I will share the most valuable Santiago tips & tricks, which I found the most helpful on my way to Santiago de Compostela. You don’t have to plan much before going to Santiago, but these few tips will help you to understand, what you should plan before going to Santiago. It doesn’t matter which Camino you choose, these Santiago tips & tricks apply to all of them (including the well known French Way, Portugese and of course my beloved Northern route).
I will also try to answer on some of the most frequent question I get, like:
- How much it costs to get Santiago?
- Do I need tent?
- Am I fit enough?
Disclaimer: This is going to be honest review of my Way of St. James (Camino del Norte). I’ve finished my first Camino in summer 2018. All of these facts, tips & tricks, and random observations are based only on my own opinion and personal experience. It’s very likely, that your Camino might be totally different. Yours expectation, starting point (physically and mentally) might be totally different from mine.
My starting point
To get a better understanding about my point of view, here is something about my actual life stage.
- Physically – I consider myself reasonable fit. I am 28 years old, fairly active my whole life, love doing all kinds of sport, not afraid of multi-days walk accross mountain range and I really enjoy sweating:)
- Mentally – again, I think of myself as of pretty happy person. No huge problems, I am healthy, reasonably rich, nice family, girlfriend and all these things. The main thing I really miss in my life is a dog.
Santiago tips #1 – Do the whole camino in one big stretch
Now, I can easily tell you, that for me the whole camino was easy. Physically it’s not a problem to walk 25-35km on average every day. What is hard, is you have to do this often. Every. Single. Day. For a month. Because if you want to walk the Northern route, it’s about 850-900km long. And If I can give you my first advice, it would be something like this: please, do the whole camino at once. Don’t do it like you walk for a week, 1 year pause, and then you continue again and it takes you 4 years and 4 weeks.
This way or method is very useless, if you want to learn something about yourself. You have to put your body and mind into certain state, which you simply can’t achiev in one week.
Everything in life takes time and you simply can’t skip important stages. I’ve read in the book Nesmrtelná túra do Compostely (Amazon – The Santiago Pilgrimage: Walking the Immortal Way), that the 1st week is about physical pain. You will learn, that there is something new and painful every day. 2nd week of pilgrimage is difficult mentally. You start to have doubts, that you are wasting your time, helping no one with this walking nonsense. And you feel alone, cold and hungry all the time.
You are becoming a pilgrim at the end of a 2nd week. The 3rd week is when it starts being fun. Your body and mind is already used to pretty much everything on the road and you start enjoying every. Single. Step. Joking… The best thing you can say to another pilgrim at the end of the day is: “what a great day for walking. I feel great and I feel like I could walk 20km more”. Some pilgrims will likely be mad at you after this sentence, because they had probably the worst day ever. I was lucky I sometimes walked with a Danish friend, who taught me this phrase. And they are important, it pays off in long term, to be positive. Even though everything hurts and you are dying inside.
That’s why it’s important to do it at once. You simply have to go through all those stages, to fully understand the meaning of this journey. It would probably be the most valued of Santiago tips I can give you. You will learn a lot about yourself.
Santiago tips #2 – Lower your expectations and prepare things to think about
Before you go on a journey like this (or any other long term travelling alone thingy), think twice about your expectations. Low expectations mean more surprises and thus much more happiness.
Lots of people think about this journey as something more than special. I am sorry, but I have to tell you. Your whole personality isn’t going to change, just because you are walking a lot. Yes, you will think a lot during camino. You will think about deep things in your life, yes. However it’s still going to be you. It’s a lot easier to change, when you are in totally new environment, where nobody knows you. What is important is, whether you will stay “changed” once you return back home.
I thought about my past and future a lot while walking Camino del Norte to Santiago. Sometimes my mind just wandered around and I started to think about more serious things and it was fun, to be honest.
But sometimes I had nothing to think about. Luckily I was also expecting this and I downloaded the 20 best TedTalks to have something inspiring to listen to. Actually, I combined the two playlists on youtube and made my own list “best of the best”.
I also joined few podcasts group on my phone, which I can highly recommend.
