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Camino newbie - so many questions...

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douce-chemin

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
new to the camino, hoping to walk a section of camino norte in August 2016
...so I'll just start with a few!

First, may I say how happy I was to discover this site! What a wealth of information!

My best friend/kindred spirit and I are hoping to walk a section of the Camino Norte in August 2016 (she is a teacher, so we have limited time to go). We're thinking either San Sebastian to Bilbao or Bilbao to Santander.

It seems there are many many tour groups/camino packages one can buy, but my general travel preference is to figure out plans/accommodations, etc for myself. However, that being said is there any value to booking through a tour group (cost, convenience, accommodation guarantees, etc). What are the downsides: cost, loss of authentic experience, etc?

If we do plan it ourselves are we going at a fairly busy time of year? I know it's high season for vacationing in general in Europe. If so, what does this mean for accommodations along the camino? Will it be likely that we will have to book in advance? Can you even do that at auberges/pensions? If we have to venture off the camino into town is it difficult to find ones way back?

Those are our main concerns at this point in time. I appreciate any replies/advice/encouragement!

Thank you!
 
A

Anemone del Camino

Guest
You will have a wonderful time. If you don't mind steep hills none stop I would recomend San Sebastian to Bilbao. It is a gorgreous stretch with two wonderful cities at the start and end. As for handing out the hard earned salary of a teacher, please don't. There is nothing any of these companie you can't do that you can't figure out by yourself during the evening for the next day.

You will be in high season as you mention, but the truth is is that in this Camino many albergues are only open during those months. I'm a slow walker and wanted leace of mind so I booked where I could before leaving. It really did not affect spontaneity becaise there are not lots of options on this Camino so I wouldn't have many options of where to stay even if I was being 'spontaneous'. Beggars, and tired pilgrims, can't be choosers. i booked in San Seb, Zarautz, markina, Bilbao, Guernika, Bilbao, Portugalete, Llanes. In Pobena, Deba and other places that were munis I just waltz in by making those days a bit shorter.

As for detouring to walk into town, you wil only be walking from town to town, no detours to be taken to access civilisation so don't worry. It would be harder to detour tomfind the country side
 

grayland

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Yes
You can find the answers and advice to everything you need on the forum.
There really is no need for a tour type company.

Either section would be a good choice for you. They are both beautiful and fairly easy to walk....if you are reasonably fit and prepared.

Harder than you think it will be ( it always is) but well within the ability of most people.
Go for it on your own ...most people of all ages do.
 

movinmaggie

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015) Scotland GGW (2017) Primitivo
I have travelled rather extensively since the 60s. The only time I used a tour company (and I was in the hotel/travel business for 22 years ), was for a safari in Africa. For this Camino journey, part of the pleasure has been in the planning. I still smile every time I think of how much time goes into taking so little. If you stay with this forum, you will see that you can get all the help, support and encouragement any family would give you. And then there's all that practical stuff. Lots of ideas and options for you to choose from BUT…each to their own preference. However you do it, I'm sure it will go well for you. Wish you Buen Camino well in advanced…..I begin mine Sept 25.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Nearly every year since 2006, often walking more than one route.
As a person who takes groups on the Camino, my advice is to go it on your own! If you have traveled at all, are not hesitant about meeting new people and trying new things, are willing not to have expectations but just to go with the flow, there is no reason you cannot do this yourself. Thousands of pilgrims do it every year. People who book with me most often either don't have or want to take the time to mess with the details or are a little too hesitant to go it alone. Often, they return a following year to walk the entire Camino alone once they know the ropes. As has been said, every bit of info you need to plan is here on this forum. Just go, and have a Buen Camino!
 

douce-chemin

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
new to the camino, hoping to walk a section of camino norte in August 2016
Wow so many great replies so far! Much appreciated! Yes, I agree the planning is half the fun, so am glad to hear this is very manageable/doable without a tour group. I've seen another thread re: long term luggage storage, so that answered another question I had. I know I'm still just under a year out, but am I ever getting excited for this adventure!!!

Thank you so much again!
 
Camino(s) past & future
September 29 - October 9, 2015
You will have a wonderful time. If you don't mind steep hills none stop I would recomend San Sebastian to Bilbao. It is a gorgreous stretch with two wonderful cities at the start and end. As for handing out the hard earned salary of a teacher, please don't. There is nothing any of these companie you can't do that you can't figure out by yourself during the evening for the next day.

You will be in high season as you mention, but the truth is is that in this Camino many albergues are only open during those months. I'm a slow walker and wanted leace of mind so I booked where I could before leaving. It really did not affect spontaneity becaise there are not lots of options on this Camino so I wouldn't have many options of where to stay even if I was being 'spontaneous'. Beggars, and tired pilgrims, can't be choosers. i booked in San Seb, Zarautz, markina, Bilbao, Guernika, Bilbao, Portugalete, Llanes. In Pobena, Deba and other places that were munis I just waltz in by making those days a bit shorter.

As for detouring to walk into town, you wil only be walking from town to town, no detours to be taken to access civilisation so don't worry. It would be harder to detour tomfind the country side
RE: tips on the Camino - what are customs on the Camino regarding tips for service at hotels, cafes, bars?
 

jesben1

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Del Norte 2015
...so I'll just start with a few!

First, may I say how happy I was to discover this site! What a wealth of information!

My best friend/kindred spirit and I are hoping to walk a section of the Camino Norte in August 2016 (she is a teacher, so we have limited time to go). We're thinking either San Sebastian to Bilbao or Bilbao to Santander.

