Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to walk the Le Puy route?
The average is 28-35 days. 28 is possible only if you take no days off and commit to walking multiple consecutive days of 30km+ (or skip stages). This is an uncomfortable pace for most people and I strongly advise against booking a round-trip flight on a 28 day schedule.
What is the daily average budget?
My daily budget was €18 to €35 for food and accommodation. I planned for €33 per day before I left and that was about right. You can see a full breakdown of my budget in the costs section.
Do I need to speak French?
Some basic French will really improve your experience and your efforts will be greatly appreciated. Duolingo is a free and easy language app that can take you from zero to basic fairly quickly. Check out my Speaking French page for a few key pilgrim words and a template email for booking reservations.
Is it safe to walk alone?
I walked alone and never felt unsafe; I was never harassed or robbed. Basic common sense precautions will suffice. If you're nervous about walking alone, other pilgrims are never far away and walking in a group of strangers is one of the best parts of this experience. You're never alone on the Camino!
Do I need to be in good shape?
Not particularly, but it will greatly affect your pace. The route in the first 10 days between Le Puy and Conques is especially challenging with many daily ascents and descents. Don't let poor fitness deter you from walking the Camino. You'll be fitter by the end!
Is there frequent WIFI access?
Yes, but you'll have to seek it out. The Miam Miam Dodo marks WIFI accessible accommodations and most tourism offices have free WIFI.
Can I get transportation between towns?
Yes. Compostel Bus (Le Puy - Conques) and Transports Claudine (Conques - St. Jean) take people and bags between towns along the route. I found Transports Claudine frustrating and rude over the phone. If you're not 100% fluent in French I would suggest asking a local to help you book.
What types of accommodation are there?
1. Gîte d'Etapes: municipal hostels with large bunk-bed dorms, a kitchen and shared bathrooms. Minimal decor and staff with some communal meal options. Usually no WIFI.
2. Gîte Privées: privately owned hostels with smaller bunk-bed dorms, a kitchen and shared bathroom. Possibility of a private room and some communal meal options. Usually has WIFI.
2. Chambre-d'hôtes: Breakfast in beds (privately owned), with a choice of a shared or single room with private bathroom access. Dinner is usually cooked by the proprietor and eaten together with other guests.
3. Donativos: Donation-based hostels run by religious organizations. Meals are usually included and you should help clean up after dinner. Pilgrims are often invited to join in religious activities but it is not a requirement. (There isn't one unifying name for the by-donation hostels in France. Donativo is the Spanish term.)
What is demi-pension?
Demi-pension is the dinner+breakfast meal option. Private gîtes and chambre-d'hôtes will ask if you want demi-pension with your room when you book.
Should I get a local SIM card? Which one?
Can I do my own laundry?
Doing your own laundry is very easy. Every hostel will either have a basin and clothes line for doing your own washing (you bring your own soap) and/or coin operated washer-dryer machines.
Do I need to plan my route in advance?
No, but you should look at how far apart the towns are going to be the next day and pack your meals accordingly. Not much advance navigating is required; trail markers do the work for you!
Do I need a sleeping bag?
No. I received blankets at no extra charge at every gîte and chambre-d'hôte I stayed at along Le Puy. Be aware that this is not the case in Spain and you will need at least a liner after the border.
Is it easy to get lost?
No! It's actually quite hard. Everyone gets lost once or twice, but on a 500 mile hike you would expect to lose track a couple times. Just keep an eye out for the markers and ask a pilgrim or local if you're unsure.
Will I need walking poles?
Walking poles aren't necessary, but a very good idea. Poles will help even out the weight of your pack and are extremely helpful during rocky, slippery descents.
Can I get my bag transported?
Yes. Compostel Bus (Le Puy - Conques) and Transports Claudine (Conques - St. Jean) take people and bags between towns along the route. Your bags will be picked up from your hostel in the morning, usually after you've left, and dropped off at the accommodation you specify.
How much should my backpack weigh?
Aim for a maximum of 10% of your body weight.
Are chambre-d'hôtes worth the expense?
If you can comfortably afford €30 to €35 a day, yes. Nothing beats home cooked local French cuisine and a quiet place to shower! Keep in mind that you'll meet less pilgrims this way and it might not be the best option for pilgrims with no French.
Does it make sense to camp?
I would only recommend this to people who genuinely love camping, as the savings aren't huge when you consider the initial investment required and the significant increase to your carrying weight. Camping grounds can vary from free to the price of a cheap hostel.
Can I use my credit card for accommodation?
Most gîtes and chambre-d'hôtes won't accept credit card payments, so it's good to have cash on hand. The Miam Miam Dodo guidebook marks which ones take card payments.
Do I need to book ahead for accommodation?
No, but you should. Crowds are hard to predict; one night you might spend alone in a big gîte, the next they'll be at double capacity. Call or email your accommodation the night before to make a reservation. You can find a french email template here.
Will there be bed bugs?
I encountered no bed bugs along the Le Puy route and didn't hear of anyone else having this issue. Bed bugs are more common along the Camino Frances.
Where can I find a pilgrim credential?
You can order one online if you want to have it before you leave, or you can buy one at the Le Puy-en-Velay Cathedral when you arrive. Don't forget to have it stamped! You can buy a credential at any major city pilgrim office and some hostels along the route as well. More information here.
How often and where do I get my credential stamped?
You should get your credential stamped at least once a day along the Le Puy route. Churches, tourism offices, hostels and restaurants catering to pilgrims will all have different stamps you can collect.
How much water should I carry?
Minimum 1.5L, more if you're walking over 25km. Try not to underestimate your needs to save weight. Take a look at your route map before you head out and see how many water stops there are. On some days I carried 2.5L because there were no water sources all day.