Tips for the Camino de Santiago
Many people, although we are the ones who take care of organizing the route, ask us for some tips for the Camino de Santiago. For most of them, it’s the first time they make a pilgrimage.
For them and for you, if it is the first time you are doing the Camino de Santiago, we have written this step-by-step guide to follow for your pilgrimage to Santiago. We have also prepared the list of basic tips for pilgrims you will find below.
They are not big secrets, but they will be useful on the way for sure. Pilgrimage is simple, but it will be even easier and rewarding if you pay attention to the following tips to complete the Camino de Santiago.
Follow the yellow arrows
Many pilgrims who have never walked on a pilgrim’s route are afraid to get lost on the way. The truth is that orienting on the Camino de Santiago is quite simple. It’s unusual to get lost. Just follow the yellow arrows.
These were devised by Elías Valiña in 1984, signalling with them the Camino from France to Santiago de Compostela. Therefore, the yellow arrows have become an icon on all routes.
Today, the yellow arrows are present along all pilgrim routes. These can be located practically anywhere: on the ground, on an electric pylon, on a tree, on a traffic sign, on a stone, etc. That is why it is important to pay attention to them.
Other signals on the Camino de Santiago
The signage of the Camino de Santiago is also made up of other helpful symbols. Some of them have the local design of the autonomous community or the province that is traversed.
The scallop shell is also a sign of the Camino de Santiago seen very frequently. In the cities, it is common to find them made of metal and embedded in the roadway. It is also common to find them drawn on tiles.
In Galicia, you will also find the famous stones on the Camino de Santiago. These also indicate that you are on the right path, you are informed of how many kilometres to go to the Cathedral of Santiago.
If you arrive at a crossroads where you do not see any sign of the Camino de Santiago, the usual thing is that you should continue straight ahead. Not all pilgrim routes are well-signposted on the way.
If you are disorientated in a built-up area, we recommend asking the people in the area where you should continue walking. Usually, everyone knows exactly where the Camino de Santiago goes by. It is even probable that without asking, some neighbors will tell you that you have left the pilgrim path.
However, if you do not find any sign of the Camino de Santiago that confirms that this is the right way, try to collate the information with more than one person. Don’t walk in vain, take advantage of your energy!
In the unlikely event that you lose yourself in a country section, our advice, pilgrim, is to keep your cool. With some patience, you will find the pilgrim path again. In the worst case, you’ll only have to locate a road to follow. This will necessarily lead you to a town.
Start your day early
Making a pilgrimage is a magnificent and very enriching experience, but it can be tiring. It is normal for you to feel tired, especially during the early stages of your journey.
The trick on the Camino de Santiago is to start the day early. No staying asleep till 9:00 in the morning. Wake up early enough to pack your things, have breakfast and start walking with the first rays of sunshine. Depending on the time of year, sunrise will be at one hour or another.
We totally discourage walking at night. On the one hand, it is dangerous if you walk in the vicinity of a road. In that case, it would be advisable to have reflective clothing and most pilgrims do not have it.
Another of the drawbacks of walking before sunrise is that you miss the scenery. As you can see in this other article about how to understand advice about the Camino de Santiago, Not all the things you hear about the pilgrim route you have to be taken literally.
Eat well and discover local cuisine
Eating well is essential to have the energy necessary to complete each of the stages of the Camino de Santiago. It is better to eat frequently than to have very heavy meals.
One of the tricks on the Camino de Santiago, which we remind all the pilgrims we have accompanied to Compostela, is that they always have some food in the backpack: some nuts, some sugar, a small sandwich, etc. Especially if it’s a stage with few services.
Obviously, it’s not about carrying a lot of food in the backpack, making it even heavier. But to have some food that can help you in case of fatigue or a sugar drop.
In most stages of the Camino de Santiago, you will find places where you can sit down and eat quietly. In fact, one of the wonders of doing the pilgrim’s route is to be able to enjoy the magnificent gastronomy found along it.
Forget about pasta and chicken menus, and look for typical dishes. Gastronomic tourism is part of the experience. Meat, fish, seafood, exquisite sweets and extensive wine culture await you on the Camino de Santiago.
Use the water fountains on the Camino de Santiago
Drink frequently and stay hydrated. Along the Camino de Santiago, you will find numerous sources of drinking water. In addition, both on the paths of the Camino de Santiago that run through Spain and on the pilgrim routes of Portugal, the tap water can be consumed.
