Every year, Portugal, especially areas such as the Costa Vicentina, receive hundreds of people who exchange the comfort of a hotel for a caravan.

Many of these campers admit that theydon’t like to go to legal campsites and there are many reasons that contribute to this decision including a lack of legal campsites, money and freedom, are just a few of them. However, this freedom is now going to stop.

On 9 January 2021, a new rule came into force to change the highway code, which in addition to protecting the traffic rules, subtly prohibits camping outside authorised campsites as outlined in article 50ºA of the decree-law n.º 102-B/2020.

This new ruling has led to a considerable amount of criticism both from those who approve of stricter regulations and also by those who advocate for the freedom to camp in the wild.

Rubbish left on the ground, excess noise and general pollution are some of the complaints about campers that may be related to the origin of this new ban. Currently, in the middle of this pandemic scenario this was expected by many to become worse.

In May, because of the pandemic, more restrictive measures had being taken in the decree-law n.º 24/2020 of 25 May that regulates the use and access of beaches, in the context of the pandemic. So, since this date, people were already forbidden to stay in caravans or similar in parking areas near to beaches.

Andreia Pereira and Luís Pina, a Portuguese couple who travel and work full time in their caravan, who, in their Travel Inspire Project, divulge their lifestyle to those who follow them, confess they already have picked up rubbish left behind by other people. However, they are absolutely against this new rule. “Portugal is not yet prepared for this new legislation, without enough infrastructure and conditions, to be able to have alternatives for those who have this lifestyle or are users of caravans”, they said, regretting that not everyone knows how to set an example.

This revolt against campers exists because some of them “prejudice local population, the environment and economic agents who have invested in licensed spaces for hosting caravans”ww, said Andreia Pereira and Luís Pina.

On the other hand they “believe that stricter measures have to be put in place, such as the need for more inspection in the affected areas, the application of fines and awareness raising actions”, but is cheaper to prohibit than inspect.

The couple recalls that in 2020 an increase in users were recorded. “There were many tourists in caravans, even people who rented caravans for holidays, because they consider that in fact it is the safest way to travel in times of pandemic. This increase in the number of campers, caused disorder that led to a revolt on the part of the local population and municipalities, and as a consequence more restrictions were created in the most affected areas”.

The main change, according to the couple is that: “Now, in addition to prohibiting parking and staying by the beaches and places marked as unauthorised, it also prohibits overnight stays in any car park throughout the territory that is not expressly designated for caravans, that is, campsites Service Areas for caravans (ASAS) and signposted locations for caravans.”

What are the alternatives?
Municipalities, if they want to continue receiving these tourists, need to adapt to the new rule in force by creating infrastructures and legalising them as expressly authorised to accept caravans. This is what is happening in Moura, where there are already plans in place for a new area for camping.

The Council of Moura approved a project for the Caravan Service Area of Aldeia da Estrela. According to the Planicie da Estrela website, this space will have “five places for caravans, in a space equipped with telecommunications infrastructure, energy, water and sewage, access control and wi-fi”.

Meanwhile the couple, whotravel all the time, told The Portugal News that: “It will be a new adaptation and a different way of travelling. We travel slowly, we especially like the interior of Portugal, but with the new prohibitions we are forced to look for places designated for caravans, which will also force us to do more kilometres looking for these places”. The worst that they point out is the lack of infrastructures- the existence of few legal campsites in the interior of the country will require travelling many kilometres to find one.

At the moment there are many petitions being created in order to stop the advance of this rule, which many believe is negative for the economy, as Portugal is no longer an attractive country for this target group. These petitions would need, 2,500 citizen signatures to reach parliament and be analysed by the competent parliamentary committee.