TRAVEL TIPS How to get to the beginning of your camino cheap and easy
The camino passes through rural and very un-touristy areas of Spain. Here are our best tips on how to reach any small hamlet in Spain, France, Portugal – or wherever your camino starts
We always begin planning our travels on the ingenious planning site Rome2Rio. Start by simply pasting your home airport and the camino city you want to start in. The site quickly gives you an overview of the transportation possibilities and prices for going all the way to your start destination. There are direct links to buying tickets too. We always use Rome2Rio as the Spanish railway site renfe.es is a true nightmare – user wise!
Flights to the camino: Which airport is best?
When flying overseas Madrid is a good choice. Madrid is a good airport for many caminos especially if you want to avoid extra domestic flights. If you want to get closer to your starting point here are some suggestions to the closest airports of the different starting points of the different camino routes:
- Camino Francés: Fly to Biarritz and take bus number 14 from the airport to Bayonne (28 minutes). There is a bus every 8 minutes and it costs 1 euro – cash only and directly to the driver. Once in Bayonne: Walk over the bridge to the train station, buy a ticket for 10 euros at the ticket machine and enjoy every minute of the scenic one hour train ride to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port.
- Camino Inglés: Fly to Coruna or Santiago de Compostela and take a shared ride with blablacar.es to Ferrol.
- Camino Portugués: Lissabon or Porto depending on whether you walk the entire camino or start in Porto like most pilgrims do on that route (from Porto you can easily walk directly from the airport to the camino)
- Camino Primitivo: Asturias is the closest airport but it can be difficult and expensive to find a flight that matches your travel plans. We found Madrid to be a better alternative and went the rest of the way with a shared ride through blablacar.es. It takes five hours by car from Madrid to Oviedo.
- Camino Sanabrés: Fly to Madrid and take a shared ride with blablacar.es. It takes 3 hours to Granja de Moreruela.
If you’re walking the last 100-150 kms of any camino route, it is often easiest to fly to and from Santiago de Compostela.
- Camino San Salvador: Fly into Madrid and take the high speed train AVE to León – takes just under two hours
How to find cheap flight tickets to the camino
Finding the best tickets for the camino is a discipline we have spent years trying to master. Here are the tips we are sure of:
- One-way tickets are often the best solution if you walk a long distance camino – having walked several hundred kms you are closer to another airport than the one you landed in
- The more flexible you are about your itinerary, the cheaper the tickets. Find the tickets first and plan your Camino accordingly – the lowest prices first.
- It is often cheapest to fly directly to Madrid – but not always. Check out both Madrid and the nearest airport to your starting point.
Book outbound and homebound flights separately
On the camino I often only book my outbound flight and wait with the homebound ticket. As I start and end in different parts of Spain it is usually different airports I need anyway. Another thing is that it can be difficult to book your return flight when you don’t know how far you are going to walk each day or whether you will need rest days. That is the true feeling of freedom on a Camino for me. Because of this I usually don’t book my return ticket except 2 or 3 days before I want to fly home. I have never experienced problems finding a flight home.
Share ride is without doubt the cheapest way to get from the airport to your camino starting point. If you are walking the French route the price for the whole distance from Bayonnes airport Biarritz to the town where the camino starts (Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port) is about 4 euros. I booked my share rides on the webpage Blablacar.es. To switch to English, click on ’Idioma’ in the lower right corner.
Cheap and fun travels: Share ride with the locals
Shared rides are super cheap and give you a very interesting insight to the real local Spanish culture. All the drivers are registered and rated on the site, so you can make a safe choice. Be warned though, you can’t find rides months ahead – wait until 1-3 days before your travel day.
Going with a shared ride is cheap. I paid 21 euros for the 5 hour ride from Madrid to Oviedo where Camino Primitivo starts.
The two middle lanes on Madrid’s highway are reserved for vehicles with more than one person. That means when you go with shared rides you don’t have to worry about traffic jams.
Share a taxi with other pilgrims
Many pilgrims search for others to share a taxi with, in Camino Facebook groups, when going from Biarritz airport to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port – the starting point of the French route. It is usually difficult to find someone with the exact same time and date beforehand. But usually you’ll meet someone at the airport who is looking to share a ride. The taxi companies have varying prices – the more pilgrims in a taxi, the lower the price. The price range is 19 – 88 euros. Even if you fill up the taxi, it is not a cheap option.
How to half your transfer cost
If you’re a group heading for the camino it makes sense to book a transfer from the airport to the starting point as it can be difficult to find enough seats in shared rides. Don’t just book the first transfer you find on Google – unless you’re Rockefeller.
On gettransfer.com you can paste your travel dates, place of departure and arrival and the number of passengers. Then you receive a bunch of prices – including serious discounts – in about a week. Our price for four persons from Porto to the starting point of Camino Sanabrés fell from 295 euros to 130 euros in one week. Nice, right?
To and from Santiago de Compostela airport by foot
It is really easy to walk from the airport in Santiago (Lavacolla) to the cathedral and the other way. The distance is roughly 16 kms. The 14 kms are directly on the French route and the last 2 kms are on ‘The Sky Way’, a camino signposted connection route that connects the French route with the airport safely.
Both The Sky Way and the French route are signposted towards the cathedral but not in the opposite direction. If you are heading for the airport, an app with an online map is a great help – check out Wiselys app for Camino Francés. We planned four hours for the walk – it could’ve been done in much less.
The airport shuttle in Santiago
Choosing the airport shuttle service gets you from the city center to the airport for three euros in half an hour. You buy the ticket on the bus (cash only). The very central Plaza de Galicia is the best take off point. Find your way there easily with Google maps. There are two departures every hour – .30 and .00. There are no shuttle busses between 01.00-07.00 AM. A taxi to the airport costs about 18 euros.