of Saint James of South Africa
Carry passports etc in money belts or in a pouch
around your neck, concealed beneath your clothing.
There is some petty crime such as pickpockets in
the larger towns, but the countryside is safe. Be
sensible and you should be fine.
It is rare to hear of any theft from the refugios.
However it is practical not to leave valuables unattended
in your backpack, and sleep with your valuables
on, or under your pillow.
Most South Africans - and those who live in big
cities will be very security conscious, and will
in fact find the low crime rates and safe traveling
Hundreds of women travel alone and have no problems.
Take normal safety precautions when alone in a city
Problem dogs are an urban legend!
Most dogs are tied up and the rest seldom cause
any problems that can't be handled with a shake
of a walking stick.
Pilgrims often take their own pets but they do struggle
to find accommodation, as few refugios accept dogs.
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.
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.
of St James : Frequently Asked Questions
about dangerous dogs?
is less of a problem than it used to be, especially
on the Camino Francés, where the local dogs are
by now entirely used to seeing pilgrims pass.
in France generally, and on the other Spanish routes,
where dogs are generally kept to protect farms and
flocks, it is as well to be wary.
This is one of
the best reasons for carrying a stick, and showing
it (not raising it in a threatening manner, which
will only make matters worse) to an unfriendly dog
is usually quite enough to keep it at bay.
pilgrims carry an ultrasonic dog repeller (enter
this term into a search engine to find suppliers).
it safe for women travelling alone ?
Be sensible of course, as you would be anywhere.
But your kit - rucksack, boots, stick -
identify you immediately as a pilgrim, and the local
people still respect the pilgrims' motivation.
In any case, on the le Puy route and the Camino
francés, you're never really alone:
there is a great sense of community among the pilgrims,
and there will always be others
close by to help you if you need it, and to walk
with if you choose. And since, in the refugios,
everyone shares a large common dormitory, there's
safety in numbers ...
get occasional reports of flashing. It would be
wise at least to walk within sight of others.
And you will be helping other pilgrims by reporting
all such incidents to the nearest hospitalero
and the Guardia Civil.
September 2006 a female pilgrim reported unwanted
sexual attentions when she was the only
occupant of a refuge with no hospitalero in attendance.
While, fortunately, such incidents
are rare, we suggest that in such a situation you
consider seeking more secure overnight
accommodation, such as a small hotel.
same general advice would apply on the Via de la
Plata and the Vézelay route, but you would
be less sure of support from nearby pilgrims.
Pilgrimage to Santiago Forum has a discission thread
on crime on the camino, with particular
reference to this topic. http://www.pilgrimage-to-santiago.com/board/camino-crime-watch/
W. Tripp, Jr. 2011
There are several basic precautions that all travelers
should observe and they are part of ones preparations.
I will include them here for reference and to emphasize
People who use computers know the importance of
protecting and backing up data. The same needs to
be done with several items you will be traveling
with. At a minimum you will travel with a passport,
airline tickets and money (cash, travelers checks,
or credit/debit cards).
Do not expose yourself to unnecessary risk by carrying
credit cards you will not need on the trip. For
example, your U.S. gas cards cannot be used in Spain.
Make a copy of your passport and keep it separate
from your passport. It will make it easier to get
a replacement if yours is lost or stolen.
Have a list of all credit/debit cards and the numbers
to call to report their loss. Keep this separate
from the cards.
The most common European emergency number is 112.
112 is valid in Spain and Portugal. A traveller
visiting a foreign country with a mobile phone does
not have to know the local emergency numbers, however.
The mobile phone and the SIM card have a preprogrammed
list of emergency numbers. When the user tries to
set up a call using an emergency number known by
a GSM or 3G phone, the special emergency call setup
takes place. The actual number is not even transmitted
into the network, but the network redirects the
emergency call to the local emergency desk. Most
GSM mobile phones can dial emergency calls even
when the phone keyboard is locked, the phone is
without a SIM card, or an emergency number is entered
instead of the PIN.
You should have a pocket-sized card that has the
names, relationship, and phone numbers of those
persons who should be contacted in the event of
an emergency when you are unable to provide that
information. Have one in your wallet and another
in your backpack. Make sure one of the contacts
has a medical power of attorney to act in your behalf.
Carry a copy of your prescriptions. It will facilitate
replacement, and, if necessary, will help you explain
to a doctor what medication you are taking.
For minor medical problems, health care in Europe
is not a problem. However, local hospitals are not
accustomed to dealing with American insurance companies.
