Planning Your Camino - Part 1

Image Credit: Jorge Franganillo*

The urge to embark on a new adventure has you excited, you have just discovered the Camino or it may have been on your bucket list for a while, and you have decided that you are going to walk the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela! But now what!? Where do you start? It all seems a bit over whelming!

Although some people will just book their flight/bus/train and head off and begin their walk, others need more time, more information and a plan of action. Part 1 of the camino planning guide is for those that are just beginning to plan their trip and those that don't even know where to begin. It'll help you set your camino dreams in motion!

A Word Of Advice

Firstly it's important to realise that everybody's camino will be different, there is no right or wrong way to do this, just what works for you. In fact the best piece of advice I was given before I walked my first Camino de Santiago in Spain was simply, walk your camino! (which also came to be the name of this site).

Yes there maybe a lot to consider and a lot of information to go through before you set out, but if you keep that simple phrase in mind, it makes both the planning and the walking stages a lot easier and a lot more fun!

Ok, planning time!

What Route Will You Walk?

For me this is one of the fun parts of planning and a great place to begin as it really gets your imagination going and kick starts your camino adventure! You may already know what route you want to walk, or you may not have even realised that there were other routes to choose from!

For most first time pilgrims the Camino Frances is the path of choice. Although it is the best facilitated of all the camino routes for pilgrims, the Camino Frances is also the most popular and can be very busy at times. So it's good to look at other alternatives, and you may just find that another route is more to your liking. For example, the Camino Portuguese (the section from Porto to Santiago) has been the second most popular route over the last few years and is also well facilitated for pilgrims. Click the image below to get more information on each route.

What Time Of Year Do You Want To Walk?

This obviously will involve a few different factors. The number one being, when can you get away? You may need to plan around work, family and other commitments. Another factor will be what route you plan on walking. Many of the routes will be too hot at the height of summer if you aren't used to the heat. You can find out more about the best times to walk each route by going to the camino routes page and clicking on the different paths.

At this point I wouldn't worry about setting a date in stone. My advice would be to choose a particular time frame (early/late spring, summer, winter, or early/late autumn) and have an approximate date in mind. This gives you more flexibility over flights/trains/busses (as prices can vary and are a lot more affordable the earlier you book) and also allows you to make any adjustments to your plan incase an important family event or something else comes up while you are beginning to plan your trip.

How Long Do You Want To Walk For?

This will depend on either how long you can be away, or how long you want to be away. You might only want to experience a few days of pilgrim life, you might only have 2 weeks off work, you may have visa restrictions if you aren't an EU citizen, or you might be one of the lucky ones and have unlimited time and money to do what you want (the ideal situation!).

The great thing about all of the camino routes is that you can start from any point you choose, as long as you can get transport to a particular spot. You can walk the entire length of a particular route or choose a region that interests you the most, or start from one of several major cities. Obviously all the routes vary in length, so it really is up to you and the time you have available. Again you can read more about how long each particular path is on the camino routes page.

What's Your Budget?

It's a good idea to figure out an approximate amount of money you'll need before heading off. You'll need to budget for the usual travel expenses such as flights/trains/busses (depending on where you are traveling from) and travel insurance, as well as buying any traveling gear that you might not have yet and planning for any household bills you might have while you're away. 

But what about day to day expenses while you are walking? Well it will vary. You could comfortably live on €30 per day, that would get you into a pilgrim hostel and allow you to buy food and eat at restaurants a few times a week and enjoy yourself at the bar! Of course the camino offers hotels and other luxuries along the way for pilgrims with a larger budget. There are also ways to spend less than €30 per day if you are willing to prepare your own food, amongst other things. It's possible to spend as little as €15 per day, or even less if you are REALLY willing to rough it!

The albergues (pilgrim hostels) usually range in price from around 5 to €15, and some are even donation based. Some of the private albergues will be more expensive than this and there are of course other types of accommodation available along the way too, hotels, bed and breakfasts etc.

I will have a more comprehensive guide for budgeting for the camino written soon, which I will link to here. But for now you can calculate your approximate budget by taking the amount of days you plan to spend walking the camino and multiplying it by €30, then adding on your other travel expenses. From that you should have a rough idea of the budget you will need.

Please note that some of the less popular routes will more than likely cost more per day as there are less facilities geared towards pilgrims and therefore accommodation can be more expensive. So it pays to plan for a larger budget when choosing to walk some of the other routes.

Camino Places App

There is actually a very useful app that you can download that will show you the accommodation options available in the area you are currently walking on the camino. It works for all camino routes, but you will need a camino forum account to use it. Keep in mind though that this is an app to use while you are walking the camino, it is not an app for planning. You can download the app here and setup a forum account here.

Next Steps

There should be plenty here to get your planning underway! In Part 2 and 3 (links will be posted here) I will discuss things like; what gear to pack, the best shoes to walk in, how to prepare for the camino (training advice), advice for walking alone or as a couple or in a group, advice for booking flights and trains and busses, accommodation options for the start and end of your trip, as well as other things to plan for. 

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