• Please check with campsites before setting off. Covid means some won’t be open, some will have fewer or reduced facilities and some may be limiting bookings.
    Please don’t wild camp unless you’re absolutely sure you won’t upset local people. Don’t wild camp unless you’re prepared to take all your gear and rubbish away with you.

Can we camp now? Covid, camping, lockdown and hope

We’ve had a zillion questions from readers (and from a couple of national newspapers) about how camping will work alongside Covid.

Can we go camping again? Can we wild camp? Will campsites open their toilets? How will things be different? These are just a few.

Here’s what you need to know about camping in the UK or in Europe.

 
Latest update: October  23, 2020

Are campsites open?

YES! But..it would be wrong to behave as if things were back to normal. 

Some sites, for example, are not taking tents. Only campers with their own facilities are allowed.

 

If we’re extra careful now, things may return to normal and stay that way! Although campsites CAN legally open, read on for what that might mean in practice.

Local lockdowns and changes in tier (Liverpool, Wales, the North East and North West and central Scotland, for example) show that rules change regularly, so do check. 

Given that the rules (especially in England and Wales) are confusing in some ways, I’d refer you to the section below on keeping yourself and others safe. 

Covid-19 has not gone away and it’s proven to be a horrible illness with long-lasting effects. You do NOT want to get it, nor do you want to give it to anyone else.

 
So, these are the rules we follow:
  • We stay well away from everyone unless we’re CERTAIN they have been even more careful than us. It’s simply assessing risk on a person-by-person basis. Where have they been? Who have they been in contact with?
  • We avoid busy places.
  • We wear face masks in ALL public places. This is now mandatory in shops and public indoor spaces.
  • We wash our hands whenever we touch anything outside our home.
  • We do NOT drink bleach or take unproven ‘remedies’.

What differences can I expect on campsites?

It’s been fascinating to see how popular our articles on camping toilets and camping showers have been. There’s certainly an assumption that having your own facilities will be useful in the future.

 

The problem for campsites, caravan parks and so on is that they have to show they’re taking measures against spreading the virus. 

While the safer 2m rule has been ditched to give businesses more leeway, the vaguer “1-metre-plus” approach assumes other measures will be in place to limit the transmission of the virus.

These include wearing face coverings, screens, facing away from each other and more handwashing.

The guidance for sites states that campsites should carry out extra cleaning of shower and toilet blocks and consider introducing booked time slots for the showers to stagger use.

Some sites don’t feel ready to open because ensuring these measures is difficult for them. Smaller sites are especially worried about keeping staff and visitors safe because operating showers and toilets is complex. If they don’t have chemical toilet emptying facilities, then taking your own won’t be allowed.

Some of the changes you can expect are:

  1. Shared facilities like cafes, swimming pools and communal kitchens might not be open
  2. There may be fewer pitches to keep a distance between families
  3. Minimum stays might be for more nights to reduce comings and goings
  4. Masks will probably be compulsory
  5. You might need to book times for showers or queue at a distance

Can I camp with friends?

Thanks to Kathryn for this question. It’s a complex answer, which really highlights the absurdity of the mixed bag of ‘rules’ we’ve been set.

Tier 1 (medium risk)

  • The ‘rule of six’ applies, so you can’t socialise in groups larger than six indoors and outdoors. So, no large camping groups.

  • Businesses and venues are open, but pubs and restaurants close between 10pm and 5am and must ensure customers stay seated.

  • Avoid staying overnight in a Tier 3 area.

Tier 2 (high risk)

  • You can’t socialise with anybody outside your own household or support bubble in any indoor setting. So, no camping with friends or another household

  • The rule of six continues to apply for socialising outdoors, for instance in a garden or public space like a park or beach.

  • Same as Tier 1 for pubs and restaurants.

  • Travel is permitted to amenities that are open, but you’re advised to keep journeys to a minimum. For us, that means NO camping because it’s in the spirit rather than the letter of the law. Why risk yourself or others?

