Pilgrim: foreigners on the Camino de Santiago

Pilgrim is a friendly term that floods all the routes of the Camino de Santiago and the streets of Compostela at peak hours. The concept, which means traveller in English, is a reflection of the great reception of foreigners on the pilgrim routes. Next, we tell you what the experience of making the Camino de Santiago is like, being from another country.

How many pilgrims do the Camino de Santiago?

According to the official statistics of the Pilgrim’s office, 56% of the people who arrived in Santiago to Compostela were pilgrims (or foreign travellers). This figure has only increased over the last few years.

Korean pilgrims in the Camino de Santiago

On the Camino de Santiago, it is possible to find pilgrims who come from countries of the 5 continents of the world. The largest number comes from Europe; Italy, Germany and Portugal are the European countries that are at the top of the list.

The other two large regions from where the largest number of foreigners launch themselves into the adventure are North America and Asia. It might surprise you, but 6% of pilgrims arriving in Santiago come from the United States. The American pilgrims take third place on the list of people who make the Camino de Santiago being from another country.

Koreans are also great lovers of the Pilgrim route. Up to 2% of the people who complete one of the Pilgrim routes is a Korean pilgrim. Of the Asian lands, it is also common to find foreigners from Japan, China, Russia or Taiwan.

Are you a pilgrim? Some difficulties you may find!

No It is not so easy to dare to make the adventure of walking hundreds of kilometres in an unknown country. All pilgrims have doubts before making the Camino de Santiago, for that reason some time ago we wrote this practical guide on basic information of the Camino de Santiago. We recommend that you consult it.

However, we understand that if you are pilgrim your concerns are even greater because you will find yourself in a foreign country. And therefore, even reading that information, you might ask yourself how it affects you in your case.

For that reason, in Santiago Ways, we decided to offer you this post. We want to help all those pilgrims who come from another country to resolve their fears or worries.

Next, we will try to answer some of the questions that can come to your head because of being a foreign pilgrim. Keep reading and you’ll see there’s nothing to worry about.

The language

If you are a pilgrim from South America, the language will not be among your worries, except if you come from Brazil. However, it is one of the first issues that come to the forefront of travellers from other countries such as the United States, England, France or Germany.

You don’t need to worry about it. Language is not a barrier. The fear of misunderstanding will pass as soon as you start walking.

Pilgrims form close ties right away and the Camino de Santiago welcomes people from all over the world. Not speaking Spanish is not a problem! People from countries from as far away as Korea, Japan or Australia come to Compostela every year, without any problem whatsoever.

Explaining basic needs

La Communication between people goes well beyond language. Gesturing, pointing, translation applications or a dictionary can be of great help during the first few days.

Then you will soon see that the necessities that will arise in the way are very basic. In fact, it is very likely that after a week of travel you will be able to express them in Spanish.

To this, we must add that hospitality floods the pilgrim path and that the feeling of fraternity is very strong among pilgrims. Therefore, most of the people you find on your path will make an effort to understand you.

Making friends

It is also probable that during the route, you will find with Spanish pilgrims who are eager to practice English or other languages and that you can begin a good friendship with them. They will be delighted to speak in another language, they will help you on the journey and you’ll end up learning some Spanish if you’re interested.

And of course, as you can see from the statistics that we have provided, you will not be the only foreign pilgrim on the Camino de Santiago. Be assured that no matter what language you speak; you will find other people from your country. Especially if you do it in high season.

Organizing your Camino de Santiago from a distance

It is not an easy task to organize a journey from thousands of kilometres away. It is true that you can find a lot of information on the Internet, but it is not always easy to know what data is correct or which sources are reliable. Here are some aspects for the planning of the Camino de Santiago that most concern foreigners.

Where to sleep on the Camino de Santiago

As for the accommodation, remember that public shelters cannot be booked, they work by order of arrival and the pilgrims who go on foot have priority. Private hostels, hostels and pensions would be convenient if you book them in advance.

In high season, depending on which route of the Camino de Santiago you choose, finding a bed may not be simple. This happens both with the public hostels and if you try to book in other types of accommodation.

How to organize your backpack

The backpack is a common concern to all pilgrims. In this article, we recommend what backpack to use and in this one we facilitate a list of things to take on your pilgrimage. All the material you need you can get at any sport shop in the world.

The Pilgrim’s credential to do the Camino de Santiago

Getting the Pilgrim’s credentials from a foreign country may not be an easy task. However, this issue should not concern you at all. Chances are you can get it in the first town that you visit. If you want more information about this important document see our article on the pilgrim’s credential and its use.

Doing the Camino de Santiago with an agency

If the organization of the trip worries you and you do not have a lot of time to dedicate to it, one option is to contact a specialized travel agency in the Camino de Santiago.

This will deal with all the logistical details. In that case, we recommend that you get in touch with a Spanish agency, they have the best network of collaborators.

In Santiago Ways, As you know, we are an agency that we have been helping pilgrims from Spain and other countries to complete their pilgrimage to Santiago for many years. If you decide to use a travel agency, we invite you to consult our services and do not hesitate to contact us.