It seems there are many many tour groups/camino packages one can buy, but my general travel preference is to figure out plans/accommodations, etc for myself. However, that being said is there any value to booking through a tour group (cost, convenience, accommodation guarantees, etc). What are the downsides: cost, loss of authentic experience, etc?

If we do plan it ourselves are we going at a fairly busy time of year? I know it's high season for vacationing in general in Europe. If so, what does this mean for accommodations along the camino? Will it be likely that we will have to book in advance? Can you even do that at auberges/pensions? If we have to venture off the camino into town is it difficult to find ones way back?

Those are our main concerns at this point in time. I appreciate any replies/advice/encouragement!

Thank you!
So I would suggest the same as others had, to go it alone. I think a tour group would be all the cons you listed, more money, take away from the experience etc.

As far as accomodations, I found that most hostels did not allow you to book in advance, I only tried a couple times the same day, but it's rare they will do this. We stayed in a couple pension's, and found they always take reservations, frequently very informal though, just enough to tell them to expect a few people tonight, never even took our names.

We found that if you really wanted to gaurentee a bed at a hostel, we would be up by 5 and hiking by 6. We learned quick that no matter how quick we were, others were quicker, and that by noon most places are booked, sometimes even earlier! These were the cases we stayed in pension's vs. walking additional km to get to the next hostel.

And generally it is very easy to find your way back to the camino, a few times it was difficult to get back on the trail, especially if you are coming from a train or bus stop, but as long as you have a guide book you'll find your way back. We never got 'lost". And don't let that fear stop you from getting out into the town! We always made it a point that no matter how tired we were, we would make it to the beach! It's tempting to just flop down on your bed and not move until morning, but it's so worth exploring these little towns and seeing what they have to offer, it will just add to your experience. This is a place where a guide book is helpful as it can point out 'must-see' sites.

If you don't know Spanish, learn enough to at least ask directions, I speak spanish, but thought it would be very hard if you didn't, since I really relied on asking locals for directions to albergues, stores, beaches, the trail. etc.

Good luck in your preperation, you will love the Camino!
 

Tia Valeria

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Pt Norte/Pmtvo 2010
C. Inglés 2011
C. Primitivo '12
Norte-C. de la Reina '13
C. do Mar-C. Inglés '15
We used the CSJ guide and the on-line Gronze guide to give accomodation details. From Gronze you can either book ahead using 'booking.com' or write the phone numbers in the CSJ guide (there are some listed already) and then phone ahead a day at a time, or 2 days if it is busy. This ensures a bed but gives some flexibilty. If you are really concerned then you can make more bookings further ahead, but are then tied to arriving at a given destination all the way. If not planning on staying in an albergue then booking the next night's lodging the evening before worked OK for us in May/June. If walking in August we might have wanted to plan more. This year, for other reasons, we booked right through which worked OK too but did tie us down to our pre-planned stages.
Much more fun IMO to 'do it yourself' than have a tour group do it as you get to choose how far to walk and which places you maybe want a 2 night stop-over to see places that interest you (museums/churches etc).
Buen Camino
 

douce-chemin

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
new to the camino, hoping to walk a section of camino norte in August 2016
We used the CSJ guide and the on-line Gronze guide to give accomodation details. From Gronze you can either book ahead using 'booking.com' or write the phone numbers in the CSJ guide (there are some listed already) and then phone ahead a day at a time, or 2 days if it is busy. This ensures a bed but gives some flexibilty. If you are really concerned then you can make more bookings further ahead, but are then tied to arriving at a given destination all the way. If not planning on staying in an albergue then booking the next night's lodging the evening before worked OK for us in May/June. If walking in August we might have wanted to plan more. This year, for other reasons, we booked right through which worked OK too but did tie us down to our pre-planned stages.
Much more fun IMO to 'do it yourself' than have a tour group do it as you get to choose how far to walk and which places you maybe want a 2 night stop-over to see places that interest you (museums/churches etc).
Buen Camino
We used the CSJ guide and the on-line Gronze guide to give accomodation details. From Gronze you can either book ahead using 'booking.com' or write the phone numbers in the CSJ guide (there are some listed already) and then phone ahead a day at a time, or 2 days if it is busy. This ensures a bed but gives some flexibilty. If you are really concerned then you can make more bookings further ahead, but are then tied to arriving at a given destination all the way. If not planning on staying in an albergue then booking the next night's lodging the evening before worked OK for us in May/June. If walking in August we might have wanted to plan more. This year, for other reasons, we booked right through which worked OK too but did tie us down to our pre-planned stages.
Much more fun IMO to 'do it yourself' than have a tour group do it as you get to choose how far to walk and which places you maybe want a 2 night stop-over to see places that interest you (museums/churches etc).
Buen Camino
Thank you, so what are the differences between hostels and pensions and auberges? or are they one and the same?
 

Tia Valeria

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Pt Norte/Pmtvo 2010
C. Inglés 2011
C. Primitivo '12
Norte-C. de la Reina '13
C. do Mar-C. Inglés '15
Hostels and pensions are different grades of paid accomodation, think B&B. Sometimes just bed and breakfast is in the cafe below or nearby. Lower than hotels in ranking.
Albergues are two types. The municipal/public albergues which cannot be booked and are first come, first to a bed. Usually with bunk beds in dormitory style accomodation. Some do simple meals others are self catering. Most charge but just a few are donation based (not free). Then there are private albergues, still mostly small dormitories although some have private rooms too. Fairly cheap to more expensive and often bookable, some provide meals for a charge others are self catering. Much of the extra info is in the guides but this is a basic answer to the types
 

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