  • Avoid staying overnight in a Tier 3 area.

Tier 3 (very high risk)

  • You can’t socialise with anybody outside your own household or support bubble in any indoor setting, private garden or at most outdoor hospitality venues and ticketed events. So, no camping with friends or another household.
  • Travelling outside a very high alert level area or entering a very high alert level area should be avoided other than for things such as work, education or youth services, to meet caring responsibilities or if travelling through as part of a longer journey.

  • The rule of six continues to apply to outdoor public spaces, such as parks, beaches, public gardens or sports venues.

  • Pubs and bars can only open as restaurants. Alcohol can only be served as part of a substantial meal.

  • Residents of a tier 3 area should avoid staying overnight in another part of the UK.

 
So, we interpret this as meaning that only Tier 1 people can travel with friends to a campsite in a car. You could meet up to five friends or family at the campsite, providing you stay at least two metres apart (so not in each other’s campervans or tents).
 
Tier 2 people should probably avoid camping out of their area. Tier 3 people shouldn’t camp outside their area.
 
Many campsites are not taking group bookings in an effort to keep numbers down and avoid larger gatherings of people.
 
Scotland may introduce rules round travelling at holiday times, so keep an eye on the news. Wales may stop people from high risk areas from being in the country. That’s hard to manage in practice (there are no borders), but it would be selfish to try to get around this – and local people will be justifiably furious with you!
 

Camping and Caravanning Club sites

As many as possible are open with toilet block facilities. Some campsites however, are open without toilets and showers. 

Cleaning is being stepped up and, where facility blocks are open, there will be two deep cleans a day and four supplementary cleans.

“This places extra demand on our staff so we have had to look at campsites which are better suited to self-sufficient campers where facility blocks will not be open this season,” says the Club..

Unfortunately it’s likely that 26 sites will remain closed for the rest of the season.

These are the measures you can expect on Club sites and it’s likely they’ll apply to other larger sites too.

  • Contactless check-in
  • Sensible social distancing – pitches have six-metre spacing and they’ll reduce the number of people on Club Sites with facility blocks
  • Signs and floor markings as a reminder to keep two metres from other people
  • Campers can pitch their own toilet tent on their allocated pitch
  • On campsites where facility blocks are open, you’ll be asked to use your own facilities as much as possible
  • Individual bookings and no large groups.

What about wild camping?

Virus or not, wild camping isn’t allowed in (most of) England and Wales, although before Covid it was often possible to find a quiet spot if you were discreet.

 

In Scotland, wild camping is generally allowed, although some areas have specific rules (Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, for instance). 

Sadly, bad behaviour from Covidiots in the national parks and in Scotland makes it more likely that wild camping will be policed more strictly.

 Forestry England usually lets people camp in four locations in the Kielder Forest in the Northumberland. But now all wild camping has been banned there after scenes like this one below.

Appalling! This is how these wild campers left the area. With many campsites not reopening and others taking fewer bookings, people are pitching anywhere – and this sort of behaviour doesn’t do the rest of us respectful campers any favours!

“Small communities are very sensitive to opening up (I live in NW Scotland) and if visitors are following the guidelines it really helps,” adds Sue.  “This one about wild camping is mainly because so few facilities (toilets, campsites and shops) are open. Most real wild campers are very respectful and know how to look after the countryside. I’m a camper myself and also Mountain Rescue so know some of the issues. We are getting people roadside camping and leaving litter and human waste of the worst kind.”

If you’re planning on wild camping in Loch Lomond & The Trossachs, you’ll need a permit. See the section on Scottish National Parks.

You should NOT travel to Wales at the moment.

Camping in the Scottish National Parks

National Park campsites and camping permit areas in Loch Lomond & The Trossachs are open, but you MUST book in advance.

 

Campers can stay at low-impact campsites (managed by the National Park Authority) on Loch Chon and Loch Achray, or book a permit to camp in areas within the Camping Management Zones.

