After doing the Camino in the summer of 2020, I wanted to share a lot of practical Camino Frances tips with you, future peregrinas and peregrinos. Above all, because before going to the Camino I got and read a lot of confusing information and simply untruths on many websites, about the Camino.
Many times during the Camino it happened to me that I would clearly remember completely opposite information, which I read on a web site or a blog. I remember for example that I read in one blog about the Camino that you are 95% of the Camino by the road and noise, and only 5% in nature. How untrue is that!
So I would definitely love that you contact me or make a comment on me if you think I’m wrong with my advice, if you find a mistake, or if you have questions for me.
Camino practical tips and suggestions
Start around 7 or 8 a.m. Walk an average of 25 kilometers a day (5 hours of walking). With a normal walk, you cover about 5 kilometers in one hour, and you cover about ten kilometers in two hours.
Take 2 long breaks. Have breaks in the cafes on the Camino, because you will meet other pilgrims there, so chat, don’t rush. Every few kilometers a place comes, if you need it for supplies, water and the like.
Arrive at the albergue or the guest house around 3 p.m. When you get to the hostel, take off your heavy shoes and get in your flip-flops, do your laundry, or go straight for a drink. Then visit the little town where you are today. Dine where the other peregrinos dine, and hang out. At 10 pm, the lights in the dormitories go out.
Camino de Santiago budget, about the Camino costs
The first issue on which many future peregrinos spend a very long time is how much the Camino costs. Here you will find the answers that you can go for only 25 euros a day, or even less. I already wrote about the Camino de Santiago costs in the nutshell, but we’ll go in more depth here.
Drinks during Camino Frances, after a long day of hiking
You can! But in that case, forget about drinks after the hard day of hiking is over. Do you want that? I met a lot of peregrinos during my Camino, and we would always sit down for a drink at the end of the day. Someone orders a beer, someone orders sangria, someone tinto de verano, someone a coke.
Count on a minimum of 3 euros each drink. The problem is that it is not the only drink that day, and I’m not talking about the time spent hiking (because you drink two coffees or something, while walking), but after you come to the hostel. The point of the story is that one takes regularly two drinks every afternoon/evening, if not more.
Many who want to hike the Camino for as little money as possible ignore that item, often on purpose. But when you’re on the spot, there’s no nicer thing than relaxing with a drink at the end of a hard day. Note that I’m not talking about another drink, but that drink will be “included”. And that drink is at dinner, on the pilgrimage menu. Each pilgrimage menu includes wine.
If it’s winter, then you can go without ice cream. But keep in mind that if you’re doing the Camino in the summer, that ice cream will come in very handy. Or something sweet in general, not necessarily an ice cream. That is why it is more realistic to count on a budget of about 40 euros a day.
It is very cheap to spend the night on the Camino, 10 euros, euro up / down. But the albergue brings with it many flaws. Especially for those who can’t sleep very well. The advantages of the albergue are that they are cheap, and that’s where the story ends. Others say the advantage of albergue is social moment. No, that is not true, albergue is by no means a condition for socializing with other pilgrims.
Namely, you meet literally every day, throughout the day other peregrinos with whom you socialize. In the destinations of that day, you are all together in a bar on the main square or street, and not because you have agreed so, but because all the pilgrims come there. You just meet at cafes or restaurants, it’s natural. And you go to the hostel to sleep. So no, an albergue is not a condition to meet people on the Camino and it bears absolutely no advantage if you want to socialize.
But many pay dearly for the cheap price of an albergue, in their sleep! How many stories have I heard from the pilgrims that they did not close their eyes in the dormitory! And now a whole day of walking and activities awaits them. The main problem, but by no means the only problem, is of course snoring. But no less a problem is the carelessness of other pilgrims who go to bed later and with their rustling and sounds do not let others sleep. Or they get up before dawn and wake up again with their rustling and sounds. Pilgrims say they want to go to an albergue to experience the atmosphere of the Camino. Who says the atmosphere of the Camino is an albergue?
After all, many don’t even go to the albergue at all during the Camino. So if the idea and atmosphere of the Camino is one big room with a lot of bunk beds, with snoring, sounds, rustling, turning on, off, lights, not sleeping and not sleeping – great! That’s for you then. But no worries, with good earplugs and an eye mask, you can significantly alleviate overnight stays in hostels. Albergue has only one advantage, and that is the price.
