Top 25 Questions asked before a trip
What do I need to Know?
RAW Travel no longer has the capacity to book trains but several commercial services exist where you can book the train services you need online, including: RailEurope
The above site is owned by SNCF (the French national railway company) and aggregates several countries rail booking sites into one platforms, for instance you can book your Spanish RENFE tickets.
More extensive information on getting to the Camino and various start point / cities along the Camino route is featured on our site here: Getting to the Camino de Santiago
To get to St Jean Pied de Port in France you have a few options. The main choices from Australia are to fly into either Paris or Barcelona.
If you fly into Paris, you can catch the high-speed TVG train to St Jean Pied de Port either from Charles de Gaulle airport or alternatively from Montparnasse station in central Paris if you would like a few nights in Paris first. The train goes to Bordeaux where you change trains for Bayonne and then again in Bayonne for the short journey to St Jean Pied de Port. Trains can be booked at Rail Europe. If you are flying into Barcelona, you can overnight and then catch a train to Pamplona and then a daily local bus or private transfer from Pamplona to St Jean Pied de Port.
Extensive information about getting to St Jean Pied de Port and the walking routes through the Pyrenees is available here: The first steps on the French Way
There is no capacity for you to ride in the vehicle that transfers your luggage. If you need a taxi on a particular day, your hotel will be able to help you arrange this.
Santiago de Compostela marks the end of the journey from many pilgrims. The best departure international airport is Madrid.
Flights From Santiago de Compostela (SCQ) you can fly to most major European cities as well as cities in the United Kingdom including London, Manchester, Liverpool and Dublin. There are a range of airlines that offer flights from Santiago de Compostela.
- To Madrid: twice per day, ~5.5 hours.
- To Barcelona: best to travel to Madrid and then on to Barcelona Sants, ~8.5 hours, total.
- To Portugal: take the train to Vigo-Guixar (~1.5 hours), then on to Porto (Campanha; ~2.5 hours). You can also continue by train on to Lisbon ‘Lisboa Santa Apolonia’ (~3 hours).
Bus: From the bus station in Santiago de Compostela you can travel to many cities in the Spain. Buses are especially good for exploring the Galicia region. Some popular destinations to travel to by bus:
- To Porto (Portugal): Travels via Vigo, ~3.5 to 4 hours.
- To Finisterre: Departs 4 to 6 times per day, taking anywhere from 2 to 3.5 hours depending on the route.
To travel by train from Santiago de Compostela to Sarria you will need to travel either via Monforte de Lemos, A Coruna or Ourense-Empalme. Usually, you will need to change trains in these places. Total travel time is 3 to 4 hours. Book your train direct: www.renfe.com or www.raileurope.com
There is a bus that travels from Santiago de Compostela to Sarria which takes approx 2.5 hours; however, this is not a regular service, usually only departing 6 times per week and with many stops en-route.
RAW Travel can arrange transfers for your convenience, with pick-up from Santiago Airport or your Santiago hotel. The journey takes around 1.5 hours and is run by our local driver. To book this service please contact your Camino Specialist.
Most of the properties are located on the Camino path but not all. Family-run country houses – known as casa rurales in Spain and agriturismos in Italy – are usually a little way off the Camino, which is part of their charm. We will always choose the better accommodation available, so sometimes its preferable to put you in a lovely casa rurale slightly off the Camino rather than a sub-standard option on the Camino ( trust our experience & knowledge with this!)
If you are staying in a country house that is located a distance from the Camino trail, you will usually be collected from and returned to the Camino trail. Further information about any specific arrangements that may be necessary will be included in your pre-trip information.
Sunrise and sunset times in Spain are later than in Australia and consequently Spanish meal times reflect this – traditionally Spanish meal times are an hour or two later than is common in most places in Australia.
Breakfast is included on each day of your trip. It will usually only be served from around 8am in your accommodation. It can vary from continental style to a home-cooked meal to a full buffet breakfast, depending on the property.
When you check-in, ask about the breakfast service times as they will vary from place to place and may even vary from day to day at a particular hotel. If you would like an earlier breakfast, ask if they can provide you with a packed breakfast, but be aware this may not always be possible. If it is not possible, we suggest stocking up with some snacks or supplies the evening before. Don’t count on being able to buy something along the way, as it can be difficult to find anything open early in the morning.
