Shell motif Camino de Santiago

The pilgrimage routes to
Santiago de Compostela
in pictures

Shell motif
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Top Tips for Walkers

Sylvia's Top Tips
See also Wendy's top tips for walkers.

There have been over 400 postings on the Bulletin since July 2002.  There were many similar postings and some unique. E.g. How to cross the camino in a horse drawn carriage?


To answer some of the general questions, here are ten things every pilgrim should know:


  1. Don’t expect anybody in northern Spain to speak English (or German, Italian, Swedish etc) It’ll pay to learn a little Spanish before you go.
  2. Sleeping bags are essential.  Many refuges don’t keep blankets and insist that pilgrims have their own ‘sacks’.
  3. Some refuges only open in June and close again in November.
  4. “Will I find a bed in May, June, July, August etc etc.” It is first come – first served.  When you reach a refuge you secure a bed by placing your pack outside the door.  Some refuges only open after 2pm so you might have a long wait if you get there early. 
  5. A little spiral immersion heater, plug for Spain, and a camping cup are most useful.  Most of the refuges have electricity but they don't all have kitchens. 
  6. Take 8 Plastic pegs and a 2m plastic cord to use as a wash line.  Useful when it rains and you can string it across the bars of the bunk beds to dry wet socks etc., also when the lines are full.

7.   Take 8 large safety pins to pin damp clothing onto the backpack so that it can dry during the day whilst walking.  Nobody cares if your underwear flaps on your backpack!

8.   Two large suction wall hooks to use in the showers.  There are never any clothes hooks inside (very few outside) and that means no place to hang your dry, dirty or wet clothes and, some of the showers don’t have doors.  (If you start walking from France take a universal bathplug as well.  Many places have baths but don’t provide plugs.)

  1. Take a toilet roll: remove the cardboard roll and flatten it.  Most albergues run out so be prepared!
  2. Money:  Small café-bars, village shops, side-of-the-road sellers don’t accept credit cards.  ATM’s work well in most large towns and cities.  Travellers Cheques can be a problem for small banks that do not have foreign exchange. 



 The most common queries in order of the most frequently asked were:


1.         Weather:       

Weather updates along the camino can be found at www.xunta/esconselle/cma/index.htm  or

2.         Bicycle queries:

Find info at or who offer a guide ‘The Cycling Pilgrim on the Camino Frances” Cicerone Press also have a guide.

3.         Credentials:

Available from Assoc. of St James in many countries.  In Spain – from the refuges, some museums or Tourist Offices.

4.         Camping and alternate accommodation:

Wild camping is difficult as there are not many ‘wild’ places in France or Spain.  A guide to accommodation called ‘Guia Oficial de Hoteles y Campings del Camino de Santiago’ lists all accommodation, ranking, prices etc including camping sites is available from all Spanish Tourist offices or Tourspain in Madrid. Email:

5.         Footwear:

Heavy boots are not necessary.  Waterproof, lightweight boots or terrain walkers will suffice.  Take sandals to wear whilst not walking.

6.         Only have 10 – 14 days to walk:

You must walk the LAST 100km to earn the Compostela.  You could walk the first few days from Roncesvalles or Pamplona and the last 4 – 5 days from Sarria - ± 120kms.

7.         Winter walking:

            ‘Winter Pilgrim’ by Alison Raju available from

8.         Budget:

            Refuges E3-E10.  Breakfast ± E2. Bocadillo ± E4. Menu del Peregrino E7-10.

9.         Is it safe for women:

            Generally yes.  Take normal safety precautions when alone in a city at night.

10.       Nearest airport to St Jean:

            Biarritz: www.biarritz.aé is close to Bayonne – train from there to St Jean.

11.       Cameras:

            Digital seem to be the most popular.  Take a plug for Spain to charge batteries.

12.       Portuguese Way:

            Go to Also, for guides.

13.       Sending stuff ahead:

You can buy pilgrim boxes, some large enough to take a suitcase, at the Post Office and send stuff, Post Restante to Santiago. They will keep it there for 30 days.

