Advice for Van Dwellers on the Algarve

I have been visiting Portugal for 10 years in campervans. I have mostly had positive experiences regarding my choice to live in a van and travel. Portugal is a laid back country which had a revolution in 1974 to kick out facism and has a written Constitution that gives everyone equality and freedom to live as they choose, (as long as they are not breaking laws obviously).

I have spent long periods of time in an area around Oliveria do Hospital which is at the foothills of the Serra de Estrella mountains in the north of the county. I lived there for 18 months in my van exploring the surroundings. I have toured the entire coastline of the country in my van, from my first visit in 2010 until the present day. In the lasts 3 years I have spent a lot of time in the south west corner of the Algarve. There is a little triangle that takes in the towns of Lagos on the south coast, Aljezur on the west coast and Sagres, the south west tip of the country. This triangle attracts surfers, hippy's, golfers, artists, retirees and all sorts of other people from all over Europe and beyond.

My last post highlighted some issues with campervanners being told what is and isn't camping and being harassed by the police for having a window open or a step outside. Now, The Portugal News, an English newspaper in Portugal has on the front page of last week's edition an awful piece full of misinformation about van dwellers.

I'm was going to debunk their misleading article but I've realised from some of the comments that there is no way most of the haters will not change their opinion. Mostly I want to encourage all van dwellers whether they are permanently living in their vans or just on holiday, whether they identify as a Van Dweller, New (Age) Traveller, Vanlifer, something else or just a citizen wanting to enjoy life, to stand up for their right to travel and park freely in Portugal and not be intimidated by the authorities or by home owners in the area.

The article is titled 'The problem with wild camping in Portugal' and can be read in full HERE.

One of the main points it makes is that
"spending the night in nature “wild camping” is illegal across Portugal." What is illegal is 'camping' which is having a tent, tables and chairs etc. As long as you are self contained in your vehicle with nothing outside, you are not 'camping', you are parked. Most signs that state no parking for campervans are illegal as they need to state the issuing authority and under what law they are preventing parking in that place.

What seems to be normal in these situations, and what has happened to Gypsy Travellers, Roma and New Age Travellers over the years is people in fixed abodes thinking they have more right over a view, a beach or beauty spot than someone with no fixed abode or someone on holiday in a campervan. In Portugal the constitution is very clear, everyone is EQUAL! People with fixed abodes on the Algarve, and I must say from my research that it is more immigrants than Portuguese people seem to think their villas, apartments and homes and for some reason prettier than a campervan! (Did I say immigrants? Of course these people call themselves expats, they are usually the same people that only refer to people of colour as immigrants.)

Their is a lot of talk of litter in the article and in the comments. The problem with litter is huge in Portugal and particularly in places people gather. There are bins at most beaches and parking areas so there is no excuse for leaving litter anywhere else. But is it really always the van dwellers doing this? People with a bin in their van anyway? Of course and without a doubt some van dwellers will leave litter, (I feel a very small minority), but doesn't common sense say that there are also loads of people in cars coming to these areas without a bin who think it's ok to just chuck litter out of their car and drive away? I certainly have seen far more people in cars littering than anyone in a campervan. 

I want to encourage everyone to call people out when they see someone dropping litter, damaging property, starting a fire or any other unsociable act that gives campervanners a bad name. Unfortunately there are some van dwellers that think FREEDOM means you can just act however you want with no regard for anyone else. This is not true, FREEDOM comes with a responsibility to think of other people, non-human animals and the planet.

Here are some links that may help to see that we do have rights to be free. That freedom is something we all have but to excersise that freedom we must be respectful of others.

The Portuguese constitution can be read in full in English HERE.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights can be read HERE.

A friend's website with some more information is HERE.

Thanks for reading :)