Private accommodation and guest houses on the Camino
Many hikers and pilgrims opt for private accommodation rather than an albergue. Private accommodation certainly costs more than an albergue, but not much more expensive when you are a couple. We have already said that an albergue costs an average of 10 euros per night, and for a private room, you should set aside 30-40 euros per night.
It happens that you pay less than 30 euros, but also over 50 euros (especially in big cities). But if there are two of you, that price is halved, so it doesn’t actually cost much more than an albergue. While hiking you meet many pilgrims, so if you set out on your own, you have already made a lot of new acquaintances in a few days, so you can share the cost of the room. And we don’t even need to talk about the quality of private accommodation, and that primarily refers to peace, because there is no snoring or rustling of other pilgrims.
You always have sheets, pillows, blankets. In most private accommodations you can choose a room with or without a bathroom. It really doesn’t have to cost you much more if you are not alone and go to private accommodation. Many pilgrims go anyway to private accommodation every now and then, just to get a good rest.
Other important items and tips during the Camino de Santiago
Earplugs and eye mask – this will be really necessary for you, not only if you go to an albergue, but if you go to private accommodation too. Make sure the earplugs are made of wax. Those made of silicone and other technologies simply do not serve a purpose.
There is also a whole system of how to set the earplugs properly. Rub the wax earplugs in your hand so that they melt a little through the heat so that they can “sit” in your ear as comfortably as possible, and deep. This can close your ear canal quite well and the sounds will not really reach you. Although no earplugs technology will unfortunately completely remove the sounds.
Put on a face mask as soon as you go to bed. Don’t think that you don’t need it because when you go to bed it’s dark. Someone will get up and light the bedroom with a mobile phone if nothing else.
Early raisers and as many as possible kilometers a day – there are a lot of pilgrims who came to the Camino with a fixed objective, literally just to hike through it, as fast as possible, no socializing whatsoever. That’s perfectly fine, after all, and why not. For this reason, such pilgrims get up before dawn, hurry as early as possible, because they want to do as many kilometers a day as possible.
The average pilgrim does an average of 25 kilometers a day, and pilgrims who aim to just hike through the Camino fixedly, as fast as possible, regularly do about 40 kilometers a day, often 50. They do not socialize with other pilgrims, or socialize extremely superficially because they fail to make friends with that intense pace.
In addition, a pilgrim who walks 40-50 kilometers a day gets a lot more tired than one who walks half that. Consequently, his concentration is worse, and he can’t even think about the things about his life that made him come to the Camino at the first place. Or, for example, if he came to pray, because of this pace, he simply cannot pray.
How many kilometers a day? – let’s say 25km on average. That means between 20 and 30 kilometers a day, with a few days being below 20 kilometers and a few days above 30 kilometers. 10 kilometers a day is done in a normal, relaxed rhythm in about 2 hours. So, in 1 hour of walking, do approximately 5 kilometers. If you are in a hurry, logically, you will do more kilometers in one hour.
About the backpack:
- it should weigh 10 to 15% of your body weight.;
- let it be up to 40 liters, waterproof – a good example of backpacks on the Amazon;
- you don’t need to put everything in a backpack, you can, for example, extra shoes, as well as a sleeping bag, hang on the backpack;
- do not waste time on a detailed study of all types of backpacks, there is no major difference in quality;
- taking that into account, still, when buying a backpack don’t look at the price at all costs, it is always said that the two things you need to pay special attention to are the shoes and the backpack, you don’t separate from these throughout the Camino;
- however, you don’t have to look at every backpack in detail and waste a lot of time on it;
- make sure your backpack has a net between the backside and your back so that your back does not sweat.
About the sleeping bag: if you go to an albergue, be sure to bring a sleeping bag with you, you will absolutely need it. Of course, it makes a difference whether you go in winter or summer. If you go in the summer, you will need a sleeping bag with lower temperature, but bear in mind that it is very cold at night in the summer as well!
In the Pyrenees and the foothills of the Pyrenees, the nights get cold in the middle of summer. Also in the mountains of Galicia, O Cebreiro, in particular, can get quite cold at night in the middle of summer. In addition to the sleeping bag, bring a sheet, and maybe a sleeping sheet (like a sleeping bag). It will come in handy on hot nights. If you go to private accommodation, you do not need a sleeping bag. Private rooms always have completely equipped beds.
