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Is the Camino safe for a solo female? (and other pressing questions)

leighmc

New Member
Hi everyone!
I've been planning on walking the Camino Frances for a few months now with a friend of mine this upcoming July but he has recently had to cancel due to personal reasons which has made me ask the question of whether or not I will be able to go it alone. We have been prepping together for a while, I am 21yrs old and relatively fit (play netball twice a week excluding weekly training) so the physical aspect is not what worries me (although the threads about do blisters keep me up at night haha) but more the safety aspect. It will be my first Camino and because I'm going alone I've decided to no longer start from Pamplona but from Leon and walk roughly the last 300kms.

Other questions I have are:
1. Our original plan was to get our credencials in Pamplona and continue on but because I am starting in Leon I will have to get it there. But I have heard that the cathedral in Leon does not give credencials, surely there is somewhere else I could go?

2. Also due to prior arrangements I have to be in London by the 25th of July, do you experienced pilgrims think that it is possible to comfortably do the camino in 10-12 days or should I accommodate for unexpected physical strain and take the suggested 14days?

3. Lastly, as I am doing the camino for religious reasons I was wondering how often the churches along the Way hold mass or is there a general daily mass time (e.g. 7am)? Is there any way to find this out in advance?

Thanks so much!
 
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CaminoKris2013

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
(2014)
YES, yes yes! Many people may start out solo, but you are not really ever alone for the whole Camino. I'm starting walking on the 27th solo, but finally feel like I'll be meeting more kindred spirits on this Camino than ever before!


Sent from my iPhone using Camino de Santiago Forum
 

cornishtim

Member
Can't speak from personal experience ( although I walked for over two weeks of my five weeks on my own as an elderly male without mishap ). However I met several women who were walking safely on their own. Two had walked from Switzerland alone and one of those was then going to walk back once reaching Finisterre!( They were in their 20's). One was walking her tenth Camino. She was in her sixties. They only spoke of the liberation and joy of the experience. Bien Camino.
 

David

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2005
Leigh - don't cut your Camino short because of concerns about being a lone female - dreadful mistake! The Camino is considered to be the safest road in the world for a single woman (so Unesco say). and, well, you won't be alone! The day you start you will be "given" all the pilgrims who started from that place on that day. You won't be alone .. but quite the opposite .. and, being a single pilgrim will mean that you face outwards rather than inwards to your companion, which means you will get involved in all sorts of things - and, there are thousands of singles out there, tens of thousands ... so, enjoy your Camino - but don't shorten it due to fear, All is Well.

Buen Camino!!
 

MarciaWhitney

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
I walked the Camino beginning from Burgos in 2002. I wish to go again in 2014.
I have been walking alone from Roncesvalles, and I have the same concerns. Before Burgos, there were hours when I was by myself. There were a couple situations that seemed odd to me. I later concluded there was no need for concern. If I was with a companion, I wouldn't have given it a second thought. I do carry mace in my fanny pack, just in case. I think this Forum makes you more aware of potential problems. Having said that, I have experienced no problems, but I am alert and cautious. I left Leon this morning, and there are more and more pilgrims on the road. Regarding mass, the situation is not so good. If your schedule permits, you can attend mass on Sundays. Many village churches are locked, but there are some village churches that are open in the evenings. I just had this conversation today with a Spanish pilgrim who said many people in Spain have stopped going to church. I never once saw a priest stand outside church after mass and greet people. I attended Easter mass in Pamplona and there were no more than 30 people in the church, St. Fermin, one of their main churches!! from Marcia (Chicago)
 
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mspath

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
It is VERY safe, but do be wary. Be sure to protect your valuables.

In Leon you can obtain a credential at the albergue del Monasterio de las Benedictinas, plaza Santa María del Camino. You can also stay there but need not to in order to get the Credential. Here is more info on the Benedictinas albergue.

