The Camino re-opens
The Camino de Santiago routes are open again and Pilgrims are walking the way. The locals are doing everything they can to accommodate Pilgrims, but many albergues have remained closed and the ones that have opened are operating at 50% capacity, maximum. In August 2021 43,575 Pilgrims were counted at Santiago Pilgrim Office. That’s up from 33,963 in July. (By comparison August 2020, the total was 19,812 and in August 2019: 62,814. ) 79% of August’s total walkers were Spanish. 543 Americans were included, as well as 166 from the UK and 118 from Ireland.
Current testing and vaccination requirements if travelling to Spain
The Spanish government publishes and reviews their list ‘risk countries’ every 7 days. All passengers (excluding children under the age of 12 years old) travelling to Spain who have visited a ‘risk country’ in the previous 14 days should be prepared to show evidence of one of the following on entry:
- documentation certifying that you have undertaken a COVID-19 nucleic acid amplification (NAAT) test (e.g. PCR, TMA, LAMP or NEAR) within 72 hours prior to arrival in Spain, or an antigen test taken within 48 hours of arrival, and tested negative. See the Spanish Ministry of Health ‘Travel and COVID-19’ page for details.
- a certificate or document certifying you are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. See the Spanish Ministry of Health ‘Travel and COVID-19’ page for details.
- a medical certificate certifying that you have recovered from COVID-19 in the last 6 months prior to travel. See the Spanish Ministry of Health ‘Travel and COVID-19’ page for details.
A minimum fine of €3000 may be issued to anyone who does not comply with this requirement.
Past update January 2021: It has been announced that the Camino routes and their public accommodation will reopen on July 1st 2021 and international travel from selected countries, including Australia and New Zealand, will recommence. Please find the full details in our post in the ‘News’ section on our homepage.
There is little doubt that the global pandemic we find ourselves in will change the look of travel, both on the Camino as well as globally. Where once our research focussed on getting the cheapest air fare, the feedback for hotels and where we can change money, now our first concern will be our safety. And justifiably so.
Being in our own bubble, it would be easy to assume that walking the Camino wouldn’t be possible at the moment. When in fact the truth is the Camino has been open since the start of July, with hundreds of pilgrims reporting to receive their Compostela certificates daily.
Officially, France, Portugal and Spain have all opened their borders along with the rest of the EU, but for now only to people from the EU and a handful of other countries. Both Australian and New Zealand citizens are among those allowed to enter Europe and walk the Camino.
Spain: Open to EU plus other countries including Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea. Currently a five minute questionnaire needs to be filled out on line here where you will receive a QR code saying if you need to have a Covid test upon entry. All passengers will be temperature tested. More info here.
Portugal: Open to EU plus other countries including Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea. No Covid test required before entering for these countries but if travelling from other countries only essential travel is allowed and a negative result Covid test done within 72 hours of entry is required. More info here.
France: Open to EU plus other countries including AustralIa, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea. No Covid test required for citizens of these countries. Only essential travel allowed for citizens of other countries with a negative Covid test strongly recommended. More info here.
All countries have open hotels, restaurants and public transport, although you may be required to wear a mask in some of these.
So what sort of conditions and health regulations can you expect on the Camino? Vaccine or no vaccine, one thing this virus has taught us is how to be aware of our personal hygiene. Who among us was aware just how much person to person transmission occurred during a normal day? Maybe Michael Jackson with his propensity for face masks?
Hotels in all three Camino countries are obligated by law to make sure they are compliant with safety regulations. Limiting numbers in albergues ensuring a 1.5m distance between beds, hand sanitisers placed throughout the property and eating areas having limited numbers and spacing required are among some of the measures taken to help prevent the spread of this or any other virus. These changes look set to be implemented for the foreseeable future and will become a travel norm.
With pent up demand from people who had to postpone their trip, coupled with 2021 being a Holy year, there’s little doubt that it will be a busy time on the Camino next year. There will also be a higher call for private rooms as people worry about sharing their living space in an albergue.
For all of these reasons, it is recommended that you book (or rebook suspended trips) sooner rather than later to ensure availability of the best hotels. To alleviate fears of losing deposits, RAW Travel has now implemented a $1 deposit policy for new trips. This enables people to book with confidence knowing that even in the event of continued disruptions, there really isn’t anything to lose.
The Camino has survived Crusades, world wars, and yes even global pandemics before, and it will survive this too. There will always be a need for something as soul enriching as the Camino. And once we are allowed to leave home there’s little doubt that the Camino will once again be teeming with Antipodeans, safe in the knowledge that every measure possible is being taken to ensure ours, and the locals, safety.