Shoes and socks (and gaiters) – many will spend a lot of time on shoes. And no wonder since as we mentioned before, the two things you really need to pay attention to, and more than other things, are the backpack and the shoes.
Namely, you absolutely do not separate yourself from those two things throughout the Camino. But there’s no point in wasting days and weeks on shoes, let alone months on thinking about what shoes to buy. What you need to pay attention to is it to be hiking or mountaineering shoes, by no means running shoes. With adequate shoes and hiking socks, you will already considerably reduce the risks of blisters.
In addition, keep in mind that this type of shoe is always good to buy one number larger than what you usually buy! And make sure it is Gor-Tex technology, which means it doesn’t get you wet feet when it rains. And let it be that! Shoes that you like visually – buy them! Only three things bear in mind when buying shoes for the Camino: that the shoes are for hiking or mountaineering, that you buy one number larger than usual, and that they are Gor-Tex technology.
Special socks for hiking or mountaineering would also be important to buy. Because, with shoes and socks for hiking, you protect yourself from blisters. I’d like to mention gaiters, a piece of clothes that protects the rain from getting into your shoes. It’s not really bad, especially if you go in the winter time. However, if you will want to have a piece less in your backpack the Camino, and save some money on buying gaiters. In that sense, you can pay attention to having longer pants, which cover the shoes well against the rain.
About blisters – very many pilgrims get blisters, and you can actually avoid them very easily. When you get blisters, it makes the Camino very bitter for many people, because the pain can be very considerable and it bothers you a lot when hiking. I saw ugly blisters on the pilgrims!
Prevent blisters by training two to three weeks before the Camino by walking on uneven, earthen terrain, in your new hiking shoes, with your new hiking socks. That way, even if you get blisters, you will have time to heal them without pain where you live. Not to mention that your new shoes will already be worn out and ready to go.
However, when you prepare your first aid kit, you should also buy special patches for blisters, and a bandage, in case the blisters become uglier, ie turn into wounds. And then you also need to buy something to attach that bandage to. For this purpose, I suggest that you buy a regular patch, which should be in your first aid kit anyway.
Walking sticks – very many pilgrims use walking sticks, and there is no difference in age at all, 20-year-olds and seventy-year-olds use them. If you want to use them, be sure to buy folding ones to take up as little space as possible in your backpack.
I personally didn’t use them, and I tried to find an advantage in the sticks. However, I simply did not need walking sticks. However, since so many pilgrims use walking sticks, take them into consideration.
Pilgrim’s menu (menu peregrino) – I remember one of the blogs I read before leaving for the Camino, which kept coming back to my mind almost every day as one of the biggest untruths I read about the Camino. And that is that the pilgrim’s menu is awful and that only chicken is on the menu.
Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t say enough about how contrary to the truth that blog was! Firstly, the pilgrim’s menu is excellent, and secondly it is a great ratio of quality and quantity. I mean really! The Spaniards eat in two of what we would call “main dish”, first they have the first dish (primero plato), and then the second dish (segundo plato).
At the same time, the first dish is not a soup, but a very specific dish, such as pasta, spaghetti, macaroni, very hearty salads and the like. As a second dish comes a selection of chicken, beef, (almost always!) fish, and the like. Every day, I mean just about every day you can have a different menu, for about 12 euros.
That’s how much the pilgrim’s menu costs on average. You always have a choice of several first and several second dishes. At the same time, I saw “only” 3 choices of first and 3 choices of second course in two small villages! All other times there were a lot more choices for both the first and second course! When you add to that that the pilgrim’s menu comes with bread and water and a whole bottle (!) of wine and dessert – I don’t know how anyone could ever write something bad about the pilgrim’s menu!
Here, even now, writing this blog I marvel at that blog I was reading before heading to the Camino! Pilgrims mostly take the pilgrim’s menu for dinner, but no one forbids you to take it for lunch as well, even at 4pm! However, there will not be some typical Spanish specialties on the pilgrim’s menu, such as octopus in the Galician way (puplo gallego), sangria, tapas and the like. Therefore it is good sometimes to go to a restaurant and try these specialties, outside the pilgrim’s menu. And don’t forget to use the grocery stores as well. Many just use shops for lunch to buy bread, salami, yogurt and the like, and pass for less than 5 euros for lunch.
Meals during your Camino
In addition to the abovementioned pilgrim’s menu that pilgrims mostly take for dinner, we will also touch on other meals. There is no breakfast at the albergue!
