FAQ : How


                                               How long does it take to walk the Camino?

                                           Confraternity of Saint James of South Africa





- Walking the entire Camino Frances route from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela can take anything from one month to six weeks.

- Depending on fitness, time restraints and inclination, daily walking distances may vary between 12 and 30 km. - Sometimes the positioning of the refugios makes it possible to walk much less - or more - than that.

- You need to walk the last 100km or cycle 200km to qualify for your certificate (compostela).

- Cyclists will need around two weeks on average.


- A complete list of the refugios with distances between them is available in most guidebooks or from the confraternities, but weather and terrain should also be considered when calculating potential sectors.

- Don't overestimate your fitness.

- If possible give yourself a few rest days along the way to recuperate and enjoy some of the cities.

- And listen to your body!


                                                  American Pilgrims FAQs     




  How long does it take?

- There is no simple answer to this question. Whether on foot or bicycle, how long your pilgrimage will take will depend on many variables, such as what kind of terrain you will be crossing, how much you want to travel each day, how many rest days you wish to take during the pilgrimage and, naturally, your physical abilities.

- The hilly countryside near Le Puy, France, may limit walkers to 15 or 20 kilometers per day, while the flat expanses of the Spanish meseta will allow some to walk 30 or more kilometers per day.

- You may choose to finish your day’s walk early in the afternoon, or you may prefer to continue walking until late in the day.

- The distance you travel in a day will depend on your pace, as well as on how often you stop to rest, to visit cultural attractions and to talk to people. You may wish to take a day off from time to time, or you may prefer to walk every day.


- Most guidebooks for the various pilgrimage routes offer suggested itineraries.

- For the entire Camino francés, a distance of approximately 750 km (~450 mi), walkers commonly take about 32 to 35 walking days. Cyclists might count on about two weeks.

- Other examples would be for the Camino primitivo, 13 to 15 walking days from Oviedo to Santiago; for the French Chemin du Puy, 30 to 34 walking days from Le Puy to St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port; and for the German Münchner Jakobsweg, 10 walking days from Munich to Lindau-Bregenz.

- Take your pick; the possibilities are nearly endless.


  Are there alternatives to walking the Camino?

- Yes, but traversing the Camino using muscle power one way or the other is a requirement for certain benefits.

- Today between 15 and 20% of peregrinos, for example, bicycle the route.

- In order to use the majority of albergues and in order to receive the compostela from the cathedral in Santiago, you must be either on foot or bicycle (or rarely, on horseback).


  What information is available for cyclists?

- At present the American Pilgrims' web site is oriented toward the walking pilgrim, but much of the information presented applies to cyclists as well.

- For more information directed specifically toward cyclists, you should consider joining the Yahoo special-interest group Santiago Bicicleta.

- The British Confraternity also has a useful booklet, The Cycling Pilgrim.

- Entering something like "camino santiago bicycle" (without the quotes) in your favorite search engine will produce a plethora of sites.


  Is is possible to do the Camino on horseback? With a burro?

- Yes, although it will take some planning.

- The British Confraternity has a useful page with advice for horse riders and with further web site links.

- Thinking about using a burro? You'll want to visit El Burro Peregrino (Spanish).



  Do I have to carry a backpack?

- The short answer to this is 'yes'. Assuming that you are walking it would be rather impractical to travel carrying your worldly possessions any other way.

- A suitcase - even one with wheels - would simply be non-functional on almost all of the Camino's terrain.

- If you will be walking but with vehicle support a suitcase would work but traveling this way would deny you access to a substantial percentage of the pilgrim albergues.

- So if you are traveling with complete vehicular support and you will be staying strictly in private albergues and/or hotels, then, yes, you could get by without a backpack.

- Obviously if you are cycling, the question will be worded differently but the answer is pretty much the same.

- There are various types of walking trailers manufactured. Try a term like "hiking trailer" in your favorite search engine. There are some rough sections of the Caminos where these would be problematical.

- And of course you can have a horse or burro do the work for you. See above.


  Can I mail a package ahead to myself?

- Yes, and this is fairly common. Many do it after starting out to lighten their load; others may do it with aforethought, sending a package of 'city clothes' ahead to Santiago.

- The service in Spain, called lista de correos, is the same as poste restante or, in the U.S., general delivery. You can buy a box at the correos (post office). Packages are addressed:


     Your name with your surname first and in capital letters and underlined or boxed


     Destination city with postal code and province (see below for some)


- The Correos' general policy is to hold a package for 14 days after which they will return it to the city of origin. Needless to say that would be very bad news! You might write "PEREGRINO" boldly on the box and you might also add "Retener en lista de correos hasta el <day> de <month>" ("Hold until date" with the month spelled out in Spanish) but nothing says that doing all that will guarantee anything.


