Pilgrims on the Camino has assembled on this page
a huge number of questions that the prospective
or even the experienced peregrino might have. As
new questions come to the organization, we will
add the more generally useful ones to the site.
kinds of people walk the Camino de Santiago?
kinds of people walk the Camino de Santiago! According
to the records of the Pilgrim Office in Santiago
de Compostela, 145,877 people completed the pilgrimage
in 2009. Of them, 83% arrived on foot, 17% arrived
by bicycle and a few hearty souls rode horseback.
Pilgrims came from Spain (54%), Germany (10%), Italy
(7%), France (5%), Portugal (3%), the US (1.7%),
Canada (1.5%), the UK (1.2%) and over 100 other
countries. A little over 9% were 18 years of age
or younger, 35% were between 19 and 35 years old,
50% were between 36 and 65 years old, and just over
5% were older than 65 years. Finally these 2009
pilgrims included students, salaried employees,
technicians, retirees, teachers, blue-collar workers,
civil servants, homemakers, artists, farmers, unemployed
people and priests - among many others.
not Catholic. Can I walk the Camino?
the Camino de Santiago is based in Catholic lore
and tradition, one does not need to be Catholic
to walk. Indeed one does not need to even be religious
or spiritual. About the only time this will be a
question is in the Oficina de Acogida de Peregrinos
in Santiago when you appear to obtain your compostela.
You will be asked your motivation for walking and
those who do not include "spiritual" in
their reason for making the pilgrimage will be offered
another document, a certificado, to commemorate
their having completed the Camino. While many will
walk the Camino for out and out religious reasons,
others will look on it from a more secular viewpoint.
A pilgrimage, after all, is not necessarily religious.
Consider the throngs who take a pilgrimage to Graceland!
difficult is it to walk the Camino?
peregrino will have a different answer for this
question. The Camino is not a Himalayan expedition,
but it is not a Sunday stroll through the park either.
On the Camino francés, the terrain from St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port
to Santiago will include crossing a lower ridge
of the Pyrenees, walking on farm roads through areas
of rolling vineyards and across the meseta, the
high, flat plains of Castilla-León, climbing and
descending several mountain passes with altitudes
of up to 5,000 ft (1,500 m) and finally traversing
the forested river valleys of Galicia. Weather varies
according to the season, and can range from extremely
hot and dry to cool and wet to cold and snowy.
veterans will say that physical preparation is absolutely
necessary. It is one thing to take a hike of 25
km on a nice afternoon, but it is quite another
matter to repeat this hike day after day for a month.
Those who have had previous camping, backpacking
or hiking experience will be a step ahead. That
said, there are still multitudes of pilgrims who
begin their Camino without having done any physical
preparation at all. Carrying a pack will pretty
much be a necessity but because there are support
services all along the way—places to stay and eat—carrying
a large pack is not at all necessary. In fact, packing
light may be the most important ingredient for a
successful Camino. (For further thoughts about this,
see "Do I have to carry a backpack?" and
“What should I take?” below.)
easy is it to follow the route?
Spain, especially on the Camino francés, the entire
route is extremely well marked with yellow arrows.
Sometimes these are crudely brushed onto a wall
or post, sometimes they are 'formally' created signs.
You will always encounter them at division points
or intersections in the road or path. Following
the Camino through the larger cities is probably
the most problematical issue, as the arrows can
tend to get lost in the clutter of other signs and
sometimes you may walk straight ahead for many blocks
after which there will be one arrow pointing left
or right. Still, if you go astray, usually a 'local'
will quickly straighten you out. And you can always
use "¿Dónde va el Camino?" ("Where
does the Camino go?") or something like that.
route should I follow?
are many routes, many Caminos, to Santiago de Compostela.
In the Middle Ages, pilgrims began their pilgrimage
from their front door, whether that was in Jaca
or Sevilla, Paris or Ostabat, Brussels or Vienna:
there were as many routes as there were pilgrims.
The best known route today, the one that most people
mean then they talk about "the Camino",
is the Camino francés, which crosses the north of
Spain from the French border through Pamplona, Burgos
and León all the way to Santiago. But many other
routes have been marked and are available to modern
pilgrims, starting both inside Spain and beyond
its borders. Inside Spain, other well known Caminos
include the Vía de la Plata which begins in Sevilla
and passes through Mérida, Cáceres and Salamanca;
the Camino primitivo which begins in Oviedo and
passes through Lugo before meeting the Camino francés
shortly before Santiago; the Camino del Norte which
begins in Irún at the French border and follows
the northern coast before turning inland near Ribadeo.
