Keeping pilgrims safe in times of COVID-19

Dear Friends,

After the summer months in Europe (July and August), Covid cases have begun to increase again in the Spain area. Intra-european restrictions have been put in place again between some countries. Some are even requiring a negative PCR test in the past 72 hrs to allow travel and vigilance remains high during this so-called second-wave of infections.  

El Camino has become a much favored destination this year for many Spaniards who prefer to vacation locally given the uncertainties of international travel. Travel within Spain is still unrestricted and people have continued to walk el Camino. Over 19,000 pilgrims collected their Compostela certificate this August, despite the pandemic.

The European Union remains conservative on their recommendations for travel but continues to lift the temporary restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU. They have elaborated a list of countries whose residents will be allowed to enter the EU that is updated periodically. 

As of August 7th, the list of countries whose residents are allowed to enter the EU was further expanded to include countries like Canada but unfortunately, the United States is still NOT on the list.

As of August 31st, the list is yet to be updated. That means that visitors from the US are not allowed to enter Spain just yet. The list of allowed visitors will be reviewed every two weeks, so there is hope that as we flatten the curve here in the US, restrictions will be lifted. Travel between countries in Europe is subject to measures implemented by the individual countries. The situation is fluid and some countries (UK, Norway, Germany) have instituted quarantines or additional tests required for those who travel to Spain. Please check the official government websites when planning your travel.

So what changes, once US pilgrims are allowed again? Well, Santiago is in the Galicia region in Spain, which is officially back to normal. The only provision is that you must wear a mask and observe social distancing measures in public to 5 feet. Capacity in restaurants, cafes, museums, libraries and public pools is now at 75% of total. The border with Portugal is open and people can freely move across.

Starting July 27th, 2020 the Galician government has mandated that every person traveling to the Galicia region (includes Santiago) must fill in this form with their contact information.

The form must be submitted no later than 24 hours after arriving in the territory. The purpose of the policy is to facilitate contact tracing in case there are any cases detected in the region.

Even so, things on the Camino will look a little different. There are new policies and common-sense practices that hotels and pilgrims will follow:

  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer will be provided in the common areas in hotels and restaurants.
  • Breakfast buffets will be replaced with an individual served breakfast.
  • Clear indications in the common areas to keep at least 1 meter distance between travelers.
  • Luggage will be disinfected everyday.
  • For private transfers, all vehicles and materials will be cleaned daily and disinfected. 

Walking the Camino will be the same as there is always enough room to walk around people and the Camino is outside in the fresh air. Outdoor seating will be offered when available and weather permitting and cafes and restaurants can prepare picnics and food to go. 

We don't use Albergues (public hostels) on our tours but they will have a tough time conforming to current regulations, since they usually have many people per room and many share a bathroom.

Albergues have had to limit capacity and thus people will turn to private accommodations like ours, so availability will be very limited. Albergues along the Portuguese Coast Camino along the Vigo region have decided not to open at all this August 2020.

The days of just walking the Camino without booking ahead or hoping to find a shared room are over for the time being. It’s strongly advised to book well in advance and with a company that has high standards. 

We know that these times are challenging for travelers and that you might be concerned when planning your trip for next year. For this reason, we have implemented a free change policy, where we allow you to reschedule for free as long as you notify us within 60 days of departure for guided tours or 30 days for self-guided tours respectively. Please read our complete Terms of Use for details on our policies. 

Here at Hike the Way our goal is giving you the best Camino experience possible. We want our travelers to only have to walk and enjoy the magic of the Camino. If you have any questions or suggestions during this time, please don't hesitate to contact us. We're here to support you!

Buen Camino, friends. 
Jackie Dumoit, CEO and Founder

Hike The Way