Frequently Asked Questions
As you plan your Camino de Santiago, you will have questions about this or that aspect pertaining to the journey. In fact, it would be strange if you did not. Over teh course of the many years of helping pilgrims make their Camino dream come true, we have been asked thousands of questions, and we have put together this list (revised and updated frequently) in order to address the most frequently asked ones. The questions are put together under the respective categories. Please peruse the list – it is likely that you will find yours answered, or that you will get an answer to a question you didn’t know you had! If you have a question that you haven’t seen addressed here, or if an additional / follow-up question has popped up, please drop us a line (use the Contact Form at the bottom of the page).
There are naïve questions, tedious questions, ill-phrased questions… But every question is a cry to understand the world. There is no such thing as a dumb question.
FAQ about the Camino de Santiago
FAQ about Pilgino Self-Guided Tours
FAQ About Pilgino Camino Lodging
FAQ about the Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage
Is there only one Way of St. James?
“There is always the Way of St. James that you are walking!” Or: “The Camino is where You are!” So, at least, go some of the many Camino sayings. In reality, the Way of St. James is a network of many paths across Europe that lead to the tomb of Apostle James in Santiago de Compostela.
Usually, when people today talk about the Way of St. James, they are referring to the classic, most popular and most iconic route in Spain – the Camino Francés. However, in the medieval times, pilgrims would leave their homes and walk to Santiago the shortest, fastest and safest way possible. By way of example, pilgrims from Portugal would have had neither need, nor reason to go on the French Camino as they could easily walk straight up North to Santiago.
Monasteries and churches took note and kept record of the pilgrims to Santiago that would pass and stop, and it is thanks to those documents that we are able to retrace and reconstruct the traditional and historic Roads to Santiago.
Visit our Camino Routes page to find out more about the different Caminos to Santiago!
What Is So Special about a Pilgrimage
The Pilgrimage alone or in a group through the beautiful nature and past the stunning masterpieces of human design along the Way of St. James is usually a very impactful experience. However, you should also be prepared for the fact that pilgrimage is not always only beautiful, but it can also sometimes be “painful”. For example, almost every pilgrim at some point experiences problems with feet – “just” soreness and fatigue, blisters, tendon inflammation, etc. In such situations, we are challenged to persevere. A large number of pilgrims say after their Camino that it was precisely the pain – and overcoming it, and the pride of the accomplishment – that made the Way of St. James such an impactful, significant, even transformational experience. However, if one finds themselves in a situation where one just can’t go any further, it is instrumental not to be afraid to acknowledge this limitation and, if necessary, to take the opportunity to skip day’s stage partially or entirely by taking a cab or a bus.
Much of what applies to the physical condition can also be applied to the state of our minds. In the silence of the pilgrimage, many things break loose that had been bottled up and waiting for that moment for a long time. This also sometimes hurts, and it takes time to “go through”. Don’t worry too much about unexpected mood swings and unpleasant feelings – there is no better way than experiencing it all while doing the most natural thing for humans – walking: being on your own feet, going your own pace, and bringing your body and soul into harmony.
Is a Pilgrimage a Spiritual Experience?
Many pilgrims today no longer have religious commitments; rather, they are often driven by something like a spiritual quest, sometimes nested within the larger scope of the journey of self-discovery. Pilgrimage always means an encounter with oneself as well as the question of the transcendent, the search of the “greater”. For many pilgrims, the questions of deeper meanings and purposes – of selves, of life – arise or re-surface during the pilgrimage. From this point of view, for the vast majority of pilgrims, the pilgrimage – or the setting out on a pilgrimage path – also means walking a spiritual path.
Where Does the Pilgrimage Tradition Originate from?
Pilgrimage exists in each of the major world religions. The origins of the Camino de Santiago are rooted deeply within the Catholic tradition; however, today it is a destination to all seekers of good will, from all over the world, from all walks of life, and for people of faith or no faith they can name. To walk the Camino de Santiago means to walk a part of one’s own way of life. Therefore, the Camino de Santiago is a profound, sometimes transformational experience that is available to anyone and everyone, and it unfolds and shapes its own, unique meaning for each one of us even as we walk. One thing is certain, pilgrimage goes beyond walking.
Why Go on a Pilgrimage?