- The lista de correos addresses of a few major cities along the Camino are:

     Paseo Sarasate 9/31080 Pamplona (Navarra)

     Paseo de Inmaculada 5/31200 Estella (Navarra)

     Perez Caldo 44/26080 Logroño (La Rioja)

     Plaza Conde de Castro 1/09080 Burgos (Burgos)

     Jardines de San Francisco s/n/24080 León (León)

     Calle General Vives 1/24400 Ponferrada (León)

     Calle Calvo Sotelo 183/27600 Sarria (Lugo)

     Orfas 17/15703 Santiago de Compostela (A Coruña)


- You will need your passport for identification when retrieving your package.


- Have a further question about mail service in Spain? Link to the Correos de España web site (click on "English" upper right corner). http://www.correos.es/dinamic/plantillas/home1.asp


- By the way, the information for poste restante service in France can be found at the site for Discover France (English). http://www.discoverfrance.net/France/DF_postal.shtml

- Look for "General Delivery Service." We have seen advisements against sending packages from France (St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port for example) to lista de correos in Spain. Apparently the two systems don't recognize each other.


  Can I have my pack transported?

- Yes, although a service to support you over the entire route probably does not exist short of joining an organized tour.

- Be advised that some albergues may refuse you accommodation if they are aware that you are not actually carrying your own pack.

- Still in a few select stretches of the Camino francés over some of the higher and more arduous passes, the peregrino seems to be given a waiver from this restriction.


                                  Planning your pilgrimage: some practical tips

                                                 Confraternity of St James




  And for cyclists:

- We have a very useful booklet in our Practical Pilgrim Notes series - The Cycling Pilgrim, 2nd ed, February 2007 - which is available in our Bookshop. We hope it will do something to make up for the emphasis generally given to walkers.

- For a group "geared to those who have ridden, or who are planning to ride, the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route across northern Spain, or any of the connecting routes. The group is planned to collect and share information about this tour and act as a resource for those who are contemplating it. The list is primarily intended for cyclists who will be using roads for most of their journey, perhaps with some short sections on the walking path, but those who plan to use mountain bikes or hybrids on the path are also welcome."


- And a special warning: the Spanish police are now enforcing the law introduced a few years ago, obliging cyclists to wear helmets. One cyclist (not on the Camino, as it happens) had his front wheel confiscated when he couldn't pay the €90 fine.

- And visit the Pilgrimage to Santiago Forum to join the current conversation among cyclists: http://www.pilgrimage-to-santiago.com/board/biking-the-camino


                         Confraternity of St James : Frequently Asked Questions  




  What about cycling ?

- Much of the advice given on this site, though mainly intended for walkers, applies to cyclists as well, but for more specific advice, try http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Santiago_Bicicleta or http://www.mundicamino.com

- We also have a very useful booklet in our Practical Pilgrims Notes series - The Cycling Pilgrim, 2nd ed, Feb 2006 - available through our our Bookshop.

- And visit the Pilgrimage to Santiago Forum to join the current cyclists' conversation.


  I'd like to go on horseback, or maybe take a donkey

- On the whole, animals seem to be more trouble than they're worth, but follow these links to find out more about going on horseback: http://www.csj.org.uk/horse.htm

and taking a donkey: http://www.csj.org.uk/other-websites.htm#donkey


                                                  Bicycle - Horseback

                                               Richard W. Tripp, Jr. 2011




  Travel By Bicycle


- Bicycling pilgrims can travel on touring bikes or mountain bikes. Many portions of the path followed by walkers cannot be traversed using touring bikes, and riders must follow alternative routes that pass through the same villages and towns, using local dirt roads or those paved with asphalt but generally with little traffic. These parallel the route used by walkers but stick to surfaces suitable for such bikes. Mountain bikers follow the camino and cohabit with walkers throughout the trip, even along portions where the average walker is astounded to see someone riding a bike.

- Although it is possible to rent bicycles in Spain, you are better off to bring your own. You can ship your bike as checked luggage on your flight and clearing customs on arrival will not be a big problem. The fees involved and rules for shipping your bike vary with the airline, so this should be checked into early in your planning and could affect your decision as to which airline to fly. After arriving at your European air terminal, you can use local mass transportation to get to the location where you intend to start. In addition, there are several tours available which offer rental bikes for a supplemental fee.


  Time Required

- Whereas a walker can cover 20 to 25 km per day, a bicycle rider can cover much greater distances, 60 to 75 km.


