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 for food and accommodation was €18 in 2019, when I stayed in hostels, and €33 in 2016 when I stayed mostly in B&B’s. 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, but don’t let poor fitness deter you from walking the Camino. Go easy on yourself. 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 (2019). If you’re not fluent in French, I would suggest asking a local to help you book. 

What types of accommodation are there?

1. Gîtes d’étapes: municipal hostels with large dorm rooms (usually bunk-beds), a kitchen, and shared bathrooms. Minimal decor and staff with some communal meal options. Usually no WIFI.

2. Gîtes 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.

3. Chambres d’hôtes: bed & breakfasts (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.

4. Donativos: Donation-based hostels run by religious/charitable organizations or individuals. Meals are usually included and you should help clean up after dinner. Pilgrims are often invited to join in religious activities in Catholic donativos, 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 chambres d’hôtes will ask if you want demi-pension with your room when you book.

Should I get a local SIM card? Which one?

It’s a good idea to get a phone plan for reservations, maps, and emergencies. There are three good options for monthly no-contract SIM cards: BouyguesOrange, and Free Mobile. Read more about the options here

Can I do my own laundry?

Every hostel will either have a basin and clothes line for doing your own washing (you bring your own soap) and/or paid washer-dryer machines. I suggest buying a tube of “sans frottement” (no scrubbing) detergent from a local general store, like Casino.

Do I need to plan my route in advance?

Not really, but you should look at how far apart the towns are going to be the day before and pack your meals and water accordingly. I might even suggest against too much advanced planning. Listening to your body should take precedence.

Do I need a sleeping bag?

No. Every gîte and chambre d’hôte will provide blankets. Be aware that this is not the case in Spain and you will need at least a liner immediately after crossing the border.

Is it easy to get lost?

No! But everyone gets turned around once or twice. Just keep an eye out for the markers and ask around. It’s never too late to double back and make sure.

Will I need walking poles?

Walking poles aren’t necessary, but a very good idea. Poles take a lot of the weight from your backpack off your back and knees, and are extremely helpful during rocky, slippery descents. Also: consider how attractive your arms will get after a week or two.

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 and dropped off at the accommodation you specify in the booking.

How much should my backpack weigh?

Aim for a maximum of 10% of your body weight. Don’t pack for the apocalypse!

Are chambres 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 fewer pilgrims this way and it might not be the best option for those 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 chambres d’hôtes didn’t accept credit card payments when I walked in 2019, so it’s good to have cash on hand. The Miam Miam Dodo guidebook marks which ones take card payments.

(This may have completely changed during the pandemic.)

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 with a tour group. 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 Le Puy and didn’t hear of anyone having this issue. I’ve been told that bed bugs are more common along the Camino Frances in Spain, though I never encountered them there either.

Bed bugs can be a terrible financial burden on hosts and most hostels have specific tactics for avoiding them, like leaving bags at the entrance. Respecting their rules goes a long way to keeping the route pest-free.

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 another Credential at any major city pilgrim office and some hostels along the route. 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 route. Churches, tourism offices, hostels, and restaurants catering to pilgrims will all have different stamps you can collect. 

If you get all the way to Santiago, your Credential will function as proof of how far you walked. You can get a very nice official certificate with your name and number of kms.

How much water should I carry?

Minimum 1.5L, with more if you’re walking over 25km or in hot weather. Try not to underestimate your needs to save weight on this. Take a look at your route map before you head out in the morning to see how many water stops there are.