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How to Get to Saint Jean Pied de Port

Discussion in 'Traveling to and from the Camino' started by HuskyNerd, Mar 27, 2013.

  1. HuskyNerd

    HuskyNerd Super Moderator

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    Although the Camino de Santiago technically starts right from your doorstep, for many reasons pilgrims often plan to begin in the "traditional starting point" of the French/Basque town of Saint Jean Pied de Port (SJPP). It should be said that there are many alternative starting points that are much easier to access, but this little town, tucked into the French slopes of the Pyrenees, is the place where most of the European camino trails converge in order to cross the mountains into Spain. Hence the name "Pied de Port" which basically means "foot of the entry" and hence its importance in pilgrim literature as the place to which northern pilgrims would travel in order to enter Spain (the other main option being the southern pass at Somport and continuing on the Via Aragones to Puenta la Reina).

    Because of its small size and its location in the mountains it's not that easy to get to SJPP from most anywhere else. There are basically two ways -- through Spain or through France. Most pilgrims seem to choose the French route, but each has its advantages. I've added these tips and will do my best to keep them up-to-date as travel options change.

    Getting to SJPP through France

    • Fly into Biarritz transfer to Bayonne Train Station, train to SJPP -- It's easy and not too expensive to fly into the Biarritz airport, which is the largest airport near SJPP. There are nonstop flights from London (Stansted) and Paris (CDG) as well as a few other European hubs. Now your task is to get to Bayonne to take the train to SJPP. To get to Bayonne train station from Biarritz you can take a Chronoplus city bus right at the Biarritz airport. For the Bayonne to SJPP train you can reserve your tickets at www.raileurope.com or directly through the French train system at www.sncf.com. If your timing doesn't work right for connections, you can either hire a van at www.expressbourricot.com or simply take a taxi directly to SJPP. This is around 100€ if you're by yourself, but you may find other pilgrims on your flight who are willing to share the cost with you.
    • Take the train from anywhere in France all the way to SJPP -- If you're flying into Paris or perhaps also Bordeaux or other hub cities you can connect all the way to the Bayonne/SJPP line through the French train system. Check www.raileurope.com or www.sncf.com for reservations. Note that there is a direct train connection from the Paris CDG airport to Bayonne as well as from downtown Paris. The RailEurope and SNCF sites can be difficult to navigate and sometimes impossible if you don't get the spellings just right. For RailEurope you spell SJPP exactly like this: "St Jean Pied De Port, France" and for the SNCF website you must spell it exactly like this: "Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port" in order to see your SJPP options. FYI the SNCF website can be accessed in English by a link on the upper right of the website. If you do choose that link it will ask where you are from so that it can provide correct fare info in your local currency. The RailEurope site is designed for English speakers but doesn't always have all the options available. Take the train all the way to SJPP -- If you're flying into Paris or perhaps also Bordeaux or other hub cities you can connect all the way to the Bayonne/SJPP line through the French train system. Check www.raileurope.com or www.sncf.com for reservations. Note that there is a direct train connection from the Paris CDG airport to Bayonne as well as from downtown Paris. (The RailEurope and SNCF sites can be difficult to navigate and sometimes impossible if you don't get the spellings just right. For RailEurope you spell SJPP exactly like this: "St Jean Pied De Port, France" and for the SNCF website you must spell it exactly like this: "Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port" in order to see your SJPP options. FYI the SNCF website can be accessed in English by a link on the upper right of the website. If you do choose that link it will ask where you are from so that it can provide correct fare info in your local currency. The RailEurope site is designed for English speakers but doesn't always have all the options available.) Take the train from Paris to Bayonne. At the Bayonne train station you transfer to the SJPP train which runs several times a day depending on the season and drops you below the old city, within easy walking distance of the pilgrim office and the albergues.
    Getting to SJPP through Spain
    Pamplona has the most travel connections of any Spanish town for the trip across the mountains to SJPP. Even so, it's not super easy, so if you find it too difficult don't worry -- many Spanish and other pilgrims start their caminos in this lovely Basque town which is 3 days walk from SJPP right on the camino. If you're flying into Spain you'll likely head to Pamplona via Madrid or Barcelona.The directions below assume Madrid as your Spanish starting point, but it's not that hard to adjust them for Barcelona which is farther away from Pamplona than Madrid and a little more complicated as a Spanish starting point.

