Walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain
A Special Program called 'Just Get Me Started', for First-time Pilgrims on the Camino Francés
FAQs

What is 'Just Get Me Started'?

Who does it?

How much does the program cost?

What does the fee cover?

Why doesn’t it include food, accommodations, and things regular tours cover?

How is it different from a tour on the Camino?

Where does the program start and end?

When are the programs scheduled?

What if I can't make any of the dates you have scheduled for the 'Just Get Me Started' program?

What do I bring?

Where do we sleep?

Where do we eat?

What if I want to do it with my husband/wife/partner/friend/my own group?

Can I bring my kids?

Can I bring my dog?

What happens if the weather is bad?

How physically fit do I have to be?

What happens if I can’t walk the whole way one day?

What if I don’t want to carry my own backpack?

How do I sign up and when do I have to pay?

What is the cancellation policy?

My question isn't here...

What is 'Just Get Me Started'?

'Just Get Me Started' is a program for independent pilgrims walking the Camino Francés route of the Camino de Santiago in Spain.  The program is designed to equip you with all the elements of a successful start to your pilgrimage and to orient you to the Camino trail while on the trail.

The 'Just Get Me Started' program provides assistance with pre-Camino planning, a soft landing at your starting point, and on-trail support for the first four days of walking on your pilgrimage.  We know what it takes to get started on the Camino!

All programs are conducted in English, with some mediocre Spanish and truly bad French thrown in for fun.

Click here for the full story on everything the program offers.  Click here to learn what is included in the Pre-Camino Planning.  Click here for the detailed itinerary for the program.

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Who does it?

'Just Get Me Started' is specifically designed for first-time, independent pilgrims on the Camino Francés. Walking the Camino is a big undertaking, and it's normal to feel eager and excited about the journey.  It's also normal to feel a bit overwhelmed and intimidated by the enormity of the task and the thought of embarking on the Way alone.

You may also find that your family members and friends are a bit concerned about you embarking on this unknown adventure on your own. 

That's where we can help.
 

Joining our program can give your family and friends the peace of mind to know that you will be greeted at your starting point and accompanied for your first four days on the Camino trail.

Whether you are rarin' to go, slightly scared, or shaking in your boots (and your family and friends are feeling the same, on your behalf), we will be with you to facilitate your successful start.  And after 'Just Get Me Started', you will have the knowledge and confidence you need to reach your destination. 


We also welcome people who prefer a shorter walk on the Camino and who don't want to go all the way to Santiago de Compostela.  If you plan to walk just part of the Canino Franc
és, you are welcome to join one of our groups, and walk with us as far as you like.

The program is open to anyone from any country.  The only requirement is that you must be able to communicate in written and spoken English, as this is the primary language of
your guide and all the
pre-planning information you will receive.

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How much does the program cost?

The cost of the 'Just Get Me Started' Camino programs starting from Saint Jean Pied de Port, France, in 2016 is $559. 

Prices in currencies other than US dollars depend on the current exchange rate at the time of booking. Check the current rates with the currency converter.  Note that your bank and the payment processor may charge an additional fee for the transaction.

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What does the fee cover?

The fee includes all activities, discussions, workshops, and on-trail support.  You will also receive pre-travel support and advice for booking your transportation to the starting point, plus tips on packing, budgeting, managing your money on the trail, and many other topics relevant to your Camino experience.

The fee does NOT cover the costs of your flights, train/bus/taxi fare, food, beverages, incidentals, accommodations, travel insurance, medical care, phone or internet expense, or baggage transfer along the trail. 

*The Camino Experience is not a traditional tour company, and we do not handle the pre-booking of accommodations for participants.  Each participant is instructed on how to plan their itinerary and book accommodations in advance, both for the time with the group and for their remaining time on the Camino, if desired. *

 

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Why doesn’t it include food, accommodations, and some of the other things regular tours cover?

