TYPES OF AIRES & How to use them
What are they?
There are two main types of aire – Aire de Services and Aire de Stationnement. An Aire de Stationnement is basically a parking area with no services (water, drainage or electricity) but overnight parking is usually allowed here. An Aire de Services is a stopping place for motorhomes that can offer a few options – ranging from just being able to fill up with fresh water or empty wastewater, to stopping for a few days, filling/emptying your various tanks, access to toilets and possibly hooking up to an electricity supply (and maybe even a wifi connection). Aires de Services generally fall into the following categories:
Municipal Aire – Run by the town/village commune and usually provided as an encouragement to visitors to stop in the area and spend some money on local goods/ services (something it is wise not to forget when making use of these facilities). Although these stops are often free, a charge may sometimes be made - for parking, for using an electrical hook-up, or for refilling the fresh water tank. Emptying of the grey tank or chemical toilet is usually free. The permitted length of stay typically varies from 1 to 3 days, although this is seldom policed. Payment (if required) is often at the Mairie (town hall) or the Office de Tourisme (OT), or at a nearby ticket machine – often by credit card but it is useful to keep a supply of euro coins in case it is cash.
Private Aire - Privately owned, these may be provided by a local business, such as a supermarket or garage, and are often just a service point (although parking for a night may be allowed on the car park). Others are sometimes run by an individual, often along the lines of a small campsite, with a charge made for the parking and/ or the services.
NOTE: The French companies CampingCarPark & AirePark Reservation now own over 600 private aires in France, see below for details of these aires.
Aire de Services on a Campsite - Run by campsites but often located outside, these allow you to stay overnight but obviously for less than the cost of a night’s stay on a site pitch. You would be able to able to use the various emptying/filling facilities, and possibly the campsite showers/ toilets. Many campsites run a scheme called Stop-Accueil Camping Car, allowing you to stay inside the site on a pitch for a reduced price, so long as you arrive after 18.00pm and leave before 10.00am.
Autoroute Aire - These often have the same facilities as private aires but are located in the motorway service areas. Whilst these may be useful for either refilling or emptying, and for a short break, they are not recommended for an overnight stay due to the various security problems (not to mention the noise) that have often occurred at these aires in the past – especially those in the South of France. See section below.
Aires on Farms/vineyards – These are similar to CL’s in the UK, but availability of services can vary from just a place to stay to having those similar to that of a good private aire. The France Passion scheme allows motorhomes to stay on French farms and vineyards overnight, for a one-off annual fee of 30 euros, at more than 2,000 stopover places in France. The disadvantages are that there may be no facilities provided, apart from a pitch for overnight parking, and it’s not possible to book these pitches in advance (on average these are limited to 2 to 5 places per farm) - you just have to turn up and ask if there is a space. If you intend to use these farm stopovers, it’s advisable to make your motorhome self-sufficient due to this possible lack of facilities. Advantages include; the low price, usually a nice rural location, the possibility of purchasing fresh farm produce, and often many of these locations can offer some basic services.
Sani Station – These are just a space - often in garages or supermarket car parks - where you can refill/ empty your tanks and possibly recharge your battery, but they do not normally allow you to park overnight.
Aires can vary in what they present to the traveler, from a fairly unpleasant car park stopover to a beautiful location next to the Mediterranean, or tranquillity in the heart of a medieval walled town. They can also vary from offering just a couple of parking places to possibly having over 100 or more spaces.
Once again these vary but are usually either a couple, or possibly all, of the following:
Drinking Water – a tap with a supply of drinking water (eau potable or eau propre) for refilling your fresh water tank – there may be a charge involved.
Waste Water – either a drive over gully/ drainage platform, or just a grid where you can empty the waste water (eau vidange or usee) out of your motorhome's grey tank; this is usually a free service. The process may involve using a hose if there is no gully or if you cannot get close enough.
Chemical Toilet – A compartment or covered grid with a flushing arrangement in which to empty the contents of your cassette (WC Chimique), again this is usually a free service.
Electricity – An electrical connection (often at a low 3A amperage) for recharging your battery for an hour or so, a service that is usually charged for but is occasionally free. The socket is normally the standard European socket but may occasionally be a French socket.
Public Toilets – Availability and standards vary depending on the location, often these are only available in service areas or town car parks.
Rubbish disposal – Provision of recycling bins or waste bins (poubelles) for your waste, once again it is normally free.
Wifi is becoming increasingly available, especially on campsites and private aires, and many Offices de Tourisme offer this facility as well.
How to use the facilities/ service points - see the guide on the "Useful Info" page
Camping Car Park aires
The French company CampingCarPark now own over 200 private aires in France, entry to which requires a "Pass 'etapes" membership card. It is possible to obtain entry at the aire using your credit card but this can be complicated so I would recommend purchasing a CCP card in advance. These only cost 5€, last indefinitely & are available via their website www.campingcarpark.com. The card is used to enter a CCP aire & has to be 'topped up' by credit card either online, by phone or at the machine at the aire entrance. Scanning the card at the entrance opens the barrier & gives you 24 hour access to the various facilities in the aire such as electric, wifi, water, drainage, etc. Payment for your stay is taken on leaving & you must make sure that your CCP card has sufficient funds to pay for your stay. Location of CCP aires can be found via their website or on the map supplied when you purchase the card, there are full details & also reviews of each of the CCP aires on their website. It is also possible to reserve a pitch at any of their aires in advance on their website but you have to purchase their "Privilege Pack" to do this.