There are now also recognized and well marked routes
in France, Portugal, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium,
Austria … almost everywhere in Europe.
should I start?
you have decided on which route you wish to follow,
you will have to choose a starting point. Yes, you
can start anywhere you want. In 2009 on the Camino
francés, about 20% of the pilgrims who eventually
arrived in Santiago began at the French-Spanish
border, at either St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France
or Roncesvalles in Spain. Another approximately
20% started at Sarria to just fulfill the 100-km
requirement for the compostela. But no matter which
route you follow, remember that the Camino is, in
essence, just a long path, and aside from the 100
km requirement for a compostela, you can walk any
part of any route that you wish.
long does it take?
is no simple answer to this question. Whether on
foot or bicycle, how long your pilgrimage will take
will depend on many variables, such as what kind
of terrain you will be crossing, how much you want
to travel each day, how many rest days you wish
to take during the pilgrimage and, naturally, your
physical abilities. The hilly countryside near Le
Puy, France, may limit walkers to 15 or 20 kilometers
per day, while the flat expanses of the Spanish
meseta will allow some to walk 30 or more kilometers
per day. You may choose to finish your day’s walk
early in the afternoon, or you may prefer to continue
walking until late in the day. The distance you
travel in a day will depend on your pace, as well
as on how often you stop to rest, to visit cultural
attractions and to talk to people. You may wish
to take a day off from time to time, or you may
prefer to walk every day.
guidebooks for the various pilgrimage routes offer
suggested itineraries. For the entire Camino francés,
a distance of approximately 750 km (~450 mi), walkers
commonly take about 32 to 35 walking days. Cyclists
might count on about two weeks. Other examples would
be for the Camino primitivo, 13 to 15 walking days
from Oviedo to Santiago; for the French Chemin du
Puy, 30 to 34 walking days from Le Puy to St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port;
and for the German Münchner Jakobsweg, 10 walking
days from Munich to Lindau-Bregenz. Take your pick;
the possibilities are nearly endless.
time of year should I go?
the first question here should really be, “When
can I go?” If you are a student or if you work,
you may have to go whenever your vacation time allows.
But if you have the freedom to travel when you wish,
then there are a couple important of considerations
that present themselves: weather and crowding. July
and August, even in the north of Spain, are normally
HOT. Mid April through June and September through
early November can be the most pleasant times of
the year to walk. And the cold and wet conditions
of the Spanish winter have always presented their
own unique challenges to the pilgrim. No matter
when you walk, however, if you are on the road for
weeks or even months, chances are very good that
you will encounter a wide range of weather conditions
to keep your journey interesting.
addition to the weather, you may also want to consider
how many other pilgrims will be out there walking
with you. Overcrowding on the Camino francés is
notorious during the months of July and August,
when most European students and working people take
their long annual vacation. The other Caminos in
Spain and throughout Europe do not experience similar
multitudes, but since their infrastructures are
not designed to handle huge numbers of pilgrims,
they may feel crowded.
you seek the medieval spirit of the pilgrim or if
you consider the pilgrimage as a spiritual journey,
you may find winter the perfect season to walk.
Even on the Camino francés, crowds are nonexistent.
Your first and foremost consideration however must
be your preparations for the weather. Northern Spain
has a true winter! You may find yourself walking
in snow at Puente la Reina, freezing fog on the
meseta, rain at León and warm sunshine in Galicia.
On the Camino francés, most pilgrim services such
as albergues and restaurants remain open during
the winter; on other routes, winter services may
be less available.
year should I go?
might seem odd to consider that the year to travel
the Camino would make any difference but there are
some sporadic factors to take into consideration.
Undoubtedly the most important factor is the Jacobean
Holy Year, those years when Saint James feast day,
July 25th, falls on a Sunday. See below for a further
description of the issues.
you decided to put off your Camino from the Holy
Year of 2010 to 2011 to avoid crowds there is one
particular event taking place that year that you
should also take into account. World Youth Day 2011
is scheduled for Madrid August 16 to 21 and authorities
are planning on upwards of 2 million visitors in
Madrid. The Catholic Pilgrim Office is advertising
a variety of excursions that will visit Santiago,
León and Burgos all in the week prior to Madrid.
All of these will travel by bus and will be staying
in hotels so their impact may be minor for walkers
and cyclists. But in addition it is a given that
many in attendance will elect to combine World Youth
Day with the Camino, whether before or after.
is a Holy Year?
Holy Year is any year when Saint James feast day,
July 25th, falls on a Sunday. 2010 was the last
Holy Year and the next will not occur until 2021.
In those years what that means for the pilgrim as
a practical matter can be summed up in one word:
crowds! Statistics issued by the Pilgrims' Welcome
Office show that the number of Compostelas issued
during Holy Years has been several times the number
issued during the preceding year; for the last Holy
Year of 2010, there was almost a two-fold increase
the Catholic Church, a plenary indulgence is still
granted to those who visit the Cathedral and the
tomb of the Apostle at any time during a Holy Year,
make their confession, attend Mass and pray for
the intentions of the Holy Father.
there guidebooks for the Camino?
there are many and you will want to have some reference
with you for route-finding and for finding accommodations.
