There are lots of helpful things to know before you walk the Camino de Santiago or any other pilgrimage route.
This list is a collection of bits of information I learned while walking or before walking, and thought others might find helpful.
It is, of course, far from comprehensive.
I always wring out my laundry in my tiny sports towel after washing it. This works even after the towel is sopping wet. It helps prevent dripping water all over albergue floors when the washing facilities are inside, and makes my clothes dry faster.
If your boots are wet on the inside, take out the liners after you stop walking and stuff the boots with newspaper. The newspaper soaks up the water, so the boots are generally dry by morning—or at least more so than they would otherwise be.
Breaking in Sandals
On the Vía de la Plata, I wore sandals when I wasn’t walking with my pack, and for wading through the occasional stream. I spent a lot of time breaking in my boots, but it never occurred to me to wear my sandals before the trip. I ended up spending the first few weeks with horrible sores where the sandals chafed my feet.
Next time, I’ll work at breaking my sandals to my feet (or probably more importantly, my feet to my sandals) at home.
Navigating Through Cities
I’ve spent a lot of time lost in cities—both entering and (more often) leaving. I don’t know if the way marking is actually worse, or if I’m just worse at seeing it.
In any case, I finally developed a relatively easy method of getting out of a city. I just go to the nearest tourist information office, get a map, and if the Camino isn’t on the map (sometimes it is), I ask the tourist information people to show me where the route is.
Of course, this doesn’t work if you’re passing through a city between 2 and 5 p.m., when everything—including the nearest tourist information office—tends to be closed.
Spanish libraries usually have free Internet. The potential downside of this compared with, say, Internet cafés, is that libraries tend to have limited opening hours—they close for siestas, and in small towns they may not be open on weekends. Also sometimes there are a lot of people waiting, so you don’t always get a lot of time.
Of course, small towns don’t usually have Internet cafés, so except in cities, if there’s Internet at all, the library is probably your only option.
If there’s no library, sometimes the town hall has free Internet.
If you leave an albergue later than most others, there’s often a lot of food free for the taking, left behind by pack weight-conscious pilgrims. (Thanks to Steffen and Thomas for this one.)
If you have your own Camino tip, please leave it in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.