We can tell you TONS about transportation that will get you there more smoothly and save you LOTS of money! Traveling without knowing our tips for “almost free” flights, discounts for local travel, and helpful websites/apps can be daunting. We sort through it all and recommend our tried and true favorite ways to get to your departure city and save effort and money doing it. We will continue to update these things in our weekly posts, which are sent to our email subscribers, and we will post related links at the end of this article as we have them. Get started with the information in these excerpts from our Guidebook.
How to Get from Here to There?
The first struggle for people might be locating the most famous, but tiny departure town called St. Jean Pied-de-Port, France on a map. With a year-round population of fewer than 2,000, figuring out how to get to SJPP can be difficult, especially for non-EU travelers. If you want to begin walking from SJPP and choose the most traditional route known as the Camino Francés (or Route Napoléon), we have figured out some things that will save you time and effort. Actually, whichever route you choose, we can help.
We recommend a website that is a valuable resource for travel anytime, but for future pilgrims it is especially helpful. Rome2Rio.com provides helpful information and choices for your travel when you plug in any departure city and destination city. Click on any of the choices on the list that appears and you will be linked to the French, Spanish or Portuguese bus, train, car rental, airline websites with schedules and costs.
Favorite Camino Starting Points
"We spent $1000's on airfare to walk our first Camino, but last year we flew without paying ANY airfare using our travel tips. We like free MUCH better!"
Want to Fly from the U.S. to Spain for Free?
The cost of your airfare is usually the biggest single expense of your Camino trip for those living in the Western hemisphere. Our team members and friends have followed our guidelines and have saved thousands of dollars on their flights. We give a step-by-step guide of how to do this in our Guidebook, Camino de Santiago Guide to Preparing Well & Saving Money, but believe us, this is real. A round trip flight to Europe in the high season of summer 2015 from the U.S. cost two of our teammates about $200 for the fuel surcharge plus airport tax. The actual airfare was free instead of $1200!
Show the appropriate ID and ask for student discounts, senior discounts (like the Tarjeta Dorada for train and bus travel), and peregrino (pilgrim) discounts. You can save as much as 15% on train and bus travel, entry fees, and lodging. (Your pilgrim passport, credenciál, is important for a lot of other reasons, too, and those are discussed in our Guidebook, along with other discounts.)
Flying Budget Airlines
Find out whether any so-called “budget airlines” fly to your Camino departure city. Right now the airlines fitting that description that fly into Spain or France to get you to one of the more popular departure points on the Camino are Ryanair, Easy Jet, and Vueling. On a recent trip (May 2015) we flew non-stop from the U.S. to London for free, then caught a cheap budget flight from London into Biarritz, France, which was a cheaper way of getting to SJPP than flying direct to Madrid and taking a train. We share more tips like these alternative flight plans in our Guidebook.
Pack Transport Service
Before you skim past this section, consider this scenario we have seen happen to people on the Camino many times. You have been walking for several days or a couple of weeks when you develop achilles tendinitis or get food poisoning, or something takes you out of commission for continuing your walk as you planned. Could you keep walking if you rest for a day, and let someone else carry your pack to your next stop? Pack transport services are a huge help for many peregrinos who would otherwise not be able to finish what they set out to do. Jacotrans is the company we have used and liked a lot, and the cost is 3-5 euros per transport. The hospitalero (albergue host) or hotel desk will arrange it for you if you ask, and all you have to do is fill out an envelope, insert the proper coins, and have your pack at the appointed place by the appointed time. You should carry your valuables and water on your person in your pockets or small day pack. What you lose in spontaneity, you gain in giving your body a break. You can make this decision day by day as you need it.