These podcasts / lectures are often well diversified so you sometimes listen about a couple, who sail around the world on their boat and then you listen about starting your own business or what really happens in your brain, when you eat junk food. Just something to think about or have an interesting topic to talk to your fellow pilgrims.
Of course, it’s nice to be quiet and don’t have earphones plugged in all the time, so your mind can come up with your own thoughts along the road. Yet sometimes, you just want to listen to your favorite songs and get that extra energy into your veins and tired body. I sometimes overflowed with energy because of some songs like:
- I’m Born to Run – American Authors
- Parov Stelar – Grandpa’s Groove
- Šíríme mladosť – S Hudbou Vesmírnou
Following this simple Santiago tip got me through countless long uphills:)
Sure, it depends on your travelling style, but I can share my Santiago expenses with you. As I like to track my spending with the Wallet app (iOS, Android) I know it pretty precisely. Just remember, you are already saving a lot on transportation as you won’t need any;)
Majority of my daily spending while going to Santiago went to the accommodation. It’s usually 6-12€ per night for a bed in most albergues. And another 5-15€ per day for food. With the use of basic mathematics it makes approx 10-25€ per day till Santiago. I can say I lived on a student budget, didn’t need any fancy stuff and a month of walking in Spain cost me about 450€ in total. I also track how much I earn investing summary July and August 2018. If you would like to learn how to earn extra money, even while traveling on student budget like me, check 3 + 3 Options how to Start Investing today.
Santiago tips #3 – Don’t bring useless stuff
It’s not worth it. If you bring only 2 pairs of socks, you will use only 2 pairs. Nobody will judge you. I know, because honestly, I was wearing the same socks, shorts and t-shirt 90% of my camino. So I look exactly the same on all the pictures. One might say, consistency is the key;)
If you really feel like you need more socks, you can always buy another pair somewhere along the road.
Something to share
What I really encourage you to take on camino, is something to share with others. It makes wonders, when you offer a cookie to a tired pilgrim. You will become friends immediately, It’s inevitable. I usually had an extra pack of cookies or dates or cranberries, for the healthy snacks. Or when I really liked that person I also shared my homemade dried beef. It’s so nice to see the smiles on their face, when you give them something. These small things simply make everyone’s day better. This rule might also transfer to a normal life tricks and become more than one of Santiago tips.
Tent and sleeping bag
If you don’t plan to sleep outside all the time, than you don’t need tent at all. There are plenty of pilgrim hostels (albergues) and you can almost always find a bed there. It costs only 6-12€ per night (bed linen, shower and use of kitchen included).
Food and water
If you are worried, whether there is enough food in Spain, then don’t be, there is more than enough of tuna cans for everyone. The quantity and quality depends on your budget, but you can usually find a grocery shop multiple times a day so you can refill your stocks. The same goes for water. There is plenty of free water sources along the road. There is a fountain with drinking water in lots of villages and you can take as much as you want. You can also always ask some locals to fill your water. If you don’t speak Spanish simply show them your empty water bottle:)
Staff / walking holes / sticks
I didn’t have “a stick” and I never missed it. However it’s a personal opinion and many people would say, sticks were the most important piece of equipment on their way to Santiago. Just bear in mind, they are usually forbidden in planes and many people just leave them in Santiago at the end. You can find this place at the Pilgrim’s office near the St James Church. You can try and take one of the sticks on your way to Finisterra/Muxia.
Santiago tips #4 – Learn little bit Spanish before
Learn at least few basic words in Spanish. It’s not that hard, as you might think. I knew only a few, but it made wonders to me. Locals are very happy, when you even try to say something in Spanish and will try to understand, even if you say something completely wrong. You will either succeed or you will learn:)
I recommend to go through at least few lessons on Duolingo. You won’t learn a new language there, but you have to start somewhere, right?
What are your Santiago Tips &Tricks that you would give to a new pilgrim? Which piece of equipment was your most loved one or what would you leave at home?
I hope these Santiago Tips & Tricks were helpful to you. Even if you will follow only one of them. And if you liked these tips, feel free to share and discuss with your friends:)