    • Train or bus to Pamplona, bus to Roncesvalles, taxi to SJPP (or bus from Pamplona to SJPP in season) -- From Pamplona it's about 75 kilometers, partly over the mountains, to SJPP. So to get to Pamplona from Madrid you have two options: bus or train. You can catch an Alsa bus right from the Madrid Barajas Airport (Terminal 4) directly to Pamplona. The trip takes 5-6 hours and costs about 60€. If you're more adventurous or on a tighter budget or love trains (like me) you can take the Madrid subway from the airport to the Madrid Atocha station (pink line from the airport to Nuevos Ministerios, circular Grey Line to Cuatro Caminos, Blue Line to Atocha) and catch a Renfe train to Pamplona. The trip is about 3 hours by train and costs as low as 24€. If you need an overnight in Madrid, choose the Atocha area since Madrid's great museums (The Prado and Reina Sophia) are just a few blocks from the Atocha station.
      Once you're in Pamplona you can either take a taxi (€€€!) right to SJPP from the train or bus station or you can catch a bus to Roncesvalles, from which you can take a taxi to SJPP (check times closely because they vary by season). Taxis at Roncesvalles gather outside of the hotels and generally charge approx 25€ to take you around the mountain and across the border to SJPP. During the high season of June 18 to the end of August you can catch a bus all the way from Pamplona to SJPP.
    • Train to Hendaye/Irun, transfer to train to Bayonne, train to SJPP -- It's possible to bypass the mountains altogether by taking the train from Madrid to Hendaye/Irun then transferring to the French train system from Irun to Bayonne to SJPP. This takes about 5-6 hours and can be made a little easier if you take a cab from Irun to Bayonne rather than waiting for a train connection to take you on that leg.
    If you're trying to fly into towns like Bilbao or Santander or Santiago in Northern Spain you'll discover you must either go through the main train hubs in Central Spain or navigate the Feve and other smaller train systems to get to Hendaye/Irun. Either route is difficult or impossible to plan online due to the many transfers in multiple train systems involved, but if you go to a train station in Spain they can arrange this for you without much fuss.
    If you learn additional tips and would like to pass them on, make sure to comment below. I'll update this main note to reflect changes and additional info from other knowledgeable pilgrims. Buen camino!
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2013
    Chip Frazier and JFK like this.
  2. BobC

    BobC New Member

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    Hello Sandy, Bob here from down the road in Roseburg, OR. Again thank you for the great infomation. ? How far from the airport in Madrid, is Chic + Basic hotel in Atocha? My plane arrives at 10:05 pm. I can't decide if that is to late to get a room or just hang out in the airport until the first train leaves for Pamplona.
     
  3. HuskyNerd

    HuskyNerd Super Moderator

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    At that time of night I would take a cab from the airport to the hotel. Subways aren't always pleasant at night, though there's no particular reason to fear the Madrid subway system. If I were in your shoes I'd take cab to the hotel, get a good night's sleep, then walk the short distance to the Atocha station in the morning for the train to Pamplona.
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2013
  4. Waterweed

    Waterweed Member

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    Because I did not want to arrive at SJPP through several different conveyances, I flew into Toulouse, France to take a bus to the train station. The train went to Bayonne where I would changed trains to SJPP. Just seemed easier to me. There was a gliche; my flight from Madrid to Toulouse was delayed and made me late to my train, which I found out later did not arrive and the passengers were bussed. I got a ticket for the later train to Bayonne, stayed overnight there and caught the early morning train to SJPP. If there hadn't been the gliche, it would have been shorter time than coming from Paris. The views from the train were beautiful.
     
  5. HuskyNerd

    HuskyNerd Super Moderator

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    Thanks, Waterweed. The reasons I didn't include Toulouse as a starting point are that I don't see any direct flights there from the U.S., plus the train from Toulouse to Bayonne often (not always) includes a transfer at Pau. To me this adds complexity to the trip, adding the possibility of flight delays, etc., like you experienced. To me the advantage of flying through Toulouse is that it's an easy stop to Lourdes if a pilgrim wants to stop there along the way. But otherwise the fact that Paris has direct flights from the US and especially that you can catch the Bayonne train right from the Paris CDG airport to me makes it a stronger choice.
     
