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Getting To St Jean From The Western Us

Discussion in 'Traveling to and from the Camino' started by HuskyNerd, Apr 26, 2012.

  1. HuskyNerd

    HuskyNerd Super Moderator

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    We get lots of questions about how to get to the Camino de Santiago, particularly the Camino Frances and its traditional beginning at the tiny French mountain town of St Jean Pied de Port (SJPP).

    The only public transportation that serves SJPP is the French train system, with SJPP on a spur line from the French Basque town of Bayonne, near the coast. For most travelers it becomes a question of how best to get to Bayonne in order to take the train to SJPP. The nearest airport to Bayonne is Biarritz, about 20 km away, so many pilgrims from around the world fly into Biarritz, catch a taxi or bus (http://www.chronoplus.eu/ftp/FR_lignes/Fiche_horaire_Ligne14.pdf) to Bayonne, and then head up on the train through the scenic and forested valley to SJPP.

    Because many pilgrims are flying from off the continent, the situation is a little more complicated for us than for European continentals since there are no direct flights from the many countries to Biarritz. Returning from Santiago makes it even more complicated, since it's not easy to get back to Biarritz from Santiago. To save money, this means that most non-continental travelers will get a round trip ticket to a major European hub airport (usually London, Paris, or Madrid) and then will buy one-way tickets from their hub to Biarritz and from Santiago back to their hub. So the primary question for pilgrims is, "Which hub city is best?"

    Exclusive of ticket costs and flight times from your particular city, here are some issues about each major hub airport:

    London: There are usually lots of flights available to London Heathrow and often they're at good prices. Note, though, that flights from London to Biarritz and flights from Santiago to London usually use the smaller London airports of Stansted and Gatwick. This means the added hassle of a ground transfer between airports both in- and outbound, adding time to the trip. If you're looking for a day of touring in London, usually when returning home, this is a good choice.

    Paris: Charles de Gaulle Airport outside Paris has direct flights to Biarritz, and also a train connection to Bayonne. Returning to Paris from Santiago is not easy, however. The train connections are difficult and the routes themselves are time-consuming. A flight connection is usually through Madrid or Barcelona, adding many hours to the trip. However, if a person wants to do some exploring in one of these towns, that's an added bonus.

    Madrid: Because of its location the Spanish capital has a different formula for getting to SJPP. After flying into Madrid Barajas Airport the easiest/quickest route is to take the train to Pamplona (bus is also possible to Pamplona, even directly from the airport, but it is more time-consuming), then catch a bus (http://www.autocaresartieda.com/?scc=svpropios) to Roncesvalles and a taxi to SJPP. Yes, it's also possible to take the train all the way from Madrid to SJPP, but the connections are difficult since the French and Spanish train systems are on different gauge rails and also because the Spanish trains don't cross the Pyrenees into France. Returning from Santiago is very easy via direct flights, an overnight train, or by taking the bus back to Madrid.

    Shopping for a good hub city connection is the biggest part of saving $s on the trip. For this purpose I use the website Skyscanner.net. My favorite choice among the hubs is Madrid, since I love the overnight train to Madrid from Santiago. I also have enjoyed Paris via Barcelona. This year I'm using London again because of flight times and cost.

    Buen camino pilgrims!
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2013
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  2. LolaLil

    LolaLil New Member

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    Thanks Husky from a fellow Washingtonian (originally). I plan 37 days to complete my journey from Pamplona to Santiago with 4 rest days in Logrono, Burgos, Leon, and Triacastela. Do you think those are good places to stop to rest? Any recommendations for a reasonably priced hostel/hotel? I will be staying mainly in refugios but want to treat myself to a hostel/hotel on my rest days. How about in Santiago? I hope to reach Santiago Oct 5th and stay for two days. I'm flying in from Madrid and returning back to Madrid and will go to Paris for several days and then Frankfurt, GE, to visit friends. I appreciate all the recommendations you've given in this forum and looking forward to this trip. Thanks again. BTW, I grew up in Tacoma (Lakewood) and have a lot of family in the area so I'm there visiting often.
     
  3. HuskyNerd

    HuskyNerd Super Moderator

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    Hi LolaLil ~
    Great to hear from another Washingtonian! The weather today is typical W Washington Oct-June, with cool temps and the threat of rain. Some blue sky is poking out, though, so maybe we'll see that odd, yellow orb that appears every few months.

    Your rest plan sounds good. I usually take rest days in just Burgos and Leon, but I took an extra day in Santo Domingo de la Calzada this year to let friends catch up and to care for my sister's blisters (hmmm, that rhymes). A rest day in Logrono makes sense as it's a big enough town to get any supplies you might need. What I've done in the past is to plan an overnight in Viana, then just walk the 8 or so km to Logrono the next day and get a hotel there. At least then I feel like I'm still making progress and I do get a long day in Logrono.

