiFi, they also have easy to access plugs! Some campsites and caravan parks also offer WiFi access, although the quality of the connection can vary.
For those who need a more reliable internet connection, satellite internet is an option. One of the newest and most talked-about options is Starlink, a satellite internet service that promises fast and reliable internet access even in remote areas.
If you’re having trouble getting a good WiFi signal in your van, a WiFi booster can help. These devices amplify the WiFi signal, making it easier to connect to distant hotspots.
No matter which option you choose, it’s important to remember that internet coverage can be patchy in some parts of the UK, particularly in more remote areas. Signalchecker.com is a great resource to check cell coverage in the UK, so check this before you head to a park-up and always have a back-up.
What about cooking and food storage when living vanlife in the UK?
When it comes to cooking and food storage in a van, UK vanlifers have a range of options. Many vanlifers in the UK opt for portable stoves, camping grills, or even small kitchen setups in their vehicles. Some popular brands for portable stoves in the UK include Campingaz, Coleman, and Outwell.
When it comes to food storage, there are several types of fridges that are popular among UK vanlifers. One common type is the compressor fridge, which is powered by a 12V battery and can be run off of solar power.
Brands such as Dometic, Waeco, and Vitrifrigo are popular for compressor fridges in the UK. Another type is the absorption fridge, which can run on gas, electric, or battery power.
Brands such as Thetford, Electrolux, and Dometic are popular for absorption fridges in the UK. Yet another type is the thermoelectric fridge, which is powered by a 12V battery and is most suitable for shorter trips. Brands such as Mobicool and Outwell are popular for thermoelectric fridges in the UK.
When choosing a fridge for an off-grid camper van, it is important to consider factors such as size, power consumption, durability, and cost. It is also worth considering whether you need a fridge that can run on multiple power sources, such as gas, electric, and battery power.
It is possible to run a freezer in an off-grid camper van, but it requires a larger battery bank and a more powerful solar panel system than what is typically used for a fridge. There are also portable freezers available that run on 12V power, which can be a good option for vanlifers who want to store frozen foods. Some popular brands of portable freezers for camper vans in the UK include Dometic, Waeco, and Engel.
How do vanlifers handle bathroom needs?
In the UK, vanlifers also rely on public restrooms, campsite facilities, or portable camping toilets for their bathroom needs. Composting toilets are also a popular choice and can be installed in the van. It’s important to consider factors such as cost, size, and maintenance when choosing a toilet option for your van. Check out this article for more detail: Campervan Toilet Talk: The Questions You’re Just Desperate to Ask
Where Do Vanlifers Dump Their Campervan Toilet Waste?
When using a chemical toilet in a campervan, it is crucial to follow proper disposal procedures. The first and most important rule is to only empty the toilet waste in a designated location, as pouring chemicals and waste into the sewerage system can have severe hygiene and environmental consequences.
Most campsites in the UK have specific Chemical Disposal Points (CDPs) or Elsan Points where chemical toilets can be emptied. It is essential to locate these facilities before arriving at the campsite to ensure that you have access to the correct disposal location. In the absence of an official emptying point, the only alternative may be to take the waste back home to dispose of it.
It is crucial to avoid emptying black waste, or the contents of the toilet, into a standard grey water or waste water disposal point. Additionally, it is important to keep the waste away from fresh water points to prevent contamination. By following these guidelines, vanlifers can ensure that they are disposing of their chemical toilet waste in a responsible and environmentally friendly manner.
For more campervan toilet talk, check out: Campervan Toilet Talk: The Questions You’re Just Desperate to Ask
How do UK vanlifers handle showering?
For vanlifers in the UK, showering can be a bit of a challenge. There are plenty of camper vans with bathrooms out there, but if your van doesn’t have its own shower facility, there are a few options available to ensure cleanliness and hygiene are maintained.
Showers in 24-hour Gyms
One popular option is to utilize public showers, such as those found in swimming pools, leisure centres, and 24-hour gyms. Many UK vanlifers recommend the following 24-hour gyms:
- Anytime Fitness
- The Gym Group
- Snap Fitness
Please note that availability may vary depending on location, so it’s best to check with your local gym for their specific opening hours. It’s also good to check the contract terms – if they are pretty much contract-free, you can switch chains, depending on your location.
Motorway Service Stations
Many service stations across the UK offer free showers that vanlifers can use. These can be a great option when they work, especially for those who are on the road and need a quick wash. However, a downside to using these showers is that they are often out of service and can be a bit grim.
Additionally, some service stations may only allow you to use the shower if you make a purchase at the establishment, so it is always worth checking the terms and conditions beforehand. Nevertheless, for those who are looking for a free shower, service stations can be a convenient option.
Outdoor showers are also a popular option among vanlifers, especially during the summer months. Portable shower tents or shower bags can be set up outside the van, and hot water can be heated on the stove or with a solar shower bag. This set-up is popular in the US, but less so in the UK.
Overall, there are several options for vanlifers in the UK to stay clean and fresh on the road, including public showers and portable setups.