For more on mass along the camino see this earlier Forum post

Buen Camino,

Margaret Meredith
 
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homa_bird

Member
I can't remember every being in a place where i was truly alone, you can pace yourself to walk alone, but there will be numbers of pilgrims ahead and behind you pretty much minutes away, especially in the summer. If I am wrong about this, please others chime in. Only time I was scared was once when I ran into a growly scary dog blocking my path, I just waited about 3 minutes till a group came along behind me and we scared him off with our numbers.

I felt totally safe, but I'm older. If you are a young and attractive woman, it could be a different story. But if you are feeling nervous, it is soooo easy to fall in step with awesome random pilgrims, and so worth it, for many reasons: "When you travel alone, you travel fast, when you travel with others, you travel far."

I think once you are there, you will pick up on the safe vibe and it will set you at ease. The feeling of safety oozes out of the path, along with a deep spiritual sense of togetherness. Buen Camino!
 

tali1810

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
camino frances 2012/2013
Everybody worries about being alone (including me before a started :))
But to be honest i have never been less alone during my camino.
I even think that for me starting alone gave me the opportunity to meet amazing people.

I did my camino in 2 parts, what i learned from the first part is not to rush.
If you plan your camino to strictly it might give too much stress.
Plan to take as many days as you can and just let it happen.
Besides, spending a couple of days in SdC is not so bad :)
 

domigee

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2020? Looks like.... nowhere! 😁
Hello Leigh,
I went alone and having no idea what it was like, fully expected to remain alone for the 4 weeks or so. It didn't happen! This said, I walked alone most days (through choice) and never once felt afraid. *
Just be on your guards especially when you go across cities, be aware of your surroundings, just as you would in your own city/country. Keep your valuables hidden out of sight. I felt safer on the Camino francés than I do walking in London, let alone Paris.
I wish you a wonderful camino.

* I was afraid of barking dogs a few times, oh, and cows in narrow paths! But people, no.

Oh I forgot about Masses but I think there was a reply about that. I could only manage to attend a few, either Mass had ended or there was no Mass at all that day (I was told villages share one priest so he can't be everywhere at once). But somehow my husband managed to attend Mass most days (we were walking at different times), he tells me he just was lucky!
 
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mgtstorey

New Member
Hi Leigh just back from camino having cycled from Leon to Santiago. I travelled alone as female in late forties, self guided but stayed in hotels, 3 star, had a really lovely time, nice food every nite, lovely wine but one doesn't meet too many people until Sarria. probably better walking but cycling took 6 days n v challenging. Just home and will do the Portuguese camino next year..have a great time, Try to take an extra day for Santiago as beautiful city. Bien camino
 

brawblether

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
June/Jul 2012; Feb 2014
I have walked in both summer and winter and neither time felt I was ever in danger. You need to be wary as you would walking anywhere on your own. I walk with a pilgrim's staff (you can see it in my avatar) and that gives me a great feeling of safety - my last one had a very pointy metal end ;-)

I attended Mass most days. You'll find them held in the evenings except on Sundays, so I advise getting to the vigil Mass just in case you miss out on your Sunday obligation and then you can go again on the Sunday if you are lucky (I missed both Sundays last time - just where I was and what times they were or weren't on).
 
Year of past OR future Camino
2002, Toulouse/Aragon 2005, Cami S Jaume/Aragon 2007/9, Mont Saint Michel/Norte/Vadiniense 2011, Norte/Primitivo 2013, Norte/Primitivo 2014. Norte 2015, Cami S Jaume/Castellano-Aragonese 2016
Almost every town and village along the Camino has masses daily-- this map will help with times (http://peregrinossantiago.es/eng/preparation/mass-on-camino/). My experience is that they tend to be around 7 in the evening. Ask the hospitalero or bartender for specifics although they may not know-- in Spain, non-churchgoers will have no idea or interest, but someone will know. Greeting people after services is not a Spanish practice-- in six Caminos, I don't know if I have ever seen it at any church. I recall a Pennsylvanian pilgrim distressed as no after-church coffee or social period was available-- I steered her to a bar in the plaza. They do things differently in Spain.
 