The guidebooks that are most recognized include
those written by John Briery, by Bethan Davies and
Ben Cole, by Alison Raju, and of course the annually-updated
Confraternity Guides. For those who read Spanish,
the guides written by Paco Nadal and that written
by Millán Bravo Lozano are the most widely used,
the former for its frequently updated practical
information and the latter for its venerable content
on the route, its history and its traditions. For
locating food and accommodation on routes in France,
the definitive guides are those in the Miam-Miam-Do-Do
series although these are only available in French.
In addition, you can always use your favorite search
engine to locate both printed and online resources.
there alternatives to walking the Camino?
but traversing the Camino using muscle power one
way or the other is a requirement for certain benefits.
Today between 15 and 20% of peregrinos, for example,
bicycle the route. In order to use the majority
of albergues and in order to receive the compostela
from the cathedral in Santiago, you must be either
on foot or bicycle (or rarely, on horseback).
information is available for cyclists?
present the American Pilgrims' web site is oriented
toward the walking pilgrim, but much of the information
presented applies to cyclists as well. For more
information directed specifically toward cyclists,
you should consider joining the Yahoo special-interest
group Santiago Bicicleta. The British Confraternity
also has a useful booklet, The Cycling Pilgrim.
Entering something like "camino santiago bicycle"
(without the quotes) in your favorite search engine
will produce a plethora of sites.
is possible to do the Camino on horseback? With
although it will take some planning. The British
Confraternity has a useful page with advice for
horse riders and with further web site links. Thinking
about using a burro? You'll want to visit El Burro
I walk alone or with a friend?
is a very common question and of course ultimately
the decision is a personal one. That having been
said however, you may be finding yourself in the
position of having decided to walk or cycle the
Camino but you haven't been able to find a companion
to go with you. And the idea of taking this on solo
is daunting. Your concern about going solo is probably
warranted but the axiom is "No one walks alone
on the Camino." There are two approaches to
You might consider posting your request for companions
on one or more of the Camino-related forums on the
Internet. You can find several of these on our Internet
Resources page and we especially recommend the first
three. A note with a subject line "Looking
for pilgrims leaving Leon July 11" or "Looking
for 2011 pilgrims in Atlanta area" might produce
something. Among the first three forums, our own
is new but is U.S.-oriented. Santiagobis is international
in its readership and it has a huge membership.
Pilgrimage to Santiago is international and very
highly regarded. All of these are free but you will
have to register to use Santiagobis and Pilgrimage
to Santiago. Unfortunately peregrinos in the U.S.
are a pretty diffuse bunch.
If you are at all receptive to meeting other people,
on the Camino you will very quickly find yourself
being part of a westward-moving community of friends.
Indeed a large number of people make life-long friendships
on the Camino.
can I do to get physically and mentally prepared
before leaving for Spain?
are about to undertake a serious venture, both physical
and psychological - or mental or spiritual or religious.
As for physical preparation the essence of it is
to walk and to be sure that you are comfortable
with your pack and footwear. Your daily distance
on the Camino will depend on your personal desires
and abilities but you must remember that to walk
some distance, say 20 km, one day is one thing -
to do it day after day for several weeks or a month
is something else entirely. So practice your distance
but try at least once to walk your distance two
days in a row.
preparation should involve becoming prepared to
not be too hung up on making a plan and the becoming
upset when it doesn't unfold as you had hoped. It
is often said that the Camino is life writ small,
that it is an analogy for life and there is some
truth in that. Developing the ability to accept
what is imposed on you and to making the best of
it is an admirable trait generally. You will not
really understand this until something stares you
in the face on the Camino, something that will require
you to make a new plan, to accept the change. Every
year a portion of those who set out on the Camino
have to drop out due to an emergency at home or
something like an injury that prevents finishing.
do I get from the airport to my starting point for
public transportation systems in Europe are a marvel
for North Americans and in Spain that includes both
rail and bus.
get to some common starting points:
To get to Roncesvalles we will assume that you can
find your way by air, train or bus to Pamplona,
the closest city with extensive transportation connections.
To Roncesvalles you then have the choice of bus
or taxi. The bus service is Autocares Artieda. To
use this site in the main menu select 'Líneas regulares'
then 'Consulta de rutas y itinerarios'. Select Pamplona
and Roncesvalles as your origin and destination
and your date (fecha). Leave the hour interval (horario)
open to see all possibilities. City buses from the
airport to the city center and the bus station run
frequently. There is also taxi service to Roncesvalles:
Asociación TeleTaxi San Fermín (948 232 300), Asociación
Radio Taxi (948 221 212) and Francisco Igoa Martinez
(649 725 951). Obviously the taxi will cost much
more than the bus.
