I wrote most of the short summaries in the posts before, but here or there I might have forgotten something, or it just didn’t feel like the best place to put it, so I’ll write it here.
In general, you can get very cheap food from the restaurants along the rout by procuring your pilgrims credentials. The prices range from 5-15 €, depending on the location, quality and quantity of food. You can get as little as a toast with a drink, or several course meal with wine. I’ve read that in some albergues it is also possible to get food included in the price of the sleepover, but I guess this is in private albergues as for the public ones, no-one offered it.
In general, you can cook food in most of the albergues, all of them have kitchens and kitchen utensils, except the first few at Spanish (see my previous post). There are small shops and supermarkets in most of the towns and villages, although some are really basic and you will be struggling to get anything that is useful for the road, so in the bigger towns I recommend buying a bit more, although you have to remember, that you will be carrying it with you. We (I) usually tried to find a supermarket each morning and buy some fresh fruits for the day, I also bought and carried some nuts, as they don’t spoil are relatively light and provide you with tons of calories. Each morning I also tried to buy some yogurt or fitness drink based on yogurt. For some reason they had a really large variety of them and extra proteins don’t hurt if you are walking the whole day.
As far as the cooking goes, if you are in a larger group it’s easier to manage as you can cook together, if you are travelling alone this might be a bit more tedious, but still doable. I cooked for myself a couple of times when Aljoša and Jakob went out to eat and I didn’t feel like eating out. Usually pasta will be your friend, although sky and budget is the limit.
I would say that the prices for groceries are a bit cheaper than in Slovenia, at least in Portugal, but the difference is minimal. There are some types of food that are much cheaper in both Portugal and Spain, mostly fresh fruits, vegetables and as I mentioned before wine is super cheap.
The tap water is drinkable along the whole way, both in Portugal and Spain. While the water in Spain is not drinkable in the whole country the North and North-West is considered to have the best water, so you really don’t have to worry about it. Just bring a bottle or two with you in order to refill them. I would say that we drank about 2-3l during each leg, I would assume that during the summer you can easily double this.
Protip: You can eat tons of oranges, mandarins and lemons that are everywhere along the path in Portugal. 🙂 I’m not sure when is the perfect time for them, but looks like February is.
Some other delicious things I’ve tried and haven’t posted in the main story.
The public albergues are really cheap, €5 per night in Portugal and €8 per night in Spain. I would really recommend visiting the public ones as they are cheaper and cleaner. Ok, we haven’t visited any expensive (and by expensive I mean €15+ per night) private hostels, so maybe those are better. In general, I was really pleasantly surprised by them. I was really afraid of the bed bugs and I think at one point this was really a problem, but not anymore. None of the albergues have standard mattresses but some kind of plastic mattress for lack of better word. The bed bugs can’t live in them, on the other hand you sweat like crazy on them, especially during the summer. You always need to have your own sleeping bag with you, there are no covers. In Spain, they also give you a one-time paper cover for the mattress, so it’s a bit better with the squeaking each time you turn. Buy ear plugs!!!
While we had no problem finding the albergues and there was always room in them, during the peak season I’ve heard you have to get up at 5am to reach the next albergue by 12-14h in order to get a free bed. It is also impossible to make reservations in any of them (regardless of the month of traveling).
For easy planning and to get the latest information about the albergues I recommend app Camino Ninja.
If you are travelling in a group, I recommend using app Splitwise, it makes it so much easier to track who paid how much and when. It also automatically calculates who owns who and offers much flexibility, really great tool.
Bring cash! For some reason it is impossible to pay with credit card in most of the albergues, even some restaurants don’t accept it. In our group Jakob had only cash with him, so he ended up paying for the majority of albergues for all of us, while Aljoša and I paid in the stores and where credit cards were accepted.
In total, I spent €350 during my 18-day stay in Portugal, which brings an average of €20 per day. I spent a bit more toward the end while being in Porto, but I would say the average is quite close. If I had to assess what my spending would be, I would say I was more toward the lower end, I rarely ate outside, most of the costs came from the fresh fruits and a bit richer yogurts that I drank several per day. I think Jakob and Aljoša spent about twice as much, mostly because they ate out much more.
If you are really on a budget, I think it is possible to spent less than €15 per day, but you will mostly eat pasta for each meal.
Just to add everything up, my plane ticket was about €60, so in total 18-day trip to Portugal cost me €410. If I didn’t have to pay bills here in Slovenia, while I was away, it would actually be one pair with the daily expenses I have here.
Some other tips worth mentioning
Pack lightly, literary 3 pairs of underwear are enough, wear some sports clothes that dry quickly. In total, I was quite happy with my packing, while we had to bring a bit more, since we were traveling during colder and wetter months, my whole backpack including some food weighted in at 30 kg. Couple of times I bought a bit larger amounts of food, so I have a feeling that at times it was 40 kg, and I can tell you after carrying it for a whole day each kg counts!
You can wash clothes in washing machines in most of the albergues (albeit you have to pay 1-2 € for it. If you are alone, you might have some trouble filling up the drum, us 3 put all our clothes together and it was perfect. In total, I think we washed our clothes 3 times (besides handwashing).
Friendly natives, I was surprised how friendly the people we met were. Almost everyone said “Bon Camino” as they saw us, and if we needed any help (mostly with directions) everyone tried their best to help us.
Don’t overdo it, the only reason to walk for 20h is that you can say, “When I was young, I walked for 60 km straight!”. Seriously, take it easy, enjoy the journey, enjoy the nature, take a break, take in that nice view. I found out that for me Camino was more about self reflection, thinking about this or that and relaxing in nice company for the duration of the trip. It really is about the journey, not destination!
Choosing the route, there are several ways you can get to Camino. Even coming from Portugal you can take central (the one we took), oceanic or literal way. I must say I was a bit disappointed about our route, as it was about 75% through villages, roads and towns. We could always see civilization in front of us. Jakob also did the Spanish (the traditional) way a couple of years ago, that starts in France, and he says that that one is more than 60% through the nature, over fields and forests. It is something worth considering. If you are not limited with the time, I would suggest that one. The part we did from Santiago to Finisterra was much more enjoyable for me, as it was mostly through the nature.
Mobile connectivity is generally great, we had 4G for most of the time.
During summer, you can also buy luggage transport, where they pick up your luggage and bring it to the next stop on your destination, so you don’t have to carry it on your back. I personally don’t think its worth it, if you go during summer you really can get away with less than 15 kg backpack. You only need 2 shirts, pants and socks. You can handwash them in the evening, and they will be dry till morning.
Red Porto wine sucks.
Try some local food, the have very good deserts and pastries in Portugal, and sometimes while you walk by the pastry shop the smell alone will pulls you into the store.
Other people on the way, you will meet with a lot of other pilgrims, especially during the summer. With several of them you will synchronize the speed so you will encounter them repeatedly each evening in alberuges. Remember, that some are there for other reason and goals as you, don’t try to enforce and walk together with everyone as they might want to be alone with their own thoughts. The evenings in the albergues are perfect for socializing, each one has a kitchen or some common area, just go there and talk to people, if you feel like it.
Almost forgot about an important info, stamps! When you get your credentials, you need to put a stamp in it each day. You can find stamps in most restaurants and all albergues on the way. At the beginning you need 1 stamp per day, while when you get to Spain you need 2 stamps per day! However, they can be from the same town, so you can just get it in the albergue and then go out for dinner and get it at the restaurant as well. For us it was fun gathering stamps, so in the end, we got one at every chance we had. It also serves as a nice souveneer.