Online booking will help manage demand for camping in popular lochshore areas around Loch Lomond & The Trossachs. www.lochlomond-trossachs.org is now live for bookings up two weeks in advance.

Capacity at the National Park campsites will be reduced to manage physical distancing and reduce pressure on facilities like toilets,

As for private campsites, not all will be allowing tents or campervans without facilities on-board.

Have a look at the Visit Scotland Covid advice site for the latest information.

How do I stay safe and keep others safe?

Camping should be one of the safest ways to take a holiday. You’re outside a lot, it’s easier to stay away from other people and you have your own cooking, eating and sleeping gear.

 

One thing is for sure. We can’t trust the government to keep us safe. Decisions are taken too late and came not from independent scientific advice but from keeping investors and big business happy. 

So, we need to look after ourselves and people we come into contact with.

  • Stay as far away from other people as you can. No point arguing whether it should be 2m or 1m…just keep your distance.
  • We wear gloves and masks when we go shopping. We certainly would when using campsite facilities. Their efficacy may be debatable, but we’ve found they work well in reminding others to keep their distance. Why take the risk?
  • Use your own equipment rather than shared gear.
  • Think about what you touch – bin lids, hook-up points, gates – and wash your hands a lot!

Can I camp in Europe?

Legally, yes, but…NO!

Although many campsites are open in European countries, infection rates are rising in most places.

We have to quarantine when coming back to the UK from a growing number of countries. And many countries don’t need the extra burden of travellers from high risk areas of the UK.

 
In August, we spent five days camping in the north of the Netherlands. We would not do that now.  

Things are changing quickly, so do check.

If infections in a country rise above 20 per 100,000 people, the government categorises that country as high-risk. If the FCO recommends ‘essential travel only’, then your travel insurance may be invalid if you travel against that advice.

Remember that quarantine rules are much stricter than lockdown. You can’t go further than your garden to exercise or walk the dog. Children can’t go back to school and you can’t have any visitors except carers. There are heavy fines.  

We’ll update regularly, as things are changing almost daily. But do check the FCO website too.

  • Austria: Essential travel only. You need to show a medical certificate stating you don’t have coronavirus. Those without a certificate must self-isolate for 14 days. Testing is available at Vienna airport for €190.

  • Belgium: Essential travel only. Shops, museums, bars, restaurants and some tourist attractions are open. Quarantine on return to UK for 14 days.

  • Denmark: Borders open for UK travellers. If you enter as a tourist, you need to document a holiday stay for at least six nights. Masks mandatory. No quarantine on return.

  • France: Essential travel only. Shops, restaurants, bars, museums, beaches and parks are open. Masks mandatory. Quarantine on return. Curfews in place.

  • Germany: All restrictions on European travellers lifted. Domestic train schedules and some cross border routes restarted. Shops, restaurants and some hotels now open. All 16 states have made it mandatory to wear masks in some public places.

  • Ireland: currently requires all arrivals (except from Northern Ireland) to provide details of accommodation and self-isolate for 14 days. Takeaways only from restaurants. 5km travel limit. 

  • Italy: Essential travel only. If you travelled outside the UK in the last 14 days, you do need to quarantine there, though. Bars, restaurants, non-essential shops, parks and museums are open. Some curfews. Masks mandatory.

  • The Netherlands: Essential travel only. You must complete a health screening form and have it ready to show. Quarantine on return. Shops and some hotels are open. Masks are mandatory on public transport and all indoor public spaces. Curfews and closures for hospitality businesses.

  • Norway: UK visitors need to quarantine there for 14 days. Check the latest here.

  • Portugal: Essential travel only. Check the latest here.

  • Spain: Essential travel only. You need to self-isolate for 14 days on your return to the UK.  Hotels, beaches, museums, bars and restaurants are open. You must wear a mask in public spaces. Health screening on the way in.

  • Sweden:  No restrictions for travellers from the UK. Most places are open.