To get to St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port we will assume that
you can find your way by air, train or bus to Bayonne
(actually Biarritz BIQ in the case of air), the
closest city with extensive transportation connections.
One possibility is the TGV (high-speed train) service
from Paris. There are then several trains every
day from Bayonne to St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port, 1 1/4
to 1 1/2 hours. Consult the SNCF site. It is also
possible to travel by taxi from Pamplona. See the
information immediately above for Roncesvalles.
is also possible to use the bus (ALSA) from Madrid
to Bayonne (Bayona in Spanish) although there is
only one per day (16:00 to 00:45) as of June 2010.
It would also be possible to use rail with a combination
of the Spanish RENFE and the French SNCF with a
connection in Hendaye. You can consult the separate
systems or use the RailEurope site which operates
across international borders.
To get to O Cebreiro the bus will be your best choice
from Santiago de Compostela, from Madrid or from
various transportation hubs on the Camino to the
east of O Cebreiro. From Santiago the bus line ALSA
has a half dozen buses a day to the village of Piedrafita
O Cebreiro which is about 5 km from O Cebreiro itself.
ALSA also has service to Piedrafita O Cebreiro directly
from Madrid, about a six-hour journey and in addition
via an itinerary that passes through Burgos, Palencia,
Astorga and Ponferrada among other places. All of
those will have good connections from other locations
in Spain or along the Camino either by bus or by
train. From Piedrafita O Cebreiro you have two possibilities—simply
walk it (you're about to walk 150 km after all)
or take a taxi.
To get to Sarria there are several options but the
best all involve RENFE, the Spanish national rail
system. There is service from Madrid and Barcelona,
perhaps the most likely entry points into Spain
for travelers arriving from North America. After
you enter the RENFE site, in the drop-down menu
for "Origin" select your city of origin.
This list is only major stations in Spain. Then
select your day of travel. Then click "Search"
immediately beneath the travel year. You will then
be presented with a list of every station in Spain.
Click on "S" and then Sarria. A search
results page will appear. If there is a direct itinerary
(no transfer), this will be presented first but
if this is not to your liking, see if there is the
offer "Para buscar trenes con transbordo seleccione
fecha de viaje" ("To search for trains
with a transfer, select the date of travel").
You can select the date and click "Buscar transbordo"
("Search for a transfer") to see a list
of itineraries that involve a transfer.
to I return home?
from North America, you will probably have a trans-Atlantic
airline ticket with a fixed return date as open
return tickets can be extraordinarily expensive.
Usually this will dictate that the North American
peregrino will have to allow a few days of grace
time for walking or cycling in case the preplanned
schedule can't be maintained. It also implies that
getting from Santiago back to the city of departure
to North America is a concern. Generally the advice
is that as soon as it is clear when arrival in Santiago
is going to occur and when departure from the same
is known, a train, bus or airline reservation should
be secured. Also, any travel agent can make these
arrangements for you.
kinds of transportation are available on the Camino
is bus or train service along most of the Camino
francés and it is actually quite common for peregrinos
to use transport from time to time for various reasons.
Perhaps a personal schedule restriction is looming,
perhaps an injury is preventing walking for a few
days, perhaps the weather has become untenable.
In places where there is no bus or train service,
usually a taxi can be arranged. Please note that
this flexibility about using transport does not
extend to using transport within the 100 km limit
for obtaining the compostela (200 km if cycling).
This 100 km stretch must be completed on foot (200
km if cycling).
is a credential or pilgrim's passport?
walking the Camino de Santiago, pilgrims carry a
credential (credencial), a small, folded document
in which the pilgrim authenticates his or her progress
by obtaining stamps (sellos) along the way. Sellos
can be obtained from many sources including many
bars, hotels, town halls, museums and churches and
from all albergues.
credential or 'passport', as it is sometimes called,
is not to be confused with an official, government-issued
passport. The former is strictly a record of passage
along the Camino; the latter is a required document
for international travel.
registering at an albergue, you will be asked to
present your credential to verify that you are walking
or cycling the Road. In addition, upon reaching
Santiago de Compostela, at the Oficina de Acogida
de Peregrinos (Pilgrims' Office, Rúa do Vilar 1),
you can present your stamped credential to confirm
that you have walked at least the last 100 kilometers
or cycled at least the last 200 kilometers, whereupon
you will receive a compostela, a wonderful document
that certifies your pilgrimage. See the entry immediately
below for more about the compostela.
credentials can be obtained from numerous sources
before setting out on the Camino, or from locations
actually on the Camino.
is the compostela?
