lotus compass

Free Camino de Santiago Guide

 

Bienvenidos

This is a free Camino de Santiago guide for anyone who is planning to walk the Camino. Listed below are the sections this guide covers. Click to jump to a specific section, or browse through at your own leisure. Buen Camino! 

Travel Planning

practical tips
  • Money
  • Spain’s currency is the Euro.
  • Current exchange rate: 1 USD to 1.17 EUR (as of Oct. 2020)
  • Tell your bank you’re traveling internationally so your card doesn’t get blacked when you use it in Spain.
Camino de Santiago vocabulary
Spanish phrases for the Camino de Santiago

Cost of the Camino de Santiago

The average pilgrim spends anywhere between $35-$60 a day. For 30 days (the average time to walk the Camino Francés), that’s $1,050 – $1,800.

Budget travel: A 30-day Camino would cost you around $1,000- $1,500. You’re looking at about $30 a day average. A dorm bed in a municipal is around $6. Some are donation based ($5 donation at the least to pay volunteers). You can save money by shopping at supermarkets and cooking in the hostels. Skip on the cafe con leche (coffee with milk) in the morning.

Mid-range travel: This is anywhere from $1,500-$2,000. You can split your time between private albergues and higher end hotels. You enjoy a cafe con leche on most mornings. You stop for the occasional snack. To put it succinctly: You’re ballin’ on a budget.

Luxury or high-end travel: Staying in beautiful private accommodations, going on vineyard tours in La Rioja, private food guides in Logroño. Honey, life is meant to be lived. It’ll cost you around $2,000 – $5,000 for a 30-day Camino.

Other possible costs to consider:

  • Flight to and from Spain/Portugal ($500-1000)
  • Hiking gear ($300-500)
  • Travel insurance
  • Luggage transfer ($6-12 a day)
  • Laundry ($3 a load)
  • Guidebook ($20)
  • Pilgrim’s Passport ($3)
  • Transportation to the starting point ($100)
  • Travel coaching or travel planning fees (learn more here)

Exchanging Money

  • Avoid exchanging money at the airport. You’ll get ripped off. Many Spanish banks will only exchange money for their own clients. Because of this, the easiest way is using a debit card to take out cash from a local ATM.
  • You can exchange some money at your bank before your trip so you have euros upon arrival to Europe.
  • Many places strongly prefer cash, especially at albergues (pilgrim’s hostels), little convenience stores and cafes along the Camino.
  • Along the Camino, take money out at ATMs in bigger towns. Depending on which route you walk, there may be stretches of time when you’re only walking through small villages that don’t have ATMs.
  • Take out enough cash for about a week or so, and be sure to check your guidebook for towns with ATMs when you start running low.

Electrical sockets

Wanna explore a nuanced internet rabbit hole? Research types of electrical sockets around the world. Before you get purchase happy and start buying all the electrical doodads, learn about the Spanish electrical sockets. (BTW, if you’re an electrical engineer, just do us all a favor and skip to the next section.)

Definitions for Electrical Stuff

Power Adaptor used in Spain
Power adaptor for Spain
  • Plug Adapter: This is connects to your American two-prong plug and the European socket. You can buy European adaptors, and you can also buy an international adaptor if you’re planning on traveling outside of the EU after your trip. The European adaptor is recommended for the Camino since it’s lighter.
  • Voltage: This is an important thing to look at! I don’t recommend taking any heavy-duty electronics on the Camino because you’ll have to carry everything with you. If you have a specialized camera or something like that, you can order the European plug. Phone chargers are fine with a European adaptor.
  • Power Converter/ Transformer: This converts the European 220v to 110 volts so that your American appliances don’t break from voltage issues.

Visa & Passport

U.S. citizens traveling to the EU: you don’t need to apply for a visa. You automatically have a 90-day travel visa within the Schengen Zone. This includes trips to Western Europe, including Spain and Portugal along the Camino.

You will, of course, need a U.S. passport. Here’s how to apply for a passport.

we offer travel planning & coaching for the camino de santiago in Spain

Travel Logistics

Which airport you fly into will ultimately depend on which route you’re walking. The main airports in Spain are Barcelona-El Prat (BCN) and Madrid-Barajas (MAD).

