Personal safety and travelling alone

The Camino is statistically very safe, hundreds of thousands of people walk and cycle the routes every year, most of whom experience no problems at all. However you should always be sensible and take care of yourself and your possessions as you would anywhere in the world. Your kit - rucksack, boots, stick - identify you immediately as a pilgrim, and the local people still respect the pilgrims' motivation and are generally happy to assist you whether it be in an emergency or if you just want directions.

The incident in 2015 of the disappearance of a female pilgrim along the Camino francés, and the subsequent discovery of a body and arrest of a suspect, is highly unusual and has led to greater vigilance and monitoring of the camino by the Guardia Civil, particularly in the summer months. You are encouraged to take note of any safety warnings being made on particular stretches and to act accordingly.

If you have concerns about safety, or about walking alone, here are some tips to help you stay safe:

Walk with other pilgrims or within sight of others If you are nervous about walking solo, or you are an inexperienced walker, choose a busier route like the le Puy route or the Camino francés, on these you are rarely completely alone: there is a great sense of community among the pilgrims, and there are usually others close by to help you if you need it, and to walk with if you choose.

Stay alert.  Be aware of where you are and who you are with.  If any strangers, including other pilgrims, do or say things that make you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, trust your instincts and seek assistance from other pilgrims, hospitaleros or local people, or from the police if matters are serious.

Carry a mobile phone. The universal European emergency number is 112 which will work in all EU countries even if your phone is out of credit (further numbers are listed below).

We also suggest that you take important contact numbers of your own, such as:

  • your government's nearest embassy or consulate in the country you are visiting (see our Embassies page for some useful links)
  • bank or credit card companies for reporting lost or stolen cards
  • mobile phone company
  • travel insurers
  • airlines and other travel providers/agents

Click here for a template of emergency numbers to download.  This is in Word format so you can customise it by adding additional contact numbers to suit your own needs. Print off and carry somewhere separate from your wallet or purse.

Always be careful with valuables.  Keep them safe in large cities and don’t leave money, cameras, phones, passports etc unattended at any time.  Use a securely-waterproof bag to protect such items when you shower.

Choose safe accommodation. There's generally safety in numbers since, in the albergues, everyone shares a large common dormitory, and there are usually hospitaleros on duty who often sleep in the building overnight.  If however you find yourself as sole occupant of an albergue with no hospitalero in attendance, seeking more secure overnight accommodation, such as a small hotel, would be advisable.

Wear a reflective vest.  Not just a sensible thing to do, but it is a legal requirement in Spain to wear one if walking on a road or close to traffic before first light, or after sunset.  They are lightweight and cheap to buy, either before you leave, or from garages or supermarkets in Spain.

Insurance.  Always buy appropriate travel insurance which covers health care, emergency repatriation and rescue.   British citizens (and EEA and Swiss citizens resident in the UK) should also carry an EHIC card, see here for details of how to get one.

Keep copies  - of passport, travel insurance and any other important documents, carry away from your purse or wallet and consider leaving a set of copies with relatives or friends at home.

If something happens.  Do not hesitate to call the authorities for assistance in an emergency, or to report crimes such as theft or flashing, both of which occur very occasionally.  You will be helping other pilgrims by reporting all such incidents to the nearest hospitalero and the Guardia Civil.  The main emergency number in Europe is a universal 112, but please see below a list of additional emergency numbers. If you need consular assistance please see our Embassies page for useful links.

Spain Additional Numbers:

062 – The Guardia Civil   091 – National Police     092 – Local Police

Each of these services has their own areas of responsibility. However they advise that when in doubt simply phone them and they will decide which force should best respond.

061 – Health Emergencies         080 -  Fire Service

Victims of Crime   There is a dedicated an English-language telephone number for victims of crimes who wish to make a police report but do not speak Spanish. The number is (34)-902-102-112. It operates from 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. daily.

France Additional Numbers:

15 – Health Emergencies    17 - Police     18 -  Fire Service

Finally, the Pilgrimage to Santiago Forum run by Ivar Rekve has discussion threads on any up-to-date camino crime and safety issues.

©CSJ

Confraternity of Saint James,
27 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8NY, United Kingdom.
Tel: (+44) (0)20 7928 9988
Company Limited by Guarantee, Registered no. 4096721 — UK Registered Charity no. 1091140
Founded in 1983 to promote the pilgrim routes to Santiago de Compostela

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