In private hostels, it sometimes happens that you have breakfast, and sometimes it is included in the price. However, this breakfast almost always consists of some bread, butter and jam, coffee, or tea. So, if you are into pastries, croissants, salami, and juices, you will need to go somewhere else for a more specific breakfast. But let’s repeat, the albergues almost never have breakfast, and as the hiking starts quite early, around 7 or 8 a.m., the cafes aren’t open yet.
That is why pilgrims are always ready that when they get up, they first walk and in the first place, after say 1 hour of walking, they sit in a cafe for breakfast. Places on the Camino come every few kilometers, so if you walk 5 kilometers in 1 hour, let’s say you can sit down for breakfast in one hour. When you start hiking that day and have already traveled part of the way, you come to the next village/a small city: now the cafes are open and all set for business, because it is not very early in the morning any more.
All the cafes and bars on the Camino are there for pilgrims, and they are all there actually for pilgrims. So you often have a pilgrim’s menu for breakfast too, for example pastries, coffee and juice, or some similar combination, so all together you pay say 5 euros. For coffee, always count about 1, 1 and a half euros, and count the same for each croissant or pastry. The next meal will be lunch, which you can have in any bar during the Camino, but many eat for lunch a sandwich that they buy in a cafe (about 4 euros, cheese and prosciutto). Or go to local shops and buy what you need for lunch , but also for tomorrow morning for breakfast. That is in the case you can’t make it to the first rest stop tomorrow morning when you start hiking without having your breakfast first.
Meal prices on Camino Frances
Grocery prices at Camino Frances are not really expensive. In summer, many people like to buy ice cream. An ice cream i is 2, 3, 4 euros. Many people stop at the coffee shops or bars to rest several times during the Camino, at least 2 times a day if not three. And every time you buy at least a coffee. Of course, if you are going to use local grocery stores, you can go a lot cheaper at Camino. Breakfast 3 euro (coffee and croissant), coffee (1 euro), a sandwich for lunch (4 euro), coffee after lunch (1 euro), pilgrim’s menu for dinner (12 euro), ice cream (3 euro). Drinks like a beer, sangria, tinto de verano cost some 3 euro, or even 4.
For vegetarians and vegans – unfortunately, I don’t have good news for vegetarians, and even less for vegans. There is simply not much choice on the pilgrims’ menu. Salad is definitely on the menu, but with basic ingredients (lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers).
While for vegetarian there is fish on regular basis on the pilgrim’s menu, and there are eggs, and cheese, and so on, so they can even manage to have a decent meal. But it’s really not easy for vegans. They vegans won’t do well with the pilgrim’s menu. Fortunately, there are always grocery stores, and they don’t have to eat from the pilgrim’s menu, so they won’t stay hungry.
About water – villages and small cities come every few miles, and in all places on the Camino you have fountains to fill your water bottles. If you go in the summer, two liters of water with you would be ideal, because in that case you don’t need to worry about running out of water. In winter, one bottle of one liter is enough.
So, water is never a problem, except that in summer you should pay attention that you have enough water, to be aware of the kilometers and when the next place comes. Water in Spain is drinkable, so even in larger cities you can carefree fill your bottle from the tap.
WHEN TO GO TO CAMINO?
July and August are very hot months, all over the Camino, but the Pyrenees are pleasant. The sun is at its strongest in the early afternoon hours. By that time, many have already arrived at their destination. In the middle of summer, you need a long sleeve that you will use very often in the morning when you start hiking. In addition, it is most popular to go to the Camino in the summer, so there will be lots of hikers
In winter, on the other hand, there are very few people on the Camino. The winter is very cold, with a lot of snow, the days are shorter, and from that point of view the Camino is a bit more challenging, but no less magical! Spring and autumn are perfect for the Camino, with a lot of rain in the fall. Especially in Galicia, which is also known as the rainy region. Both spring and fall are pretty chilly both in the morning and in the evening, so you’ll need good jackets. But the weather is nice during the day, neither cold nor hot, and there are plenty of people on the Camino.
Physical preparation before the Camino walk
For the first day of the Camino, it is said that it is the most difficult because you cross the Pyrenees. After that day, many pilgrims experience muscle aches, and for several days too sometimes. This can be very easily avoided by having a few weeks before you go to the Camino, practice the Camino in your city.