The 'Just Get Me Started' program is for people who ultimately want to walk the trail independently but who still want some expert support to get started.  Once you are on your own on the Camino, or walking with a group of new friends, you will be arranging and paying for your accommodations yourself.  You will be finding food, water, and services on your own.  We will help you get really good at those things using either a mobile phone with a Spanish SIM card, email, or the internet.

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How is it different from a tour on the Camino?

The first difference is that typically a ‘tour’ is an organized, pre-arranged affair, with all of the responsibility for planning and execution falling on the tour company.  Not everyone likes to travel that way, and the Camino itself easily lends itself to an independent travel experience.  With 'Just Get Me Started', we prepare you to be successfully independent on the Camino, and then you plan the rest of your pilgrimage as you go, as you like.

The second difference is cost.  Most tours on the Camino average in price around €200 (approx US$225) a day.  You get a lot for that; usually that includes all your costs for the whole trip, including pre-booked stays at the more expensive accommodations along the Way.  The price also includes some combination of food, baggage transport, and a guide who is with you for five, ten, or thirty days. 

Independent pilgrims sometimes (but not always) have a much different budget for their pilgrimage.  You can walk the pilgrimage independently, staying at albergues and the occasional pension, arranging your meals as you go, and carrying your backpack, for as little as €30 to €40 a day.  You can spend more, of course, and you can also spend less.

If you have a larger budget you may choose to stay in private accommodations rather than sleep in shared dorm rooms at the albergues.  You may also prefer not to carry your own backpack each day, and then you can take advantage of the luggage transport service which costs around seven euros per day. 

Your guide will have recommendations on how to plan your Camino itinerary so you can walk the Camino your way.

Finally, independent pilgrims often have much different needs and wants for their pilgrimage experience.  They want the freedom to set their own pace.  They want to choose where they stay and eat based on what feels right at the moment, and often that’s where their new Camino friends are staying and eating.  They want the flexibility to rest when they need to, sightsee when they want, and choose their accommodations as they go, as they learn about what is available on the trail.

Those other tours look great; they’re just not what you're looking for this time.

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Where does the program start and end?

The 'Just Get Me Started' program begins in Saint Jean Pied de Port in France.  Your guide meets you in Saint Jean Pied de Port on Day One, then accompanies you on the Camino for four days.  See the detailed itinerary for the program to learn more.

'Just Get Me Started' is just the beginning of your pilgrimage; your journey doesn’t end until you reach Santiago de Compostela, or Fisterra, or wherever else you are going.  After 'Just Get Me Started' with us, you will be ready to continue on your pilgrimage, with the knowledge and peace of mind to know you will reach your destination.

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When are the programs scheduled?

'Just Get Me Started' is available during the Spring and Fall walking seasons each year:  May, June, September, and October, to allow us to take advantage of the best weather for walking.  Click here for current program dates for Fall 2016.

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What if I can't make any of the dates you have scheduled for the 'Just Get Me Started' Program?

In addition to the 'Just Get Me Started' program, we also offer a 'Camino Planning Program' for people who want some expert assistance in planning and preparing for their Camino journeys but who can't make one of our starting dates.  The Camino Planning Program gives you all of the pre-travel planning assistance our other pilgrims get, just without the guided start on the actual trail.  Click here to learn more about the Camino Planning Program.

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What do I bring?

Walking-pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago need to bring along the basics of clothing, toiletries, and personal items.  You will need to bring a sleeping bag or sleep-sheet if you will sleep in the albergues, plus weather-appropriate clothing for the season you will be walking in – things to keep you warm and dry or cool and comfortable. 

Unless you plan to camp (statistically uncommon), you don’t need to carry a tent, camp stove, or prepackaged food. 

If you plan to carry your backpack, you will transport your belongings in a backpack, or rucksack.  If you plan to use a baggage transport service (for a fee), you can carry everything in either a backpack or a regular suitcase.    