Travelers who need to be hospitalized may be asked
to put up a sizable cash deposit. This is especially
important for older travelers covered by Medicare;
Medicare does not pay for any medical care outside
the United States.
Another consideration is medical evacuation coverage
if the traveler wants to return to the United States
for treatment but cannot fly on a commercial carrier
(the airlines won't take anyone whose condition
is unstable), it can cost as much as $40,000 to
be medevac'd. Or, as one recent traveler without
medevac coverage found out, his only other option
was to have major heart surgery in Spain.
Several companies provide medical insurance for
travelers, at a cost of about $6 per day (and up,
depending on age); among them are:
Assistance: 800-723 5309
& Company: 800-237-6615, is a broker for this
type of insurance
Embassy Contact Information
You should know how to contact the US Embassy in
the event of a problem. Located in Madrid, the Embassy
is open 9 - 6 on weekdays with someone available
by phone 24 hours a day for emergencies. The phone
number is 91587 2200. There is also a consular agency
in A Coruña. Its number (open workdays only) is
Attention - Safety - Perils
W. Tripp, Jr. 2011
Attention and Assistance
Spain has a very good medical system and health
care should not be a concern.
In all but the smallest villages there are farmacias
(pharmacies) easily identified by a sign consisting
of a green cross. Many pharmacists speak or understand
English and those on the Camino are familiar with
the problems encountered by pilgrims. They can sell
medications over the counter which in many cases
would require a doctor’s prescription in the US.
Each one will have a notice on their door of a pharmacy
in the area which is the duty pharmacy that will
provide after hours service and on weekends and
Everywhere there will be some location where one
can seek medical attention from a doctor. In some
villages, there may be a medical center (centro
de salud), which is not open all day. In others
there will be more than one centro de salud as well
as a hospital. In most but not all occasions, there
will be a doctor (medico, doctor, doctora) who speaks
English. If you are on the Camino and the problem
is minor, not requiring hospitalization or expensive
treatment, the costs will be minimal, possibly free.
When I travelled the Camino, I visited a doctor
twice. One visit cost 2000 pesetas; the other was
free. However, see “Travel Insurance” on Planning
Your Trip for other considerations.
Personal safety should not be a concern. Violent
crime is rare in Spain. There are hazards whenever
one travels but they are no greater for a pilgrim
than for other tourists. There is a relatively higher
risk of theft in Madrid, particularly when, as a
new arrival, your attention is distracted trying
to figure out where you are and how to get where
you are going. With backpacks or luggage you are
easily spotted as a tourist; if your gear is not
being watched because you have your back to it,
when you turn around, it may be gone. However, there
are very few muggings or other attacks on people.
The most significant personal safety problems are
the perils of the Camino.
There are three types of police in Spain. All will
assist you in case of any problem. The Guardia Civil
mainly police rural areas but also appear in cities.
Their uniform is olive green. The Policía Nacional,
wearing a blue uniform, operate in large towns and
cities. The Policía Local, dressed in blue, can
be found in smaller towns.
There is a universal emergency number, 112, used
throughout Spain and most of Europe for all emergencies.
Valuables are always subject to theft. After a long
day’s walk, you will be tired and will sleep very
soundly under conditions where there are many people
around you, not all of whom are honest. Minimize
the valuables you carry and take precautions. If
you have two credit cards (or a credit and debit
card—a good idea), do not carry them together.
While you are traveling as a pilgrim, your most
important documents are your passport, the loss
of which will complicate your return to the USA;
your return tickets, and your pilgrim’s passport.
You will use the latter on a daily basis but the
others should be wrapped securely in plastic to
protect them from water and kept in a safe location
in your back pack or on your person. Keep a copy
of your passport in another location, such as your
wallet, so that it is unlikely that you would lose
both. If you plan to travel much after you arrive
in Santiago, mail your Compostela home so that it
will be safe—it is irreplaceable.
of the Camino
Before leaving Madrid, I was told that the problems
with the Camino were the feet, the heat and the
cold. I would add rain to this list. Many people
have problems with blisters. For my first trip,
I followed a backpacking expert’s advice (Hiking
and Backpacking, A Complete Guide, by Karen Berger,
W. W. Norton & Co., New York, 1995) and had
no problems with blisters. However I had a problem
I had to stop and rest for several days and adjust
my pace early in the trip, because I over-stressed
my ankles by walking too far on uneven terrain with
a heavy load too early in my walk on the Camino.