To walk the Camino de Santiago is to walk a part of one’s own life’s journey. We go into the distance, discover new and unknown things and yet find ourselves in the end. Hardly any pilgrim would argue with the statement H. Kerkeling makes in his Camino book, that everyone cries on the Camino at some point. The encounter with oneself, the sometimes suddenly felt closeness to one’s own self, to one’s own life, perhaps only knows the answer of tears. And in the rarest of cases, these tears can be clearly attributed either to sadness or joy – usually, it’s a mix, a kaleidoscope as complex as we ourselves are.
Encounter on the Camino also means encounter with other people: the “annoying fellow pilgrim” from your own group, an incredibly enriching conversation with a “pilgrim sister” or the feeling of a “united world” in the encounter with pilgrims of all possible nationalities – all these are gifts on the Camino. And last but not least, for many, the Way of Saint James is also an encounter with the divine. Like the other encounters, this one is not “doable”, often completely surprising and sometimes disturbing; but always enriching. The Camino de Santiago, the thousand-year-old pilgrimage route to the tomb of the Apostle James, invites people to the adventure of these encounters. Let yourself be inspired – and inspire yourself!
Do You Have to Be Religious to Go on a Pilgrimage?
The answer is: No. The Camino de Santiago is clearly Catholic in its origin. Already in the past and especially in our modern times, people with and without religion, Christians and non-Christians, believers and non-believers set out on the Camino de Santiago in search of a bigger purpose, of selves and of the divine. The Compostela – the certificate of completion that you receive in Santiago de Compostela after successfully completing your pilgrimage – bears beautiful, meaningful value even for non-Christians. Many pilgrims – Christians and non-Christians alike – also like to continue on to Finisterre – the End of the World as it was believed to be by the Celts.
FAQ about Pilgino Self-Guided Tours
How are Self-Guided tours different from Group Tours?
Our self-guided tours are ideal for people who wish to embark on an individual Camino adventure, or who want to share it with their partner or family member(s) or friend(s). Over the last years, approx. 70 % of our self-guided tours have been booked by groups of 2 (whether or not they booked and shared a double-room, or opted for single rooms). Approx. 25 % of our self-guided tours have been booked by solo travelers, and about 5 % – by groups of 3 or more people. On our Self-guided Tours we take care of booking selected accommodation and transporting your luggage. So you can concentrate on running! We will send you your information in digital form before you set off. Otherwise you run alone or with your fellow traveler, without any other group members or tour guide.
Who takes care of the luggage transport for the Self-Guidedtours?
We work with an experienced local transportation company that will take your luggage from one accommodation to the next every day.
Can I have you create a personalized trip for me?
Yes! And that’s free of charge. Please contact us (you can fill in our Contact Form below).
Can I take my child with me?
Of course! Please consult with us personally, preferably by phone or just send an email. Questions we will ask you for sure are: How old are the children? Do you (and your children) have any experience with this?
Can I walk with my own group?
Yes! We offer team trips where several people can run together as their own group and not have to worry about the luggage and accommodations. This falls under individual trips and can be arranged according to the group’s wishes, with pre-booked accommodation as standard, and luggage transport, breakfast and/or private transfer from the airport as optional add-ons. Whether family groups, groups of friends, work groups, former classmates, hobby groups or hiking clubs and living communities – we have already sent many great groups on the Way of St. James. We will gladly put together individual offers for you free of charge. Just give us a call or send us an e-mail.
Can I take my dog with me on Pilgino tour?
No, unfortunately it is not possible at the moment. But, we are working on selected routes to offer this option in the future.
Are the flights included?
Pilgino offers pilgrimage tours without flights. This gives you the opportunity to plan your journey flexibly, choose cheap flights and fly from your own chosen departure airport. The journey by plane to the agreed destination airport is thus self-directed. This means that the group does not travel as a group, but is assembled in the destination country. There you will meet our tour guide. We will be happy to assist you with information and advice when booking your flight.
What is the difference between Regular Pace, Fast Track and Slow Steps?
Generally, our Self-Guided Tours come with three options, which are based on the average daily walking distance:
Regular Pace: approx. 21.5 km. (13 mi.) / Day
Fast Track: approx. 26.5 km. (16.5 mi.) / Day
Slow Steps: 15.5 km. (9.6 mi.) / Day
As a general rule, our Regular Pace tours are suited for adults with an average level of physical fitness, no significant issues or pre-conditions that would impede continuous, daily walking and, ideally, a little bit of experience walking, hiking or other outdoor activities. The walking days on these tours comprise approx. 5 hrs. of net walking time. Making use of the Luggage Transfer add-on option makes significant difference in weight to be carried. If you do plan to carry your backpack, some previous experience of walking with it, as well as some careful planning of its contents and the total weight, are a must!