Once you book the 'Just Get Me Started' program, we will provide you with a sample packing list, plus some tips on how to keep your pack light.  You can also learn more about our packing philosophy in the About the Camino de Santiago section of this site.

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Where do we sleep?

In general, you have several choices for where to sleep on the Camino, and your choices mostly will depend on your budget and the kind of experience you want to have. 

Hostels, or Albergues
Walking pilgrims have full access to the 300+ pilgrim hostels, or albergues (pronounced al-BEAR-gays), all along the Camino Franc
és.  Albergues offer shared accommodations, usually in mixed-gender dorm rooms.  Dorm rooms come in all sizes, the smallest being two-person cubicles and the largest with more than 100 beds under a single ceiling.  Most fall somewhere in between, in the eight to twenty range.  Many albergues now have private rooms as well, which couples, friends, and small groups can share.

Albergues also offer the unique experience of being right in the heart of the pilgrim community.  Not only will you share sleeping quarters, but often albergues provide pilgrims with a shared meal, complete with local wines, and the opportunity to connect with people from all over the world.  It truly becomes a case of ‘we’re all in this together’ as you open your heart and mind to new experiences and learn that while we are all unique and different, in many ways, we are all the same.

Learn more about albergues on the Camino de Santiago.

Private Accommodations
If sharing space with friends, barely-friends, and sometimes strangers isn’t your thing, you can seek out the pensions, guesthouses, hotels, and other private accommodation options along the Camino.  These cost between €30 to €100 a night, and they usually come with real sheets and often with en suite bathroom facilities. 

Private accommodations can be booked in advance. You can hire a tour company to do this for you, but then you will be locked into a pre-set itinerary for those nights.  You can also book them yourself as you go, a couple days in advance, either by phone or via email.  All you need is some very basic Spanish phrases, which you will learn from your guide.

Our Pilgrim’s Handbook lists places to stay in all price and star-categories and highlights some of the top albergue experiences along the Way.

When you start your Camino experience with the 'Just Get Me Started' program, we assist you with booking your first two to four nights on the trail.  That way you have the peace of mind to know you have a good place to sleep when you arrive on the Camino, and for your next night or two, also.

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Where do we eat?

Where you eat depends on where you are, but don’t worry, there are plenty of options on the Camino Francés.  For example, in Saint Jean Pied de Port we take advantage of the abundant selection of cafes and restaurants, a luxury we won’t encounter again until Pamplona. 

In Orisson we partake of the shared pilgrim’s meal in the large dining hall, where we eat and share stories with pilgrims from around the world who are beginning their own journey-of-a-lifetime.  The bar at Orisson will provide lunch for your first two days on the trail – the first day when you arrive there, and the next day as a packed lunch to take with you on the trail. 

In Roncesvalles we will enjoy a Menu del Peregrino (Pilgrim's Menu) at one of the three dining rooms there.  After that we will find bars and restaurants as we go, and the Pilgrim’s Handbook will show you where to find what you need.  You won’t go hungry, we promise!


Don't worry if you have specific dietary reqirements - vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, celiac, diabetic, etc.  Your guide will show you where to find what you can eat and how to order it in Spanish.


Click here to learn more about
eating on the Camino Francés.

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What if I want to do it with my husband/wife/partner/friend/my own group?

Bring ‘em along!  We welcome couples, pairs of friends, mothers and daughters, fathers and sons...even pre-formed groups of up to 10 people.

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Can I bring my kids?

Definitely, if they are at least 18 years of age.  Unfortunately we can’t accommodate your younger kids due to liability concerns.

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Can I bring my dog?

Better not.  It’s not that your dog wouldn’t love the Camino, it’s just that the infrastructure on the Camino Francés isn’t set up to accommodate pets.

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What happens if the weather is bad?

By bad we mean inclement, like rain, snow, intense heat, or something equally unpleasant.  Part of walking the Camino de Santiago is refining your deal-with-unpredictability skills. What could be more unpredictable than Mother Nature? 