What do vanlifers do for a postal address in the UK?
Vanlifers in the UK often face difficulties when it comes to obtaining a postal address, as the rules and regulations surrounding this issue are stricter compared to the US.
Many UK vanlifers opt to use the address of a family member or friend as their permanent address, while some use mail forwarding services. However, it’s worth noting that these services can be costly, and some require proof of a permanent address, which can be challenging for vanlifers.
Another option is to use a general delivery service offered by some Post Offices, which allows for mail to be sent and held for pick-up at the Post Office. While this option is available, it’s not all Post Offices offer this service, and you have to select a specific post Office, so it may not be a practical solution if you are constantly on the move.
The most popular answer to the question ‘What do vanlifers do for a postal address in the UK?’ is definitely that they use a friend or family member’s address.
What if something goes wrong with the van while in the UK?
Living the van life can be a cost-effective way to explore the UK, but like any vehicle, things can go wrong. It’s a vanlifer’s worst nightmare! If you imagine: if you live in a house and drive a car to work, it’s unusual that both of those things would completely fail you at the same time. In vanlife, this is a genuine reality that many of us face regularly!
It’s essential to keep your van well-maintained and address any issues promptly to avoid more significant problems. Vanlifers in the UK should consider having a plan in place for vehicle repairs and emergencies, such as having a breakdown cover or joining a motoring organization like the AA or RAC.
Carrying spare parts and tools is also a good idea, as well as having a backup plan for transportation if your camper needs to be repaired for an extended period of time.
It’s wise to build up some financial backup, especially if you’re earning money on the road, as these problems will inevitably happen, but how much they impact your trip will depend on how prepared you are.
🥇 Choosing the Best Van for your Vanlife
Choosing the right van for your vanlife adventure is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. Your van will be your home, transportation, and potentially your source of income. There are many factors to consider when choosing the best van for your needs. These include the size and layout of the van, fuel economy, maintenance costs, storage space, reliability, and off-road capabilities.
It’s important to carefully consider each of these factors to ensure that your van meets your needs and allows you to enjoy your vanlife to the fullest.
Factors to consider when choosing a van for vanlife in the UK
Size and layout
When choosing the best van for your vanlife, it’s important to consider the size and layout of the vehicle. The number of people who will be living in the van, the duration of your trips, and the type of activities you plan to do will play a significant role in your decision-making process.
For solo travelers or couples, a smaller van may be more appropriate, while larger vans may be necessary for families or those who intend to spend more time inside the vehicle. Ultimately, the size and layout of the van you choose will depend on your specific needs and preferences.
It’s also important to consider where you will be driving and parking if you’re living van life in the UK. Roads in the UK can be small, thin, and tough to navigate in a big van. Parking can also be difficult if you opt for anything above a MWB (medium wheelbase).
And, finally – height. Increasingly, UK car parks are adding height barriers that restrict vans to 2m high or less. Many high-top camper vans, such as Sprinter camper vans or VW Crafter camper vans are too high. This partly explains why many UK vanlifers opt for pop-top campers or smaller VWs – like T5/T6 – although these are more typically thought of as ‘day vans’.
When selecting a van for long-distance travel, fuel efficiency is a crucial consideration. Vans with smaller engines are usually more fuel-efficient compared to larger ones, while diesel engines are known to provide better fuel economy than petrol engines.
Selecting a reliable van is vital for a comfortable and hassle-free vanlife experience. The van you choose should be able to withstand the constant wear and tear of travel, provide a comfortable living space, and require minimal maintenance. To make an informed decision, it is essential to research the van’s reliability and read reviews from other vanlifers.
Setting a budget is crucial when choosing a camper van for vanlife, as cost is an important consideration for most people. It’s important to determine what features and amenities are necessary for your vanlife experience and prioritize them accordingly to stay within your budget.
Popular van models for vanlife in the UK
When it comes to choosing a van for vanlife in the UK, there are a number of popular models to consider. Each van has its own strengths and weaknesses, so it’s not a decision that can be taken lightly! Here are some of the top van models for vanlife in the UK:
Volkswagen Transporter T6 Campervan
The Volkswagen Transporter T6 is a classic van that is well-suited for vanlife in the UK. It’s small enough to be easy to drive and park, but still offers enough space for a comfortable living area. The T6 also has a good reputation for reliability and is relatively fuel-efficient.
Ford Transit Campervan
The Ford Transit is another popular choice for vanlife in the UK. It’s a bit larger than the Transporter T6, so it offers more space for living and storage. The Transit is also known for its reliability, which is an important factor when you’re on the road.
Mercedes Sprinter Campervan
The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is a large van that is often used for commercial purposes, but it also makes a great choice for vanlife in the UK. The Sprinter is known for its durability and reliability, and it offers plenty of space for a comfortable living area.
Renault Trafic Campervan
The Renault Trafic is a mid-sized van that offers a good balance between space and maneuverability. It’s not as large as the Transit or Sprinter, but it still offers enough space for a comfortable living area. The Trafic is also known for its fuel efficiency, which is important when you’re driving long distances.