    I wonder about a stop in Triacastela. That's a tiny, fairly quiet little town without many services or much going on. I think I'd choose a stop either two days prior (Villafranca del Bierzo) or a day later (Sarria). Both have more going on. By the time you get to any of these towns, though, you may find yourself wanting to push on since you'll be nearing your goal.

    Sorry, I can't help on inexpensive hotels/hostels. I tend to splurge in these towns, not with a super-luxe hotel but with an historic or fun place in a good location. I don't have a Logrono preference, but in Burgos I stay at the Meson del Cid (Hotel / Restaurante Mesón del Cid junto a la Catedral de Burgos), in Leon it's the Posada Regia (Hotel La Posada Regia en el centro de León), in Villafranca it's the Parador (Spain - Castile - Leon - Parador de Villafranca del Bierzo), and in Santiago it's the Altair (Hotel Altair - Bienvenido - Hotel boutique en Santiago de Compostela). Each of these is +/- 90€ and I rationalize it by all the saving I've done in albergues along the way. Buen camino to you!
     
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  4. LolaLil

    LolaLil New Member

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    I don't know why I chose Triacastela; maybe because it made sense after walking 8 days w/o a rest day. I will look at those suggested stops. Of course, these are just plans that are subject to change. BTW, did you make reservations in these hotels or winged that a room is available. I plan to bring an IPad so I can reserve a room on line once I know when I will get to the towns/villages. I've been using Bookings.com to reserve my rooms in Madrid and Pamplona. Predicted 75 degree weather in Sac. We had 90 degree weather last weekend. Thanks for your quick response and enjoy your weekend in Seattle. Going up there for the Memorial Day/Folklife celebration at the Center and attend a grandson's 8th grade graduation. Gracias!!
     
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  5. HuskyNerd

    HuskyNerd Super Moderator

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    Wow, you'll be footsteps away from my church on Mem Day weekend -- First Church Seattle -- we're just across from Seattle Center. Let me know if you'd like to have a camino coffee chat while you're in town.

    Usually, but not always, I'll contact the hotel a couple of days before I arrive (when I know my schedule for sure) to make certain I can get a room. I always make advance reservations in Santiago because it can be crowded in the summertime and I adore my little Altair hotel and its staff so much I'd hate to miss them. I just use the coin-op computers at the albergues and bars rather than carry an iPad. I'll be interested to hear your experience.

    Rather than taking a complete rest day after Leon you could rest by slowing down and walking some half-days in a row. An example would be staying in Molinaseca and then also in Ponferrada, or staying in Ponferrada and also in Villafranca, or staying in Villafranca and also in one of the towns before O Cebreiro. One choice I might suggest is to choose to stay at the monastery albergue in Samos (a unique experience when you add the tour and Vespers) and then also an overnight in Sarria, which gives a half-day walk.

    Lots of options. Anyway, have a super sunny day!
     
  6. LivingLifeMyWay

    LivingLifeMyWay New Member

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    Hi there!
    Shout out to all in the Seattle area! This is my first time on the Camino. I will be flying out on the 31st of May. I was able to find a flight in to Paris and will be leaving out of Madrid. I thought this would be the perfect way to get in and out. I booked my tickets online and was able to book just that way with no problems. It was way less in cost than just flying in and out of Paris. I just thought I would throw this in here. Anywho...I'm sooooo excited I can hardly stand it.
     
  7. LolaLil

    LolaLil New Member

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    Camino coffee chat sounds good. I'm up there from the 23rd of May until 3rd of June so there will be time. I love to hear about your journeys and take all I can learn from you. I stay w/my dau and family in Renton while I'm up there. We can decide day and time later. Thank you again!

    Lil
     
  8. Bill Walker

    Bill Walker New Member

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    Flying to and from Madrid is probably the safest bet. But some choose to make a more exotic journey, coming down from Paris, or flying into Barcelona but out of Madrid. But you can get a bus direct from the airport to the Avenida de las Americas bus station in Madrid. From there, you catch a bus to Pamplona. After June 18th, buses run from Pamplona for 15 Euros directly to St. Jean Pied de Port. Incidentally, go ahead and apply for your pilgrim's passport at the Co-Fraternity of St. James in San Francisco to get your pilgrim's passport in advance. This will allow you to stay in pilgrim albergues in Pamplona before even beginning.

    Bill Walker
     
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  9. LolaLil

    LolaLil New Member

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    Buen Camino, LivingLifeMyWay! Safe trip.
     