Walk ten kilometers a day in your new shoes and socks for hiking on dirt terrain, and do squats. That way, you’ll be ready to cross the Pyrenees, your shoes will fit you perfectly, and you won’t have problems with blisters on the Camino! The Camino is hiking, and that’s it, so the Camino can be done by anyone except just really older people and people with reduced mobility. That’s why you’ll see on the Camino seventy-year-olds hiking their Camino without any problem.
At what time to start hiking?
It is optimal around 7 or 8 in the morning, that is of course if you walk an average of 25 kilometers a day. There really is no need to hit the road earlier than that. Namely, more or less all the places on the Camino are small places, and in principle, you have nothing to do in that place when you come.
If you leave at 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning and if you arrive at 12 o’clock, and you have already done 30 kilometers, what do you do for the rest of your day? Don’t do that! At 5 or 6 o’clock start those who want to do as many kilometers as possible and just run the Camino through and leave. I have no prejudice against those who came to literally just run through the Camino. I wouldn’t want to sound harsh towards that kind of peregrinos in my comments. If you are in July or August, then in addition to those who start at 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning to cover as many kilometers as possible, you also have those who leave so early, whose motive is to avoid the heat.
In summer, the sun on the Camino will be at its strongest in the afternoon, around 3, 4 p.m. It is not a problem to start hiking sometimes later, so that sometimes you start hiking at 10 o’clock in the morning, and then come to your destination that day around 6 o’clock. But peregrinos don’t really practice that. I would like to mention here that it is nice to occasionally stop and rest in nature while hiking. So keep that in mind when talking about the timings. The most important thing is not to rush while you are on the Camino.
Do you plan at home and book exactly where you will spend your nights on the Camino? – I’d rather not. Namely, on the Camino, you need to let the Camino decide where it will take you that specific day. I personally booked only Roncesvalles and Pamplona back home before the trip.
But Saint Jean Pied de Port I did not book in advance. It seemed to me that every other house was a guest house for pilgrims. I honestly didn’t even know where I would be on the third day, whether in Zubiri or Larrasoana. So, in the morning, when you wake up, you see how you feel and what and how many miles you want to do that day.
And then, at least that’s how I did, and it worked like clockwork – when I sat down for my first coffee, after, say, an hour’s hike, I would book my accommodation in peace.
BOOKING.COM OR HOW TO BOOK ACCOMMODATION ON THE CAMINO?
Don’t worry about where to sleep, because as soon as you arrive at the pilgrim’s office in Saint Jean Pied de Port, you get a list of all the accommodation options on the entire Camino.
Besides, you have lists of accommodation in all the guide books, in the Camino apps on your mobile, or in Google you type in the name of the place and “accommodation” and it gives you options. And there is of course Booking.com.
The system in the albergues is that the beds go to those who come first. As entering the rooms is often later than you arrive, the backpacks are placed in front of the albergue, in order, as pilgrims come. That way you know who the beds are for. In other accommodations, which are not albergue municipal, it is a very good idea to call in the morning, or the day before if you are sure that you will go to that place the next day.
No one forbids you to just knock on the door of the hostel, but in that case you are not sure that you will have a bed. So, my advice to you is that in the morning when you get up, on the first break, there where you will have your breakfast, you can see how you feel and where you want to go that day. Once you have come to an agreement with yourself, take out that list of accommodations that you were previously given, and call them.
The problem with this way of booking accommodation is that Spaniards do not really speak English, and if you don’t speak Spanish, you’ll have a hard time understanding each other. But that’s why you have Booking.com, with which you can very easily carefree book accommodation the same day for that day in the place you want to go. That way you avoid all the communication problems: often the other party doesn’t even answer the phone.
I personally, at least initially kept calling on the phone. I switched to Booking.com very quickly, and that platform followed me to the end of my Camino.
RAIN AND RAIN EQUIPMENT DURING CAMINO FRANCES
It is very important to count on rain on the Camino because you will definitely have it. Maybe, and it’s one big maybe, it won’t rain right in the heart of summer, July and August. But I repeat, that’s one big one maybe. Galicia is known as a rainy region, and it is in the Galicia region that Santiago de Compostela is located.
It rained twice on my Camino in July and August. Be sure to equip yourself well for the rain. I absolutely suggest a poncho, which will cover you all over, along with your backpack. Be sure to take an extra-large poncho so you can really fit into it. I, unfortunately, bought a slightly shorter poncho than what I needed.