14.       How to get from Pamplona to Roncesvalles:

            Lamontanesa Bus leaves weekly at ± 18h00.  Check times for weekends.

15:       How to get from Pamplona to St Jean:

            Bus to Roncesvalles and taxi to St Jean or Taxi from Pamplona.

16.       Public phones:

            Yes – all along the route.  You can purchase call cards or use cash.

17.       Cell phones:

Take a plug for Spain to recharge.  Switch off when in a church, monastery, museum etc.

18.       Guide books: sell small, light, updated guides for all the routes ± £5 each, as well as Guides by Alison Raju. "A Practical Guide for Pilgrims" by Milláno Bravo Lozano.  Published by Everest ISBN 84-241-3833-3.  The book is too heavy to carry but it includes a set of route maps for each day from St Jean to Santiago that you can carry around your neck.

19.       Barcelona to St Jean:

            Train to Bayonne (10.45 hours) - then to St Jean: (French rail)

20.       Horses:    “The Way of Saint James on horseback: the complete guide” Javier Pascual -

21.       Hotels in Santiago:


22.       How to get back to the UK:

            Ryan Air to London ± £12:  Easy Jet from La Corunna.

23.       Dogs:

Problem dogs are an Urban Legend! In Spain most dogs are chained. Pilgrims often take their own pets with them.  Most refuges do not accept dogs.  Camping sites only open in Spanish summer i.e. from July.

24.       Bus to Finisterre:

            Yes – two per day from the Bus Station in Santiago.

25.       Paris to Roncesvalles:

High-speed train south to Bayonne or Biarritz.  Change to St Jean.  Taxi to Roncesvalles.

26.       Madrid to Roncesvalles:

            Fly, bus or train to Pamplona.  Lamontanesa bus or taxi to Roncesvalles.

27.       Accommodation in St Jean:

Contact the tourist office at Two pilgrim refuges and many small hotels:

28.       Backpacks:

35L is sufficient.  Should not weigh more than 10% - 15% of your body weight. 



29.       Disabled Pilgrims:

            All info can be found at: ttp://

30.       Accommodation in Bilbao:

            "Albergue Bilbao"

31.       Bilbao to Santiago:

There is a direct train from Bilbao to Santiago: Spanish railways (RENFE)

32.       Biarritz to St Jean:

Train from Biarritz (and Bayonne) to St. Jean Pied de Port. 

33.       Medical:

Take out travel insurance before you go for major injuries or illness. All refuges have a doctor or clinic on call and treatment of pilgrims - free for most minor ailments.  

34.       Maps:

You do not need maps, as the trail is very well way-marked.  Some guidebooks have strip maps for each stage. 

35.       How to volunteer to be a hospitalero:

(a)   Association of Camino de Santiago volunteers:  (b) Accueil Saint Jacques at St Jean Pied-de-Port - M Jean-Claude,Nogues (Canditature Accueillant), Accueil des pelerins de St-Jacques, 39 rue de la Citadelle, 64220 Saint Jean pied-de-Port, France.  (c) Rabanal –

36.       Does Iberia have discounts for pilgrims:

Yes – if you take your Compostela they will give you a reduced fare to any Spanish destination.  Iberia’s discounted fares may be higher than other carriers so check before you book.

37.       Children:

Children as young as five years have accompanied their parents and some postings have enquired about babies as young as nine months.

38.       Geneva to St Jean: - ‘Geneva to Le Puy-en-Velay’ guide ± 350 km and then to St Jean from there.

39.       Madrid to Leon: 

By train ± 4 hours

39.       Books on the Camino:

Besides guides, there are hundreds of books on the camino.  One of the best is for history, folklore, fauna & flora etc is “The Pilgrimage road to Santiago, The Complete Cultural Handbook" by Gitlitz and (Linda) Davidson, ISBN 0 312 25416 4, published by St. Martin's Griffin, New York in 2000.  (You can order these from any good book shop in Spain or from or