There’s also Lisbon Portela Airport (LIS) for those planning to walk the Camino Portugues.

Book flights using Skyscanner and Google Flights. If your schedule is flexible, use the ‘whole month’ search to see what days are cheapest. 

Spanish airlines include Iberia and Vueling. Since 2014, Iberia is partnered with American Airlines. Iberia also partnered with British Airways and many other international airlines.

P.S. Vueling has a great in-flight magazine.

If you’re into saving the world and taking the least amount of flights as possible, opt for a train or bus ride.

For the Camino de Santiago, you may need to take the train into the general vicinity of your starting point. Railways in Spain are a great option for you!

Read these articles about train travel in Spain: 

While the bus is generally slower, it’s still a great option for you to get where you need to be with very little hassle.

Alsa.es is the primary Spanish bus line. 

Read this article to learn 8 sustainable travel tips.

It’s not really necessary to rent a car when walking the Camino de Santiago, but maybe you want to explore Spain before or after your pilgrimage. Here we give our best tips for renting a car in Spain.

How to Get to the Starting Points

Camino Francés 

map Camino de SantiagoTo SJPDP from the U.S.: We recommend clients to fly into Madrid, take the train to Pamplona, and then take a bus or private transfer to St. Jean-pied-de-Port (SJPDP). The easiest way is to book a private transfer from Pamplona to SJPDP, though it’s more expensive (~150 USD).

Bus from Pamplona: From March to the beginning of October, the bus company Alsa has several connections per day. There’s also the Conda bus line. Conda’s website is pretty bad. You can book ahead, or when you arrive in Pamplona, go to the bus station ticket counter and ask to purchase a ticket to SJPDP.

The bus ride from Pamplona to St. Jean-pied-de-port is 1 hour and 45 minutes, and it is a beautiful journey up, up, up to the Pyrenees. Bonjour France!

To SJPDP from France: The closest airport is Biarritz (BIQ), which is about 30 miles from SJPDP. From the airport, it’s easiest to take a taxi or private transfer.

Camino Inglés

To A Coruña & Ferrol: The closest airport is Alvedro airport (LCG). It’s only 5 miles from A Coruña. You can take a direct flight from Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla, London, Lisbon and Amsterdam.

By bus, you can arrive pretty easily to A Coruña and Ferrol from most towns in Spain. Check with ALSA here.

Take the train from Madrid, though you’ll have a connection in Santiago most likely. Check the train schedule here.

Camino del Norte

To Irún: 

The closest airport to Irún is the San Sebastián airport (EAS) in Basque Country, Spain. This small airport has daily flights from Madrid and Barcelona.

From Barcelona or Madrid, you can take the train, transferring at Zaragoza. Both trains are 1 hour 40 minutes. You can also take the train from most cities in Spain including  Pamplona, Burgos, Valladolid.

You can arrive to Irún by bus from Madrid, Oviedo, Santander, Burgos and Vitoria through ALSA.  From Valencia, Murcia or Teruel, check with Bilmanbus company.

Your Camino

Don’t forget that you can start walking the Camino at any point. If you only have a week, you can start walking a route of the Camino, and next year you can pick up where you left off. You can do whatever you want! A good resource is Rome2Rio, which helps you find the easiest route to your destination.

Lotus Compass offers travel coaching services to help you sort through all the details. Read more here!  

Pilgrim's Passport

History & Purpose

CredentialThe Pilgrim’s Credential (Pilgrim’s Passport) is required to get the Compostela in Santiago’s cathedral. La Compostela is a diploma that the Catholic Church issues to honor the pilgrims who have walked the Camino. In order to receive the Compostela, one must have done at least the last 100km of the Camino on foot or by horse or the last 200km if you are cycling. This has been used since the start of the Camino to authenticate the pilgrim’s journey. 

Where to Get a Camino Passport

You can buy one at the official Pilgrim’s Office at one of the Camino starting points. Sometimes the passports are included in guidebooks. You can also buy one at certain albergues.

When to Use It

Because the Pilgrim’s Passport is used to record the places where the pilgrim has walked, you will stamp your hotel or albergue’s logo in each albergue you sleep in. Not to mention, nearly every bar, church or little monument along the Camino will have their own stamp to put in your credential.

