El Camino de Santiago Planning Tips for American Pilgrims
The first biq question an American pilgrim has is how to get to the Camino. The Camino Frances, which is the main route of El Camino de Santiago, begins at St. Jean’s Pied de Port in the very southern part of France. Most Americans choose to fly to either Madrid or Barcelona, and take the bus or train from there to Pamplona. In the high summer months, there is a bus that leaves each day from Pamplona at 2 in the afternoon and arrives at St. Jean’s Pied de Port at 4:00. That is a good option. However, some American pilgrims choose to fly into Paris, at which point they take buses, trains, or even airplanes to Biarritz, and then another leg to St. Jean’s Pied de Port.
The Madrid option is easiest for me for the simple reason that it is closest to Santiago de Compostela, where the pilgrimage ends. Buses runs regularly from there back to Madrid, whereas it is more complicated returning to the other locations.
Also, I recommend applying for your pilgrim’s passport at the American Co-Fraternity of St. James in San Francisco before leaving for the Camino. It’s donations only. Their address can be found online; there is no phone number.
The good news for pilgrims is that once you get to the Camino, it’s quite affordable. Most albergues cost 5 or 6 euros per night, a rate that even somebody from the Deep South might blush at. The problem is getting there. The earlier you book your flight the better. It cost me $1,370 this year. However, a friend who booked his flight for the autumn paid only $880.
The final thing you can do is begin practicing your spanish a bit. We Americans are known as the lepers and dolts of the world of second languages. I urge you to try to avoid that stereotype.
Good luck and “buen camino”