Should you wish to change the date or any part of your trip after your invoice has been issued, we will do our best to make the change, but it may not be possible.
Requests for itinerary changes must be made to us in writing by the person who made the original booking or his/her travel agent 56 days or more prior to the departure date and an administration charge will apply. Date changes to itineraries will be subject to an AUD$250 administration charge per person and must be for travel within 12 months of the original departure date.
NB: Adding pre and/or post nights accommodation to an existing trip does not incur administration fees, provided the dates of the existing trip do not change.
Additional charges levied by hotels, ground operators or airlines due to the amendments of the itinerary will also be charged.
If changes are requested inside 56 days of the departure date, our cancellation terms apply.
See our Booking Conditions for more information.
Prior to your trip being finalised and your balance being paid at 8 weeks out from your trips start date, it is possible to add additional arrangements – providing there is availability at that late stage. Once you are within 8 weeks of your trip start date it is not possible for RAW Travel to add additional arrangements to your trip. After this stage of 8 weeks prior you would have to book your own additional hotels and/or other services.
See our Booking Conditions for more information.
If you get sick or injured while walking the Camino and need to discontinue your trip entirely, contact our local support team in Spain (their contact details will be provided to you in your pre-departure information and included in the app for easy reference). Your hotel / guesthouse owner will be able to help arrange local medical services or a doctor’s appointment and our staff can help translate over the phone if needed.
If as a result of injury or illness you are effectively ending your trip you will also need to contact your travel insurer as soon as possible. As all accommodation is pre-booked and already paid for refunds are not usually given, so an insurance claim may come into play dependent on your individual policy terms.
See below for information on what to do if you are unable to walk the full distance on a given day, due to an illness or injury. This scenario means you may choose to skip a day or two of your trip but is not the same as discontinuing the entire trip.
In a medical or other emergency, please contact the local emergency services (dependent on the nature of the incident); their numbers are listed in our App.
Please also be sure to contact our local team in Spain so they can assist with any translation needed and support you require. You may for instance need to cancel subsequent night’s accommodation and our team can help do that so that the hotel/ guesthouse owners do not think you may be missing on the trail and alert authorities and us. (If we don’t know, we can’t help!) Our local team’s contact details will be provided to you in your pre-trip information and their details are also saved in the app, so you will always have them handy.
If the emergency is serious or if it’s likely to result in a travel insurance claim, you should contact your travel insurance company for instructions or assistance via the travel insurance company’s 24 hour contact number.
If you find that you are unable to walk the full distance on a given day it is usually possible to rustle up a taxi if you can walk to the nearest town or village. There may be a bus service or ( more rarely a train) in some sections between stages. The best option is to pre-plan before you set off that day with your guidebook / hotel reception, which will indicate whether bus services are available in the places you pass through. It’s wise to have a taxi number to carry with you – though sometimes you’ll see stickers for them on gates / posts by enterprising local drivers.
Given that your accommodation is pre-booked even if you are injured and unable to manage that day’s walk you will still need to transport yourself to the next accommodation and that evening’s booking (like hotels anywhere cancelling with no notice entails a full cancellation loss). Usually this transport is not a problem at all to arrange locally on the day but if for some reason you hit unexpected difficulties you can consult with our staff in Spain to find a solution.
Pre-planning and being realistic about what you are capable of walking each day over multiple days is the best way to proceed. Don’t plan on walking continuous 25km days if you currently struggle to walk 15km. For instance, RAW Travel offers sections from Sarria to Santiago where you can break a 7-day trip into a 10-day trip.
The Spanish Camino is signposted all along the route with the iconic yellow arrows and also the scallop shell symbol; keep a look out for it and you will not go far wrong. The yellow arrows are often spray painted on kerbs, buildings, roads, walls – so as long as you keep an eye out for them and your fellow pilgrims you will be fine.
To help you navigate easily along the trail, you will be provided with our unique RAW Travel app. It will show your location in real-time without any internet connection needed. Your route will be mapped every step of the way and the terrain and towns will be shown in detail. It also includes your accommodation details and has a host of other features. You will receive information about downloading and using the RAW Travel app in your pre-trip information.