If you feel the desire to take more time to enjoy the walk and the places the Camino traverses, or if you have reason to believe that 20 km. (12.5 mi.) per day of continuous walking will be too much for your body, the we recommend looking into the Slow Steps options, as their average daily distances are significantly lower.
Fast Track tours cover the same stretches of the given Camino, but in less time: the average distances are significantly longer here than on the Regular Pace tours. Generally, Fast Track options start out with shorter distances in the first few days, and then the pace increases. The reason behind this is that our bodies need to adjust to the challenge of the daily walking, and we also need to adjust to the whole “Camino routine” – developing and managing our daily rhythm is instrumental. Because of longer distances, our Fast Track tours should be considered only by those with above-average level of physical fitness and previous experience with long-distance hiking, running and / or walking. To word it differently, this tour option is for those who know their body very well and are certain that it will be able to cope with the challenge.
Please keep in mind that the numbers above are the average numbers: some days on, say, Regular Pace Itinerary may have 24 km. (15 mi.) while others – only 16 km. (10 mi.), etc., but we do make an effort to keep the day’s distance as close to the tour’s average as possible. The fact that the stages have various lengths has to do with the lengths of the stretches that run in the nature, with the degree of terrain difficulty on the given day, and with the availability of (quality) lodging in a given place. Each of our Tour Description pages on our website has a section titled “Itinerary”, and we strongly recommend that you take a close look at all day-by-day descriptions that include specific distances as well as expected levels of physical difficulty.
If you have doubts as to which option is right for you – drop us a line or give us a call and our Camino Experts will be happy to help you with guidance and advice!
How far are the hiking routes during the day?
The walking distances for most days on our Regular Pace tours range between 20 and 25 kilometers. According to our experience, this is a pilgrimage distance that does not cause major problems with knee joints or feet, even numerous, continuous days of walking. The day’s destination is usually reached around afternoon and after showering and a short rest you can, for example, explore the city.
Daily distances of 30 km. (18.6 mi.), even up to 40 km. (25 mi.) are not uncommon for some pilgrims, but one risks being “put out of action” by one’s own body.
Is there catering for individual trips or if I have my own group?
As a rule, we do not book meals for individual travelers and groups traveling independently, unless this is explicitly requested (exception France because of the difficult catering possibilities). So you can decide for yourself where and what you want to eat for breakfast and dinner. Especially on days when it threatens to be very hot, many pilgrims want to leave very early and then have breakfast on the way (in the accommodations there may be no breakfast so early). However, if you want to have breakfast or dinner at the accommodation, this is of course possible if the accommodation offers it. You simply pay for dinner or breakfast on the spot. In your PILGINO INDIVIDUAL – info folder you will find a list of possible restaurants/cafés (tested by the Pilgino team) in the respective places of accommodation.
Can I book an Self-Guided tour, e.g., with breakfast only?
Yes, of course. Often this is not desired, because breakfast in the accommodations is usually served only from 8h in the morning, and many want to get an early start.
FAQ about Accommodation
The desire to have an idea as to what the rooms in your Camino accommodation might look like is completely understandable, and having as few things to “worry about” as possible is essential in preparation for the Camino! We have spoken with a number of our long-standing partners on the Camino and, with their permissions, we are posting a small but, hopefully, sufficient selection of pictures of what “typical” rooms on the Camino where our clients stay may look like.
We wish to emphasize that this is for informational purposes only, and while these pictures are of real rooms in real places where our pilgrims stay, we cannot guarantee that you will stay in these particular places and rooms!
What are my options for accommodation?
Accommodation for solo travelers is in single rooms. Those traveling together – whether couples or other family or friends – have the choice of being booked into two single rooms, or staying in double rooms. Accommodation in triple or quadruple rooms – e.g., for larger groups of family or friends – may also be possible upon request.
What kind of lodging can I expect?
We have built a long lasting partnership network in Spain, France and Portugal to provide the best accommodations for our clients. Over the many years of experience we have come to know what our clients wish and expect, and we have that in mind as we inspect and select the lodging choices that we offer.
During the pilgrimage, participants are accommodated in guesthouses, hostales (Spanish for small hotels) and hotels. There is also accommodation in casas rurales (“rural houses” similar to Bed & Breakfasts): these are usually old farms or other former agricultural buildings, often very nicely furnished with attention to detail.