  • Switzerland: Essential travel only. Hotels, shops, markets and restaurants are open. Outdoor sports with up to five people permitted. Theatres, museums, cinemas, swimming pools, ski resorts, spas, mountain services and other leisure activities are open.

Will campsites be crowded?

Campsites will have to make it easy for people to stay a safe distance from each other, so they won’t be crowded. Instead, it’ll be harder to get a booking or a pitch.

 

Bookings were up 750% the day after the reopening date was confirmed.

Crowds have already caused havoc at beauty spots, so it’s here that you might find it hard to stay apart.

For us, camping is about being close to nature, enjoying the outdoors, being somewhere lovely…it’s certainly not about sitting in a traffic jam through the Yorkshire Dales for three hours or finding you can’t see the waterfall for the backs of people’s heads.

We told the Sunday Post recently that we expected a boom in camping. In fact, we had 650,000 readers during July and August compared to 120,000 last July and August.

Many of these are people who’ve never camped before, How fantastic to see camping become so popular. However, until things get back to normal, too many campers isn’t a good thing – either for safety or for enjoying the experience.

We also believe, though, that the boom might be shortlived as soon as flights and overseas holidays become possible again.

We’re updating this article (more or less) weekly, so do pop back.

Here’s hoping we can all go camping – peacefully and pleasantly – in the not-too-distant future.

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8 Comments

  1. Handy info. Would have liked the info about the huge take up reducing opportunities to use camp sites up front. Would save a lot of reading. Sounds like it may have to be wild camping, but good to know we might be able to use an official site if we take our portable toilet.

  2. Can you sleep in your car in Scotland not on the campsites but like a wild sleeping ? I have been looking for it online and as far as I know there are no laws against it as long as you don’t block anything etc but I’m just wondering wether you can provide me with some clarification on that. Thanks. ED: This is wild camping and is covered in the article, Zuzanna. Basically, this is allowed in most parts of Scotland but there are restrictions (see above) and respect, leaving no litter and being sensitive to local communities are essential.

  3. I agree with Mary. Highlighting our abysmal record on COVID =/= Political statement. It’s verifiable fact relative to the other European nations.

    The author is quite right to highlight this and I do hope anyone who thinks highlighting this in the context of asking people to look after others is ‘political’ is planning to adhere properly to instructions to maintain social distance and wear masks. Failure to take necessary action early is responsible for a great many unnecessary deaths and it behoves us to consider the risks of our actions.

    Regarding Scotland, ‘Guidance’ isn’t mandatory so I suspect wild camping is discouraged but not forbidden (not legal advice).

  4. Billy whyte

    Can I wild camp in scotland now (as of 6th july).ED: Do read the details above, Billy. And follow the link to the Scottish government’s guidelines.

  5. Mary McGrory

    For what it is worth, I don’t see it as a political statement to point out that the number of deaths in the UK is shameful when compared to many other countries – it is a statement of fact and not political bias. Great article, very useful when trying to plan what might be possible in terms of holidays this year. Thank you.

  6. I like your website. Don’t like it being somewhere you make political statements. ED:Thanks for the appreciation, Andy. This is an unprecedented situation and the problem is that the people who are deciding how to deal with Covid cannot be relied upon. This is evidenced by the fact that the UK has the worst statistics for infection and deaths in Europe. It’s an occasion where it’s pretty clear that politics and day-to-day life are not separate issues.

  7. Thanks for this summary, very useful.

  8. Hi great artical .
    makes a change from all the newspapers coverage of camping there just highping it up. campsites are going to get over run if not carfull by 1st timers who think it ok to party all night.
    just look at the beaches.
    as someone who runs a not for profit company doing affordable camping hoildays for people and charitys. i would like to see some indication from the goverment on how they intend to open up the sites as the sites we use have heard nothing .
    we have put together a plan on how we will run our camps for familys with keeping them apart and safe .
    i need to know are facility going to be avalble or do i provid if so i need to buy but not buying now unless i get a answer .dont want to be stuck with 10 porta potties and camp showers.
    kind regards tony

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