You may also like to refer to John Brierley’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago, which has clear maps and good descriptions.
In the unlikely event that you do get lost, seek advice from another pilgrim or from a local – they know the route very well and will be able to direct you.
In 2023 we will be providing you with a pilgrim passport prior to your trip. They can also be purchased for a few euros from the pilgrim offices along the Camino.
The passport is used to verify the distance you have walked or cycled, regardless of your route, and is proof that you are a ‘real’ pilgrim and are not travelling by car or public transport along the Camino. The passport itself is a folded piece of card with space for 54 stamps. (Write your name clearly on the inside page before you travel.)
If you are walking you will need to obtain 2 stamps (sellos) per day for the final 100km of walking. If you are cycling, you will need to obtain 2 stamps per day for the final 200km of your journey – or from just near Ponferrada on the traditional Camino. Stamps are available from your accommodations and at religious sites, hotels, town halls, museums, city halls, police stations and albergues.
Once you arrive into Santiago, take your passport to the Pilgrim’s Office and they will verify the final 100km of stamps in your passport and issue you with your official Compostela certificate. The passport is a wonderful memento of your pilgrimage and is used to determine monthly statistics on the Camino such as how many pilgrims are walking into Santiago each year.
For more information, see Pilgrim passports and compostelas
Many cities have laundrettes (locally referred to as lavenderia tintorias). You’ll need washing liquid and coins. Another option is to wash-as-you-go in the hotel rooms and hang your items on a pegless travel clothesline (these handy little items retail for about A$15 and are available from outdoor/camping stores). If all of this sounds like too much work, then there is the opportunity for your washing to be taken care of by our lovely hoteliers along the way. Although often an expensive option it can certainly be a welcome treat!
More information is available here: Washing on the Camino
For tips about packing light, see: What to wear when walking the Camino
Vegetarianism is not widely practiced in Spain but there are plenty of options. Here are our top tips:
- When ordering the ‘pilgrims menu’ (Menu del dia) ask for two starters instead of the main, which is usually meat laden. This way you will usually have a combination of a vegetarian soup, pasta and salad with wine and dessert.
- Supplement your meals with grocery items like nuts, seeds, nut butters, soy yoghurts, hummus, soup mixes available in the main towns or in sealed packs from Australia.
- Look out for health food stores in the larger towns.
- Visit the markets for wonderful dried and fresh fruits, and locally grown vegetables.
- Consider bringing items from home such as protein bars, protein powder and even a multivitamin so you don’t get rundown.
- Look for Italian restaurants, which usually have a vegetarian option, and Indian restaurants who cater to the original vegetarians. Many places in large town also offer falafels / kebabs etc. Most bars in Spain have tortillas – a vegetarian staple.
Learning some Spanish phrases:
- Without meat, please. Sin carne, por favor.
- Do you have any vegetarian meals? Tiene algún menú para vegetarianos?
- Does it have meat? Lleva carne?
Typically there are many places along the each day’s route where you can get food and water. Safe drinking water is freely provided at fountains and pipes in villages. Australian walkers more used to wilderness bush walks will be pleasantly surprised how civilised and easy it is to get water and supplies – there are shops and cafes in every village where you can get food or stop for a coffee. The exception would be on some longer days with not many villages, such as on the Meseta (Burgos to Leon) where you need to carry sufficient water and snacks between towns.
Larger towns offer a variety of places you can choose from for your evening meal (or lunch) and at inexpensive prices when you are choosing the Menu del Dia or as its often called on the Camino the Menu del Peregrino – a set 3-course meal for pilgrims. It’s more about quantity and a cheap price than high quality – but there also always a la carte options available and more upmarket eateries as well if you tire of the Menu del dia.
This depends on many factors and the season / month you are travelling in. Weather is becoming more unpredictable and seasonal norms may not always hold, so the best idea is to be adequately prepared for encountering many types of weather and temperatures. The seasons in Spain are divided into 3-month segments, and are at best only a very general guide about what is ‘supposed to’ happen’ with the weather! The cooler months of Spring (March – May) and then early Autumn (September and early October) usually offer the best walking weather for most people’s tastes.