The rooms in hotels, which are generally in bigger towns and cities, are of comparable standards with their counterparts in other countries, and you can expect the same as you could in similar level accommodation back home.
The rooms in the guesthouses and hostales are usually furnished rather simply, but always sufficient for the demands of the pilgrims: they provide privacy with all the basic necessities and comforts, but without luxury. Their en-suite facilities will include toilets and sinks as well as showers with either shower cabins, or in some cases bath tubs.
In most cases, the rooms have their own bathroom with toilet. However, exceptions are possible – particularly when it’s a late, short-notice booking during a busy season – in these rare cases, we advise our clients accordingly. For example, in some casas rurales the bathroom may be situated in the hallway or it may need to be shared with another room (not more than one other room); however, there are always enough bathrooms.
Our lodgings are mostly smaller establishments and often run by local families. They are almost always located at each stage destination, often right on the Camino de Santiago. We prefer family accommodations that give you an authentic insight into the country and its people.
Can I have luxury accommodation on the Camino?
While the comforts can and even should be expected by booking private accommodation as opposed to spending nights in pilgrim shelters and hostels, we believe that the Pilgrimage – by its very virtue – isn’t really about luxury. (Read more about Our Philosophy) Walking every day, even modest distances, is a physical exertion, and making do only with what little you brought along is, in and of itself, a form of a sacrifice. People who embark on the Camino forego some comforts and luxuries, so to speak, by default, and they do so willingly by going on the Camino as opposed to spending the same time in a luxurious spa resort, cruise ship or special destination. In addition, the Camino gives us a marvellous opportunity to learn to appreciate things which we do not know nor expect, and when they come – like a perfect backyard with lawn chairs on a lovely afternoon, or a fireplace on a rainy day in the dining room of the B&B – it lifts and lightens our hearts! However, when we arrive in Santiago – and our pilgrimage and that challenge that comes with it is complete – then it’s time to celebrate, to enjoy, to treat ourselves to pleasant extras and to reward ourselves for completing the quest. That’s the reason why a fair number of our clients opt for 5-Star lodging in Santiago. Here, our “standard” is quoted by default (it would be like your accommodation without luxurious extras during the Camino), bet we can quote you “more luxurious” as well as 5-Star (top quality and luxury) instead – just let us know at the time of registering / booking.
Similarly, “More luxurious” and even “5 Star” accommodation may also be available in big cities along the Camino – for example, Pamplona, Logroño, Burgos, León, Ponferrada on the French Way – and, occasionally, our pilgrims add an extra night in these places to “spoil themselves with an extra day of rest, and they then request “more luxurious” or “5 Star” lodging.
FAQ about Food along the Camino
Are meals included with Pilgino Self-Guided Camino tours?
As a rule, we do not book meals for our self-guided tours. The exception is breakfasts: you can opt to include breakfasts as one of our Add-On Options. Please bear in mind that, especially on days when it’s likely to get very hot, many pilgrims start walking very early and then have breakfast on the way (breakfast at accommodations is generally served later in the morning).
However, if you wish to have breakfast or dinner at the accommodation, this is of course possible if the accommodation offers it. You can decide on the spot, and simply pay for dinner or breakfast when you have it. In your Digital Info File, you will find a list of possible restaurants/cafés (tested by the Pilgino team) in the respective places of accommodation. This way, you can decide yourself where and what you want to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
What are Spanish breakfasts like?
For most Spaniards, breakfast means something light: it’s usually coffee (of excellent quality) and something sweet to go along.
The most common breakfast item are the Tostadas: usually, 2 slices of toasted bread, which thicker and heavier than the common American-style toast, along with sealed little servings of butter, honey and / or jam (marmalade) – usually, peach or strawberry. Some places will have muffins, cake and / or croissants – both butter as well as chocolate. The bigger the hotel / café / bar, the more likely will it be to find alternatives such as sandwiches with cheese or meats (jamón, chorrizo, etc.) or egg omelettes.
As for breakfast drinks, as mentioned before, coffee is amazing no matter where. In most places, it comes served as espresso, cafe solo (still small, but not as strong as espresso) or cafe con leche (with milk).
If you are a tea lover, used to both quality and variety, you will soon notice that rural Spain is not a tea-drinking country, but when you do manage to find excellent teas – usually in bigger cities – you will appreciate them more than ever.
Perhaps as a way to compensate for the lack of wonderful teas, you will find freshly-squeezed, absolutely wonderful orange juice virtually everywhere on the Camino: yes, the Spanish love their o.j.!