cherrys

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances Sept/Oct (2013), Finisterre/Muxia Oct (2013), Camino Frances and on to Finisterre Sept/Oct (2016)
Hi everyone!
I've been planning on walking the Camino Frances for a few months now with a friend of mine this upcoming July but he has recently had to cancel due to personal reasons which has made me ask the question of whether or not I will be able to go it alone. We have been prepping together for a while, I am 21yrs old and relatively fit (play netball twice a week excluding weekly training) so the physical aspect is not what worries me (although the threads about do blisters keep me up at night haha) but more the safety aspect. It will be my first Camino and because I'm going alone I've decided to no longer start from Pamplona but from Leon and walk roughly the last 300kms.

Other questions I have are:
1. Our original plan was to get our credencials in Pamplona and continue on but because I am starting in Leon I will have to get it there. But I have heard that the cathedral in Leon does not give credencials, surely there is somewhere else I could go?

2. Also due to prior arrangements I have to be in London by the 25th of July, do you experienced pilgrims think that it is possible to comfortably do the camino in 10-12 days or should I accommodate for unexpected physical strain and take the suggested 14days?

3. Lastly, as I am doing the camino for religious reasons I was wondering how often the churches along the Way hold mass or is there a general daily mass time (e.g. 7am)? Is there any way to find this out in advance?

Thanks so much!
Hi Leigh - as others have said, don't worry about being alone. I walked from SJPdP to Santiago last fall by myself (I was 67 then), somewhat apprehensive when I started, but fortunately I had "met" some Australians on the forum who were starting the same day, so that helped, and although I only saw them for the first few days, we still keep in touch. I soon found that my preference was walking by myself because I didn't have to fit in with anyone's pace, but I also enjoyed some very, very enjoyable times, sometimes several days in a row, walking with the same people, as well as eating and staying in the same albergues with them. My two "scary" times turned out to be nothing - heard loud footsteps behind me in a tunnel under a road once only to turn around and find a diminutive Danish lady catching up to me. The other time on a dirt road a big truck with two men in it came driving up the road, nodded to me, then turned around, which worried me. On the way back they smiled and waved and said buen camino to me. In other words, be alert, but walk at your own pace, enjoy the scenery, listen to the birds, etc., make friends with your fellow travelers, and you'll be fine. I do think you need more than 10-12 days for that distance, though, at least the 14. And although I didn't get to many masses, 7 pm seemed to be the time for most of them, and then the traditional pilgrim's mass is at noon in Santiago, and again in the evening. Enjoy your trip - buen camino - Cherry
 
A

AJ

Guest
Hi everyone!
2. Also due to prior arrangements I have to be in London by the 25th of July, do you experienced pilgrims think that it is possible to comfortably do the camino in 10-12 days or should I accommodate for unexpected physical strain and take the suggested 14days?

From Leon I usually spend either ten or twelve days getting to Santiago, depending on whether I stop in Triacastela and Monte do Gozo or not. This requires a few days of 35+km which isn't too difficult if you started from SJPdP and are very fit and hardened to the Camino. It might be much more difficult for you since you are starting from Leon. Fitness is not the only issue here, there is endurance and importantly the condition of your feet and legs. Most of the people you see hobbling into Santiago started from Sarria. Most of those who started much further away stride into Santiago confidently.
 