- Winter – December, January, February
- Spring – March, April, May
- Summer – June, July, August
- Autumn – September, October, November
It should be noted though that weather conditions in Spain are variable and walkers do not always experience the seasonal climate they were expecting!
Spring: The weather is cooler and the route less busy, Accommodation is open again after the winter break. March is still relatively cold at 12 to 14°C average, April and May tend to bring warmer temperatures but very unpredictable weather patterns. Temperatures vary greatly and it can rain for days on end and the evenings can be cold. Depending on how long and which part you walk, you are almost guaranteed to experience some downpours so make sure to bring a good raincoat. Spring rains and warmer temperatures bring forth new life, greenery and flowers all along the camino route and some of the very best days. Some of the mountain passes still tend to have snow on them and walkers are advised not to walk these in dangerous conditions and snow blizzards. Your accommodation can advise you on local conditions before you set out.
Summer: June, July and August are hotter and busier and during these months the weather tends to be much more consistent. This is when a lot of Spanish people tend to walk the Camino and it is very lively in the bigger cities. You can expect to get the odd spell of very hot weather with heatwaves, where temperatures will exceed 35°C. Pilgrims tend to rise early and walk in the dawn hours to get a head-start on the heat of the day.
Autumn: September, the weather is still quite warm, typically in the mid to high 20s but temperatures begin dropping as October approaches. The temperatures in October are similar to Spring. Some of the stages especially across the Meseta, can look sunburnt brown after a hot summer but there are lovely autumn colours appearing in the trees as Autumn descends in Late October and November. Depending on how long and which part you walk, you are almost guaranteed to experience some downpours so make sure to bring a good raincoat. Galicia especially can be wet and muddy in November. At some of the higher mountain passes, snow can fall as early as the end of October, so you need to be prepared for that scenario.
Winter: These months are for fit and experienced walkers and your walking and accommodation options are more limited; the weather is cold and snow is common particularly on higher ground. Some of the routes in the higher areas are closed in winter weather as they would not be safe, so alternative, sometimes longer, routes have to be taken. Accommodation is scarcer with a lot of the more remote and smaller enterprises closing for the winter season.
The first day’s walk from St Jean Pied de Port in France is through the Pyrenees mountains that divide France and Spain to Roncesvalles. The traditional and most common way to walk this day is up over the picturesque Pyrenees mountains following the Napoleon (or Orisson) route, which is featured in the film The Way. This is a beautiful walk, but one of the more challenging days as you are potentially tired/jet lagged and this is your first day on the trail, which involves an ascent of 1250m carrying what you need for the day.
Leaving St Jean Pied de Port, the sealed road switchbacks and climbs fairly steeply out of the valley on a quiet sealed road. Once past the Albergue at Orisson, where you can stop to refuel, the gradient starts to level out somewhat and you follow a grassy trail that climbs and winds through the hills before dropping down steeply into Roncesvalles. The walk through the Pyrenees can be unpredictable because of the weather; however, people used to walking in hills or trekking will not find it an especially difficult day as the gradients are not that severe and the steepest part of the walk is on a quiet road.
The alternate Valcarlos (or road) route to Roncesvalles may need to be taken in the event of bad weather, such as snow or heavy fog. This route stays closer to the road and has a steep 600m ascent at the end of the day up to Roncesvalles. It is not as well marked and you will encounter more road traffic.
Both routes have an ascent and both have the option to break this day over two by either staying at an Albergue at Orisson or a Hotel at Valcarlos. The 18-bed accommodation in Orisson is a basic but very well run and popular Albergue that can be pre-booked for an overnight stay, but it sells out well in advance.
For more information see: The first steps on the French Way
Generally speaking hiking boots are the best choice for the Camino. BUT the answer may depend to an extent on what month you are walking and which sections. A good fitting, well worn in hiking boot will keep your feet dry in wet & muddy conditions, protect your toes when walking over rough rocky ground and give you good stability when wearing a pack – these factors make a lightweight, waterproof hiking boot the best choice. Vibram soles are highly recommended and becoming a common choice of material among boot makers.
