Camino de Santiago turned out to be opiate. Opiate for those who still dream to walk it, opiate for those who have already done it. If you are reading this article, it is likely that you have caught up with opiate. You’re probably wondering if you’re ready for Camino, maybe you’re already packing your backpack, and maybe your friends are wondering if you’ve gone nuts.
In preparation for the coolest “nuts” that can happen to you, it is normal to read hundreds of articles, forums, and watch the tons of pictures and videos you found related to the Camino. It is normal for you not to know exactly how everything will happen, how things on the road are, and what to expect.
Thanks to the many ardent people who want to go be pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago, we decided to answer the most frequently asked questions. We based the answers on our experience from Camino Frances 2016 and Camino Frances 2017. We will be happy to expand the list so that we can bring as much clarity as possible to all of you.
How do I know how much I can go for the time I have?
We’ve found that we usually walk between 20 and 30 kilometers a day. Of course, there are people with experience who go through 50 and are particularly fresh for the next day of walking. Keep in mind that going for 30 kilometers in one day is easy. It is difficult when you know that you will do the same the next day, the day after next day and so on. So it’s a good idea to plan a day with fewer miles and hours of walking after a tough day.
If you have, for example, 14 days, and you think 30 kilometers a day is an easy job for you, plan less than the total of 420, let’s say 350 kilometers. Everything can happen on the way, you may even have to relax all day (or more). With the days and miles you will find that it does not really matter how many miles you will be walking, at what speed or where you will get. Camino is not a goal, it’s a journey!
Where does Camino Frances finish, is there anything after Santiago de Compostela?
The Camino can continue to Finisterre (“End of the World”) and Muxía. Walking takes 3-4 days, and if you do not have time, the bus will take you there for about 2 hours. We recommend you to visit the charming town of Muxía, climb the rocks and look from above the ocean and the city. Finisterre will delight you with beautiful views of the cape and the stone with the kilometer 0.
How much water should I carry with me?
We carry empty bottles with a volume of 500ml to 750ml. We recharge them on every tap with drinking water. So far, we have not remained thirsty, as there are fountains in every village or town. Occasionally, they are also found out of populated areas, along the Camino.
Do I need to speak Spanish?
We met a lot of people on the Camino, who are doing perfectly without Spanish. It will surely help you talk to the locals if you can put together some sentences. It certainly will not stop you from experiencing the way, especially if you decide to be alone on the road.
How is the Camino indicated?
Yellow arrows, stylized shells, signs on the road and over the road – it’s very hard to miss Camino Frances. If you are distracted and go out of the way, someone will see you and point you back (here a distinctive sign for you is your backpack).
Do I need a map or an app?
We intended to use paper maps for the different stages, but ultimately we used an altitude map (it could be motivating) and a phone application called “Buen Camino”. Here’s a link to it. In general, maps and navigation make you feel more space-oriented, as well as they help you know how many kilometers away your closest albergue, pharmacy or shop is.
How can one use the bus?
We had to figure out this option when Bistra got injured. If you are not in the mountains, there is generally a choice of buses and you can easily move around. Prices are low and travel is fast. Schedule can be seen at bus stations or stops, which are usually centrally located.
Some places are more remote, difficult to access, or as a whole there is not enough traffic to fill a bus or a shittle, and then it is usually necessary to take a taxi.
What’s with this shell, hanging from every Camino backpack?
You can read many stories and legends about the shells that used to be carried and continue to be carried by the pilgrims. We carry them because they add to the mood and the experience, because we are sentimental and because they look beautiful. Some pilgrims that continue to the “End of the World” leave their shells on the beach. We bring them back as a memorial and pray not to break them in the plane. 🐚
What shoes should I walk with?
This topic raises more controversy than the topics of “Pro and con veganism” and “Pro and con vaccines” put together. Typically, the two opinions levitate around heavy mountain hiking footwear and lightweight sneakers. So far, we have always chosen the second option. Light sneakers, e.g. for trail running, are the perfect option for us as we walk for many hours a day, and we don’t want to cause the pain to our feet by wearing heavy shoes. Of course, heavy shoes have other benefits, for example, they protect your feet more and give them some sort of support.
Whatever shoes you choose, remember that you will walk with them every day, for a few hours.
How can I find and book albergues?
Normally, the map / app will give you ideas on what albergues you can find on the way and the conditions in them. This is a fast-changing list though – new albergues are opening, some are closing, some are renovated, etc. Whatever list you find, do not consider it the latest version – there are always updates. Sometimes they are for the good – e.g they installed a washing machine, sometimes not – for example the prices have gone up.
Booking the albergue is done by calling them or by sending your backpack there. Some albergues do not accept reservations (and thank God for that, otherwise we’d had to sleep on a bench). In some places, bookings are kept until a certain time.
Do I need to reserve albergues?
Camino 2017 totally changed our perception for sleeping in albergues. Maybe we caught the start of the high season, perhaps sending the backpacks by transport had become very popular – the fact is that there were albergues where we were denied accommodation because there were reservations made.
Therefore, we recommend that you book an albergue when you go during a high season. Some freedom is definitely lost this way, you can not decide on the spot whether you’ll stop or continue walking. But it is not very nice to go around a place after a tough day of walking, looking for a place to sleep. Especially if you are not willing to give more money for a hotel or sleep in a more primitive place. Fortunately, we did not require any luxury, and that saved us 2 times.
How do I leave Santiago de Compostela?
The options are on foot (and continue your Camino), by train or by bus (we have done both to Madrid and to Muxía respectively) or by plane (we are yet to do so). There is a shuttle to the airport, so if your flight is not too early, you may not have to take a taxi.
Should I get walking sticks?
If you love your knees, support them! I thought it was very difficult to walk with sticks, but it was not. Especially as I had to move with an injury. The technique is simple and intuitive, and who does not want to use their hands to help the feet?
You can buy cheap walking sticks on site. They may not be allowed in hand luggage (bitter experience).
What is Buen Camino and should I always greet people?
“Have a good way”, “walk safe”, it’s a good wish. You can hear it from every pilgrim, every passerby on the road, and from anyone who sees your backpack and your tired feet. Buen Camino is a positive vibe. The more often you say it, the better vibes you spread and receive.
Do not be sour cherries and say it to people!
You have a question which is not up there? Let us know and we’ll answer it! 🚶️🚶️