This post is one of the series of Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) posts that we often get asked by subscribers or on social media forums. Do I need to speak Spanish on the Camino? Or, in Spanish, ¿Necesito hablar español en el camino? Find out here.
Do I need to speak Spanish on the Camino?
The Camino de Santiago is in Spain and the largest proportion of people walking the Camino each year are from Spain. Therefore, the main language is Spanish. However, significant numbers are from Germany, Italy, the UK, and the USA and many from elsewhere around the world. Therefore, not everyone walking the Camino can speak Spanish.
English is widely spoken across Spain, although not everybody has high proficiency levels. This can be the case in rural areas of Spain that you may walk through on the Camino. However, most people who work in the tourist industry in B&Bs, hotel and large restaurants and bars, especially in bigger cities and towns, will speak some English (or other languages to Spanish.)
During the three Caminos that we walked, we met only one or two Pilgrims who spoke only Spanish and no English, but language barriers have never proved to be an issue when socialising with other pilgrims on the Camino.
It is absolutely not vital to speak Spanish if you walk the Camino. But, learning a few phrases can go a long way and may make you feel more confident as you navigate your Camino adventure.
Helpful Spanish phrases for walking the Camino
There are a few phrases or words that you could learn in Spanish that may make your Camino experience a little smoother. For example when booking albergues (see below), ordering food or communicating with locals. When you visit a restaurant or cafe or arrange accommodation, these are the most likely times when it may be helpful to speak a little Spanish.
Here are some Spanish phrases that may come in handy on the Camino:
- Hello: Hola
- Good bye: Adiós
- Please: Por favor
- Thank you: Gracias
- I am from England/ USA: Soy de Inglaterra/ Soy de estados unidos
- Do you speak English: ¿Hablas inglés?
- Do you have a bed for tomorrow/ today: ¿Tienes una cama para mañana?/ ¿Tienes una cama para hoy?
- Can I make a reservation for tonight: ¿Puedo hacer una reserva para esta noche?
- One beer: Una Cerveza
- One coffee with milk and one coffee without milk: Un café con leche y un café sin leche (or cafe solo)
- White wine/ Red wine: Vino blanco/ vino tinto
- More drinks/ another round: más bebidas/ Otra ronda
- I would like a sandwich: Me gustaría un bocadillo
- Do you have a menu of the day: ¿Tienes un menú del día?
- Where is the hotel: Dónde está el hotel
- Do you have a stamp: ¿Tienes un sello?
- I am walking the Camino: Estoy caminando el camino
- How are you: Cómo estás
- Very well: muy bien
Don’t forget to follow the key phrases with please “Por favor” as needed.
We are not great Spanish speakers at all. And those who know more of the language than us may point out that there are different ways to say “you” in Spanish, including a formal way. You may use this formal version of you when addressing somebody you have not met or spoken to before, or perhaps an elder. Therefore, if you are calling a new albergue and you haven’t spoken to them before, you could use the formal version. For example “Tiene usted una cama para manana?” or “Tiene usted un menu del dia?” However, in our experience of travelling in Spain, most people will understand what you mean and won’t be offended if you get the wrong “you” and use the informal version.
Remember, that in Spain, there are also different dialects and languages. For example, in Galicia, Galician is spoken rather than Spanish. In the Basque country (on the North Route), Basque is spoken rather than Spanish too. And of course, if you walk the Portuguese route, expect to find people speaking Portuguese there!
How to book albergues on the Camino?
One of the occasions when it may be helpful to speak Spanish on the Camino is if you book an albergue. You don’t always need to book albergues in advance, but there are times when booking on the day, or the night before, can be helpful.
Many albergues are now available to book online. But for smaller and municipal, or traditional, albergues you will not be able to book online. The best way to book many albergues on the day is to call them on the phone.
Whilst many albergue managers will speak English, or other languages in addition to Spanish, some may not. Therefore, it can be helpful to speak a little Spanish to be able to make a reservation for an albergue if you need to.
If you can learn to ask to make a reservation in Spanish, this will go a long way on the Camino. We do not speak much Spanish at all, but were able to learn to say “¿Tienes una cama para mañana?” (Do you have a bed for tomorrow) in a clear enough accent to be understood on the phone!
If you’re looking for more information on albergues on the Camino, you can find our post, “What is an Albergue” here.
What else do I need to know before I walk the Camino?
We’ve written a few posts, as well as a book, that can help you with this question.
Firstly, our post on “How to prepare for the Camino,” can help you to ensure you have packed what you need, trained and are ready to walk the Camino. You can also take our fun quiz “Am I ready to Walk the Camino,” to find out if you’re really prepared!
Secondly, you can read our post which tells you the 10 things you need to know before walking the Camino.
Finally, we have more in this series of Frequently Asked Question posts about the Camino. Such as, do I need a sleeping bag to walk the Camino? Or, is there wifi on the Camino? Is the Camino a religious walk?
John and Emma’s hiking gear. These are items we love to use when we go hiking, find them here on Amazon.
Osprey 40L, Multi, O/S
HOKA ONE ONE Mens Speedgoat 4 Textile Synthetic Trainers
HOKA ONE ONE Women’s Clifton 8
CWVLC Unisex Cushioned Compression Athletic Ankle Socks Multipack
Dr. Scholl’s Blister Cushions, Seal & Heal Bandage, 8 Cushions
Montem Ultra Strong Trekking, Walking, and Hiking Poles – One Pair (2 Poles)
More blog posts on the Camino:
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Most of our planning is done using other blogs, but you can’t beat a guide book at the bottom of your case.
Find them here on Amazon.
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