Safety on the Camino de Santiago

Travel insurance: simple & flexible

You can buy and claim online, even after you've left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from over 130 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.

Don’t you worry. The Camino is safe. Really. Be logical and treat your things with care just in case as you would in any new place or big city.

 

Overall, the Camino is extremely safe. We recommend solo female travelers to walk the Camino de Santiago because the community of pilgrims and locals are incredible. Spain is a very safe country in general. If you’re not out at 3 a.m. roaming the streets after too much fiesta (which why would you when you’re on the Camino? Hangover much? No thanks.), you’ll be fine.

We recommend using World Nomads Travel Insurance when traveling abroad.

Europe’s healthcare is affordable and pharmacies are easily found all along the Camino, yet it’s a good idea in case of an emergency.

It’s important to note that while some travel credit cards offer mild insurance coverage, it’s often not comprehensive. If you lose your luggage, get stranded due to airline problems, or need to travel for family medical emergencies, you may be covered. However, it’s very rare, if not impossible, to find a travel credit card that offers medical coverage in any capacity. If you’re looking for travel insurance, it is suggested you look into World Nomads Travel Insurance plans. 

Camino de Santiago Accommodations

Let’s start by defining the different types of accommodations you have to choose from along the Camino.

Albergues

Camino de santiago accommodationsAlbergues are pilgrim’s hostels. Most albergues have the option to share a room in a dorm-like setting. Some have private rooms for a higher cost. The local council or the local church funds public albergues. Volunteers (called hospitaleros) usually run the public albergues, and they are the cheapest option as they are donation based. They cannot be booked in advance.

Private albergues are around 10-20 euros a night. There are some really cool, unique hostels out there. The atmosphere of these places is lovely, too.

 

Pros:

  • Meet other pilgrims.
  • Part of the “Camino experience”
  • You can cook together and have a big dinner with international friends.
  • Some offer a pilgrim’s dinner for around 10 euros.

Cons:

  • Snoring
  • Stinky people
  • Too social if you’re feeling inward
  • The showers sometimes aren’t great

One-on-one personalized guidance

We'll make sure you're ready for the journey of a lifetime.

Private Accommodations

If you have trouble falling asleep, you may want to consider staying in a private room. Here are some options you may want to consider. 

Camino Private Accommodations Overview

  • Pension – simple private room in a local’s home, sometimes with a shared bathroom.
  • Fonda – a room for rent often run by the local cafe or bar. You’ll find these in more remote villages
  • Albergue – there’s always the option to stay in a private room in an albergue.
  • Hotel – You probably know what this is.
  • Parador – Restored historical buildings, luxurious and expensive
  • Agroturismo/ Casa Rural – boutique countryside property, sometimes alongside a farm or vineyard. Most often provide home-cooked local dishes. Highly recommend staying at a casa rural at least once on your Camino!

Star Ratings

 Hotels have a 1-5 star rating while pensions are 1 or 2 star. The quality of these places can vary greatly, so it’s best to do some research and read the reviews if booking ahead of time. The ratings may not always correlate with the actuality of the place. There are charming accommodations out there that may not be rated.

Should I book my accommodations along the Camino?

This is a great question! Many people love the Camino because you’re able to plan less and follow your intuition more. Because the French Route tends to get busier in the summer, it’s a good idea to book your accommodations in some of the towns as you get closer to Santiago.

If you decide not to book accommodations, you may find that everything is fully booked in certain places, which means you’ll have to walk to the next village or town. At the end of a long day, it’s a real bummer to have to keep trudging on 5 or 10 km to the next place. You can either wake up earlier or book ahead. It’s up to you! 

Training for the Camino

What’s Expected

The Camino Francés averages about 11 – 20 miles per day. The first day over the Pyrenees being the most intense. The cool part about the Camino de Santiago is that there are many routes and depending on which time of year, it is going to be different for each pilgrim. With that being said, walking across a country isn’t easy. The task needs to be given respect and taken seriously otherwise, you could get injured. The most likely injury from lack of training is horrible blisters and tendinitis. There are mountain ranges to pass and long, long distances on all routes of the Camino. To best take care of yourself, follow these training tips.