  6. Waterweed

    Waterweed Member

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    Preface: Forum members give information, thankfully, so we can make the best informed choices in making the camino our own, which starts once the decision is made to start your camino adventure. It is a type of support group. We all just have different ways of using the information. It is like math; there is more than one way to get the answer. From the beginning of joining this forum, I gleaned from veterans and beginners the majority of what I used, in my own way, to set up my transportation and walk my camino. My camino was made better because of each of you. I took what I learned and made it personal by tweeking it to work for me. Thank you and, hopefully, I will use it again. If by some chance, I can give, as others did for me, information, even if it is not used exactly as I did, that helps another make their camino/walk in life better that is what it is all about.

    I did stop at Lourdes on the way back and had thought initially that I would walk to Toulouse. My plans were changed when I got sick while in Lourdes. I had not even had a sniffle, allergic reaction or asthma attack during my camino - went to the pharmacy and decided to stay in bed there a couple of days. By the time I got off the train on my return to Toulouse, I was not better and wanted a place where I could stay in bed. I had to get better before I got on the plane. The hotels I approached either had a complete sign on the door,was told complete at the front desk, or were more than I wanted to pay. I found out that hotels were full due to a rugby game that weekend as well as the next week for a country wide education convention. I was offered a day at one and another day at another. I did not want to move every day;I was ready to settle in one place to focus on getting well. I finally found a place to stay through the help of another camino angel, who found a hotel outside of the city, within walking distance of the airport and on the bus route. I could stay there until I caught my plane. My angel made the directions to the hotel easy and economical - take the subway, connect with a bus and arrive at the hotel.

    Regarding flying on a direct flight: I was looking for the cheapest - that's me. With patience and figuring out when prices were cheapest, I found a round trip for under $1000 from the states. For me, transfers are nothing as long as the majority of changes are within the same conveyance system. I figure it is a logical exchange for a cheaper rate or preference on my part. Yes, I had a gliche in flight delay at Madrid but it was managed and I arrived at SJPP. If it was a situation where I am causing other people delays, that is different and I would focus on the time element. I did not worry about the flight delay and my train ticket because I paid for ticket insurance. I also took pictures of the delay sign on the flight schedule. No need to fret; I would get there in God's time.

    As far as a transfer at Pau then to Bayonne, I probably would have considered it as an option because it was on the same conveyance system if the Toulouse to SJPP train was not available. When I started researching the train schedule, I think the train from Toulouse to SJPP was twice a day. The deciding factor for me was that the city circulator at Toulouse from the airport to the train station was easy and convenient. It has a set fee - can't remember if it is 3 or 4 euro each way.

    It took time with maps, schedules of different conveyances and considering "what ifs" to determine where I would arrive in Europe and how I would begin my adventure. Once I decided what wouldn't work for me, it got easier to plan.
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2013
  7. HuskyNerd

    HuskyNerd Super Moderator

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    Thanks for the additional details, Waterweed. It sounds like you had an exciting trip. Thanks for more info on the Toulouse option. I agree that it's a good choice if a person wants to include a stop at Lourdes. You can be proud of your trip and the excellent arrangements you made.
     
  8. buckredman

    buckredman Member

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    Reverend Brown, I ran across this exchange of msgs while I was investigating a walk from Lourdes to SJPP and I'm wondering what you meant by "if a person wants to include a stop at Lourdes". I have the impression that you meant getting off a train, making the visit, then getting back on the next train. True? My present plan is to fly into CDG, train to Lourdes, visit for a day or so, then walk from there to SJPP and then over the pass to Roncevalles. The advantage, beyond the value of a visit to a 'miracle city' would be a little extra tune up time before tackling the climb over the pass, plus the pride of having made the little extra walk/visit. Questions about this: how well is the path marked? How difficult would it be to find a place for a sello? I already have the ticket from RNO to CDG and I think the train would be easy to ticket--is that true? Can I use the credencial that I rec'd from APOC for this part, then get a new credencial at SJPP for the Spanish part of the walk?
     
  9. HuskyNerd

    HuskyNerd Super Moderator

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    Yes, I did mean to suggest that getting back on the train is the prime option. However, the path from Lourdes is very doable and is called the Chemin du Piemont. Here's a helpful site with map coordinates that shows the 140 km +/- route in detail and another (in French) that describes the route in even more detail and shows how to purchase the French guidebooks. I've never been there, but it basically skirts the foothills of the Pyrenees -- so you may find it hilly. It would certainly be a warm-up for the Route Napoleon -- after 5-7 days you'd be a weathered and hardy pilgrim by the time you get to SJPP.

