The credential for the Camino de Santiago
In our guide on how to do the Camino de Santiago we told you that one of the things you need to do to start your adventure will be to obtain the Pilgrim’s Credential (or accreditation). This document generates a lot of doubts among people who are going to do the Camino de Santiago the first time.
Many of them direct themselves to us, as a specialized travel agency for the Camino de Santiago, so that we can clarify everything related to the Pilgrim’s Credential. That is why we wanted to include in our blog on the Camino de Santiago an article dedicated exclusively to this topic.
Before telling you all about the credential, if you are thinking of doing the Camino de Santiago from Sarria, give us more details about your plan and we will help you organize this experience in the best way possible.
Then we answer questions like: What is it? How many types are there? What is the official Pilgrim’s Credential? What is its use? Where to get it? What are the requirements? And many other questions related to the stamps and certificates you can get during your pilgrimage.
What is the Pilgrim’s Credential?
The credential of the Camino de Santiago is like a special passport for pilgrims. The use of this document dates back to the Middle Ages when the credential served as a safe-conduct to the pilgrims.
Are there various types of credential?
Yes, there is the official credential and some others recognized by the Cathedral of Santiago. We recommend that you always use the official one.
How do I know that it is the official one?
Both the credential of the official pilgrim and the others recognized by the Cathedral of Santiago are documents in cardboard form. It is made up of sixteen sheets that unfold as if they were an accordion.
The first sheet is intended for pilgrim’s personal data. In the upper part, there is a space destined to the seal of the entity that facilitates the credential.
In the lower part of the same page, there is another space reserved to put on the stamp and the date of the cathedral, once the pilgrimage is finished. The rest of the pages are used to stamp the seals during the tour.
The back of the booklet includes a map with the different ways of Santiago. The document also collects some blessing prayers.
What is the Pilgrim’s Credential for?
It is not obligatory to have the Pilgrim’s Credential to do the Camino de Santiago. If you do not plan to use the network of hostels in the Camino de Santiago or ask for any kind of certificate that proves your pilgrimage, its use is not obligatory.
However, we still always recommend you to get it as it is a nice memory of the experience. Here’s what you’ll need the Pilgrim’s Credential for:
● Access to the hostels of the Santiago network. Without it, you will not be able to stay in this type of accommodation. You can only use private hostels or hotels.
● It is necessary to get the Compostela once you arrive in Santiago. If you are not clear about what the Compostela is, we will explain it to you later.
● It is also used to get the Fisterrena and the Muxiana, if you continue on the Finisterre road. At the end of this article, we talk about these certificates.
● It helps you to get discounts on places of interest. Along the Camino de Santiago, you will be able to visit museums, leisure centres, monasteries, reservoirs, etc. In many of them, they will give you a discount for being a pilgrim and you have to identify as such with your credential.
● As a reminder of the experience. During your stay in the Camino de Santiago, you will be able to become a stamp collector and take them all home. So you’ll have a nice memory of all the places you liked the most.
Can I use the credential on any Camino de Santiago?
Yes, absolutely on every route. As you know the Camino de Santiago is a network of ways composed of various pilgrim routes. If you did not know, we recommend that you consult our article “Basic information on the Camino de Santiago”.
Where do I get the official credential from?
If you ask for it directly, you can get it at one of the different establishments authorized by the Cathedral of Santiago. The parishes, the associations of Friends of the Camino de Santiago, the brotherhoods of the Apostle Santiago and the hostels, generally, are accredited entities.
You can find authorized agencies both in Spain and abroad. In Europe there is a wide network, however, in some foreign countries, it is difficult to obtain a credential before reaching Spain. At the end of the article, you will find a link to some of the accredited entities.
If you organize your trip to Santiago de Compostela with a specialized agency on the Camino de Santiago, like us, you will not have to worry about getting your Pilgrim’s credential. We, at least, always include the delivery of the document to the accommodation where your tour begins.
Who can ask for it?
Any pilgrim who is going to make the road on foot, by bicycle or on horseback, in a continuous way and without the use of motor vehicles. However, among the specifications that you will find in the pilgrim’s credential, you will see that only the people who perform the pilgrimage for religious or spiritual reasons are granted. In practice, everyone asks for it.
What do I need to show to obtain the Pilgrim’s Credential?
You will have to fill out a form with your personal information and provide your national identity document or passport. If you want to apply for your credential and that of a friend or travelling companion, you can do so as long as you present your identification.
What is the price of the Pilgrim’s Credential on the Camino de Santiago?
The price of the Pilgrim’s Credential is usually 2 euros. Although some establishments vary their price between €0.50 and €2.00
However, it can also be delivered free of charge or offer a donation. In case they ask for a donation, you should know that it is usual is to contribute €2.00.
When should I apply for my Pilgrim’s Credential?
In the Friends of the Road associations, you can request it a month in advance at the most. If you are going to make the way in the summer months, we advise you to ask for it in time, since the demand is much higher.
But if you’re so good at planning and you remember a little late, or even once you’ve started the road, don’t panic! The usual thing is that you can ask for the Pilgrim’s Credential in the hostel or parish from which you start the Camino de Santiago.
And if I can’t get the credential at the hostel either?
There’s always a solution. Use a notebook or personal diary to collect the stamps equally. Once you have the Pilgrim’s accreditation, along with the seals that testify that you have finished the different stages, you can go to the Pilgrim’s Office and apply for your Compostela.
Can I use the Pilgrim’s Credential more than once?
Yes, as long as you have space available on the credential to add more stamps. Once obtained, you can use it as many times as you want. No matter how long between one visit and another to the Camino de Santiago.
