If you’re new to the Camino, or is this is your first time walking or cycling the Camino de Santiago you may be wondering what is a Camino de Santiago credential? It sounds like some sort of weird requirement to enter a cult, but in fact it is not (well, it sort of is actually). I shall explain further below.
What is a Camino credential?
A “credential” is essentially a passport that identifies you as a pilgrim. It is normally in the form of a paper or cardboard concertina booklet. It is believed that the first pilgrims walking the Camino had a similar document, which is where the modern day credential has originated from.
When you are given the booklet it will be blank and you can complete your personal details, such as name, date of birth and nationality. Inside the booklet there are normally 32 small squares. The squares are there so that you can collect ink stamps as you travel along the Camino.
The credential not only gives you access to special hostels that are reserved only for pilgrims walking the Camino, but it may also entitle you to discounted menu options at restaurants and discounts at museums, such as the Pilgrim Museum in Santiago de Compostela. Crucially, the credential will be used to evidence your walk when you arrive into Santiago. This enables you get to get your certificate and your compostela.
To find out more about Albergues on the Camino – you can read our guide here.
Where can I get a Camino credential from?
You can get a Camino credential at all of the major start points for the main Camino routes.
For the North Route you can get a Camino credential in Irun at the municipal Albergue. You may also be able to find one at the cathedral or the police station in Irun, but the Albergue opens late so this is your best bet.
For the Portuguese Route, you can get a Camino credential in the Cathedral in Porto. This is a very organised and quick process, but watch out for opening hours (0900 to 1730) if you are planning to head off early in the morning then you may need to get the credential the night before.
For the French Route, you can get a Camino credential easily in St.Jean Pied de Port at the official Pilgrim’s Office, details here.
The credential will cost around 1 to 2 Euros or be provided on a donation basis.
You will also find that many Albergues near to the last 100km before Santiago sell Camino credentials. They can also be found at Albergues or churches near to the main start towns.
How to use the Camino credential?
The credential is a form of “passport”, therefore you can use this every time you check into an Albergue to make it clear that you are pilgrim walking or cycling the Camino.
At each Albergue you will be able to get a “stamp” (called a sello in Spanish), in your credential booklet. It’s really fun to collect these stamps as many of them are great designs and colourful. But not only that, you can use the dated stamps to prove where you have walked at the end of your journey.
It’s really important that if you want to get the compostela certificate in Santiago that you get stamps twice per day for the last 100km of your walk into Santiago. This is the last 200km of your cycle if you’re on a bike.) This is to certify that you have indeed walked the last bit into Santiago and haven’t cheated in some way.
Aside from Albergues, you can get stamps in churches, cathedrals and often at bars and restaurants on the Camino route.
The credential may also get you access to museums in Santiago, the mass at Santiago Cathedral and discounts in restaurants that sell “pilgrim menus.” Although, in reality most restaurants will not ask for proof as it will be pretty obvious that you’re travelling on the Camino! The backpack, shell and faint stench may be a dead giveaway.
How do I get a certificate for the Camino?
To get a certificate for the Camino, you must attend the Pilgrims Office in Santiago. This is not in the cathedral, but is very close. You must take your camino credential with you and be sure to register.
When we last attended in October 2022, we were required to wear a face mask. Be sure to have one handy!
The Google map coordinates are here.
How do I register for the Camino?
You can register online when you start the Camino. If you miss registering at the start don’t worry. You don’t have to register at the start, indeed you don’t need to register at all if you don’t want to. You can still get your camino credential booklet if you don’t register. But, if you don’t register then your walk will not be logged at the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago. This will mean that you cannot get the certificate.
If you walk the Portuguese route, you might be given a QR code on your credential to register online. For other routes, you can register for the Camino de Santiago through the official Pilgrim’s Office website – link here.
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