If you are walking in the warmer summer months then you may consider a pair of outdoor trainers as an alternative – though bear in mind that you may not have the same ankle support and stability. A long days walk in runners may leave you with quite sore feet especially if the ground surface is rough. So although it may be good to have a spare pair of outdoor shoes / runners for hot weather the recommendation is mainly for hiking boots
Walking poles can make your life easier, especially if you are carrying a heavy pack or less steady on your feet than you used to be. Many people on the Camino use a wooden staff (purchased locally in Spain) as they are more traditional and perhaps provide that connection to the past. But bear in mind you will find it harder to transport these wooden staffs back to Australia and get them past customs. It is usually not a problem to find inexpensive walking poles for sale on the Camino through outdoor shops or those catering to pilgrims.
Walking poles can be of benefit to many people, especially if you are getting older and not as steady on your feet as you once were or you suffer from knee/hip/ankle strains. Inexperienced walkers may also enjoy the feeling of security and stability a pair of poles can bring.
Some benefits of walking poles:
- Reduces risk of injury from falls
- Reduces wear and tear on joints
- Reduces back pain and promotes better posture
- Engage upper body for more exercise benefit
- Good for warding off dogs or other unwanted attention!
Many people use them on the Camino, so you don’t need to worry about standing out. On the longer uphill sections crossing the Pyrenees and the Montes de Leon ranges (up to Cruz de Ferro and O’Cebreiro) you will find that poles assist you on both the ascent and descent and are very useful on these mountain sections.
Walking poles cannot be taken on in your carry on luggage and should be stowed in your main luggage for check-in.
Think comfort over fashion! If you are going to be in Europe for a longer period, then you can transfer an additional bag to your end destination. No one cares or remembers what you are wearing so you can wear the same thing over and over, as everyone else does.
Always pack clothing that is quick-drying and breathable, and choose items that are well worn to prevent chafe or rubbing. Regardless of the season always take a sweater or fleece top for the evenings. Make sure it is light wool or synthetic; cotton will not keep you dry. There are many options available in high-tech fabrics, so do your research and test your items in the rain before you travel. For sun protection, you’ll need a broad brimmed hat. Your buff (provided free by RAW Travel) can be worn in many ways to add protection for your neck and ears.
The maximum weight you are allowed each day for your luggage transfers on the Camino in Spain, Portugal and Italy is <20kg per person, so travelling light is a must. If you are walking Le Puy Camino through France, the bag limit is strictly <13kg per person.
On the flight, take a light daypack as your carry-on, along with your hiking boots and a change of clothing. That way, in the unlikely event that the airline misplaces your luggage, your trip is not affected (make sure you also pack a rain cover for your daypack and dry bags to pack your spare clothes and electronics in).
More information is provided here: What to wear when walking the Camino
You can buy a local pre-paid SIM card when you arrive in Spain, which will allow you to use your phone at much cheaper rates than international/global data roaming.
eSIM (embedded SIM) is a SIM that’s built into your device. It removes the need for a physical SIM to be inserted into your phone. eSIMs mean you don’t need to change SIM cards when you are overseas. You simply add a local network when you are overseas and you’re ready to go. Telstra, Vodafone and Optus offer the eSIM feature. eSIMs require more tech to run on a smartphone; not every smartphone is eSIM compatible.
More information is available here: Travel apps
Almost all the hotels and private properties properties have free wifi access and will provide you with the password when you check in. There is also wifi available in many of the eating places en route. Like with anywhere, the quality of the signal may vary from place to place but is generally good enough for email and browsing.
The most up-to-date information about Covid entry requirements can be found on the smartraveller website, which is maintained by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Type in your destination and it will provide you with the latest advice. You can also subscribe to receive updates on the destinations you are travelling to and through, and read advice on a range of general travel topics.
We recommend you always carry around 200€ per person in cash for drinks, meals and any unexpected extras (taxis, etc). Credit cards are accepted in most shops, restaurants and hotel accommodation in the larger towns and cities but some of the smaller establishments will only accept cash. You need to always be aware of the money that you will need in the days ahead, as there will times when you will be walking for a few days without any ATM access.
More information is provided here: Accessing money on the Camino