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Camping holidays in Switzerland: campsite or wild camping?

Aug 20, 2020.

The camping boom in Switzerland is bigger than ever. More and more campers are on the roads in Switzerland, and going on a camping adventure with the whole family is becoming increasingly popular. There are two ways to spend a camping holiday, as we discussed with our partner Vanlife Explorer Schweiz. Below, we show you the most important differences between staying on a campsite and the ever more popular wild camping.


Taking a trip in your own camper van is a popular holiday plan. Travelling with a motorhome, a self-modified camper van or caravan offers a lot of variety and is an adventure close to nature for all ages. Coronavirus has also led many to discover this type of travel for themselves and rent or even buy a camper van this year. See also the SRF “10 vor 10” report [in German].



Holidaying on a campsite

Swiss campsites were closed during the crisis. It was a long time before the popular holiday locations were able to reopen and welcome visitors again. So it’s no wonder that after reopening, many campsites are already booked out for weeks and have been flooded with enquiries.



Advantages of campsites for families

Campsites are popular for holidaying close to nature with the whole family. Your own vehicle offers a lot of home comfort, and the individual pitches have enough space to spread out and get out the camping table and deckchair for sunbathing. Showers, hot water and catering options in the campsite restaurant also mean additional amenities for the family and complement the holiday perfectly. All in all, campsites are a place to be close to nature while not having to do without the usual everyday items.


Campsite enthusiasts like to resort to local comfort, especially when holidaying with children. Dirty clothes can be washed, and special offers for children by the campsite can also be booked. Children also find new friends to play with, meaning lasting memories of holidaying at the campsite. Unlike wild camping, this gives parents more time to themselves and makes camping holidays more relaxing and restful for the whole family.



Corona camping ban encourages wild camping

The late reopening of individual campsites meant Swiss camping enthusiasts fell back on an alternative: wild camping. Campers use car parks, mountain passes or isolated parking spaces in the great outdoors to camp with a vehicle, or pursue “van life”.


Wild camping using self-modified and often inconspicuous camper vans is particularly popular. However, large motorhomes were also increasingly seen during this period, trying out wild camping for the first time.



Disadvantages of wild camping in Switzerland

As many first-timers also dared to sleep away from campsites, there were also more problems during this time. Many are unfamiliar with the etiquette of wild camping and therefore behave the same as they would on a campsite:

  • Setting out chairs, tables and paraphernalia outside the vehicle
  • Putting out the awning
  • Spreading out outside the vehicle: barbecue, dog blanket, deckchair, etc.
  • Emptying the waste water tank just anywhere
  • Leaving behind rubbish
  • Loud music
  • Going to the toilet just anywhere
  • Driving on any meadows or near-natural spaces


These types of behaviour are not appropriate when wild camping. Wild camping is often merely tolerated and is not explicitly permitted. Many wild campers forget this and spread out in the great outdoors – as they would at a campsite.


This can lead to disagreements and discontent. These types of behaviour also disturb the flora and fauna, and residents in the area.



Considerate wild camping

To ensure that you can still camp close to nature with the whole family, you should take a few things into consideration:

  • No wild camping in nature reserves, national parks, hunting areas and quiet zones for wildlife
  • Pay attention to “no camping” signs
  • If an area is busy, keep driving and look for somewhere else
  • Do not drive on meadows without permission
  • It’s also extremely important to be discreet: don’t put out chairs, tables or awnings
  • Talk to residents and passers-by and ask if wild camping bothers them

“We want to encourage conscious travel and maintain wild camping – van life – for as long as possible. Alongside educational work with themed presentations and regular meetings, the association also does charitable work such as rubbish collection campaigns.”


Sarah Allmayer, President Vanlife Explorer Schweiz

Education ensures sustainability

As mentioned, etiquette is particularly important for wild camping. Because wild camping can certainly be practised respectfully and with great respect for nature and the environment. For this to work, the educational work of associations such as our partner Vanlife Explorer Schweiz are paramount.


Sarah Allmayer, president of the association, talked us through its agenda. It regularly holds meetings, both to offer a platform for like-minded wild campers and to present important topics and clean up littered areas.



Etiquette when wild camping and staying on a campsite is very different. Although “camp” is used in both terms, they mean very different things. Staying on a campsite offers greater scope for comfort and a holiday close to nature in combination with conventional everyday goods. By contrast, wild campers restrict themselves to the essentials. They focus on the closeness to nature.


Before your planned holiday, you should be clear about your individual needs and decide which type of camping holiday suits you and your family. But camping holidays and wild camping do have one thing in common: camping close to nature with your loved ones.

The “Vanlife Explorer Schweiz” association


The Vanlife Explorer Schweiz association was founded on 30 May 2020 and, after only a short time, has more than 50 members from across Switzerland. Members share a prevailing passion for van life, camping and exploring nature.


Whether self-modifiers, roof tent enthusiasts or those who travel by motorhome, the club is wide-ranging and open to all adventurers. You can find more information about the association here:



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