The Camino ‘Paperwork’ – All you need to know about Stamps & Certificates
As you begin your Camino there will no doubt be many thoughts rushing through your mind. Have I packed too much? Or maybe not enough? Will I be able to do this?
Those first few steps are both exhilarating and scary at the same time and it can be easy for the emotions to take over, but you must start as you mean to go on.
Perhaps the most essential point here is making sure you have everything you need and apart from your clothes and boots, there’s nothing more important to somebody walking the Camino than their paperwork.
What is the Camino Paperwork?
A huge part of the fun of walking the Camino de Santiago is the unbridled sense of freedom and simplicity that comes with knowing you just have to follow the little yellow arrows for the foreseeable future. In our chaotic, stress-filled world, there’s something wonderfully cathartic about the Way of St James.
With that in mind, hearing that you need some paperwork might seem to go against the whole ethos, but don’t worry, the paperwork is minimal and actually adds a degree of fun along the way.
The Camino paperwork is essentially just the Credencial del Peregrino (Camino Pilgrim Passport) which is a foldable piece of card with plenty of space on it.
Why do I need a Passport?
A pilgrim’s passport is important for two reasons. The first is that many of the albergues and even some hotels require them to stay in as they show that you are a bonafide pilgrim who should be granted a bed for the night. This isn’t such an important factor for those doing the Camino with Uwalk, as accommodation is booked beforehand, but try getting into a busy albergue in summer without a passport and you’ll see how important they are.
The second reason for the passport is that they act as proof of your journey and without one you cannot receive your Compostela (certificate of completion) in Santiago – if you’re planning to get that far. It’s important to state that you must walk at least the final 100 km into Santiago to get a Compostela and you cannot get one earlier if you’re not planning on going all the way to Santiago. We’ll be coming to more information on the Compostela shortly.
How do I get a passport?
Passports can be obtained from several Pilgrim’s offices along the route, but for those with UWalk, we will have one ready for you when you arrive.
What’s the deal with the stamps?
To prove that you have actually walked how far you claim to have walked – there are very few fraudulent claims these days and if anything this is a much-loved practice of old – you will need to get one stamp per day along the Camino, which goes up to two each day in the final 100km.
Don’t worry, they’re everywhere and can be found in bars, restaurants, hotels, post offices, churches, museums, and even the odd food seller by the side of the road.
This isn’t something you need to fret too much about as one stamp is guaranteed wherever you’re staying and if you miss the odd second stamp, nobody is going to hang you out to dry when you reach Santiago. The idea is simply to provide proof that you have walked for x amount of days.
If anything, you’ll grow to love the stamp collecting. Many come with delightful designs and when you look back at your passport in years to come, these stamps will bring your roaring back.
What happens if I lose my passport?
Losing a pilgrim’s passport certainly adds some hassle, but it’s also not something you’re going to be flogged for. Just speak to somebody at your hotel and they’ll be happy to direct you to the nearest location you can get a replacement.
Lost passports aren’t exactly a rarity, but you’ll probably be more annoyed with yourself for losing something that will have great sentimental value when you’ve finished.
How do I get my Compostela?
Once you’ve reached the hallowed gates of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, your time on the Camino has come to an end, but there is one final act needed to get your Compostela.
You’ll need to go to the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago and first take a number. If there’s nobody around and it’s in the off-season, you might be able to go through immediately, but more often than not you’ll have some time to wait. You can either wait in the office or use the QR code on the ticket to find out your place in real-time and return later. It is recommended you return within at least 50 numbers from your own, so you don’t miss your slot.
This might sound a little complicated, but because of the large numbers of pilgrims, it’s become necessary to streamline the service as much as possible to prevent huge lines from forming outside.
When you return, you’ll be asked to present your passport which will be checked, then your Compostela will be filled out in front of you. You’ll have to give the information you want on your Compostela to whoever is behind the desk.
The Compostela are in Latin and are certainly aimed at the religious crowd rather than those doing it for sport or fun. If you would like a non-religious certificate instead, you can request it before the staff member begins.
Some Uwalk Paperwork Tips
- Keep your passport in a dry, safe place. Making sure it’s carefully tucked away at all times counts for very little if that pocket gets swamped with rainwater.
- A waterproof pouch or simply a plastic bag is also a good idea because passports have a habit of falling apart.
- You can also request a Certificate of Distance and a Cathedral Visit Certificate if you wish, both available from the same Pilgrim’s Office.
- You don’t necessarily need to get your Compostela right away and if you are staying in Santiago for a few days, you could also always go and enjoy the city after your arrival and then return first thing in the morning when the lines are at the shortest.
- Stamps are easily found along the Camino so there’s no need to feel like you necessarily need to go searching for them. Bars, restaurants, shops, and town halls have them and they are usually advertised somewhere so you’ll be able to spot them easily.