The only document that you need to do el Camino de Santiago is the pilgrims’ credential or credencial del peregrino. You can get it for 1 euro in the main albergues (there is one in almost every important village in the Camino) which means that you can choose your starting point.
To mention some albergues where you can get it I will say St-Jean Pied-de-Port, Roncesvalles or Pamplona at the beginning of el Camino de Santiago and after that you can also get them in Logrono, Burgos, Leon or Ponferrada and as I said nearly every big village in the Camino. You can also get it even before arriving in the Camino from many associations and fraternities of Amigos del Camino de Santiago – Friends of the Way of St. James that are spread for all around the world.
The function of the pilgrims credential or pilgrims passport is to record the places where you have passed and for that it will be stamped with the albergue’s logo or stamp by the hospitalero in every albergue you sleep in. Besides, nearly every bar, hostel or associations along el Camino will have their own stamp for you to help yourself and stamp it in you credential. Some people really like this and stamp many stamps every day while others don’t mind too much about it, however, don’t forget to stamp at least one stamp a day (usually in the albergue where you sleep, don’t worry too much about it because the hospitalero will ask it to you and he or she will do it for you).
The reasons for doing this are two. Firstly, it is a proof that you are a real pilgrim and you are not cheating travelling by car (because you will have stamps on it from places where you can’t access by car). Therefore, it will be your passport to sleep in the albergues. And secondly, once you have completed the Camino it is very nice to see your Credencial del Pelegrino with the stamps of every place you have slept in or eaten in. You will feel very proud of it.
You will also need the Pilgrims Credential if you want to get the Compostela in Santiago’s cathedral. La Compostela is a diploma that the Catholic Church issues to honour the pilgrims who have walked the Camino. Your name will be printed in Latin. To get it you must have done at least the last 100km of the Camino on foot or by horse or the last 200km if you are cycling. You will get a different colour depending on whether you have done the pilgrimage with a Christian meaning – “devotionis affectu, voti vel pietatis causa” or for other reasons.
To finish this section, I have to remark that what I said regarding the albergues isn’t as strict as it may seem. Why? Because, apart from your pilgrims’ credential, it is very obvious who is a real pilgrim, who is walking and who is not. Your feet will say it. So don’t worry if you stamp so many stamps that you finish your credential or if you happen to start the Camino in a very small village where they don’t have new credentials. Just take a normal sheet of paper and make it your provisional pilgrims’ credential. You can stamp on it the stamps until you get a new one.
I hope you have liked the photos… It’s cool, isn’t it? People are quite crazy about it although I tended to forget it always in my bag and didn’t put many stamps.