  Getting Ready: Conditioning

- Start training three or four months in advance. It is preferable to condition yourself on your bike but workouts in the gym are also useful, particularly if you are going to make an early spring departure. Remember that once you start out, you will not have the option to stay off the road if the weather is bad, so do the same in your work-up phase. Make a schedule and stick to it, regardless of the weather. It will be a good test of your gear. A bicycle trip lasting a weekend to a week, requiring you to totally depend on what you are carrying is recommended to help condition you and to evaluate your gear. Leave some time afterwards so you can buy replacement gear if something proves unsatisfactory. If possible, practice over different terrain, including steep hills, mountains, and roads in poor condition, using a loaded bike to the maximum practible extent.


  Getting Ready: Gear


  Your Bike

- Check out more than one bike shop and talk to employees knowledgeable in touring before making a purchase decision on your bike and its gear. Chose one of good quality and minimize the weight. Use extra reflectors and ensure you have working lights for travel during rainy and overcast conditions or in case you find it essential to travel during twilight. Rearview mirrors are a must. You will need front and rear saddlebags, and should plan to distribute the loading so that the weight is balanced to both sides, fore and aft. Because of the weight, a high quality dependable braking system is essential. You will need wider tires because of the rough conditions of parts of the route. Because of the weight and the hills/mountains you will be crossing, use gearing that provides 10 to 18 speeds. You will probably find a small handlebar bag convenient for small, frequently used items. A frame-mounted water bottle is also essential.

- Last but not least is the seat. Make sure you and your seat are compatible. If you decide to part company during the trip, it will be expensive, take time and will only be made after reaching a point where the discomfort reached an unbearable point. If it gives you discomfort during the conditioning period, it will not get better on the Camino.

- Above all, remember it will be your muscles that have to power you and everything for the hundreds (200 as a minimum) of kilometers you will be traveling.


  Repair Kit

- Everyone will have their own preferences but the ones below are generally accepted as the quintessential requirements. If you are traveling with others, weight and volume can be reduced by sharing items among the group but replication prevents problems if a unique item is lost or a person drops out of the group.

- Tire repairs: pump, spare tire or inner tube, patches, rubber solution, sand paper, tire lever

- Mechanical repairs: brake liners, spare spokes, brake and gear wires, chain links, adjustable wrench/multipurpose tool, lubricant


  Clothing and such

- For safety, select clothing that will make you easy to spot when cycling along the roads. Like walkers, bikers also need clothing that dries quickly and should think in terms of two sets of clothing, what you are wearing and what you just washed.

- Hard soled shoes

- Protective headgear, including provision for protection of your face and neck from the sun.

- Gloves

- Rain gear

- Shirts that absorb sweat and vent it

- Pants designed to minize chaffing at inseams and the inside of the thighs


  First aid kit

- similar to that recommended for walkers, with emphasis shifted from care of feet to care of chaffing and abrasions/cuts resulting from falls.

- Plastic bags to protect your clothing and other items from the water that will inevitably get inside your panniers.

- See the comments for walkers concerning the following items you will need:

* Ear plugs

* Laundry detergent

* Line

* Towel

* Flashlight

* Socks

* Sleeping bag

* Sewing kit


  Transporting Your Bike

- Getting your bike undamaged to your trans-Atlantic destination is a major aspect. Your airline will have bike cartons but also a local bike shop should have them or can get them for you, and that may be more convenient. You will have to rely on the airline for the return flight.

- However your bike will be shipped, boxed or bagged, for your own protection take precautions so that it will arrive in good condition at the other end. Take extra steps to protect breakable items within the carton. The damage resulting from poor handling may be the airline's responsibility but preventing it by packing your bike carefully will take less time than effecting repairs and result in a more pleasant trip. Make sure you use the tools you will have on your trip to do any disassembly required to prepare it for packing..

- If you are not already an experienced bicycle tourist, read a general book on bicycle touring. You can also read articles on this in bicycle magazines or search online.

                                                             * * *

  Traveling By Horseback

- At one point I was going to have a full section addressing travel by horseback. However, because of the difficulties of shipping horses internationally, there are very few potential travelers who will travel from the US to travel the Camino by themselves on horseback. If you wish to travel by horseback, you need to contact one of the busineses that organizes camino travel by horseback (a caballo). Here are a few links to help you get started:

* Camino a Caballo


* Caminos de Santiago a Caballo


* Hipica Rabadeira (In Spanish)


* El Camino de Santiago a Caballo This is a more general site listing riding clubs where one can rent horses for riding on the Camino.




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