Being alone and far from home

This is an intimate concern that arises in the head of any pilgrim who leaves their country behind to walk alone. But the reality is that on the Camino de Santiago no one is alone unless that’s what you want.

Foreigners in the Camino de Santiago

On the Camino Frances, which is the most frequent route taken, the most common thing is to see groups of pilgrims who have been getting to know each other along their journey and who come to Compostela with the gift of a solid and lasting friendship. This happens both among pilgrims from Spain and travellers from other countries.

Your case will not be an exception! There is no more typical scene in the Praza do Obradoiro, the final point of the pilgrimage than that of the reunion of pilgrims.

However, we can understand that if you have never travelled alone, you will be afraid. Even more so in the case of a trip in a foreign country. That fear is totally legitimate and not only happens to you because you are a foreign pilgrim, many Spanish pilgrims are also afraid to embark on an adventure alone.

The fears are there. We can fight them and confront them or we can analyse what exactly generates them and look for alternatives. What we should never do is give up things we want to do because fear blocks us.

Therefore, if doing the Camino de Santiago only worries you, you should know that an alternative is to join an organized group. In the link, you can find out more about this type of experience to which pilgrims from other countries and Spaniards join.

The experience of being a foreign pilgrim

Once we have solved the fears and natural concerns that all foreign pilgrims have, we want to talk to you about the beautiful part. About some of the wonderful experiences that people from other countries live as they do the Camino de Santiago.

We have said on many occasions, to complete the Camino is much more than a trip, it’s an experience that enriches you in every way. However, in this article, we want to focus only on the experiences that surprise the pilgrims who come from other countries to make the pilgrimage to Santiago.

In our blog on the Camino de Santiago, you can find many other articles related to this life-transforming trip. If you want to know more, you can consult:

Living in a different culture

On your pilgrimage to Santiago, you will not only see new landscapes, picturesque villages and diverse people, but you will immerse yourself into a completely new culture. If you are a pilgrim, that is to say, if you are going to make the Camino de Santiago coming from another country, a landscape full of contrasts will open before your eyes.

A fascinating history

The simple fact of doing the Camino de Santiago will go into the fascinating  story of Santiago the Apostle, allowing you to know how important it has been in Spain. You will discover the long tradition that this pilgrimage route has and what role has been played by each of those routes in the development of the pilgrim routes.

Exquisite gastronomy

Spanish cuisine is internationally known. On your journey along the Camino de Santiago, you will pass through various regions where you can taste different flavours and traditional dishes.

No matter which route you choose, you will end up reaching Galician lands. There we recommend that you take advantage to enjoy the famous tapas culture which is found throughout all of Spain.

New customs and traditions

Pilgrimage to Santiago is surrounded by countless customs and traditions. In addition to these, you can discover many other things from the daily routine of the towns that cross the Camino de Santiago.

Galicia: The charmed land and parties

Galicia is the destination of the majority of foreign pilgrims. Everyone is anxious to complete their tour in front of the majestic Cathedral of Santiago. It’s no surprise that this region of Spain is famous for its legends.

Festivities in Galicia for foreign pilgrims

And if you are lucky, perhaps on your arrival in Santiago de Compostela, you will be received by some of the frequent festivities held in the heart of Galicia. If you are fortunate, you will have the opportunity to enjoy even more of Galician popular tradition.

Lessons learned by a pilgrim

Some of the foreign pilgrims who have made the Camino de Santiago with us have told us that they, personally, as foreigners have taken some special lessons with them. Next, we will tell you some of them.

More than a culture

Those pilgrims who complete some of the long routes on the Camino de Santiago tell us that they have been surprised how the Camino de Santiago encloses diverse cultures. In fact, it is not surprising that those who decide to begin their pilgrimage in Saint Jean Pied de Port or in Roncesvalles are surprised by this fact. There are several autonomous communities that cross the Camino Frances and each has its peculiarities.

Their idea of Spain was mistaken

It is common that whenever a foreign country is visited, some topics or prejudices are taken in our head. There are some pilgrims who have told us that, after their experience on the Camino de Santiago, the image they had of Spain has changed completely. For the better, of course!

So different and so similar

Visiting a foreign country allows you to discover different ways of life. However, pilgrims who come from countries as far away as Korea or Australia have told us that while the culture is very different, in the end, it surprises them as it is always possible to discover common patterns in all countries around the world.

Goodbye to embarrassment

If you have already travelled to other foreign countries, you may have already experienced it. But those brave pilgrims who travelled for the first time to a remote country, explain to us that the simple fact of not speaking the language helped them a lot to leave embarrassment aside. To be understood, sometimes, can be ridiculous, but tremendously amusing.

For today, we say goodbye here. We think we’ve given you enough reasons to become a real pilgrim. Dare to come to Spain to do the Camino de Santiago! Pilgrimage is a very enriching experience and being a foreigner is even more so!

If there is an issue that worries you about doing the Camino de Santiago being from another country and that we have not solved in this article, do not hesitate to leave us a comment. The Santiago Ways team will be happy to resolve all your doubts.

Buen Camino!

Pilgrim or traveller: the experience of walking to Santiago being from another country
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