I used a bus to go from the point where I decided
I really should see a doctor to reach a centro de
salud (Medical Clinic). I experienced two days of
rain, and their muddy after effects in Navarra.
I then encountered a short spell of hot weather,
but the main problem was cold weather due to an
unusual weather pattern that set record low temperatures
throughout Europe. Due to the hot weather experienced
in Navarra, I sent some warm clothes home from Pamplona.
As a result, I crossed two high mountain passes
in cold weather with only summer clothes. It was
38ºF with high wind, fog and rain mixed with snow
when I crossed the Montes de León at Foncebadon
in late June . It was not as cold but foggy and
rainy when I started my long trek from O'Cebreiro,
the top of the pass over the Montes de Cebreiro.
I started out with a spare set of walking shoes
but sent them back from Pamplona to reduce weight,
relying on rugged Teva sandals for use in town.
I failed to realize what it would be like to walk
around town in cold rainy weather in sandals while
my boots were drying.
On my second trip, in April 2000 along the Mozcrabe
Route, from Salamanca, it rained almost every day.
Several days I walked the entire day in rain gear.
I had to resort to walking alongside the road because
after two weeks of rain, many sections of the camino
were impassable. More than once I had to retrace
my route and make a detour of several kilometers
because there was no way else to continue. I also
made an immediate right turn to head for the safety
of the nearest highway when a front crossed, the
temperature plunged and it began to sleet.
My third trip happened to be during the month when
a drought ended and Spain and Portugal experienced
the heaviest rain in 30 years, and associated with
that were cooler than normal temperatures.
Thieves and con artists are problems faced by travelers
today, as their predecessors did in medieval times.
I had a pair of trousers stolen from a clothes line
at an albergue outside of Pamplona. A friend had
25,000 pesetas (185 dollars) stolen from his wallet
in an albergue while he slept. He was subsequently
bilked out of 33,000 pesetas (~250 dollars) loaned
over several days to a fellow traveler who said
he had lost his bank card and would repay him when
he received a replacement card in León. Instead
the fellow traveler disappeared when we reached
I encountered dogs everywhere but never had a problem
despite some nervous moments. Those that were loose
were usually friendly but there were a lot of very
unfriendly ones behind fences or chained up. On
the second day of my first trip, the path toward
Roncesvalles led up toward and around a house, passing
between two buildings. One building had two very
large snarling dogs chained in the yard and the
other had three. There was no doubt in my mind that
they would make mincemeat of anyone they got hold
of! It really was an act of faith to continue walking,
following the trail, trusting that the chains would
hold and they were not long enough to reach the
path. That evening most of the people that had followed
that route talked about those dogs. Later, another
pilgrim swore that two dogs in one village had faked
sleeping until he had walked by so they could come
barking at him from behind. He held them at bay
with his walking stick until the owner called them
off. When I walked the Camino in 2011, dogs in the
open ignored us; the barkers were those behind a
Bugs were seldom a problem. The worse time I had
was when I applied sun screen to my face mid-morning
and was promptly surrounded by black mites that
swarmed in front of my face and around my head.
They remained with me for over an hour despite my
best efforts to get rid of them. I think I was bitten
by a mosquito only once. However on other occasions
while traveling in Spain, I have had problems with
mosquitoes at night, and thus think some type of
bug repellent is recommended.
The modern pilgrim faces modern hazards, such as
sharing the road with cars and trucks, and in 1997
I passed at least three markers where pilgrims have
died since 1993. Because the routes followed by
the original pilgrims became main thoroughfares
and eventually highways, the current Camino follows
lesser paths, which are frequently not well maintained.
The grass and weeds along a farm path are cut at
the convenience of the farmer, not to provide a
service to the pilgrims using it at his sufferance.
Although most of the Camino was a path away from
or separate from a highway, there were many sections
where it was necessary to walk on the edge of a
highway. The first time I had to do so extensively
was during a steady rain when the normal path was
too muddy. There was only a slight shoulder with
a narrow section of pavement outside of the white
line marking the edge of the road to walk on. I
walked facing traffic and was very surprised once
to feel as if I had been struck when one car passing
another came from behind so close and at such high
speed that I could feel the impact of the air push
me. There were also short sections where there was
no shoulder and no extra pavement, making it necessary
to walk on the highway. I was acutely aware of traffic
and was always ready to leap into the water or bushes
à Q.Pratique Route