Essential Training Tips

  • Start training ideally 3 months before your trip.
  • Break in your shoes & test out your gear!
  • Slowly add time to your walking route. It’s important to get your body used to being on your feet for many hours throughout the day. 
  • Train the first couple of months with a light day pack, carrying water, a journal, and other things. As you get closer to the month before your trip, carry a bigger pack filled with more things. 
  • Vary your walks with hills and flat land. 
  • Cross train as much as possible to strengthen different areas of your body and avoid strained muscles. Swimming, cycling, running, surfing, rowing, and yoga are all great! 
  • Your target distance should be 20 km about a week before your Camino starts. 

The physical aspect of the Camino will depend on your stamina, age, body type, past injuries, and how much you trained beforehand.

Camino pilgrims vary greatly in all the factors mentioned above. Some pilgrims claim to have not trained at all. Some trained for months leading up to their Camino. If you’re determined to finish the Camino, you will do it.

People who train before the Camino report a less gruesome experience on the trail, which leads to more space for appreciation of the journey, less injuries, and less “WTF have I signed up for” moments.

We can help you prepare physically and mentally for the Camino! Click here to learn more.

What to Pack

Packing light is essential! Your pack should weigh 10 % of your body weight, which means packing is a very important aspect of preparing for the Camino. 

Sign up for our newsletter to download our Camino Packing List. 

The Inner Journey

“The Camino is a metaphor for life,” a fellow pilgrim once told me. Each stage represents a part of your life, and each time you walk the Camino, you’ll struggle in different parts and notice aspects of the path that you didn’t before. 

It’s as much a physical challenge as it is a mental one. For this reason, most pilgrims say that the Camino was the most meaningful thing they’ve ever done.

With that said, it might be helpful to go into the Camino with a deeper intention in mind. 

Travel Coaching

Planning a trip like this can be overwhelming. Walking the Camino de Santiago can be one of the most transformative adventures you’ll ever go on. We’re here to make sure you’re prepared for your Camino.

Along with an extensive list of resources for the Camino de Santiago, we also

  • Research and recommend charming, unique locally run accommodations based on your budget and preferences for each stage of the Camino
  • Recommend the best restaurants, cafes, and foods to try
  • Send you a personalized list of activities and tours you’ll love
  • Share information on logistics including information on trains, buses, private transfers, and car rental
  • Send you a FREE guidebook and surprise gift package

Also included is a one-on-one video or phone call with a Lotus Compass trip planner to ask all the questions you may have before your Camino.

Travel Coaching Deluxe

If you’re looking for more help that just the Travel Coaching services can offer, we’ve created the perfect service for you! This service was made specifically for the Camino. Introducing the Travel Coaching Deluxe: 

What’s included

Everything included in the Travel Coaching PLUS

  • The first and last 3 days of your trip totally planned by us including airport transfers, hotel bookings, restaurant reservations, and 1 daily activity.

Why Travel Coaching Deluxe?

The first few days can be overwhelming, and it’s reassuring to have that taken care of. We find that after a few days on the Camino, some clients want the freedom to follow their instincts and listen to their bodies. If you’re feeling strong and want to continue walking more than your initial planned route, you have the freedom do that! If you’re tired and want to walk less, you’re not tied down to a particular booked accommodation. Plus, the last few days of your Camino are worth treating yourself to a bit of luxury, don’t you think? 

Travel Coaching Deluxe is perfect for you if you

  • Need some reassurance and extra help at the start of the Camino
  • Want to treat yourself at the end of your Camino
  • Want some independence on your Camino but also don’t want to be left to figure it all out

Luxury Travel Planning

After creating an overall itinerary, we’ll recommend and book unique locally run accommodations you will love that meet your preferences and budget requirements. We book private guides, drivers, trains, or rental cars for a smooth trip. Finally, we book restaurant reservations, wine tastings, local farm experiences – all based on your interests.

Luxury travel planning is right for you if you

  • want everything taken care of so that you can focus on your Camino
  • don’t have time to plan your own trip
  • want a top-notch experience

Take the stress and guesswork out of the planning process & make the Camino a truly liberating experience for yourself. Our services are fully customized to create YOUR perfect Camino. 

What are you waiting for?

Get started on the journey of a lifetime. We'd be honored to be your guide.