Whether you want to pass customs with the right documents in your pocket, or want to show the albergue that you’re a true pilgrim to be able to get a bed. Here you’ll find the list of essential documents for a pilgrim. Don’t forget to pack them!
Addresses and phone numbers
Most of you will have this in their Contacts app in your smart phone. But just in case, we didn’t want to leave it out of this travel documents list.
You might want to send your family and friends a post card to let them know, the old fashioned way, that you’re all right and having a good time.
Important phone numbers to include (besides your personal contacts) would be the ones from albergues. If your guide only mentions 2 or 3 in the area and their full – you might want to ‘call’ around. For more tips around the ins and outs of albergues, check THIS page.
Passport / Travel ID
You won’t forget about this one, will you? Take good care of it, in Spain it is also mandatory to be able to identify yourself at any moment in time when requested by the local authorities. Having said that, you won’t get out of your own country without the official travel documents, so we guess you’re good.
Money & Credit Card
A Credit Card is the most convenient and safe way to have your financial resources available at all time without taking any risks by carrying a lot of cash with you. Check out the Safety on The Camino page to read more about how to safely carry a CC with you to avoid identity theft. Don’t forget to inform your CC company/bank that you will be travelling so they don’t block your card for safety reasons once you start using your card abroad. American Express and Diner’s Club cards are not usually accepted along the camino.
The CC is best used in shops, hotels and restaurants. You’ll usually need cash to pay for your accommodation. To make cash withdrawals it’s less expensive to use your debit card since it will not be subject to daily interest rates. Check with your bank what the fees are; if they charge anything you might want to open a new account at a bank where they do not charge any fee. Else, the best way is to withdraw 200 Euros every two or three days. Be aware that you will be needing a 4-digit pin!
If you don’t own a credit card, make sure you know in which places they have cash withdrawal possibilities, and plan accordingly: don’t carry too much cash (twice your daily budget should be more than enough and already very appealing to ‘bad’ folks on the road). There are plenty ATM’s along the Camino.
Tickets and Insurance documents
You will need your health insurance policy/card and the documents you received when (and if) you booked a travel insurance. Don’t forget to take them with you.
You’ll need your tickets too. It’s obvious right, but still… Don’t throw your tickets away – in case of any issue with the insurance company they’ll need something to prove when and where you were, and a copy of the tickets is the easiest way to meet that potential need.
Travel guide(s) / maps
The good ones are usually big and/or heavy. It’s really not recommended to take a complete guide with you. We are in the course of creating a mini carry on travel guide for some of the routes. Bear with us though until we get it published. We would like to approach it the right way and make sure we use the right sources.
Until then, one of the advises that are sometimes given is to take out the pages of the travel guide (we don’t like that idea to be honest… it just doesn’t feel right to ruin a good book). What we can recommend though, is to download an app like the one from Eroski consumer. Although it is only available in Spanish, it contains a lot of information that speaks for itself (names, dates, places, maps) and the best thing is: once you download it and check out once all the information contained in the app… it will stay available offline, so you can take quick looks at it while you are walking! This is the link to the free app on iTunes.
Last but not least: La Credencial
The ultimate pilgrim’s passport. You need it to sleep in albergues along the way and you’ll need to show it at the Pilgrim’s Office to obtain your Pilgrim’s certificate “La Compostela”. You can read all about ‘La Credencial’ at the official page of the Pilgrim’s Welcome Office (in English): Pilgrim’s Welcome Office.
While it is possible to simply obtain the credential in most of the big cities, you might want to order it upfront. Check out the page of the Pilgrim’s Office where they list all the international associations: Approved international associations.
Be aware there are a lot of unofficial credentials out there. You should make sure you obtain one issued by the Cathedral of Santiago through the Pilgrim’s Office, or by a specifically authorized organization (see link above). The Pilgrim’s office issued a communication on this topic in which they make clear that only the official ones will be accepted for issuing the Compostela.
As for the price: don’t be fooled by offerings of shipment of the credential for foolishly high prices. This document’s purpose is NOT to make money out of it. There are several places on the internet where they offer it for far more than a couple of Euros (up to 40!). The official credential should not cost you more than 2 Euro’s + handling/shipment costs.
It is nice though to obtain it before you leave, since that will give you the opportunity to stamp it in your local town – I’m sure at least the church will have some official stamp of their own, and else you can check out the list of approved associations above, and get their stamp (while you are at it, you can simply order the credential there and ask for a first stamp).
This post is also available in: Dutch