You can also buy a backpack cover, but don’t buy it, it doesn’t make sense. It is more logical to buy a poncho that then covers the backpack. It is easier to walk covered that way.
Buy a large rain hat (not a cap) so that it covers you well and that water does not drip from your hat into your back. Namely, you can also cover your head with a poncho, but it is important for you to have a hat with you and to protect you from the sun as well. And again, for the sun too, not a cap but a hat! Especially if you go in the summer, because it will be extremely hot, and your neck will burn badly if you have a cap.
Don’t buy a black hat! I made that mistake. The black color attracts the sun, and it simply makes it feel even hotter with a black hat. You can but you don’t have to buy gaiters. If you buy, you will spend more money, and it will take valuable place in your backpack. Just take a little longer hiking pants, and cover your shoes with pants if you really need to.
Make sure your shoes are Gor-Tex technology, which means they are waterproof.
Two pairs of shoes and about shoes – Two pairs of shoes yes, unless you go in the summer. If you go in the summer, no! Namely, winter, early spring, and autumn bring with them a lot of rainy weather, and winter brings also snow. When you take your shoes off after you come to the albergue and your shoes are wet, they won’t be able to dry until morning.
And you really don’t want to get into wet shoes tomorrow morning and walk like that all day. Count on then hanging another pair of shoes on your backpack, not putting them in your backpack. But in the summer you just don’t need two pairs of shoes and you’ll be sorry if you go on a trip with two pairs of shoes, it’ll only bother you.
What you must not forget to take with you are flip-flops, or something similar for shower times, and to wear it (summer, spring and autumn) when you take off your shoes. It is cold in winter, so you could bring slippers for the albergue or private rooms.
About pants – in Decathlon you can find everything for sports and leisure, so there you can also buy pants for hiking or mountaineering. If you’re not going to the Camino in the winter, make sure your pants are the ones that can go from long to short. Very practical!
Another thing you need to pay attention to is that the pants are also for rain. Those that dry immediately if they get wet. And be sure to bring another pair of pants, while these others are at the laundry. If you go in the summer, the other pair of pants is the best to be short.
About Spanish – it’s amazing how the Spaniards who work in the activities most directly related to the Camino, ie in a hostel, restaurant, cafe, speak little English. That’s why it’s best to learn before you hit the road some basic expressions in Spanish you’ll encounter during the Camino.
Like it or not, you will learn some fifty words at the end of the Camino. Cafe con leche (coffee with milk), bocadillo with queso y jamon (sandwich with ham and cheese), una cerveza por favor (one beer, please), un helado (one ice cream), un menu pergerino (one pilgrim’s menu), pollo (chicken), pezcado (fish), cuanto cuesta (how much it costs), cama (bed), una abitacion (room), donde esta (where is), learn to count to 100.
And in the end you will be glad you learned all those words. After all, Spanish is one of the most beautiful languages in the world, and very useful too.
Socializing – One wonderful aspect of the Camino is socializing. Namely, on the Camino you meet other pilgrims, and you meet them throughout the Camino. Not only you meets those pilgrims who set off the day you did, but also those who set off a day earlier and a day later.
Namely, during the Camino, someone always stays behind, someone speeds up, someone stays somewhere longer for a night, someone skips something, so you are not with the same pilgrims every day. Five days you have a rhythm with someone, then the next four with others, then the next five days again with those of the other day, and then a couple of days with some new and so on.
And so constantly, throughout the Camino you meet a certain number of pilgrims. Hang out, make friends. This is one truly wonderful aspect of the Camino. That is why I would say that those who come to literally just run through the Camino lose a lot, in not socializing with other pilgrims. Namely, most of those who leave at dawn to cover 40, 50 kilometers a day do not hang out with anyone.
Have you heard that the Camino goes along the roads all the time? – The Camino often goes along the roads, and traffic noise is often heard, but still, the truth that the Camino is mostly in nature and in beautiful nature too. So the Camino often goes along the roads, but not constantly. For example, before and after Leon the Camino really goes mostly along the roads.
And in general, traffic is always seen and heard around big cities. However, the truth is that you spend a very high percentage of the Camino in beautiful nature. What percentage? If I were to guess, I would say you are about 70% of the Camino in nature and away from roads and traffic sounds.
