These are the best countries for living the ‘Van Life’
#VanLife – search for it on Instagram and you’ll be inundated with images of nomads living it up in campervans around the world. From starting the day with a dip in the sea, to eating dinner over a campfire among the great outdoors and going to sleep knowing you could spend the next day wherever you want, the freedom of travelling the world in a motorhome certainly looks like a dream.
That’s why the van life way of living has shot up in popularity in recent years, with the hashtag on Instagram returning over 9 million results and bloggers and vloggers across the web recounting tales of their adventures travelling the world living out of a van (even if those travels have been somewhat dampened over the last 12 months).
There are many reasons the van life has taken off in recent years – from inspiration online, to greater remote and flexible working opportunities, and an increased value placed on experiences over possessions among younger generations.
While Instagram alone showcases #VanLife as a purely paradisiacal experience, full of chic surfers in vintage VWs or quirky digital nomads in converted motorhomes, the realities of living out of a van does come with its own trials and tribulations, alongside the many incredible adventures it offers.
When deciding where to visit and stay as part of your van life journey, there are many considerations to be made to ensure the experience is as safe, practical and enjoyable as possible.
That’s why we have launched our brand new Van Life Index, providing a comprehensive analysis into the best countries around the world for living the van life – looking at factors including road infrastructure, safety, amenities (public toilets and WiFi are an essential!), scenery, community and costs.
So if you want to see more of the world when the restrictions are lifted, and think the van life may be right for you, have a look at the results of our study below to find the best countries to start exploring on four wheels.
Coming out as the best country for living the van life is Spain in the sunny south west of Europe.
The Mediterranean country ranked high across all elements we looked at, gaining the top score available for traffic, road connectivity, WiFi, natural beauty, air quality and weather – that sure is a combination that makes for a blissful van life experience.
In the second spot was Australia, perhaps one of the places that often springs to mind when we thing of big road trips in the sun. The land down under also scored well across the board, and like Spain, gained the top score available for road connectivity, natural beauty, air quality and weather. On top of that, Australia was one of the top scoring countries for number of public bathrooms available and overall happiness among the population.
Rounding out the top five is Switzerland, Portugal and Canada, all offering epic mountain scenery and more great scores across our index.
Looking closer at the specific elements analysed, if getting around safely and swiftly is your top priority, Iceland is the country with the safest roads, while Austria experiences the least traffic congestion and Saudi Arabia, the USA, and Spain all offer the best road connectivity for exploring different areas of the country.
When it comes to practical amenities, the USA is the winner, offering the highest number of public toilets and free WiFi spots of all the countries analysed.
For lovers of the great outdoors Iceland has been ranked as the country with the best natural beauty and cleanest air, while Portugal offers the best weather, with France also scoring highly.
Or if you’re looking for the happiest and safest communities to be part of, Finland is home to the happiest population, while Taiwan was ranked as the safest destination on our list.
The UK came in at number 32 on the list, scoring well for public amenities, population happiness and air quality but let down by our infamously patchy British weather and comparatively pricey fuel.
To compile our index, we analysed the below elements and sources:
Traffic (congestion, time spent in traffic & pollution) > https://www.numbeo.com/traffic/rankings_by_country.jsp
Road Safety (road traffic deaths) > https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/road-traffic-deaths-sdgs
Petrol Cost (Cost of fuel) > http://reports.weforum.org/travel-and-tourism-competitiveness-report-2019/rankings/-series=FUELPRICE
Road Connectivity (speed and straightness of roads connecting country’s major cities) > http://reports.weforum.org/global-competitiveness-report-2019/competitiveness-rankings/#series=ROADQUALIDX
Wi-fi (Availability of free wi-fi) > https://www.wifimap.io/countries
Public Toilets (Availability of public toilets) > https://pee.place/en/l
Natural Beauty (Attractiveness of natural assets) > http://reports.weforum.org/travel-and-tourism-competitiveness-report-2019/rankings/#series=EOSQ502
Air Quality (Particulate matter) > http://reports.weforum.org/travel-and-tourism-competitiveness-report-2019/rankings/#series=PM25
Weather (Pleasantness of weather conditions) > https://www.ranker.com/list/countries-with-the-best-weather/ranker-travel
Happiness (Happiness of country population) > https://www.theglobaleconomy.com/rankings/happiness/
Safety (Safety of country) > https://www.numbeo.com/crime/rankings_by_country.jsp
Through an analysis of the above data we scored each country out of five for each element. We then totalled each country’s score across all elements to give each country a final index score. The index score was used to rank the countries, and we featured the top 35 in our final results. We did not include countries where official advice warns against travel for reasons other than Covid-19. Full dataset available upon request.