Planning your Camino de Santiago

There is not much to plan in order to do el Camino de Santiago. In fact that is one of its biggest advantages. If you have some free time, like university summer holidays, work holidays or even a long weekend or bank holiday and you don’t have anything planned before hand this is your chance to do the Camino de Santiago.

One can just walk a part of the Camino de Santiago in Spain, maybe just 3 or 4 stages, if you don’t have much time. It doesn’t matter; the important thing is to start. You won’t regret it and for sure you will come back.

Very little is needed to do el Camino de Santiago. The most important thing is the desire to do something different. It will be a trip in its pure essence; you will be a traveller, a pilgrim. Our contemporary society has corrupted the meaning of travelling by adding concepts such as package holidays, guided tours and the need to spend excessively but El Camino de Santiago can be different.

If you’d like to read some book beforehand or have some Camino de Santiago guide during the pilgrimage I include on the left some good guides and other resources.

Planing your time & company in El Camino de Santiago

Let’s begin with the time. I’ve met people who are walking the Camino for more that 5 months, maybe stopping in the middle to work in the harvests or to volunteer as an “hospitalero” (people working in the hostels – “albergues”) and people who only walk 3 stages during a long weekend. On average you need around 5 weeks to do the whole Camino de Santiago, but it depends on your walking pace. I made it from the beginning in St. Jean-Pied-de-Port to Santiago de Compostela in 31 days of walking (excluding some rest days). Some days I walked nearly 50 km and others not even 20 km.

As you will see it is very free and once you are in you can walk as long as you feel every day, there is no pressure. Anyway, I have to say that everyone can walk an average of 20-25km a day. Of course it requires an effort, this is also a physical challenge, don’t forget it, but that is the point, that is its beauty. You will have to overcome bad times, but you won’t be alone, the rest of the people will help and encourage you.

To give you an idea of the number of stages, the starting point and the end point, that you can do depending on the time you can visit our Camino de Santiago stages section. Probably once you are there you won’t do exactly the same stages as we did (some days you will walk more, some less) but it will be a good estimation. And remember you can start it wherever you want and leave it wherever you want, just go to any village in the Camino, go to the albergue and ask for the Pilgrims Credential and that’s it.

Secondly let’s talk about the company. You can go on el Camino de Santiago either alone or with a group. Many people go on the Camino alone and many others go in groups. If you are thinking of doing el Camino de Santiago and can’t persuade your Friends to do it please don’t let the time pass, this is your chance, don’t be shy and go by yourself. Once you arrive you will see many people coming from all around the world without a group. You will meet many interesting people and make many Friends. Then you are free to walk alone and meet other pilgrims in the evenings or walk in small groups.

Planning your budget for El Camino de Santiago

Moneywise, you need little. The best is to do el Camino with some austerity. However I recommend enjoying the local food and wine that keeps changing along el Camino de Santiago. Every new region has its own gastronomy and it changes at the same pace as does the landscape. After a day of walking you can have a pilgrim’s menu (“menu del peregrino”) which comprises 2 courses plus dessert and good  local wine. In my experience, this pilgrim’s menu used to be far better offering good local dishes, but sadly, its quality has decreased in most places so I would recommend to use the facilities in the hostels to cook your own dinner. On average, this pilgrim’s menu costs 9 or 10 euro in most of the villages of el Camino de Santiago.

For the rest of the day (i.e. breakfast, lunch) you can just buy some food for 6 or 8 euro in the local shops and eat it wherever you want, perhaps sitting in the village square or maybe in a pause during the walk in a nice spot. Some albergues offer a bit of breakfast for free, and for a small extra contribution some also offer dinner. This is optional, but I recommend it if you want to talk with the hospitalero and other pilgrims.

Then, the cost of a bed per night in an albergue for pilgrims (camino’s hostels) is between 5 and 10 euro (Visit our section for albergues and accommodation for more detailed information about them). Many people carry their own tent and it is free to camp beside the albergues and you can ue their facilities (i.e. showers, kitchen, etc.) without having to pay anything or if you have a good sleeping bag and it is summer you can just sleep under the stars which I recommend to do at least once.

Albergue: 8 euro + Dinner: 10 euro + Food for the day: 8 euro= 26 euro.

Therefore, I would say that a budget somewhere between 25 and 40 euro a day is far enough.

Packing your rucksack for el Camino de Santiago

Next thing to think about: your bag. Your bag shouldn’t weight more than 10 kilos or a better rule is: “your bag should be 10% of your body weight, maximum”. I have seen people with bags of 15 or 20 kilos. That is completely unnecessary and it will destroy your back and knees.

Just take the necessary to El Camino de Santiago, I have seen people carrying hair dryers. You do not need a hair dryer. Pack a sleeping back, a good one, some nights may be cold even in summer, especially if you sleep outside, so have one that keeps you comfortable as low as 5 degrees Celsius – i.e. 1 kilo. It is also useful to bring a camping mat for the sleeping bag. Then pack two or three cotton t-shirts, two comfortable light trousers (maybe one shorts), a jumper (for the nights), three pairs of thick socks, underwear at your discretion, a good pair of boots or trainers (they don’t have to be boots until the ankles, the important thing is to have a thick sole. Each boot shouldn’t weight more than 500 gr.), a pair of light flip-flops for the evenings, shampoo (not a litre! 100ml is fine, if you finish it you can buy more.), and other basic toiletries as required, sun protection (the sun is very strong in summer!), thread and needle for the blisters, maybe some magnesium tablets for your joints and bones and some basic first aid products.

That’s it. It should weight between 5 and 10 kilos depending on your size. That is the luggage for either 5 days or 5 weeks. In the albergues you will have the chance of washing your clothes in the evenings so do not take a pair of socks for each day.

Last thing, many people take Camino guides or books. That may be helpful although not indispensable. El Camino de Santiago is perfectly marked so you will never get lost and if you have any doubts the best thing is to ask it to other pilgrims or an hospitalero. Anyway it is always nice to read something about the history or the background of the places you are walking through, but do not take any heavy books, remember that everything that you put in your bag you will have to carry it for more up to 800 km!!

So, that’s it. You don’t need anything else. Planning is finished. You just need to buy a plane, train or bus ticket to get there (Visit our section for Transport to el Camino de Santiago to see the nearest airports and train stations). You also need to get your Pilgrim Credential (Credencial del peregrino) on your arrival to the first albergue.

Also available in: Spanish

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