In fact, many pilgrims do long routes, such as the Camino Frances, in short stays on the Camino de Santiago. Sometimes it takes them years to finish it.
The stamps on the Pilgrim’s Credential
Once you are clear about everything related to your Pilgrim’s Credential, the next question that will arise is how to seal it. Next, we will tell you everything you need to know about the stamps on the Camino de Santiago.
How do the stamps work?
It’s very simple and it’s even fun. In the place where you start your Camino, they will certify the day you start and if you do it on foot, by bike or on horseback. They will also stamp the first seal.
From there, you can seal your credential in all the places you want along your route. The idea is to get a personal memory of the most special places for you, those that attract your attention.
How many stamps do I need to seal my accreditation?
If you do the Camino de Santiago on foot, you must have a stamp for each stage. For example, if you do any of the pilgrim routes that can be done in 5 days, You will have to reach the end of your route with at least 5 stamps.
If you do your pilgrimage by bicycle, you must seal twice per stage throughout the journey, instead of once. That means that for a tour like the Camino Portugues coastal route, that could be divided into 12 stages, you must accumulate 24 stamps.
There is no maximum number of stamps. You can seal as many times as you want! In fact, some establishments have very elaborate stamps, which constitute authentic works of art. You’re probably interested in taking them as a reminder on your credential.
In what type of place can I seal the credential?
Along the Camino de Santiago, you will find a multitude of places where you can seal your accreditation. Here we provide you with a list of the most common:
- Tourist offices: On the Camino, you will pass through different villages and in the information offices you can seal your credential. It is a good way to remember the name of all the localities that you will cross on your journey.
- Bars, cafes and restaurants: not all, but many. When you stop for a drink or to eat, ask in the places that seem more picturesque.
- Accommodation: In all types of establishments (hostels, national hotels, etc.), whether they are private or not. Sealing the credential in the accommodations where it’s already night is a classic! At the very least, you make sure you get one a day.
- Churches: Along the Camino de Santiago you will find a multitude of churches. In many of them, they will stamp a seal on your credential, if you request.
- Tourist spots: Also in the tourist attractions you can get a special seal. It’s a good way to get a souvenir of the visit.
- Stops: At some points of the road you will find signature books in which to share your experience or leave a message. Often, next to them there is usually a stamp for you to put a seal of the place yourself.
What do I get when I have all the stamps?
The first thing is to take a nice memory of your journey along the Camino de Santiago. But also, if your journey ends at the tomb of Santiago the Apostle, you can request a document that proves your pilgrimage in the Pilgrim’s Office.
For this, you must have travelled at least 100 miles on foot or on horseback and 200 km if you have done the Camino de Santiago by bike. The documents you can ask for are: La Compostela, the Pilgrim certificate or the distance certificate. Next, we explain the differences between them.
Compostela, Pilgrim’s Certificate, and Distance Certificate
The main difference between the three documents is the motivation for making the Camino de Santiago. As we explained in our article on motives for pilgrimage, the reasons for making the Camino de Santiago are diverse.
The Pilgrim’s Office, aware of the emergence of new motivations, far beyond the religious ones, has created a document of recognition that allows distinguishing between some pilgrims and others. However, to obtain any of the 3 certificates it is necessary to have completed the minimum distance.
Traditionally, the Compostela is issued to those pilgrims who have made their journey for spiritual or religious reasons, even in a sense of search. Erroneously, this document is also called by many pilgrims as “Compostelana”, do not get confused! A Compostelana is a woman who lives in Santiago de Compostela.
The Pilgrim’s Certificate is designed for those who have completed the Camino for recreational or sporting reasons. It is also known as a welcome certificate. This is usually confused with the Pilgrim’s credentials, but they are two totally different things.
The Distance Certificate is a document that can also be requested in the Pilgrim’s Office. This one, unlike the previous ones, collects data on the pilgrimage carried out. For example, the day and place of start, the distance travelled, the day of arrival and the pilgrim route that has been followed.
This document is larger than the previous two and is printed on parchment paper. While the other two certificates are free, for this you have to pay €3.00
Other certificates you can get with your credential
Many pilgrims, after arriving in Santiago de Compostela, continue their pilgrimage along the Camino de Finisterre. Others travel exclusively to make that journey. If you want to know more about this exciting trip to the end of the world, don’t forget to check our article on the marvels of the Camino de Finisterre.
The Fisterrana and the Muxiana are other pilgrim certificates that you can get on your trip on the Camino de Finisterre . Both are documents much less well known than the Compostela, but which increasingly arouse more interest among the pilgrims. Here we explain what they are and how you can get them.
In view of the increased popularity of the Camino de Finisterre, in 1977, the Fisterra Town Council created the Fisterrana. The aim of this certificate is to recognize the effort made by all those who follow the route to the end of the world.
To obtain the Fisterrana, you will be able to use the same Pilgrim’s credential, which we talked about earlier. There is no special accreditation for this route. Once you arrive in Fisterra you can request the document at the Fisterra Hostel, presenting your credential.
If from Cabo Finisterre you are encouraged to continue the route to Muxía, or if you go directly from Santiago de Compostela to Muxía, you can request the Muxiana on your arrival. To obtain it you must also use the same pilgrim’s credential. The certificate can be requested at the tourist office in the locality.
We hope to have solved all your questions about the pilgrim’s credential and the different certificates you can get during your pilgrimage. But if you still have a question or want an agency specializing in the Camino de Santiago to help you organize your trip, get in contact with us. We will always be happy to help you.
List of organisations where you can request your Pilgrim’s Credential: