Have you finally been persuaded to walk or cycle the Camino de Santiago? Maybe you’re planning to take the plunge in the Summer of 2023? If so, you’re probably wondering how to prepare for the Camino de Santiago.
How to prepare for the Camino de Santiago
There are four key things to consider to help you prepare for the Camino de Santiago. These are detailed below and in the diagram above.
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Which is the best Camino de Santiago route?
Which is the best route? They are all amazing! But the better question is, which route is best for you?
Deciding which route to take is probably the biggest decision you have to make. To decide, you will need to consider how long you have to walk the Camino and how far you want to walk each day. But you will also need to deicide what sort of experience you want – whether you want to see the beach, to explore the countryside, to party every night or to walk in peace.
We’ve written a full guide here on each Camino route – read this if you want some help to decide which route is the best for you.
How to train for the Camino de Santiago?
Once you’ve locked in which route you’re going to take and you know how much time you have, you can start to think in more specific details about the distances you need to cover. Crucially, you can now start training. This is such an important part of how to prepare for the Camino de Santiago.
Firstly, it’s never too early to start training. The benefits of early and gradual training for the Camino, include giving your body longer to adjust to the demands you’ll be placing on it and identifying any injuries that are likely to flare up.
Here are three ways you can start training for the Camino:
Walking has to be the main way to train for the Camino. Depending on your fitness levels you will need to approach training different. For anyone completely new to walking, then start with 5km and build up gradually. If you’re aiming to walk in excess of 25km each day on the Camino, then I would really recommend taking on some two or three day hikes prior to starting the Camino. If you walk 25km and find that your body is aching the next day, this might be a sign that you need to increase your endurance.
Lotus Eaters Travel Top Tips:
- Try walking with a backpack of a similar weight and size to the one you’ll have on the Camino.
- Wear the shoes and socks that you’ll wear on the Camino. This can be a great way to road test them and identify any pain points.
- If you are able to train in similar weather to what you expect whilst you walk the Camino, this can be really good mental and physical preparation.
Two: Strength Training
Studies show that a number of exercise related leg injuries are caused by weak glute muscles. The glutes are the largest muscle area and if they’re not strengthened and activated, then your knees and others parts of your legs will have to pick up the slack. Many people who sit at a desk day to day, become prone to a condition called “Lazy Butt Syndrome”. You can counter this by strength training. Try weighted squats, one legged squats can be particularly good for increasing strength and stability simultaneously. You could also try Pilates for lower impact, this is great for increasing core strength which will help you stay stable as you walk.
Three: Flexibility and Mobility
The less mobile your skeletal frame and muscles are, the more likely you are to pick up injuries. A few months before taking on the Camino, it can be a really good idea to start introducing some yoga into your exercise regime. Failing that, some daily stretching could go a long way to increasing your flexibility before you walk.
We’ve written a much more detailed guide for training for the Camino if you want more suggestions for training – here.
How hard is it to walk the Camino de Santiago?
This is one of the most frequent questions we get asked. How hard is it to walk the Camino de Santiago? The answer is, it depends on several factors.
Firstly, your fitness levels. If you are reasonably fit and have trained well to prepare for the Camino de Santiago, then it will feel less difficult. That said, it is tricky to ever prepare yourself for walking every day (unless you’ve walked a long distance hike before.) Therefore, even with training and good fitness levels you will find moments of the Camino to be hard.
Secondly, how hard the Camino is for you will depend on how much distance you intend to cover each day. If you walk more than 25km per day, it is likely that the walk will feel difficult at times, especially if this is your first long distance hike.
Finally, you can make walking the Camino de Santiago much easier for yourself if you choose to. Training and preparation are key. If you have the right equipment and you’ve packed lightly, you will find the whole walk much easier. And FYI, the right equipment doesn’t have to be expensive.
How much does it cost to walk the Camino de Santiago?
The next area that you may want to consider with regards to starting to prepare for the Camino de Santiago, is budget. The diagram above shows the five main ways in which we spent money on the Camino and how these are roughly spread.
Up front costs before the Camino de Santiago
You are likely to have a small amount of up front costs when walking the Camino de Santiago. We estimated that our travel costs and equipment costs were around 5% of our overall spend on the Camino. This included new trainers, backpacks and clothing. However, our flight costs were limited as we were flying from the UK to France and returning from Spain. For anyone travelling from the USA or Australia the costs for travel will be higher.
Daily budget for the Camino de Santiago
In general, we think that there are ways to walk the Camino de Santiago on pretty much any budget. There are some tips below for walking the Camino on a shoestring budget if you choose to do this. However, we have also set out the average daily budget – based on prices in 2022 on the main routes (Portuguese, French and North Route.)
We have based this on anyone walking the Camino de Santiago independently and carrying their own bags, rather than as part of a tour or with luggage transfer costs.
For a bed in a dorm, the average Municipal Albergue is around 10 Euros (but some cost less) with Private Albergues rising to between 15 and 20 Euros. Private rooms will cost more, ranging between 25 and 50 Euros.
Food and drink costs
- Menu Del Dia (3 courses with a drink) will range from 10 to 20 Euros
- A main course will range from 6 to 12 Euros
- A baguette in a supermarket will range from 50 Cents to 1 Euro
- A pack of pasta will cost around 1.50 Euros
- A pastry in a bakery will cost between 1 and 1.50 Euros
- Coffee will cost between 1.20 and 2 Euros (but 2 would seem pricey!)
- A glass of house wine will cost between 1.50 and 2.50 Euros
- A beer will cost between 1.50 and 2 Euros
An average daily budget based on eating out once a day, staying in private Albergues and drinking wine and beer: Approx 40 Euros
An average daily budget based on cooking and packing lunch, staying in Municipal Albergues and drinking less: Approx 20 Euros
Top tips for walking the Camino de Santiago on a budget
- Stay in Municipal and Donativo Albergues where you can.
- Some Albergue’s have breakfast included in the rate or offered very cheaply (2 euros approx).
- Pick Albergues that have have communal dinners – these tend to be cheaper than eating out in a restaurant.
- Shop in the supermarket for your breakfasts and lunches, prepare this in advance the night before and take it with you. Alternatively, a fresh baguette in a bakery can be really cheap.
- Find Albergues with kitchens so that you can cook in the evenings. If you buy a bag of pasta, you could take some with you for future evening meals. You could also find a friend in the Albergue willing to split a meal, sometimes it can be cheaper to cook for two.
- Look out for Pilgrim deals in restaurants, but be aware that sometimes they are a bit of a false economy.
- Drinks out in Spain and Portugal area quite cheap, but stick to local beer or wine if you want to save money. Soft drinks in bars are surprisingly expensive comparatively.
How to pack for the Camino de Santiago?
In the final run up to walking the Camino, you’ll need to start thinking about packing to prepare for the Camino de Santiago. If you get this right, you’ll have a much smoother journey. Get in wrong, and it can be a nightmare!
What backpack to take on the Camino de Santiago?
It is recommended that a day pack should not weigh more than 10% of your body weight, and a backpack no more than 20%. Considering you will be wearing your backpack all day, every day, on the Camino, I would suggest that 10% of your body weight is really the maximum ideal weight. So, if you’re a 60kg, then 6kg maximum, and if you’re 90kg, then 9kg is your maximum.
Of course, this is a guide, and if you feel you can carry more, and you’ve tried it multiple times, then go for it! But make sure everything in your bag is truly necessary or you will regret packing it – need I mention my first Camino, when I packed hair straighteners and had to throw them away after 50km. (Side note to women reading this who normally use straighteners, tongs or other implements – you will not use them, you will not have time and you will not care what your hair looks like. Do not pack them!)
And remember, when you weigh your bag before you go, weigh it with your water bottle filled. Your daily water allowance will add significant weight.
If you’re planning to walk every day, please do NOT take a bag any bigger than 40L. I promise, you will regret it if you do! My go to is a 30L bag and my partner takes 40L. I have seen people walking the Camino with far bigger bags, sometimes 60L. The problem with taking such a large bag, is that you’ll be tempted to fill it. If you keep your bag small, it is much more of a challenge to pack too much.
You can find the links to the bags we use for walking long distance hikes here (ladies) and here (men’s).
What footwear to wear on the Camino de Santiago?
If you are injury free, don’t suffer from ankle issues etc, and you are walking any of the Camino de Santiago routes in Summer, you do not need hiking boots. I saw many pilgrims being forced to carry their heavy boots on their backs when they had come to this realisation.
In the Summer it is too hot and unnecessary to be wearing anything other than trainers, sandals or light weight hiking shoes. For the Primitivo, you may want hiking boots with more ankle support. If you’re walking in Spring, Autumn or Winter (eek), then make sure your footwear is waterproof. If you get trainers wet, it can be difficult to dry them as most Albergues do not have heaters or anywhere to dry shoes. After a few days of getting damp, they will start to stink!
Whatever you choose, try them on a couple of long hikes before you take them with you! I cannot emphasise this enough. After 20km, you will quickly identify whether the shoes are Camino ready or not and far better to this before you get on the trails!
We opt for New Balance Trail Trainers – you can find links to the shoes that we wear here and here.
What to pack for the Camino de Santiago?
Clothing to pack for the Camino
- Two Words –Pop Socks! Great for blister protection
- Blister socks
- Lightweight flip flops of canvas shoes for the evening
- Quick Dry Tops
- Long Sleeved Top or Jumper
- Poncho or Waterproof Jacket
- Sports Bra (Ladies)
- Underwear (quick dry like this)
- Bikini or swimwear (Ladies, a bikini top could double as a bra for the evening)
- A lightweight change of clothing for the evening
- Pyjamas or something to wear in Albergues
- A canvas bag or bum bag for going out and in the evening
For walking, I opted for two of everything. Shorts, sports bras, t shirts, shorts and socks. This worked, as I could wash my clothing in the evening and hang it to my bag to dry the next day. However, if you’re not walking in the Summer, you might limit to one of each item as it will be difficult to wash and dry clothes as frequently (and it’s likely you won’t get as sweaty)
If you’re walking in colder months, then a woollen hat (rather than a sun hat), gloves, a jacket and extra warm layers should be considered.
Toiletries and other items to pack for the Camino
- All in one soap bar for showering and laundry – like this
- Sachets of Conditioner OR a leave in conditioner – like this
- Moisturiser for body and face
- Bug Spray
- Battery packs for charging phones
- Ear plugs and eye masks
- Blister plasters
- Sleeping sheets for the Albergue – something like this
- Trek towel and you may also want a sarong for sunbathing on the beach (if walking the North route)
- A water bottle or platypus
- Pegs – like this – to hang your clothes to dry on your backpack or in Albergues
We’ve also written a list of what to pack for ladies walking the Camino de Santiago – here.
Camino de Santiago Guide Book
We love the Camino so much that we’ve written a book about it. This article is an abridged version of a section of our book, but the book has more content.
If you want to read the full version (and pop it in your backpack), then you can find our book on Amazon here.