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AnnieY

AnnieY
Year of past OR future Camino
September 2014
Hi Leigh - as others have said, don't worry about being alone. I walked from SJPdP to Santiago last fall by myself (I was 67 then), somewhat apprehensive when I started, but fortunately I had "met" some Australians on the forum who were starting the same day, so that helped, and although I only saw them for the first few days, we still keep in touch. I soon found that my preference was walking by myself because I didn't have to fit in with anyone's pace, but I also enjoyed some very, very enjoyable times, sometimes several days in a row, walking with the same people, as well as eating and staying in the same albergues with them. My two "scary" times turned out to be nothing - heard loud footsteps behind me in a tunnel under a road once only to turn around and find a diminutive Danish lady catching up to me. The other time on a dirt road a big truck with two men in it came driving up the road, nodded to me, then turned around, which worried me. On the way back they smiled and waved and said buen camino to me. In other words, be alert, but walk at your own pace, enjoy the scenery, listen to the birds, etc., make friends with your fellow travelers, and you'll be fine. I do think you need more than 10-12 days for that distance, though, at least the 14. And although I didn't get to many masses, 7 pm seemed to be the time for most of them, and then the traditional pilgrim's mass is at noon in Santiago, and again in the evening. Enjoy your trip - buen camino - Cherry
Hi Cherry I was heartened by your comments here. Last night my son abetted by his sisters decided to turn on the heat on my doing the Camino Frances , initially travelling alone and my fitness level seemed to be the concern - which made me full of self doubt - Again! I am staying my first night in Orrisson to break up the journey - but how fit do you have to be? I am not a dissimilar age to you - Kind regards Annie
 

cherrys

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances Sept/Oct (2013), Finisterre/Muxia Oct (2013), Camino Frances and on to Finisterre Sept/Oct (2016)
Hi Cherry I was heartened by your comments here. Last night my son abetted by his sisters decided to turn on the heat on my doing the Camino Frances , initially travelling alone and my fitness level seemed to be the concern - which made me full of self doubt - Again! I am staying my first night in Orrisson to break up the journey - but how fit do you have to be? I am not a dissimilar age to you - Kind regards Annie
Hi Annie - it would be wonderful and useful if we were all in great shape, but for most of us, that's not the case. I started hiking/rock climbing/mountaineering in college, but now only do occasional hikes, although I do try and workout each day, even if it is only stretching. I spent about three weeks walking around town on pavement, 10-15 minutes a day on a treadmill with my boots and pack on, but then the last two weeks before I left life intervened, mainly in the form of getting my daughter ready to go back to college. So I wasn't in the shape I'd hoped to be, and paid for it with shin splints after coming down into Zubiri at a pretty fast clip. That nearly cost me my camino, but after taking it easy for about two weeks (shorter distances, even shipping my backpack a few times), I finally hit my stride after Astorga, and started moving a lot faster. I think an awful lot depends on mental strength - once cleared by the doctor in Lograno I was determined not to give up. In other words, walk as much as you posssibly can now, with your pack on,especially on roads. I found those to be the hardest on my feet, and there are a lot of paved surfaces on the camino. I'm glad you're stopping at Orisson. Everyone says to take it easy at first, but it really is difficult to do that, given the length to Roncevalles and then from there to Zubiri. Shorten your days as much as possible in the first week and you should be fine. And I know it's been said countless times, but keep your pack weight as low as possible. That's so important. Keep us posted and have a great trip - Cherry (And I'm still trying to walk several times a week, no camino in the near future, but I can always dream!)
 
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cherrys

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances Sept/Oct (2013), Finisterre/Muxia Oct (2013), Camino Frances and on to Finisterre Sept/Oct (2016)
Hi Cherry I was heartened by your comments here. Last night my son abetted by his sisters decided to turn on the heat on my doing the Camino Frances , initially travelling alone and my fitness level seemed to be the concern - which made me full of self doubt - Again! I am staying my first night in Orrisson to break up the journey - but how fit do you have to be? I am not a dissimilar age to you - Kind regards Annie
Hi again - I just watched the Crossing the Pyrenees hyperlapse - please watch it if you haven't already, you'll see what I mean about the roads. It's a wonderful 3 minute glimpse of life on your first 2 days there.
 

november_moon

Veteran Member
My husband and I are walking from Leon to Santiago, starting from Leon in June. We have planned 14-15 days for the journey, which means we will average about 20km per day. We wouldn't be comfortable with a faster pace. Like AJ mentioned, for those who started in SJPdP, by the time you get to Leon, your body should have adapted to the walking quite well, but just starting out in Leon, you won't have had that time to get the body used to walking and probably won't be able to cover as much ground each day. I think that we could probably do a faster pace, but I don't want to push it and then risk not reaching Santiago in the time we have.
 

tploomis

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances Sept. to Nov., 2013
I think I met more single women walking the Camino than single men, and there were single women in large numbers. None seemed anxious, so I suspect most of the anxiety about walking alone occurs before the actual experience confirms there is little to worry about.
 

Ceciw

New Member
Hi Leigh,
I've been walking from León in April by myself and I never felt alone! I'm not so original by saying that but, it was really because I'd met wonderful people along the road and in the albergues.
As soon as I arrived to León, I met a great german guy and a nice spanish woman in the albergue. There, I got the credential (I went to "San Francisco de Asis" Fundación Ademar albergue).
And the road is incredible. Sometimes I felt to walk alone and then, when I wanted to walk with someone, an amazing pilgrim appeared on the road! It's magic!
I did it in 13 days but the last one I walked only 5 km because I stayed in Monte do Gozo. So it can be done in 12 or less days.
Hope you enjoy as much as I did! :)
Buen camino!
Ceci.
 

AnnieY

AnnieY
Year of past OR future Camino
September 2014
Hi Annie - it would be wonderful and useful if we were all in great shape, but for most of us, that's not the case. I started hiking/rock climbing/mountaineering in college, but now only do occasional hikes, although I do try and workout each day, even if it is only stretching. I spent about three weeks walking around town on pavement, 10-15 minutes a day on a treadmill with my boots and pack on, but then the last two weeks before I left life intervened, mainly in the form of getting my daughter ready to go back to college. So I wasn't in the shape I'd hoped to be, and paid for it with shin splints after coming down into Zubiri at a pretty fast clip. That nearly cost me my camino, but after taking it easy for about two weeks (shorter distances, even shipping my backpack a few times), I finally hit my stride after Astorga, and started moving a lot faster. I think an awful lot depends on mental strength - once cleared by the doctor in Lograno I was determined not to give up. In other words, walk as much as you posssibly can now, with your pack on,especially on roads. I found those to be the hardest on my feet, and there are a lot of paved surfaces on the camino. I'm glad you're stopping at Orisson. Everyone says to take it easy at first, but it really is difficult to do that, given the length to Roncevalles and then from there to Zubiri. Shorten your days as much as possible in the first week and you should be fine. And I know it's been said countless times, but keep your pack weight as low as possible. That's so important. Keep us posted and have a great trip - Cherry (And I'm still trying to walk several times a week, no camino in the near future, but I can always dream!)
Hi Cherry thank you so for your encouraging mail, have now watched the video - and just purchased my boots so given I am going in September they will get worn in with practice! Just need to get a rucksack now! - my family haven't been that supportive because they haven't read these wonderful blogs , so I am going to get them to read some. I hope it will then reassure them. its bad enough I get jittery at times but feel more sure than ever that this is what I will do - how far I get remains a mystery!
 
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cherrys

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances Sept/Oct (2013), Finisterre/Muxia Oct (2013), Camino Frances and on to Finisterre Sept/Oct (2016)
Hi Cherry thank you so for your encouraging mail, have now watched the video - and just purchased my boots so given I am going in September they will get worn in with practice! Just need to get a rucksack now! - my family haven't been that supportive because they haven't read these wonderful blogs , so I am going to get them to read some. I hope it will then reassure them. its bad enough I get jittery at times but feel more sure than ever that this is what I will do - how far I get remains a mystery!
Hi Annie - I'm glad it helped. While my husband and daughter weren't exactly keen on me going, my marathon running son and his wife Ana, who is from Spain, were thrilled. Most of her family has walked parts of it, and her sister did the whole thing a few years ago by herself. My step-sister, who lives in Devon, and is a few years older than me, flew out to Santiago to meet me, we then bused to Fisterre and walked up to Muxia for two days. She belongs to a walker's club in Devon, but was not used to carrying a pack - she was very thrilled with her performance, and loved all the scenery and the camaraderie between people I introduced her to the the catedral and those we met on the "mini" camino as she called it. I'm sure she wouldn't mind talking to you about it. You can PM me if you'd like and I'll tell you how to get in touch with her. By the way she bought a very nice pack someplace in Devon I think.
 