most cases peregrinos will be interested in obtaining
the 'official' documentation for having completed
the Camino whether or not they are walking the Camino
for out and out religious reasons. The words used
on the Archdiocese’s website are: "devotionis
affectu, voti vel pietatis causa" - “the motivation
being devotion, vow or piety”. This document is
called the compostela and is a form in Latin issued
by the Oficina de Acogida de Peregrinos (Pilgrims'
Office, Rúa do Vilar 1) in Santiago, near the southeast
corner of the cathedral). You can obtain your compostela
by presenting yourself, some form of official identification
(like your government-issued travel passport) and
your completed pilgrim's credential. You must have
documentation showing that you have walked at least
the last contiguous 100 km (or cycled the last 200
the Oficina de Acogida de Peregrinos you will be
asked your motivation for walking. Those who do
not include "spiritual" in their reason
for making the pilgrimage will be offered another
document, a certificado, to commemorate their having
completed the Camino.
can I get stamps (sellos) for my credential?
can be obtained at most hotels and inns, restaurants
and bars, churches, museums, city halls, police
stations and at all albergues. If you're wondering
what the sellos look like, you might check out the
site Los Sellos del Camino (Spanish).
note about sellos: Generally one sello per day is
sufficient but the Pilgrims’ Office in Santiago
advises that all pilgrims should obtain two per
day during the final 100 km if on foot or the last
200 km if on bicycle. On the francés this would
be Sarria (112 km) or Ponferrada (205 km) respectively.
Please note that this applies even to pilgrims who
have started outside the 100 and 200 km limits.
does one stay at night?
to Santiago de Compostela has been going on for
more than a millennium and during that time a strong
tradition of support for peregrinos has developed.
Through the Middle Ages this included hospices chartered
and/or operated by kings and queens and religious
orders. The tradition continues today in Spain in
the form of albergues de peregrinos (or refugios,
the terms are interchangeable).
albergue operates essentially like a youth hostel
except that they exist for pilgrims. They provide
basic overnight facilities. Most have dormitory-type
sleeping arrangements, usually two-tiered bunks,
and (sort of) communal bathing and toilet facilities.
Some have a set price per night (typically 6 to
10 euros), others are donativo (donation). Some
serve meals, some have cooking facilities available,
and some have neither. Most open in the early to
mid-afternoon, require that you be on your way by
8:00 the next morning, and only allow one night's
stay. Some put restrictions on cyclists and walkers
who use backpack transport. Until very recently,
albergues were usually operated by municipalities,
regional governments, confraternities or religious
organizations but in recent years the number of
privately-owned albergues has increased rapidly.
In Spain, reservations cannot be made ahead at municipal
albergues, but reservations can sometimes be made
at privately operated ones. In order to stay at
an albergue, a pilgrim must present an up-to-date
credencial. There are several websites that maintain
listings of albergues in Spain, among them http://caminodesantiago.me.uk
and the Federación Española de Asociaciones de Amigos
del Camino de Santiago, but probably the most exhaustive
list, updated constantly, is at http://caminodesantiago.consumer.es/
is the difference between a refugio and an albergue?
terms both refer to overnight facilities available
to walking or cycling pilgrims who have authenticated
pilgrim credentials. The terms are interchangeable.
alternatives are there to the albergues?
keep in mind, however, that you are not required
to stay at an albergue! When you wish, you can stay
in a hotel or even a luxurious Parador. In fact,
many pilgrims choose to stay in a hotel from time
to time. Most however probably quickly come to realize
that albergues are geared to the pilgrim lifestyle
and that you can meet and interact with other pilgrims
much more easily at the albergues. On the Mundicamino
website there is a detailed list of non-albergue
lodging for every stage of the most popular Caminos.
does one eat?
with the vast infrastructure for overnight accommodations
on the Caminos, the millennium-long tradition of
support for pilgrims extends to eating. However
as a peregrino, one of the first realizations that
will dawn on you is that your daily cycle is quite
out of sync with that of everyone else south of
the Pyrenees. You will typically be arising about
6:00 a.m., wanting to eat about 7:00 in the evening
and seriously thinking about bed by 9:00 or 10:00.
This is all two to three hours ahead of the rest
of Spain. Still there will likely be bars or restaurants
on the route or near albergues that will cater to
the patterns of the peregrino. Some albergues will
provide meals and some will have cooking facilities
for self-catering. You will become an aficionado
of the menú del peregrino (the pilgrim's menu).
You will learn to savor the mid-morning café con
should I take?
there will be numerous personal variables here and
any 10 former peregrinos will have 12 lists to offer.
Such considerations as: How much weight am I comfortable
carrying for an extended period? How much experience
do I have camping or backpacking? Just how clean
to I really have to be? Do I have special needs
or requirements, for example, serious, meaning 'heavy',
We can offer a few sample
Confraternity of Saint James CSJ
Van Peski V.Peski
additional suggestion: Take along at least a partial
roll of toilet paper—and a plastic bag to carry
the used paper until you can properly dispose of
it! At some point along the way, you'll probably
wish you had it.
