The more time you have for traveling the less it will cost, and the less time the more… Travelling to your start point on the Camino de Santiago can easily take a day with Europe and two days from elsewhere.
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Travel to St Jean Pied de Port
How you get to St Jean Pied de Port depends on which direction you are coming from, it is an awkward start to the Camino Frances, with an even more difficult climb on the first day. Most people are either coming from Pamplona or from Biarritz.
From Pamplona to St Jean
From Pamplona you get a bus from the bus station. During busy times of the year they arrange more buses, however if you are in Pamplona during the day go and buy your ticket well before time to make sure you have a place. The current 2013 price is €6.00 and it takes just over one hour. The buses leave Mon – Fri at 6pm, Sat at 4pm, and currently there are no buses on Sundays.
The website for the bus company can be found here http://www.autobusesdenavarra.com/siv/internet/busquedas.jsp
The above gets you to Roncesvalles. From Roncesvalles there are two options to get to St Jean Pied de Port – 1. by taxi 2. there is a company called Express Bourricot – this is a well established and reliable company that have been moving pilgrims around for 10 years, the details are on their website regarding costs. I have never traveled this way to St Jean – others have told me it is fairly easy to get a taxi to St Jean in Roncesvalles. The cost of a taxi is dependent on how many are sharing; expect to pay €20 per person if there are four. If you know of any other companies providing transport on this part of the Camino Frances could you drop me a mail – lesliegilmour[@]gmail.com – thanks.
From Biarritz to St Jean
Getting to St Jean Pied de Port from the other side of the Pyrenees is much easier. Whether you are getting a train from Paris or flying into Biarritz it is all very simple.
If you are flying into Biarritz get the airport bus to Bayonne train station, where you then get a train to St Jean.
If you are travelling by train from Paris get off at Bayonne and do the same. This is the link for the timetable and up to date fares. http://www.voyages-sncf.com/
I presume that most people will be starting in St Jean Pied de Port, Roncesvalles or Pamplona. If you are not, this page may of little help, though it is fairly easy to travel up or down the Camino Frances by bus, the fastest and cheapest form of land transport in Spain. Alsa is the main bus company covering northern Spain. For more detailed information and questions and answers on travel to the Camino & Spain see the Camino Forum.
This I thought was crazy, drive all the way there and leave my car sitting for four weeks. I turned up at Roncesvalles and asked one of the wardens “I’ve driven here and would like to leave my car and walk for four weeks.” mad, I thought, and expected her to laugh. However “what a wonderful idea,” she said. She went on to tell me not to be thinking that I was the first person to do this, it happens a few times each year. So I left my car, it was safe and unharmed when I got back. There is a huge car park in Roncesvalles and it is free. There is no security for the car park, but it is in the middle of the Pyrenees, not even a town more just an Abbey.
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// does seem to be the best for long distance travel. They go from all over Europe to Bayonne, which is only a short train ride from St Jean. Check their web site for price and timetable.
I traveled once to Paris on a very cheap flight, stayed over night to sight see and then traveled by sncf overnight to Bayonne, I booked well in advance and it was about €45. I arrived in St Jean early in the morning and started walking that day. The same train goes to Pamplona. If you intend to travel by train along any parts of the Camino in August – book well in advance – some days can be completely sold out during the August holidays.
By Air – Airports near the Camino route.
- Biarritz – south west France
- Madrid – capital of Spain
- Bilbao – on the north coast of Spain
- Vitoria (near Pamplona)
- Zaragoza (near Pamplona and Jaca for Somport pass route)
- Barcelona (long bus journey to Pamplona)
- Pau (short bus if starting at Somport – longer if going to St Jean)
- Pamplona (short bus journey to Roncesvalles or walk from here)
Check the SNCF web site for information on timetable. From Pamplona to Roncesvalles by bus takes one hour and is about €3.
Reverse the steps from above. Cheap flights are available on all major carriers, if booked well in advance, also Ryan Air now fly from Santiago to London, Rome and Frankfurt – it is easy to get cheap flights to the rest of the world from Frankfurt or London.
There is a lot written about cheaper flights from Iberia, (at Santiago), once you have your Compostela – I saw no evidence of this, if you know of any arrangement please let me know, perhaps it was in the past when the pilgrimage was not as popular as it is now. Buying a train ticket from Santiago main train station is cheaper than the Pilgrims office, this was a surprise. The pilgrims office is great for bus journeys onward to anywhere in Europe. Please be aware that in late July, all August and early September it is difficult traveling from Santiago if you have not booked in advance (except by bus), difficult = expensive . Also the Pilgrims office is crowded all day – patience again!
We highly recommend you arrange a stay in advance if you are staying in the private hostels during July and Aug, you can see some of the hostels in our Pilgrim hostels page, but please be aware that the Pilgrim hostels allow you a one night stay unless a medical excuse is presented, if you have a problem with that, try to use an online hotel search engines such as trivago to find a more convenient alternative.
Car Hire is cheaper in Spain than most of Europe. Traveling back from Santiago we hired a car to drive to Pamplona. There were four of us and we hired the car for five days. Including the fuel the five days it cost less to hire the car than buying four train tickets to Pamplona. It was very strange to drive back along parts of the Camino where we had been walking, and see other pilgrims still on the way to Santiago Compostela.
I love hiking. From the Camino de Santiago to the West Highland Way in Scotland or simply a great day hike on the weekend. Hiking refreshes me, my mind, and keeps my body reasonably fit. So far I have walked three Camino routes and many other long distance hikes in the UK, Canada, and around the rest of Europe. One of the best was my hike up Ben Nevis.