In July 2022, we walked our first Camino de Santiago. As I reflect on my recent experience and planning for my next one (Camino Portuguese in October,) I’m thinking about what I wish I’d known before I took on this adventure. Here are 10 things to know before walking the Camino:
1/ You’ll get blisters whilst walking the Camino
This is pretty much an inevitability. Fool proof blister socks or not. You’ll get one or two. Pack blister plasters, but be prepared that you may have days when its painful to walk. I’d also recommend reading up on blister management so you can ensure they don’t get infected.
2/ It will rain on the Camino
This may be mainly applicable to the Northern Route, but nevertheless is useful to know. It will rain, sometimes hard. If you’re lucky it’ll be in the evening when you’re at your Albergue. If you’re less lucky it’ll be when you’re on the top of a hill which will turn into a mud path very quickly.
3/ You’ll be able to carry less than you think whilst walking the Camino
Something I discovered quickly! Yes, you want to pack all your essentials, but a heavy bag will slow you down and cause injury. Err on the side of caution. What you can carry for 10 minutes, is not the same as what you can carry for 30 days straight.
4/ People will snore and Bed Bugs are real
Every dorm will have at least one snorer. Expect this and prepare accordingly. And no, bed bugs are not the stuff of legends. They are real. To protect yourself as far as possible, take a lightweight sleeping bag or a sheet.
5/ Sometimes you will need to book accommodation
This is a bit of a bummer. It’s not always the case, but there are bottle necks on the way that mean everyone has to stay in one town. A couple of Albergues have shut their doors since Covid, so the choices are more limited. Call ahead the day before, or on the day, or check booking.com. Or if you can’t book and you know it’s going to be a busy Albergue, make sure you get there early.
6/ Everyone is so friendly whilst walking the Camino
Perhaps its because there is a shared sense of mission, or that Pilgrims are quite like minded. But everyone I met was super friendly. People will want to get to know you and walk with you. It won’t be considered unusual to just start talking to strangers. And it’s not strange to get to know people on the Camino really quickly.
7/ You’ll never walk alone on the Camino de Santiago
You can walk alone if you want, but you don’t have to. I would say that there are very few stretches of the Camino where you won’t see people regularly (unless you walk in Winter). This means that it feels fairly safe for solo travellers. If you want to join a group and walk all day, or just walk and talk for a few kms, then that’s OK too.
8/ It will challenge you
Even if you are physically fit, there will still be days that challenge you. This is a one of the important 10 things to know before walking the Camino. Whether you get an injury, get sick, have a bad nights sleep or struggle to walk in the heat – some days will just be hard. But you’ll get through them and keep going and be laughing in no time!
9/Menu Del Dia is your friend
I have never been so hungry as I was on some days walking the Camino. I seemed to eat constantly and still want more! If you’re keen to dine out, try the Menu Del Dia’s which you can find in most Spanish restaurants. They range between 10 and 20 Euros and include 3 courses, bread ad a drink. Just what every Pilgrim needs.
10/ Spain closes up for Siesta and on Sundays
In rural areas, it’s inevitable that shops and some restaurants will close between about 3pm and 5pm. Sometimes these hours vary. Oftentimes whole towns will be shut on a Sunday too. Most big cities are fine, just may be a little quieter during siesta times. Really useful to be aware of the opening times and make sure you plan ahead. Definitely one of the ten things to know before the Camino!