I have to carry a backpack?
short answer to this is 'yes'. Assuming that you
are walking it would be rather impractical to travel
carrying your worldly possessions any other way.
A suitcase - even one with wheels - would simply
be non-functional on almost all of the Camino's
terrain. If you will be walking but with vehicle
support a suitcase would work but traveling this
way would deny you access to a substantial percentage
of the pilgrim albergues. So if you are traveling
with complete vehicular support and you will be
staying strictly in private albergues and/or hotels,
then, yes, you could get by without a backpack.
if you are cycling, the question will be worded
differently but the answer is pretty much the same.
are various types of walking trailers manufactured.
Try a term like "hiking trailer" in your
favorite search engine. There are some rough sections
of the Caminos where these would be problematical.
of course you can have a horse or burro do the work
for you. See above.
I mail a package ahead to myself?
and this is fairly common. Many do it after starting
out to lighten their load; others may do it with
aforethought, sending a package of 'city clothes'
ahead to Santiago. The service in Spain, called
lista de correos, is the same as poste restante
or, in the U.S., general delivery. You can buy a
box at the correos (post office). Packages are addressed:
name with your surname first and in capital letters
and underlined or boxed
city with postal code and province (see below for
Correos' general policy is to hold a package for
14 days after which they will return it to the city
of origin. Needless to say that would be very bad
news! You might write "PEREGRINO" boldly
on the box and you might also add "Retener
en lista de correos hasta el <day> de <month>"
("Hold until date" with the month spelled
out in Spanish) but nothing says that doing all
that will guarantee anything.
lista de correos addresses of a few major cities
along the Camino are:
Sarasate 9/31080 Pamplona (Navarra)
de Inmaculada 5/31200 Estella (Navarra)
Caldo 44/26080 Logroño (La Rioja)
Conde de Castro 1/09080 Burgos (Burgos)
de San Francisco s/n/24080 León (León)
General Vives 1/24400 Ponferrada (León)
Calvo Sotelo 183/27600 Sarria (Lugo)
17/15703 Santiago de Compostela (A Coruña)
will need your passport for identification when
retrieving your package.
a further question about mail service in Spain?
Link to the Correos de España web site (click on
"English" upper right corner).
the way, the information for poste restante service
in France can be found at the site for Discover
for "General Delivery Service." We have
seen advisements against sending packages from France
(St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port for example) to lista de
correos in Spain. Apparently the two systems don't
recognize each other.
I have my pack transported?
although a service to support you over the entire
route probably does not exist short of joining an
organized tour. Be advised that some albergues may
refuse you accommodation if they are aware that
you are not actually carrying your own pack. Still
in a few select stretches of the Camino francés
over some of the higher and more arduous passes,
the peregrino seems to be given a waiver from this
the Camino safe?
a word, 'yes'. Like traveling anywhere in the world,
prudence is in order, but it is probably safe to
say that the Camino is a relatively benign environment.
It is often said that one never walks alone on the
Camino and that is quite the case on the Camino
francés, perhaps less so on the less-traveled routes.
It is probably generally a good idea to have a companion,
especially in more remote stretches. Very little
of the Camino is in larger cities. There are occasional
reports of theft in albergues and of uninvited approaches
on the road but again these are relatively rare.
An event of any seriousness should be immediately
reported to local authorities and it would also
be useful to post reports on Camino forums as soon
about those dangerous Camino dogs?
speaking, dogs along the Camino have by now become
completely inured to the existence of the odd parade
of peregrinos passing along the road. Still there
are places on all the routes where there are working
herd dogs whose job it is to protect their charges
and they may not be so benign. The possibility of
meeting an unfriendly dog is one reason many peregrinos
carry a walking stick or staff.
are STRONGLY advised NOT to take your own dog, well-trained
and friendly though he may be. Actually this would
be nearly impossible traveling from North American
anyway. Certified service dogs are a completely
different story and you will have wide privileges
concerning this in Europe.
can I keep in contact with the people back home?
the problems that face the modern peregrino! Cyber
cafes do exist although they are not to be found
in every hamlet. Where they do exist, they are usually
very inexpensive. It is also possible to rent a
cell phone or to purchase a cell phone in the U.S.
that can be converted for non-U.S. use with the
purchase of a different internal SIM card. Another
way to go is to simply purchase a phone card on
arrival in Spain. The usual place to find an assortment
of these in Spain is in an estanco (tobacco shop).