  10. kkelley

    kkelley Member

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    Do you have to apply for the passport in person? I googled Co-Fraternity of St. James in San Francisco and didn't get a hit. If I can apply electronically or via mail, how far in advance can you apply? My trip is planned for September.
     
  11. HuskyNerd

    HuskyNerd Super Moderator

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    Hi KKelley ~
    Most of us Americans use the American confraternity American Pilgrims on the Camino for our pilgrim passports. You can contact them via the website and they'll get your passport to you within a couple of weeks, though they ask that you only apply within 3 months of your departure. Buen camino!
     
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  12. hi there,
    i'm planing to start my camino the day after my 40th bday (6/28), and will be arriving and departing from madrid, all the way form boston, then i would like to get to sjpp from pamplona. i have applied for the pilgrim passport at the apc to save me a bit of time and money. i am also training on walking an average of 7mi. everyday to break in my shoes along with my 25-30lb backpack. my question is, how much money would i be spending 'roughly' btw sjpp & santiago on albergues & food on a 30 day journey and hopefully resting 2 days in burgos & leon? i dont need any fanciness just the basics and willing to camp outdoors.
    thanks for your feedback!
     
  13. Bill Walker

    Bill Walker New Member

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    A bus is almost as easy, and cheaper, going from Madrid to Pamplona. Can take subway straight from airport to Avenida de las Americas bus station, and arrange bus to Pamplona from there. Then, after June 18th (before then is more complicated, have to hitch or take taxi to SJPP), can take direct buses from Pamplona to SJPP.

    Returning to Madrid from Santiago is easy--lots of direct buses, including an overnight one.

    Bill Walker "Skywalker"
     
  14. HuskyNerd

    HuskyNerd Super Moderator

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    To each his own. I find trains to be more relaxing, since you can get up and walk around. A person can also take the subway from Madrid airport to the Atocha and Chamartin train stations. I prefer train over bus returning from Santiago, too, but air has them all beat for convenience and speed, and is usually very close on cost.
     
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  15. Bill Walker

    Bill Walker New Member

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    Honestly, like most people, I agree with you. Trains are more comfortable (although these buses weren't American-style buses; they were decent!).

    I was simply looking at it from a financial standpoint. The bus is cheaper. I'm an Appalachian Trail refugee, and was assuming that issue was foremost. But Camino pilgrims tend to be a bit more well-healed than AT and PCT hikers, because they're often people taking a vacation from their jobs.

    Skywalker
     
  16. HuskyNerd

    HuskyNerd Super Moderator

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    Sky, you've inspired me to investigate prices on getting to Pamplona from Madrid and from Santiago to Madrid. I'm not sure your hypothesis that bus is cheaper is necessarily true.

    Choosing arbitrary dates of June 15, 2012 inbound and June 28 outbound here's what I found:

    To Pamplona from Madrid, June 15, 2012:
    • Bus -- Cost is 57.84€. Duration is 4:45 to 6 hours. 13 departures, including directly from Madrid Barajas airport. www.alsa.es
    • Train -- Cost is 57.80€ (Internet price) or 58.30€ at the station. Duration is 3:03 - 3:21 hours. 4 departures from Madrid Atocha station (transfer necessary from Barajas airport) Renfe
    • Plane -- highly variable, of course. At current time the lowest I found was 156€. 7 departures on Iberia. Skyscanner.net

    To Madrid from Santiago, June 28, 2012:
    • Bus -- Cost is 78.80-120.56€. Duration 7:45 to 10 hours. 7 departures, including directly to Madrid Barajas airport
    • Train -- Cost is 53.60€ or 78.80€ for a bed on the TrenHotel. Duration 6:21 to 9:29 (TrenHotel). 2 departures to Chamartin station (subway transfer needed to Barajas airport)
    • Plane -- Variable, of course, the lowest I found was on RyanAir at 27.79€. 11 direct flights to Madrid Barajas.
    Conclusions from the above at least for these dates are that: a) the bus and train to Pamplona are approx the same cost, with the train potentially just as fast, even given the additional time for the subway transfer to Atocha station from the airport, b) bus is the more expensive option from Santiago to Madrid, and if you factor in the overnight train you can sleep for only an extra 20€, which makes for a great deal for Madrid -- one reason it's my favorite option, c) plane is easily the cheapest option from Santiago to Madrid. If you're flying directly out of Madrid Barajas and not interested in sightseeing in Madrid, that's the cheapest/easiest option.
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2012
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  17. Bill Walker

    Bill Walker New Member

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    You appear to have outdone me. And let me say, "well done." I had heard (I did the Camino the last two years) that the bus was cheaper. But I never investigated myself. But it does seem like we only paid about 44 Euros at the bus station. But I don't remember for sure. Well, the good news is that there are two viable options (train definitely faster).