The first thing is to dress appropriately for the weather.  Have the right gear.  Once you book, we’ll make sure you know what that is. 

The first two days of 'Just Get Me Started' from Saint Jean Pied de Port are scheduled to take you up and over the Pyrenees Mountains.  There are two routes from which to choose from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles - the Napoleon Route, or high road, and the Valcarlos Route, or low road.  If the weather is bad, and the local people in the town of Saint Jean Pied de Port recommend against crossing the Pyrenees on the high road, we will take the very different but equally beautiful and challenging low road.  Be assured, if the weather conditions pose a viable threat to our safety, we will not cross the Pyrenees on foot.

For the other starting places, we don't expect to face life-threatening trail conditions, but we could still run into all kinds of inclement weather.  So we are back to the need to have the right gear for the job.  We will make sure you know what that is.

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How physically fit do I have to be?

You do need to be reasonably fit to walk the Camino de Santiago.  To complete the 'Just Get Me Started' program from Saint Jean Pied de Port, you must be able to walk for at least 20 kilometers each day for four straight days.  And you must be able to tackle the Pyrenees Mountains in your first two days on the trail.  That means 20 kilometers steeply uphill, and 5 kilometers steeply downhill.

Heart, lungs, back, hips, knees, feet - the whole body is put to task when you walk the Camino.  You may be able to walk 20 kilometers in a day, but can you walk that distance every day for a month?  Be sure to plan some training time before you leave home so you can 'practice' walking with your hiking boots and loaded backpack to build up your strength and endurance.

Once you reserve your place in a 'Just Get Me Started' program, we will provide you with recommendations for how to prepare physically for your Camino experience.

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What happens if I can’t walk the whole way one day?

If you absolutely can’t walk the entire distance on any given day, your guide will be carrying mobile / cell phone, and can call for a taxi to pick you up (the ride will be at your expense). 

There are a couple of things to consider ahead of time, if you are concerned this might happen for you. 

First, you will have from sun-up to sun-down – at least nine hours – to walk the required distance each day.  If the day’s walk is 20 kilometers, that means you have plenty of time to take it slow, rest along the way, and care for any physical problems as they come up.

Second, there are some places on the trail, especially from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles, where it’s not possible or practical for a taxi to reach you.  For that reason, it is your responsibility to ensure that you are in the physical and mental condition to complete this and all other parts of the trail.

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What if I don’t want to carry my own backpack?

Some walking pilgrims carry their backpacks, and some do not.  If you prefer not to carry your backpack, you can make use of one of the baggage transportation services along the way.  For a fee – usually around €7 – these services will pick up your backpack from your albergue, hotel, or pension and take it to your next destination. If you choose to transport your bag each day, you will still need to carry a small daypack with some essential items:  water, snacks, guidebook or Handbook, an extra layer of clothes.  We will show you how to use this service, if that’s your preference.

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How do I sign up and when do I have to pay?

If you are ready to book, click BOOK NOW! and enter your personal details and preferred program dates.  We will email you a confirmation for your reservation which will include the Terms & Conditions for the program, the Registration Form, and payment instructions.

For the Camino Planning Program: Payment in full is due at the time of booking.

For the 'Just Get Me Started' program: If you are booking more than four months before the start of your program, you can reserve your spot with either a $159 deposit or the full payment of $559.  If you choose to make a deposit, then your final payment will be due at the 90-days-out mark. 

Payments are made in US dollars through PayPal or by bank check or money order.  If you choose to pay by check or money order, you may need to pay farther in advance. 

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What is the cancellation policy?

We hope it never comes to this, but sometimes things come up that make you change your travel plans.  If that happens, you have until 90 days before your start date to cancel or request a transfer to another program start date.  Please click here for the full cancellation and refund policy.

You may want to purchase a travel insurance policy that covers trip cancellation.  Once you book, we will provide information about companies that provide this type of insurance.

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