Look for the yellow on brown sign. You will need
to find a (land-line) telephone to use this card,
but most bars seem to have a public telephone. Calling
North America using these cards can be very reasonable.
kind of medical services are available on the Camino?
should have some form of medical insurance in place
and you should determine how it will work for overseas
treatment. It is not unusual that out of pocket
payment with later reimbursement is required. Traveler's
insurance might be something to consider. It is
common that treatment for minor problems will be
afforded the peregrino gratis by the Spanish medical
system. For treatment of a minor, self-treatable
ailment, speak to a pharmacist. Towns of sufficient
size will have designated 24-hour pharmacies. See
below. For those who live within the European Union,
having your European Health Insurance Card is a
requirement to receive free emergency treatment.
I carry a first aid kit?
you should carry a small, personal kit, one heavy
on foot care materials. But Spain is a first world
country and most anything that you might need in
the way of self-medication or self-treatment will
be obtainable there.
minor aliments, many people go to their local pharmacy
(farmacia), these are easily recognizable by the
flashing green cross displayed outside or in the
window. In medium-sized and large cities farmacias
take turns providing out-of-hours service (at night
and on holidays) as the farmacia de guardia. You
will be able to find out which one is open by looking
in a local paper or in the window of any pharmacy
where they usually display a list. Pharmacists in
Spain are more highly-trained than in some countries
or they are authorized to give out more advice and
will provide treatment guidance for many common
illnesses and ailments, but they are not a substitute
for going to a doctor if there is something really
wrong. Spain is a quite unrestrictive when it comes
to the distribution of medications that are strictly
prescription drugs in other countries (such as antibiotics),
so these are commonly available over-the-counter.
Medicines tend to cost significantly less than in
other countries due to state imposed price restrictions.
much is it likely to cost me on the Camino?
the answer to this question will depend on numerous
personal choices. Will you be staying in albergues
most of the time or will you be looking for hotels
and hostales? Maybe you've had your eye on the five-star
paradores along the route. Do you plan on using
cooking facilities in the albergues when they present
themselves or will you be eating out every meal?
We will here assume that you will be staying in
albergues and will be eating out for your main meal
of the day. Private albergues will be set-price
and you might expect 6 to 10 euros; you should try
to leave a nice donation at those that are donativo.
The menú del día will run you maybe 12 euros +/-.
The mid-morning café con leche and a pastry about
4. Find a tienda for some lunch to be eaten sitting
on the side of the road - another 4. Odds and ends
arbitrarily 5. That makes roughly 32 euros. Can
you do it for less? Absolutely! More? Absolutely!
(Want to know how many U.S. greenbacks it will take
to buy one of those euros? See the graphic in the
can I obtain cash while I'm on the Camino?
will be using cash (euros) for the most part, not
your credit cards. ATMs, where you can use a debit
card to obtain cash, can be found at airports, in
cities and in larger towns. Be sure that you have
registered a PIN before you go and you should be
aware that some systems will accept a four-digit
PIN but not a six-digit one. Also you should notify
your card-issuing companies of your travels before
current exchange rate (cost of a euro in dollars)
is displayed below :
if I don't speak Spanish (or French, or Portuguese,
or Basque, or … )?
Camino has for more than millennium been an international
phenomenon and it still is. Although English may
be the lingua franca in tourist areas, you will
be traveling for the most part through rural Spain
and you are going to encounter many people who speak
only Spanish or one of the regional languages like
Basque or Gallego. Any Spanish skills you can carry
with you will be of use and your attempts will certainly
be appreciated—and your own experience will also
be that much more rewarding. With other peregrinos
it is almost always possible to find some common
language or at least to set up an informal translation
chain. Here are several tips paraphrased from travel
guru Rick Steves on hurdling the language barrier:
Speak slowly, simply and politely: Speak with simple
words and pronounce every sound. Make single nouns
work as entire sentences and begin each request
with PLEASE (e.g. “Por favor, ¿el albergue?”)
Avoid using English slang and try to use internationally
understood words: Many Europeans will draw a blank
if you say 'break' or 'vacation,' but they will
understand when you say 'holiday.' If you say 'restroom'
or 'bathroom,' you will get no room, but 'toilet'
is direct, simple, and understood.
Exaggerate the local accent and use hand signals
and body language to communicate. Be uninhibited—self-consciousness
Take advantage of the similarities among the major
European languages. Four of the most common languages
on the Camino—Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese—are
related and come from Latin. The French word for
Monday (our “day of the moon”) is lundi (“lunar
day”). The Spaniards say the same thing—lunes. If
Buenos días means good day, sopa del día is soup
of the day. The other two common Camino languages—English
and German—are also related. Sonne is sun, so Sonntag
Use a notepad, because words and numbers are much
easier to understand when they are written. To communicate
something difficult and important (such as medical
or dietary instructions), write it in the local
language on your notepad. Or lacking that, write
it in English.