    Better yet, the first year there was no bus from Roncesvalles to SJPP. My nephew and I walked it backwards on the Camino (great fun--4,300 foot descent!). But this past year the new bus route (which I've heard only begins June 18th) ran directly to SJPP. Great facilitator.

    Buen Camino, Skywalker
     
  18. HuskyNerd

    HuskyNerd Super Moderator

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    :) SkyW, my father was born in Asheville in 1927, and the family homestead is out by Buena Vista, if you know where that is. A window dedicated to my grandfather is/was in the Baptist Church there. Also there's a street in the Biltmore Forest area called "Browntown" where members of my family lived when they worked for Vanderbilt. You live in a beautiful area of the world. Buen camino!
     
  19. Tmo

    Tmo New Member

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    Thank you all for the great details on how to get from Madrid to SJDPD and then Santiago back to Madrid. Do you need to make all of these reservations ahead of time or can you do it when you get there?
     
  20. HuskyNerd

    HuskyNerd Super Moderator

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    Since people are usually certain of their departure dates and times often they will make their reservations for plane, train and bus well before they leave home. Note that for bus and train this is usually only possible within 60 days of departure.

    Most people aren't 100% certain when they'll complete their camino, so some leave their return reservations until nearly the last minute. Usually this works fine for plane and bus reservations, but not so hot for plane reservations as these are often fully booked several weeks out. Hope that helps.
     
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  21. lmcgrath

    lmcgrath New Member

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    Sandy,
    I hope you can help me figure out train travel from
    Madrid airport to Pamplona for May 29. I have found the 00605 ALVIA departing at 10.35 and arriving at 13.40, in plenty of time to find the bus station to meet up with Caroline's transport to St. Jean. My flight lands around 7:10, so I was hoping I would have plenty of time to collect my checked luggage and find transportation to the train station; I'm not sure if this would be by bus or subway. I'm also confused about which train station this is. Any help would be greatly appreciated...I'm getting nervous!
    Thanks, lisa
     
  22. HuskyNerd

    HuskyNerd Super Moderator

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    No probs, Lisa. You can find the itinerary on the Renfe site by clicking on the Alvia link. It shows you as leaving from Atocha station. You have plenty of time to catch the subway there. You can catch the subway at Terminal 4 in the Madrid Barajas airport. You then transfer from the "B" line to the "6" line at Nuevos Ministerios and then transfer just after that again to the "1 'Valdecarlos'" line at Cuatro Caminos. Sounds complicated, but it's all very easy and quick. Here's a subway map you can print out and study so you know your route to Atocha: Metro de Madrid Maps.

    You'll have lots of time once you arrive at Atocha. Rather than hang around the railway station you can head above ground where you'll find yourself in the midst of the museum district. The Reina Sofia Museum (modern art) is a couple blocks away and The Prado (historic art) is a couple blocks away in the other direction. Both are some of the greatest museums in the world. You have time for lunch in the area, which is full of shops and stores -- a very nice few hours while you await your train. Once in Pamplona it's a quick taxi ride to the bus station to meet Caroline. Buen camino!
     
  23. lmcgrath

    lmcgrath New Member

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    Thanks so much. I will check this all out.
    Buen Camino,
    Lisa
     
  24. LolaLil

    LolaLil New Member

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    Hi Sandy: I just checked the RENFE website to try to book and purchase my train ticket from Madrid (I'm staying there one night) to Pamplona. Found three departure times but when I tried to purchase the ticket, no train was shown. I guess it's too early to buy one. I'm leaving August 29.

    Appreciate all the information you are sharing with us new pilgrims. Thank you.
     
  25. HuskyNerd

    HuskyNerd Super Moderator

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    Pretty sure it's 60 days out or less. Try another date less than 60 days to confirm. Buen camino!
     
  26. LolaLil

    LolaLil New Member

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    I put a fake date and was able to get a price and can purchase the ticket. I will book my train reservation 60 days before I leave. Thanks.

    Lil
     
  27. Kiki

    Kiki New Member

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    Thank you for directing me to this thread. I appreciate how willing you are to help all of us.
    Kiki
     
  28. Susan T

    Susan T New Member

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    What is the best way to get from Washington, DC to Roncesvalles to start the Camino in May?
     
  29. Susan T

    Susan T New Member

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    I want to start the Camino in Roncesvalles. If I came into Madrid, what is the best way to get there?
     
  30. HuskyNerd

    HuskyNerd Super Moderator

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