A pilgrim or a hiker, or about faith – one myth to be broken here is that the Camino is a Christian pilgrimage today. No, it’s not. From the tenth century when pilgrimages began to the tomb of Jesus ’apostle St. James, until a few decades ago, this was really a Christian pilgrimage.
Today, the Camino is not a Christian pilgrimage, and no matter how hard you try to find in it a religious aspect, it simply does not exist. Christians really do go on the Camino and try to make it a pilgrimage. I was such a Christian, I wanted the Camino to be a purely religious, spiritual experience for me. But that is not possible.
People who love to hike, love nature, love to travel to foreign countries, they go on the Camino, Spanish cities and towns that you visit along the way are really wonderful, Spanish way of life and Spanish food, then the fellow pilgrims you meet and get to know along the way, are all reasons why people do the Camino. Many do the Camino to think about their lives, and rearrange things in their lives, embarking on a “new beginning”.
It is good to do the Camino if you are in such life situations because the Camino offers you lots of time, natural expanses and natural beauties, mountains, forests, rivers, endless wheat fields, to be alone for a long time. A Christian can feel something strong only after arriving in Santiago de Compostela, at the apostle’s tomb. But the summary of the story is that the Camino is not a spiritual experience, in the sense of a religious, Christian one. But it is absolutely a spiritual general experience.
Moreover, many people that you meet along the way will say quite clearly that they are neither Christians nor have anything to do with Christianity. Because of all this, it took me a while to accept that all the participants of the Camino are called peregrino (pilgrim), although they are clearly not. They should be called hikers. I would not like to confuse the future participants of the Camino, but the pilgrimage is when you go to the Holy Land, Lourdes, Fatima, only and exclusively for the sake of religious experience, prayer, and the like. Camino is simply not that.
But for the sake of tradition and everything, let us continue to call it pilgrimage, and let us all just continue to call us all peregrinos (pilgrims).
Mobile phone and charging the battery – preparing for the Camino, I thought about the idea that in the middle of nature I would run out of battery in my mobile phone. That would be inconvenient for a lot of reasons, and just making phone calls is the least of the problem. I needed google maps and music more than phone calls.
So I bought a mobile battery charger. And you will need it if you use your mobile phone a lot or listen to a lot of music. But I didn’t need that mobile battery charger, although I used my cell phone intensively. Namely, every few kilometers there is a village with a cafe, and that’s where I would charge my cell phone.
But still, be sure to bring a mobile battery charger with you if you use your cell phone a lot. And of course headphones, if you listen to music. I also needed a cell phone stabilizer because I love doing videos. Be sure to pay attention to what you need for your cell phone while at home, preparing for the Camino.
Don’t get lost – the Camino is very well marked. You are accompanied all the time by yellow arrows and symbols of the Camino. Still, it’s normal to get lost, to get out of the way, and not just once.
It is always you who will be to blame when you make a wrong turn because you did not pay attention to the signs, you were not concentrated, you were tired, you were in conversations with other pilgrims. But like I said, that’s normal because you’re on the Camino, and you’re relaxed. That’s why many carry guide books, and there are several mobile apps about Camino to follow the way.
And of course, there are also Google maps, which I used most often when I needed to find my way. And the path you are taking is really marked in Google Maps as “Camino”. Google Maps didn’t label it entirely with “Camino,” but for the most part, it did.
Day of rest – many stay in big cities an extra day, just to “take rest” from the Camino. When planning the Camino, I decided to stay an extra day in larger cities, that is in Pamplona, Burgos, Leon, and in Santiago, I stayed no less than 3 days! It turned out to be a phenomenal decision! Not because I really needed a rest per se, but because the cities are simply beautiful.
Then, I was thinking about whether I would stay one more day in both Logrono and Ponferrada, but I decided not to. And this too was a very good decision. Both cities are beautiful, but more than enough for just one day.
Doing your laundry on the Camino – every accommodation on the Camino, except for the albergue, has washing machines and dryers. Both cost either 3 or 4 euros. In the albergues, however, there are in principle no washing machines and dryers, you wash clothes by hand. The albergues are well organized so you have a washing basin and drying lines.
However, you need to take the clothespins with you and be sure to put them on your checklist before heading to the Camino. Consider that if you wash clothes every two to three days, for example, that the day you wash the clothes is nice or windy, so that your laundry can be dried. This does not apply to summer, as summer is always a nice time to wash clothes and dry them outside.