Rick (2010) Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back
Door 2010: The Travel Skills Handbook. Avalon Travel
about keeping a journal?
way to make your Camino even more interesting is
to keep a journal. This could be simple jottings
at the end of each day or it could balloon into
the form of a nascent book. By keeping a journal
you can train yourself to pay more attention to
the interesting things that you experience and possibly
even get more ideas about how to improve the trip.
In addition, by keeping a record of what you are
doing as you are doing it, you will have more detailed
information to share with others when you return.
And, of course, going back and reading your own
travel journal months or years later can bring the
trip back to life even more vividly than photos
few tips: Buy a journal that will last—something
considerably more substantial than a spiral notebook.
You will be collecting one or two sellos each day
in your credential but why not collect dozens in
your journal? Simply scatter them around on the
pages and write around them. Use the journal as
the place you keep contact information of others
you meet on the Camino. Draw the occasional sketch—you
don't have to be Rembrandt! Your sketch will capture
the essence of what caught your eye and imagination.
Before you leave home jot notes to yourself about
things that might be useful or even critical along
the way: The details of your air, bus and/or train
itineraries, a few important phone numbers, some
diversions that you want to see.
does a pilgrim do besides walk?
you know you're going to walk or cycle but what
else are you going to do? Even in the Middle Ages
there was a touristic element to pilgrimage so don't
feel bad about following this example. If you will
be walking for more than a week or ten days you
should consider adding a rest day that will coincide
with being in some interesting place. Some of the
more obvious cities on the francés would be Pamplona,
Burgos, León and Ponferrada. One advantage that
cyclists have over walkers is that if an attraction
is more than a half kilometer off the trail of yellow
arrows, the walker is not likely to detour while
the cyclist won't think twice.
is typical day on the Road like?
course no day is 'typical' but this might be a common
scenario. If you are staying in an albergue—and
this is highly recommended—your day will typically
begin about 6:00 a.m., although the 'bag rustlers'
may have been up and about since 5:00 or before.
You may also have endured a professional caliber
roncador (snorer) during the night. A lot of peregrinos
use earplugs! Sometimes a breakfast will be available
in the albergue, although often not. most likely
you will be able to find something to eat nearby,
but sometimes you may have to walk for an hour or
more to find something open. Almost always this
will be in a bar—Spanish bars serve a much wider
purpose than they typically do in North America.
Breakfast will typically be a café con leche - un
grande, por favor, toast or bread, butter, jam and
most likely freshly-squeezed orange juice.
you will walk. Or bicycle. Sometimes you'll travel
alone, sometimes you'll find yourself traveling
and talking with a complete stranger. You will learn
to execute the 'language dance' wherein you determine
the best common language between you. How late in
the day you will walk will depend on many factors—your
endurance, the weather, how many kilometers you
want to cover, the spacing between towns. Many peregrinos
stop for the day around 1:00 or 2:00 which is typically
more or less when the albergues start registering
for the night.
albergues are where you will meet others on the
Camino and this will become one of the most important
memories of your experience. In the albergues a
typical routine will be to claim a bed, dig some
clean clothes out of your pack, take a shower, wash
dirty clothes, take a siesta and then early in the
evening find something to eat. In most of Spain
eating in the evening before, say, 9:00 is very
difficult—not to mention considered completely uncivilized!
On the Camino it will generally be easier because
there will be restaurants and bars catering to the
daily cycle of the peregrinos. Then you will crash
for the night, quietly praying to yourself that
that guy next to you isn't one of the roncadores
profesionales. Then you'll get up and do it all
I work as a volunteer in an albergue?
as a volunteer hospitalero is the ultimate way to
give back to the Camino. Those who have gone on
from walking or cycling the Camino to serving as
an hospitalero say that this experience is if anything
even more rewarding than the Camino itself. As one
of its services in support of the Camino, American
Pilgrims offers hospitalero training several times
a year, one of these in conjunction with its Annual
Gathering of Pilgrims.
visit our National Gatherings page for information
about the next session.
further information on becoming or on being an hospitalero,
please visit our Hospitaleros page.
like essentially all of Europe, uses 230V, 50Hz
electricity (North America is 120V, 60Hz) and they
have outlets that are incompatible with standard
North American plugs. A very useful website is the
World Electrical Guide
scroll down to Spain and click on the two image
links, C and F. So you will definitely need an adapter
to accommodate your two-bladed plugs to their two-round
hole outlets. (Pay attention to the presence or
absence of the third, round grounding prong. Be
sure that everything will plug together.) You may
not need a voltage converter as these days most
small electronic devices are compatible with both
120V and 230V. Look carefully at the device's electrical
information label. A helpful hint: In albergues,
electrical outlets are at a premium! Take along
an electrical cube in addition to your adapter so
when you do manage to commander an outlet, you can
plug in everything that needs rejuvenating. And
again pay attention to that grounding prong!
à Q.Pratique Généralités