So one of the tricks for the Camino de Santiago is that you don’t need to buy any bottled water. What is important is that you find out how the stage is going to go and to know if you will find fountains on the way or places that supply water.
Some stages of the Camino de Santiago face many desolate kilometres with steep climbs. In such cases, you must make sure you load enough water in your backpack. Otherwise, especially in summer, you will be at risk of symptoms like dehydration or headaches.
Take care on road sections
One of the most important tricks for the Camino de Santiago is precisely this. The road is dangerous and on all routes of the Camino de Santiago, you will find stages in which you walk next to the road, by it or across it.
On these occasions, you should pay special attention to the traffic, whether you move along the road or if you are going to cross it. Follow these four recommendations on the asphalt stretches along the Camino de Santiago:
- Walk, whenever possible, on the left. So you’ll see the cars that circulate closer to you.
- Avoid walking in groups, occupying part of the roadway. It is advisable to walk in single line.
- Look well, when crossing the road. Remember that accumulated fatigue and weight of your backpack can make your movements slower.
- Do not cross the road if you can’t see everything. If it is necessary to walk a few metres to cross without risks, do not hesitate to do so.
Look after yourself and take notice of your body
Doing the Camino de Santiago requires a physical effort for the body. Our advice, pilgrim, is to take care of yourself from day one. Don’t wait for trouble to start taking care of yourself.
Watch your feet on the Camino de Santiago. Massage them and use creams to prevent chafing and blistering. In this article, we give you some tips for preventing injuries on the Camino de Santiago and looking after your feet.
Eyes and skin are also important. Use sunglasses and apply sunscreen, often, in all areas exposed to the sun. Don’t forget your neck.
Listening to your body is essential to avoid injuries that can cause long-term problems. If you start to feel discomfort in your joints, stop to give them the opportunity to recover. Accepting such situations is one of the things that you learn on the Camino de Santiago.
Take care also on an emotional level. One of the tricks of the Camino de Santiago, if you want to fully enjoy the experience, is to find time to be with yourself. The Camino de Santiago has a strong festive feeling, but also a spiritual component. Spending some time alone will help you find yourself.
Go with whoever you choose, walking some stretches in solitude is totally legitimate. Do not be afraid to talk openly to your companions. No one should be offended by it.
A pilgrimage has a strong social component and it doesn’t matter if you go alone or accompanied. The Camino de Santiago is always shared with other pilgrims.
Enjoy the conversations with other companions on the Camino de Santiago, both those who accompany you from home and the new friends you make during the tour. Listen to their concerns and share yours. The Camino de Santiago creates very strong bonds among people.
Take care of whoever needs it. If you see someone having problems along the way, help that person and don’t leave them alone until they have assistance. These gestures are part of the magic of the road: fellowship among pilgrims.
One of the key tricks to live on the Camino de Santiago is to disconnect from technology. Forget about screens! The Camino is shared with other pilgrims, not on social networks. Take a break and connect with yourself and others!
The Camino de Santiago crosses landscapes of great beauty: rivers, valleys, infinite plains, beaches and endless natural attractions. We always advise all pilgrims to enjoy them.
Connection with nature is inevitable on the way to Santiago. It is your body and environment; no vehicle separates you from the landscape around you. If you respect nature, it will take care of you. It’s a universal law.
Take care of your valuables
Fortunately, thefts on the Camino de Santiago are rare. The pilgrim’s route is quite safe, in this sense. However, thieves must not be tempted.
Don’t leave your things unattended in hostels, bars or cafes; or during your intermediate stops under the shade of a tree or at a viewpoint. Our advice is not to carry things of great value on the Camino de Santiago.
Enjoy your arrival in Santiago
Arrival in Santiago de Compostela is a special moment for all pilgrims. No matter how you imagined that moment, enjoy it just as you are living it.
In our guide, we always give the same advice to all pilgrims. Enjoy the exciting moments that you will live in the Plaza del Obradoiro.
It is true that there are many traditions associated with your arrival at Santiago Cathedral, like, for example, obtaining your Compostela, but you’ll have time to do that. Take your time when you get there!
We hope you have found our basic tips for pilgrims interesting. Many of the pilgrims for whom we have organized travel to Santiago told us they were very useful.
We trust they will be for you too. Remember that if you want to help you live the pilgrim adventure, you just have to get in contact with us.