Vauxhall Vivaro Campervan
The Vauxhall Vivaro is a popular van for vanlife in the UK. It’s similar in size to the Renault Trafic, so it offers a good balance between space and maneuverability. The Vivaro is also known for its reliability and fuel efficiency.
Fiat Ducato Campervan
The Fiat Ducato is a large van that offers plenty of space for a comfortable living area. It’s a popular choice for vanlife in the UK because it’s reliable and relatively affordable.
VW Crafter Campervan
The VW Crafter is similar to the Sprinter as they are both made by the same company. The Crafter is a large van that offers plenty of space for a comfortable living area. It’s known for its durability and reliability, making it a good choice for vanlife in the UK.
Peugeot Boxer Campervan
The Peugeot Boxer is a large van that offers plenty of space for a comfortable living area. It’s similar to the Fiat Ducato and is known for its reliability.
Luton Campervan (various types)
Luton box vans are a popular choice for vanlife in the UK because they offer a lot of space for living and storage. They are also relatively affordable and can be converted into comfortable living spaces. There are many different types of Luton box vans available, so it’s important to do your research to find the one that’s right for you. It’s also important to know.
Iveco Daily Campervan
Iveco vans can be a great option for vanlife in the UK. They are sturdy and reliable, with a range of sizes and layouts available to suit different needs. However, it’s important to note that some Iveco models are over 3.5T, which means they require a different class of license to drive.
This can be a barrier for some vanlifers, as obtaining a different license can be time-consuming and costly.
Nonetheless, for those who are able to obtain the necessary license, an Iveco van can provide a spacious and comfortable living space for a life on the road. Please note: if you gained your full license before 1997 in the UK, you may not need to worry about the weight.
For a super-detailed lowdown, check-out our vanlife pro article: Which Vans are Best for Vanlife?
💭 Is Van Life Right for You?
Van life can be an exciting and rewarding way of living, offering freedom, adventure, and the chance to explore new places. However, it’s important to remember that it’s not for everyone. Before making the leap, it’s worth considering whether van life is right for you. Here are some useful questions to ask yourself:
- Are you someone who craves adventure and new experiences?
- Do you enjoy being outside and connecting with nature?
- Are you comfortable with a minimalist lifestyle?
- Are you willing to trade space and convenience for the freedom of the open road?
- Are you able to adapt to changing situations and environments?
- Do you enjoy meeting new people and making new friends?
- Are you willing to learn new skills and take on DIY projects?
- Are you excited about the prospect of exploring the UK and beyond in your own unique way?
- How will you feel about bedding down somewhere unfamiliar? Do you think you can get comfortable with this?
- Can you handle the occasional challenge or setback with a positive attitude?
By answering these questions honestly, you’ll have a better idea of whether van life is a good fit for you. Remember, van life is what you make of it, so if you’re up for the adventure, it can be an amazing journey full of unforgettable experiences.
📚 Key Takeaways
In conclusion, vanlife in the UK can be an exciting and rewarding experience for those who are willing to embrace a simpler way of life. While there are challenges, such as finding suitable places to park and dealing with mechanical issues, there are also many benefits, including the ability to travel freely, connect with nature, and live a more sustainable lifestyle.
If you’re considering vanlife in the UK, it’s important to do your research and carefully consider your options. Start by asking yourself some key questions, such as:
- What kind of van do I need for my lifestyle?
- How much can I afford to spend on my campervan, and still have budget left for repairs?
- Am I prepared for the challenges and responsibilities that come with vanlife?
- What do I hope to gain from this experience?
Remember, vanlife isn’t for everyone, and it’s important to be realistic about your expectations and limitations. But for those who are willing to take the plunge, vanlife can be a truly transformative experience that opens up a world of new possibilities.
In summary, if you’re looking for a way to break free from the constraints of traditional living and explore the beauty of the UK on your own terms, vanlife may be just what you’re looking for. With careful planning, preparation, and a willingness to embrace a more unconventional lifestyle, you can create a life on the road that is fulfilling, sustainable, and uniquely your own.
The vanlife community in the UK is also a supportive and positive group of individuals who share a passion for adventure and a love for the outdoors. It’s a community that embraces a simpler way of living and often provides a sense of belonging and connection that can be hard to find in traditional lifestyles.
Whether it’s sharing tips for finding the best park-ups, recommending a reliable mechanic, or simply offering a friendly ear, vanlifers are quick to lend a helping hand.
With regular meet-ups, social media groups, and online forums, it’s easy to connect with like-minded individuals from all over the country and form lasting friendships.
Overall, the vanlife community in the UK is an incredibly supportive and uplifting group that fosters a sense of adventure, community, and positivity. If you get out on the road you’ll meet other vanlifers and make lifelong friends!
📸 For great vanlife inspo, check-out these great profiles and give them a follow for your daily dose of vanlife: