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Safety for women on the Camino

2020 Camino Guides

Asel

Camino April 16/2016
Camino(s) past & future
April 16, 2016
i just did 2 weeks on the Camino but had to stop because of Achilles tendinitis. I went alone and wanted to talk a little about safety on the Camino for women traveling alone. There were three incidents that I heard about while I was there and my apologies if this had been mentioned already. The first happened around Longrono I was told that a man exposed himself to some women pilgrims, the next that a man on a bicycle approached a woman and asked if she wanted him to take a picture and then started talking about naked pictures and the third was a male friend that witnessed a car slowing down to talk to a solo woman but when he started calling the woman the car sped away. These were all things relayed to me during the 2 weeks I was there. I also wanted to mention that when I was around Najera there were long stretches where there were no other pilgrims around (3 hrs at times) and didn't feel safe.
These are things that helped me: bring a whistle and have it handy. Don't leave too early in the morning, you're more likely to have others in front and behind.
All this to say that when I come back to finish I will come with a friend.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Portuguese "2014" from Tui to Santiago
Camino Norte "April 2016"
i just did 2 weeks on the Camino but had to stop because of Achilles tendinitis. I went alone and wanted to talk a little about safety on the Camino for women traveling alone. There were three incidents that I heard about while I was there and my apologies if this had been mentioned already. The first happened around Longrono I was told that a man exposed himself to some women pilgrims, the next that a man on a bicycle approached a woman and asked if she wanted him to take a picture and then started talking about naked pictures and the third was a male friend that witnessed a car slowing down to talk to a solo woman but when he started calling the woman the car sped away. These were all things relayed to me during the 2 weeks I was there. I also wanted to mention that when I was around Najera there were long stretches where there were no other pilgrims around (3 hrs at times) and didn't feel safe.
These are things that helped me: bring a whistle and have it handy. Don't leave too early in the morning, you're more likely to have others in front and behind.
All this to say that when I come back to finish I will come with a friend.
Hola Asel, this is such a shame but I feel your fears are very valid and I would not want to walk alone as a woman either. I am walking the Camino del Norte right now with my husband and there was an incident just after Deba (22-Apr-16). We were walking with a young (19 years old) German girl, who stopped to eat her breakfast at a beautiful lookout point. We stopped further on at a private country albergue for coffee, when 10 minutes later she came running, crying and totally traumatized after having an encounter with a man on a bike who was verbally sexually abusive, after which exposed himself to her. Unfortunately her whistle or mace was not handy for her to use. The owners of the albergue took it VERY seriously calling the police and reporting the incident. After which we saw the police patrolling wherever there was road. Not sure if they ever caught him, but we were all sickened by this incident and can't help but wonder if the Camino is a perfect place for these kinds of predictors.
 

Bradypus

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
There are times when I am deeply ashamed of my entire sex. Sadly the Caminos are not unique in this regard. Last month my daughter encountered a man openly masturbating on the London Underground. Last year on the Via Francigena I met two young German women who met a similar pervert on the trail. Fortunately in neither case was there any physical threat. Hard to think what anyone can do about it in advance. I'm glad to hear that it has been taken seriously.
 

Dutchwalk53

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF 2015 with son #1, CF 2016 alone, CF 2017 with son #2 and husband , CF Sept 2018 with daughter
I'm leaving June 10th alone. It's indeed sad that we have to keep an eye out at all times to make sure we are safe. My plan is to try to have someone near me as often as possible. This will require some effort from my side and sadly take away a bit of my "freedom" to walk as I please......but I'll just have to deal with it. Last year there was only one 2 hour stretch that I was all alone. I loved the peace and quiet, but also was a bit nervous. So...just I try to use my common sense!
 

fitoldbloke

Long legs in the morning
Camino(s) past & future
2008 (2016)
Sad to hear this, but I'm afraid it is largely a reflection of life in general, not the Camino in particular. With so many people, and with the opportunities we have to share our experiences, these events will happen and stories will travel. A whistle to hand is a good idea ...
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
I have had my share of incidents, probably totalling 6 or 7, over the past 15 years. Perhaps not surprisingly, they have all occurred on the more highly traveled caminos I used to walk, in fact all occurred on the Frances, I believe. I have never had an incident walking (alone) on the caminos where you rarely see another pilgrim (Olvidado, Catalan, Madrid, St. Jaume, Invierno, Vadiniense, Lebaniego, etc). Sometime the arrows take me a km or two from a road or a town, sometimes through more remote areas, but I have never been anxious or fearful. That said, I do walk with the same kind of alertness I use when walking anywhere alone.

I think that we women all have different comfort levels with walking alone -- our personalities, our past experiences, etc., all shape our attitudes. There are good threads on this topic that came on the heels of last year's murder on the Camino, and I think that while it is important not to think you are going to Disneyland, it would be an equally big mistake to think that walking alone on the Camino as a woman is somehow riskier than the kind of behaviors most of us engage in on a daily basis. Crime statistics simply do not bear out any claim that the camino is a dangerous place, but if you are going to be anxious and nervous, then the statistics don't matter and you shouldn't walk alone. But for those who are comfortable with the knowledge that that though there are perverts everywhere, the Camino is a very safe place, you may very well find that you can experience the joys that come, IMO, from walking alone.
 

CarlaAbanes

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Aug 1 - Sep 9 2016
i just did 2 weeks on the Camino but had to stop because of Achilles tendinitis. I went alone and wanted to talk a little about safety on the Camino for women traveling alone. There were three incidents that I heard about while I was there and my apologies if this had been mentioned already. The first happened around Longrono I was told that a man exposed himself to some women pilgrims, the next that a man on a bicycle approached a woman and asked if she wanted him to take a picture and then started talking about naked pictures and the third was a male friend that witnessed a car slowing down to talk to a solo woman but when he started calling the woman the car sped away. These were all things relayed to me during the 2 weeks I was there. I also wanted to mention that when I was around Najera there were long stretches where there were no other pilgrims around (3 hrs at times) and didn't feel safe.
These are things that helped me: bring a whistle and have it handy. Don't leave too early in the morning, you're more likely to have others in front and behind.
All this to say that when I come back to finish I will come with a friend.
Thank you for the whistle tip. I definitely bring one. Cheers.
 

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016), VDLP (2017), Mozarabe (2018), Vasco/Bayona (2019)
I have had my share of incidents, probably totalling 6 or 7, over the past 15 years. Perhaps not surprisingly, they have all occurred on the more highly traveled caminos I used to walk, in fact all occurred on the Frances, I believe. I have never had an incident walking (alone) on the caminos where you rarely see another pilgrim (Olvidado, Catalan, Madrid, St. Jaume, Invierno, Vadiniense, Lebaniego, etc). Sometime the arrows take me a km or two from a road or a town, sometimes through more remote areas, but I have never been anxious or fearful. That said, I do walk with the same kind of alertness I use when walking anywhere alone.

I think that we women all have different comfort levels with walking alone -- our personalities, our past experiences, etc., all shape our attitudes. There are good threads on this topic that came on the heels of last year's murder on the Camino, and I think that while it is important not to think you are going to Disneyland, it would be an equally big mistake to think that walking alone on the Camino as a woman is somehow riskier than the kind of behaviors most of us engage in on a daily basis. Crime statistics simply do not bear out any claim that the camino is a dangerous place, but if you are going to be anxious and nervous, then the statistics don't matter and you shouldn't walk alone. But for those who are comfortable with the knowledge that that though there are perverts everywhere, the Camino is a very safe place, you may very well find that you can experience the joys that come, IMO, from walking alone.
My thoughts exactly.
 

obinjatoo@yahoo.com

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2012 Dieppe, FR Bici CF.
2014 Ruta Vasco/CF/Primativo
Just a few thoughts about Mace or pepper spray. Learn how to use it before you need it and practice.
 

Felice

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPP to Santiago Sept 2014
Great, just what I wanted to hear. In just over a weeks time, I am off to walk the Cami St Jaume, so 2 weeks walking on my own along a route where I do not expect to meet many (any?) people on any day.

So, deep breath, and resist the impulse to panic, because I know it is illogical as the risks are little higher than in 'normal' life, as mentioned above.

There's no way I would carry mace or pepper spray. I think they might even be illegal in Spain. And knowing me, when I really needed it, the can would be in my pocket and I would find it impossible to extract! So, for my self protection, I intend to stay alert, though not paranoid. I use walking poles which I could swing at someone maybe, though they are a bit on the light side, and I've got a personal alarm, which hangs from my chest strap - all I need to do is pull the cord. I thought about a whistle, but I suspect that I would never be able to find a whistle, let alone blow it, if I needed to. In fact, I'd probably end up swallowing it instead. I'm not sure if the alarm would do any good on a deserted stretch, but its better than nothing and it gives me a bit of reassurance.

Life is full of risks. By walking the Cami St Jaume on my own, I am increasing my risks, but I am doing it with my eyes wide open and if I have miscalculated those risks, well, I'd rather not dwell on that.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Great, just what I wanted to hear. In just over a weeks time, I am off to walk the Cami St Jaume, so 2 weeks walking on my own along a route where I do not expect to meet many (any?) people on any day.

So, deep breath, and resist the impulse to panic, because I know it is illogical as the risks are little higher than in 'normal' life, as mentioned above.

There's no way I would carry mace or pepper spray. I think they might even be illegal in Spain. And knowing me, when I really needed it, the can would be in my pocket and I would find it impossible to extract! So, for my self protection, I intend to stay alert, though not paranoid. I use walking poles which I could swing at someone maybe, though they are a bit on the light side, and I've got a personal alarm, which hangs from my chest strap - all I need to do is pull the cord. I thought about a whistle, but I suspect that I would never be able to find a whistle, let alone blow it, if I needed to. In fact, I'd probably end up swallowing it instead. I'm not sure if the alarm would do any good on a deserted stretch, but its better than nothing and it gives me a bit of reassurance.

Life is full of risks. By walking the Cami St Jaume on my own, I am increasing my risks, but I am doing it with my eyes wide open and if I have miscalculated those risks, well, I'd rather not dwell on that.
Hi, Felice,
I walked the St. Jaume last year, from Llanca to Montserrat -- I have a very long post on it in the St. Jaume section of the forum in case you are interested, https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/my-cami-st-jaume-from-llançà-to-montserrat.36051/ . I met up with a walking partner in Montserrat for the Cami Catala to San Juan de la Peña, but for those first 10 days I was totally alone and never met another pilgrim. It was lonely sometimes, but never scary or anxiety-producing. And for me, the abundance of Romanesque made up for the solitude. The countryside is beautiful, and the towns of Vic and Girona are both very very nice. I find there is absolutely no stigma that comes with being a single female in a bar or restaurant, though maybe that's just because I've decided I don't care if they think I'm weird, I'm going to go have a nice meal by myself!

I agree with you completely on the pepper spray, I can't imagine that is a good idea for most of us. And I wish you a wonderful camino, Laurie
 

MinaKamina

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Jacobspad 2017
i just did 2 weeks on the Camino but had to stop because of Achilles tendinitis. I went alone and wanted to talk a little about safety on the Camino for women traveling alone. There were three incidents that I heard about while I was there and my apologies if this had been mentioned already. The first happened around Longrono I was told that a man exposed himself to some women pilgrims, the next that a man on a bicycle approached a woman and asked if she wanted him to take a picture and then started talking about naked pictures and the third was a male friend that witnessed a car slowing down to talk to a solo woman but when he started calling the woman the car sped away. These were all things relayed to me during the 2 weeks I was there. I also wanted to mention that when I was around Najera there were long stretches where there were no other pilgrims around (3 hrs at times) and didn't feel safe.
These are things that helped me: bring a whistle and have it handy. Don't leave too early in the morning, you're more likely to have others in front and behind.
All this to say that when I come back to finish I will come with a friend.

Hi Asel, you may want to downlead the AlertCops app (if you haven't done so already).
Details here: https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/alert-cops.36208/

Buen Camino to you and your friend!
 

Magwood

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
See signature line for links to daily posts to blogs from many caminos
My Gregory doesn't. I'll have to purchase one.
When I looked I couldn't one on my osprey. It is very discrete. Someone showed me a photo of it before I realised it was indeed there.
 

susanawee

susanawee
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances-(2013/14/18
Camino Salvado Perth -(2015)
West Highland Way (2016)
Lyon France 2017
There are times when I am deeply ashamed of my entire sex. Sadly the Caminos are not unique in this regard. Last month my daughter encountered a man openly masturbating on the London Underground. Last year on the Via Francigena I met two young German women who met a similar pervert on the trail. Fortunately in neither case was there any physical threat. Hard to think what anyone can do about it in advance. I'm glad to hear that it has been taken seriously.
I would agree here....Caminos are not unique in this. Sadly, this type of behaviour happens in many places. I am sad to read that the young referred to in one of the posts above, was so traumatised by what she experienced but, I don't think that we, as women, should take the decision NOT to walk alone and let our fears overcome our desire to walk alone.
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese, Primitivo
I am about to embark on my tenth Camino, each of which has been more than 500km, in France and Spain. I can only think of two occasions when I have felt any discomfort about my personal security, and neither came to anything. I can say with certainty that the Camino is as safe, if not safer, than my own neighbourhood. And my neighbourhood is a very safe middle class, crime free, area.

As someone rightly points out, the Camino is part of this world so not perfect, but it is much safer than many places from which some of us come. Do some research into crime and violence in your own neighbourhood and compare it with Spanish crime statistics before becoming concerned.

Fear engenders fear. I refuse to let it hinder me.
 

Albertagirl

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2015); Ch. d'Arles: Oloron Ste Marie to Aragones; Frances (2016); V.d.l.P.; Sanabres (2017)
I walk alone and I am not afraid to do so, but from what I understand the incidence of men exposing themselves and masturbating in public is high in Spain, possibly due to the fact that this is not against the law, unless there might be a local ordinance about it. I am uncomfortable with this situation but have not been exposed to it as yet myself (pun there) and believe that rarely is there any further action taken by the man. I had one incident where a man approached me in a town when I was looking for a restaurant to buy dinner, on the pretext of asking the time. I could see that he wore a watch, so I sent him away abruptly. That evening after dinner, when it was dark, I left the restaurant where I had dined to find the same man coming out of a dark entryway to approach me. I turned away and joined family groups leaving the square. After some time hurrying away in the dark on now empty streets, I got back to the municipal albergue safely. The next morning, I did not get money from a bank that I had checked for banking hours the day before, because I thought that the man might have been already following me. I took a different route out of town. After that, I did not walk without my sturdy walking stick, even in town, to help me in speed and defence, if necessary. I think that this sort of situation is most likely to arise in a town, where female tourists travelling alone may be regarded as possible sources of money by predatory males. As there was no assault, I did not inform the police. Stay alert and join a group if you feel threatened.
 

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016), VDLP (2017), Mozarabe (2018), Vasco/Bayona (2019)
I always try to stay alert and aware. The only time I was uncomfortable was walking out of a town onto a track that I knew was off-road for an hour or two. A young man (clearly not a pilgrim) walked past me, jauntily and listening to earphones. That was fine and I tried to keep him in sight ahead but eventually lost him. Still it was fine, until I saw him returning in my direction when I couldn't figure out where he might have logically decided to stop and turn around. Did his mother call him home for dinner? Was he just getting a touch of exercise while listening to music? Hmmm.

As he approached, I took out my phone, turned off the Airplane Mode so it would be ready to call, and I touched the 1-1-2 numbers. I stepped to the side of the wide path and stood there watching him approach, with my finger over the green dial button, ready to react. When he was close, we nodded and said Hola to each other and he passed, acting perfectly normally. I think it was very obvious that I was standing there suspicious, alert and prepared. He was probably totally innocent and might have been offended or amused by me, but I was quite proud of my preparation.

I mention this not to add to the chorus of incidents (because it wasn't one!), but to suggest a small action plan that might be helpful to other women.
 

SYates

Camino Fossil AD 1999, now living in Santiago de C
Camino(s) past & future
First: Camino Francés 1999
...
Last: Santiago - Muxia 2019

Now: http://egeria.house/
Yes, having a phone in hand and looking alert, but not frightened!, is certainly a very good way to NOT appear like a potential victim. Which, according to some police friends is exactly what predators look for. If you look like a potential victim, you are more likely to become a victim. Sad but true ... SY
 

emer kenny

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Portuguese (2014) Camino Finisterre (2014) Camino del Norte to Comillas (2015) Camino del Ingles (2015) Camino del Norte Comillas to Gijon (2016)
Hola Asel, this is such a shame but I feel your fears are very valid and I would not want to walk alone as a woman either. I am walking the Camino del Norte right now with my husband and there was an incident just after Deba (22-Apr-16). We were walking with a young (19 years old) German girl, who stopped to eat her breakfast at a beautiful lookout point. We stopped further on at a private country albergue for coffee, when 10 minutes later she came running, crying and totally traumatized after having an encounter with a man on a bike who was verbally sexually abusive, after which exposed himself to her. Unfortunately her whistle or mace was not handy for her to use. The owners of the albergue took it VERY seriously calling the police and reporting the incident. After which we saw the police patrolling wherever there was road. Not sure if they ever caught him, but we were all sickened by this incident and can't help but wonder if the Camino is a perfect place for these kinds of predictors.
Myself and my husband did a stretch of the Camino del Norte last July/August 2015 and we also came across an incident near Deba. Two young Irish girls had a very near escape with a man on a motor bike..I think! They luckily got away from him and ran to a nearby house. The owner rang the Police who were very kind to them but advised them that there were similar incidents in that area in the past where the girls were not quite so lucky. I wonder if this is the same guy?!! The two girls were badly shaken and I have to say although I was walking with my husband it took me a while get over it!! I would definitely not walk the Camino on my own as a woman!
 

november_moon

Veteran Member
Crazy stuff happens all over. I travel alone quite a bit, and it is a risk, but I honestly don't think it's any more of a risk than I routinely take in my daily life. Just have to be vigilant and then hope for the best, sort of like defensive driving on the road.

We can collectively make the world safer by watching out for each other when we are out and about in the world.
 

IDBluebird77

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Planning: Camino Frances (Fall 2017)
Is pepper spray or mace legal in Spain? I lived in Germany about 10 years ago and was told it wasn't; I assumed it would be the same throughout Europe. Anyone know anything about this? And if it is legal, where to find it?
 

Dutchwalk53

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF 2015 with son #1, CF 2016 alone, CF 2017 with son #2 and husband , CF Sept 2018 with daughter
My daughter got me pepper spray for Christmas ha ha (she is a bit nervous about me going alone this year) . I have been going back or forth if I should bring it.
 

DurhamParish

Un Cerveza, Por Favor
Camino(s) past & future
Caminho Portuguese 2012 & 2018
Camino Frances 2014, 2015, 2015, 2017, 2018
My Gregory doesn't. I'll have to purchase one.
Find a good loud one that the sound pierces the ears and carries a long way. The ones that come built in on the backpacks are not very loud. Making a lot of loud noise like that will do a lot to discourage "n'ere do wells".
 

Michael Garver

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Future- I am preparing
Great, just what I wanted to hear. In just over a weeks time, I am off to walk the Cami St Jaume, so 2 weeks walking on my own along a route where I do not expect to meet many (any?) people on any day.

So, deep breath, and resist the impulse to panic, because I know it is illogical as the risks are little higher than in 'normal' life, as mentioned above.

There's no way I would carry mace or pepper spray. I think they might even be illegal in Spain. And knowing me, when I really needed it, the can would be in my pocket and I would find it impossible to extract! So, for my self protection, I intend to stay alert, though not paranoid. I use walking poles which I could swing at someone maybe, though they are a bit on the light side, and I've got a personal alarm, which hangs from my chest strap - all I need to do is pull the cord. I thought about a whistle, but I suspect that I would never be able to find a whistle, let alone blow it, if I needed to. In fact, I'd probably end up swallowing it instead. I'm not sure if the alarm would do any good on a deserted stretch, but its better than nothing and it gives me a bit of reassurance.

Life is full of risks. By walking the Cami St Jaume on my own, I am increasing my risks, but I am doing it with my eyes wide open and if I have miscalculated those risks, well, I'd rather not dwell on that.
I would also add- in Montana , particularly hiking in the National parks we deal with bears. We do carry pepper spray - but the spray comes in large bottles so it can shoot a long distance. You don't want to have to get very close! You mainly spray toward the ground as wind and it blowing back on you can be a problem. I am not sure even if it were available there it would be recommended. Perhaps others that have more experience could comment
 
Camino(s) past & future
C Inglés June 2019
To do: C Primitivo June 2020 or later :(
I would also add- in Montana , particularly hiking in the National parks we deal with bears. We do carry pepper spray - but the spray comes in large bottles so it can shoot a long distance. You don't want to have to get very close! You mainly spray toward the ground as wind and it blowing back on you can be a problem. I am not sure even if it were available there it would be recommended. Perhaps others that have more experience could comment
I found this article on the web:
http://www.robbedinbarcelona.com/20...defence-weapons-in-spain-the-definitive-post/
So, no go, but!
On to sprays. Read the following sentence fully. Sprays are illegal, as are all devices that fire gases or aerosols, together with any devices that include a mechanism capable of projecting narcotics, toxins or corrosives; however personal defense sprays are allowed if they are of a type permitted by the Spanish ministry of health and carried by someone over the age of 18 (who must be able to prove their age using an identity card, passport or residence permit). The law goes on to state that these self-defense sprays are of the type most typically found in “armerias” (specialist shops).
Keyword is self-defense ;)
Also read this: http://hitchwiki.org/en/Pepper_spray
 
Last edited:

Michael Garver

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Future- I am preparing
I found this article on the web:
http://www.robbedinbarcelona.com/20...defence-weapons-in-spain-the-definitive-post/
So, no go, but!
On to sprays. Read the following sentence fully. Sprays are illegal, as are all devices that fire gases or aerosols, together with any devices that include a mechanism capable of projecting narcotics, toxins or corrosives; however personal defense sprays are allowed if they are of a type permitted by the Spanish ministry of health and carried by someone over the age of 18 (who must be able to prove their age using an identity card, passport or residence permit). The law goes on to state that these self-defense sprays are of the type most typically found in “armerias” (specialist shops).
Keyword is self-defense ;)
Also read this: http://hitchwiki.org/en/Pepper_spray
Well I guess that leaves throwing fake rubber snakes, javelin treking poles, faking a heart attack, pretending to be demon possessed, self induced vomiting, passing gas, hysterical laughter or using the Clint Eastwood saying " make my day" or in this case " Camino " - I can hardly wait! It merely requires ingenuity.
 

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