And if neither of the above is right for you, you can count on enjoying hot chocolate – also available everywhere, and known in Spain as “Colacao.”
What can I expect to find to eat for lunch?
For many people in Spain, lunch means a big meal: one eats a lot for lunch, taking the time to do so as well as to have a nap – the legendary siesta – thereafter. Hence, the Menú del Día (cf. next section) is, for many locals, the go-to option. However, for many pilgrims – except for those who like to set out at dawn and arrive at their destination by lunchtime – having lunch happens somewhere in the middle of the walking day. Therefore, while certainly possible, having an over-filling lunch with an X amount of kilometres yet to go may not be the most practical choice.
The most common food pilgrims get for lunch is the bocadillo – a big (if not to say huge) sandwich. It’s made from the Spanish version of baguette bread, which is shorter, but roughly 3 times wider than the typical baguettes in France. The bread gets cut open and filled with a variety of choices, most common being jamón, cheese, and omelette. If you are not a big eater, and once you see how big bocadillos are, you may consider ordering them half-size – medio bocadillo. Or, if you get a full one and cannot finish it, you can pack the rest along and have it later.
Everything above and beyond these basic choices will largely depend on where you are, and it is also possible to find salads and single hot dishes in most places.
What is the Menú del Peregrino?
The so-called Pilgrim Menus stem from the typical lunch traditions of Spain, known as El Menú del Día – similar, in principal, to what we think of as a Special of the Day, but also very different. The difference lies, mainly, in the larger quantity of choices these Menus comprise. However, while the Menú del Día is offered for lunches only, the Menú del Peregrino is offered all day long, and it (more) often preferred for dinner.
Generally, the Menú del Peregrino will contain a choice of a first course (on average, 5 items to choose from), a choice of a second course (also approx. 5 (other) items to pick one from), and a choice of a desert. In addition, bread and either wine, or water are also included (yes: if you would like both some wine and some water, you’ll be charged a bit extra).
The choices of the first course may consist of a green (mixed) salad, a potato salad known as Ensaladilla Rusa, 1 or 2 choices of soup, pasta (usually, with meat sauce), and / or a Tortilla (potato omelette, not to be confused with a Mexican-style Tortilla).
The choices of the second course often include beef, pork, chicken, fish and – now more often than before – a vegetarian dish.
The desert choices may be as simple as “fresh fruit” – you get an orange, an apple or a banana – or a plastic can of yoghurt, but flan, pudding, cake and / or ice-cream may also be offered.
All of the above comes at a set price, and that price ranges between 10 and 12 euros.
Do I need to leave a tip?
Unlike in the US and other countries, tipping is neither required nor expected. However, if you enjoyed your meal, you may leave a small tip on the table – do not hand to the waitress or waiter as it may be considered impolite.
I am a vegetarian – will I be able to eat on the Camino?
Spain is, by and large, very much of a meat-eating country, and Galicia is famous for its fresh, diverse fish and seafood. Until recently, vegetarianism was very little heard of in the rural areas of Spain, but nowadays – thanks also to the Camino – some vegetarian options are included on most menus. They will not be nearly as ample as the meat and seafood choices, and more readily and easily available in towns than in villages, but it is nowadays certainly possible to enjoy walking the Camino as a vegetarian.
What about buying groceries?
Stopping at a supermarket (in bigger towns), a local small grocery shop or at an open-air market (if you pass one) and getting some food is an absolutely great idea: the countryside the Camino traverses is not only pleasing to the eye, but also inviting to sit, relax and enjoy a picnic, and the only obvious minor inconvenience to consider here having to carry the produce. Similarly, local stores and supermarkets are a great resource for those whose bodies are used to numerous, frequent snacks (as opposed to few but large meals).
What if I have food allergies / specific dietary needs?
Depending on how severe the allergies, you will need to make sure to communicate this where you get food – remember that, most of the time, you will be in very rural areas where local establishment owners and employees may not be as knowledgeable about specific complexities of nutrition science. It would be wise to ask a knowledgeable person – preferably, a bilingual doctor – to translate what you may have and what causes it into a brief, simple and straight-forward passage in Spanish before you even come on the Camino, and to be ready to say or present it wherever you go to eat.
If your dietary needs are very specific (e.g., only gluten-free, etc.), it would be best if brought a certain quantity of such items along from home – our luggage transfer option comes especially handy here. You are likely to find the full selection of specific items only in specialized dietary stores in big cities – it may take a bit research work to locate them, and to go there to re-stock.