Jane Schofield

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
November 2012
Hi there
Don't be out off by setting out to walk the Camino alone, you're never alone (especially in July). I walked alone from Pamplona to SdC in Nov/Dec and felt entirely safe (except for being disorientated en route to El Cebriero in a snow storm !!).
do make sure you have walked with your back pack and boots on as you will walk differently. Make sure you give yourself enough time to take everything in and see the sights - if you spend too much time focused on just covering the distance you'll miss the Camino, and like mentioned before, make sure you get a couple of days in beautiful Santiago.
I'm sure you can get your credential online and masses are held most nights in the towns
Have a wonderful Camino x
 

David

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2005
Hi Leigh,

Here is some information specifically for women walking the Camino alone: http://thecaminoexperience.com/womensafety.php

Wishing you a beautiful journey...

Nancy

Nancy - that is good advice, though, there are a couple of things .. where it mentions about being in a refugio
"If you are the only woman in your dorm room, ask the hospitalero to move you to another room. If you are the only woman in the albergue, ask for a private room with a door that locks."
The thing is, men tend to be rather appalled that within their ranks predators exist and would instantly go to the aid of a woman in need, so to be with a group of men can be the safest place to be for a single woman. The chances of finding a room with a door that locks is minimal.

In the uk the 'help me' whistle signal is three shorts blasts, pause, three short blasts, pause, repeated.

Just because we have built societies doesn't mean that we don't still live in a jungle - therefore awareness and confidence is primary, for both males and females.
The stats in the uk are interesting. This is the list of those most likely to be attacked, women are way down the list.
Black male between 16 and 23
White male between 16 and 23
Black male between 23 and 33
White male between 23 and 33
White female between 16 and 23
Black female between 16 and 23

Attacks on older people are a long way down the complete list so it is clear that it is much more dangerous to be young and male than young and female. so let the fear be kept in proportion. If you are a single young male on Camino you are much more likely to be the subject of a random physical attack than if female, though, sexual harassment seems to be particularly aimed at females.

Buen Camino!
 

brawblether

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
June/Jul 2012; Feb 2014
Nancy, your post and David's excerpt have reminded me of a rather unpleasant night spent in Fromista this winter. There were only two of us in the albergue, the other pilgrim was a guy who did give me a the creeps a little and I was quite worried going to sleep with pictures of him sticking a pillow to over my head to suffocate me because I was snoring too loudly!! I didn't have a shower that night because the albergue closed the women's shower room and there was no way I was showering with a single guy around and only shower curtains for protection.

I would have been far far more comfortable in a room full of men than just one other one like that night.
 
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nreyn12

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Walked (2005) (2007) (2008) (2009) (2010) (2011) (2012) (2013) (2014) (2015); Guide 2013-2016
David, I am happy to hear this attitude, of men coming to the aid of a woman in distress. I would certainly expect that to be the case. I want to expand my comments, though, to say that regardless of what the men would do if there was a problem, the point is that a woman may still feel uncomfortable and would be within her rights to change rooms. I highly recommend a woman traveling solo find allies as often as possible, but if I walked into a dorm room of only men where I didn't know anyone, didn't have any known allies, I would ask to sleep someplace else.
 

Phillypilgrim

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
C F Sept.(2013) Camino de Madrid & Finisterre/Muxia Sept. (2014)
Finisterre/Muia June (2017).
I also want to add to Nancy's thorough list. To call emergency 1-1-2 on your phone or tell the local police/authority as soon as you can if a male exposes himself and masturbates. When this happened to me, I did not tell any authorities and I wish that I had. I don't speak Spanish but I still should have taken the time to at least try to report it. I pray it never happens again, but if it does I promise to report it.
 

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