How many changes of clothes to wear? – three pairs of socks, three pairs of underwear, and three T-shirts are optimal, four is a lot! So three pairs of socks, three T-shirts and three pairs of underwear, two long pants, one long sleeve in summer and two in winter. That way you will never run out of clean clothes. If you wear only two pairs of socks, two pairs of underwear, and two T-shirts, you could sometimes find yourself in trouble.
By bicycle – some pilgrims rent a bicycle, and by bicycle do some parts of the Camino. Everyone according to his/her own liking, but I think it’s not convenient to ride a bike on the Camino, the terrain is simply not for bikes.
Send luggage by taxi – you can send luggage from one city to another by taxi or transport service. The luggage taxi service is very well organized on the Camino. When you order luggage transport, you just write down where you are staying that day.
When you start hiking, in the morning the luggage service start going from hostel to hostel, picks up luggage, and carries them to the villages ahead of you. It goes to all the lodgings that have been announced and leave your luggage at the reception. So when you arrive at the hostel, luggage is already waiting for you. It costs 5 euros per share and per piece of luggage.
Skip some parts of the Camino – some people simply skip entire sections, for example from Leon to Santiago they go by bus. There are people who want to walk the Camino Frances from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Santiago but don’t have enough days, so they skip some parts.
Again, everyone according to their liking, but in my opinion it would be a more logical option that if there are not enough days to do the Camino in its entirety, to walk it in parts, in order, in a few years. For example, the first year from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Burgos. The second year from Burgos to Ponferrada, then the third year from Ponferrada to Santiago. And so you are on each section for 10 – 12 days.
Take a bus when entering Burgos – we would call “cheaters” those who would do a section by bike, send luggage by taxi, or do a section by bus. Of course, nothing bad meant. Still, for one section it can in no way be said that you are cheaters if you skip it, and that is when you enter the city of Burgos.
8 kilometers of straight road through the city, first through the industrial zone, then endless apartment blocks. It seems like that 8 kilometers long road never ends. And exactly where the entrance to Burgos begins, that is, where those 8 kilometers begin, there is a bus stop. Many pilgrims hop on that bus, bringing you to the very center of the city.
The Meseta is not terrible – many pilgrims are afraid of the Meseta, especially in summer. Many even avoid it. Meseta is part of the Camino between Burgos and Leon. And it is said that if you came to the Camino to think about your life and to be with yourself, then this is exactly the place for you. Meseta is the central Spanish highlands, these are actually endless wheat fields. It is true that there are no trees anywhere!
That is, a lone tree comes here and there, but rarely, say every two kilometers! You do the Meseta without any problems throughout the year, except that in the middle of summer it gets really hot. Above 40 degrees Celsius is nothing unusual. However, with a little preparation, you do the Meseta without any problems in the summer months. Enough water, a hat on your head and be aware exactly when the next village (water) comes. And that’s it. For me, this part of the Camino was really magical.
Swimsuit – if you go in the summer, you will definitely need a swimsuit. Very often you have the opportunity to swim, and in summer it comes in very handy! Every now and then there is a village with a swimming pool, but even more often there are rivers where the local government arranges the beaches, and the locals bathe there. You are far from the sea, and summers are hot in Spain. You won’t need a swimsuit outside of the summer.
Depression – Many pilgrims, go through some sort of depression at one point, at least that’s what many people say. Or they feel blue for some time. Such a state, however, is neither at the beginning nor in the last part of the Camino, then we are almost euphoric. But many say they experience some depression at one point. Depression also took a grip on me too and held me for a few days. Everything was OK, and it wasn’t visible on me, but I was in a pretty bad mood inside of me.
Also about Camino Frances
– try pulpo gallego (octopus in the Galician way);
– bring 2 quick-drying towels;
– if you go right in the middle of summer, why not sometimes spend the night by the river or by the church in some small town;
– take a pebble, a small stone from your city to leave it on the Cruz de Ferro;
– if you don’t have time, you can hike from Sarria and get a pilgrim’s certificate, the Compostela. Namely, you have to hike a minimum of 100 kilometers, and that is exactly from Sarria;
– an inflatable pillow is a good idea if you are going to spend the nights in albergues, sometimes you will need it.
Buen Camino! – this expression will follow you from the first to the last day, throughout the Camino. People really do say that all along the way. And that, if not in 100% of cases, then in 80 to 90% of cases, absolutely YES!