CCP have also recently introduced a selection of aires called "Camping mon village" which are more like small campsites with more facilities than the aires that also allow caravans/ campers access but are run along the same lines as their other aires. The "villages" are unmanned & access is also via an automatic barrier.
Aire Park Reservation aires
Aire Park Reservation is a French company owned by the service point manufacturer "AireServices" who also own or manage over 1,500 aires throughout France & Europe. Many of the aires run by APR are still owned by local towns but are managed & maintained by APR. Their aires offer many of the same facilities as CCP aires & are run along the same lines although a membership card is not required to gain access (usually by credit card) but it is also possible to reserve a pitch online at many of their aires via their website: www.aireparkreservation.com. Details, locations & prices of their aires can be found on their website.
Aire of the Year
Every year the French motorhome magazine "Camping Car" polls its readers
to select what they consider to be the best aire in France. In 2019 the
winner of "Aire de l'Annee" was the the aire of Lann Floren in Surzur,
Morbihan (56). This private aire has 43 large pitches, 17 all weather & 26 on
grass with good services, access to a free launderette & located about
600m from the town centre. Parking is 8 to 12€/ 24 Hrs.
Previous winners of the award are:
Montsalvy, Auvergne. The "Aire of the Year" 2018 is in the small tarmac parking area on the western edge of the village with individual spaces (separated by grass verges), slightly sloping with no shade. The car park is next to open countryside with an easy to access Raclet service point, drainage grid & adjacent WC block (suitable for handicapped).
Salles Curan in Midi-Pyrenees. Voted “Aire of the Year” in 2017, the aire here is located in the former municipal campsite in a pleasant situation overlooking the Lac de Paraloup. There are 60 level spaces on grass each with ehu & water, accessed by a gravel track. An artisanal service point with platform drain & with toilets nearby.
Mortagne-sur-Gironde, Poitou-Charente The Aire is in a pleasant location on the Port quayside, with spaces being on grass -- accessed by a tarmac road & having open countryside on one side & the dock on the other. Parking is level but most spots have little shade & exposed to the elements in bad weather. Each pitch has a hook up & the tariff includes water + electric. Shops & restaurants are nearby as well as a postcard museum. Artisanal service point with drainage platform.
Baume-les-Dames, Franche-Comte Aire is on a modern purpose built large tarmac
parking area surrounded by fields & woodland, next to the Doubs River & canal.
Parking is laid out in a horseshoe shape with marked spaces separated by
grass/ shrubs & is about 1km from the town centre. Toilets & showers on site
in a modern timber building. A good artisanal borne with a large platform drain.
Oradour-sur-Glane, Limousin The Aire at this historic WWII village & visitor centre
is situated at the northern edge of the "new" village (500m from the centre) &
about 1km from the ruins of the old village. The aire is a fairly modern purpose
built construction (2004) with 10 very large sloping concrete spaces (each taking
2 motorhomes) accessed off a circular tarmac road (reserved for motorhomes), there
is no shade but there are toilets, picnic tables, a play area & rubbish bins. The borne
is a Raclet with a badly positioned drainage grid.
Camaret, Brittany Aire is in a large purpose built gravel parking area with spaces separated by lines of shrubs. An open location with little shade -- close to the Alignments de Lagatjar, which are easily accessible from here. The parking is about 1km from town. AireServices borne with two large drainage platforms -- easy to use & access.
Brantome, Aquitaine This Private Aire (belonging to a Motorhome manufacturer -- Font Vendome) is in a small hard standing parking area with a hedged surround, small trees & open countryside to the East. The pitches are separated by grass verges & small trees. No shops or services nearby apart from a motorhome accessory shop in the factory. WC block adjacent. Raclet borne with platform drain -- easy to access. A well designed aire but a bit small & unfortunately a bit close to a council recycling depot.
Palavas-les-Flots, Languedoc-Roussillon This communal Aire is in a large tarmac car park with many spaces, most on tarmac but some on grass, & some with shade from small trees. Parking is 500m from town centre, located between a canal & the sea, but also next to the D62 coast road (so possible noise). Toilets & showers are available as well as electric hook ups (at an additional charge). A good artisanal service point with a large platform drain - easy to use.
Kaysersberg, Alsace This is a popular Aire in a large tarmac car park on the edge of town,
backing onto vineyards & with fine views of the surrounding countryside, but also within
earshot of the Route Nationale. It is 200m from the centre of town where there is a
good range of shops & eating-places. Service point is basic but easy to use with a large
Fraisse-sur-Agout, Languedoc-Roussillon Nicely located on the banks of the River Agout
& next to a picnic area, this Aire has pitches (with hook ups) on grass accessed by a
gravel track & with some shade under large trees. A pleasant & quiet location about
150m from the centre of the small village, fishing is possible in the river & there are
toilets adjacent. There is a mini Flot-Bleu service point & drainage grid next to the small
WC block, but if you are using the hook ups then you have to trail your lead across the road.
Aires on the Autoroutes
Aires are available at many service areas on all the main French autoroutes - whilst these are useful service points for refilling your fresh water/ draining your tanks & perhaps taking a short break from driving, these should never be used for staying the night. There have been numerous reported thefts from vehicles at these rest areas (especially in the southern half of France) whilst the occupants were asleep, it seems that these areas are often targeted by professional thieves & bear no similarity to the various aires located in the towns & villages of France. If you do need to make an overnight stopover whilst using the autoroutes, there are many good aires located within a short distance from the autoroute junctions, recommended aires close to the main autoroute junctions can be found in our "Best Places to Visit in France" guides.
Map of the French Autoroutes