    Since Lourdes is farther south than SJPP it's not uncommon to get onto the French GR78 path at Lourdes and walk to Santiago via the Somport Pass rather than through SJPP. Somport is a beautiful mountain pass that takes one through scenic Jaca in Spain and then catches the Camino Frances at Puenta la Reina. Here's a site that describes that option.

    In general, in France the hiker/pilgrim hostels are called "gites" rather than albergues. There's a call-ahead reservation system and when the gite is staffed a person can get a sello there. The GR78 has a gite system at regular intervals, which would cover you if you walked south from Lourdes. I can't vouch for the existence of gites on the Chemin du Piemont, but there may be someone on this site that could fill you in on that. Buen camino!
     
  10. sandro

    sandro Guest

    hello Waterweed! Hope you have some details of your jurney by train from Toulouse to SJPDP. I have been checking a couple of websites to see at what times the trains run and I found discrepancies that do not allow me to really be sure. i will get into toulouse airport around midnight and need to understand if I can leave in early morning (which I would prefer) or if i better plan to overnight in toulouse and leave later in the day.

    specifically on the sncf site (http://www.voyages-sncf.com/billet-train/resultat?hid=29J) trains are listed that depart around late morning morning. however, on this other site (http://www.bonjourlafrance.com/trai..._jean_pied_de_port_train_station_168_604.aspx) the departure times from toulouse are quite different, with trains departis as early as 5-6am.

    would you remember at approximately what time you took the train from tolouse and would you know anything about these schedules?

    thanks very much
     
  11. EssaySchmitz

    EssaySchmitz New Member

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    We plan to arrive Madrid morning of April 15, 2014. Our original plan was to train to Pamplona then bus to SJPP. Why do the buses not run to SJPP until June? Is train or bus available to either Roncesvalles or Bayonne as a local to get to SJPP?
    Essay
     
  12. baustin

    baustin New Member

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    This is great information and very helpful. I fly into Madrid in september and plan to head to sjpp. will the buses directly from pamplona to sjpp still be running in sept?

    thanks
     
  13. caper

    caper New Member

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    my ?? we have not heard back on reservations in Orisson - arriving in SJPP on Sept 2nd (booked a hotel) so will it be a problem to find a place to stay in Orrison if we start our Camino on 2nd or 3rd - sent a few email off to hostel's but no reply. We do want to start by going over Pyrenees. Any help or suggestions will be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much!
     
  14. WorldTrekker

    WorldTrekker Member

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    Here is the link I have for the Orisson. http://www.refuge-orisson.com/en/
    Have you tried calling? Maybe try from a different computer. You are not the first that have had the frustration in booking a room with the Orisson. For some not an issue, while others run into the same issue as you. Not sure why.
    Before you do book, I want you to know that the walk over the Pyrenees is very doable. While it is difficult, leaving early and taking breaks with a nice lunch make for a great walk.


    Hope this helps ....... Buen Camino
     
  15. Orava

    Orava Active Member

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    Does anyone have experience of the RER C Pont de Rungis (Paris Orly) to Paris Gare d'Austerlitz train to connect with the overnight train to Bayonne? Will be doing the camino on a shoestring budget so the overnight train combined with a cheap hub flight from Helsinki works out very cheaply at less than 100€ in total. The overnight train also gets me to Bayonne before 9am so makes a same day leg over Route Napoleon possible etc.
     
  16. Leslie

    Leslie Administrator

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    I have taken the overnight train to Bayonne back in 2004. I didn't get much sleep even though I had a bed in a 6 berth room, the beds are narrow, (and not home...)

    I did the same and walked to Orisson the first day due to the late departure from St Jean, I think it was after lunch by the time I left. It made for an easier first day, but I was dead tired also. It was great to sit outside at Orisson in the morning with my coffee and look down on the clouds floating in the valleys below.
     
  17. Orava

    Orava Active Member

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    Thanks Leslie, on reflection I think I'll try airport sleeping at Orly and then catch an early morning shuttle flight direct to Biarritz which works out at about the same cost. Anyone know if Orly is ok for overnighting inside the terminal? Most airports are ok, but some give you a hard time etc. Have done it before ( Stansted ), not a great way to sleep but maybe better than sleeping on an overnight train recliner seat etc.
     
  18. highlander

    highlander Donating Member Donating Member

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    Monday
    Tuesday


    Paris Austerlitz Train Tnc4053

    Depart 22:12 pm

    change at Dax Train Ter6617
    Arrive 07:49 am
    Depart 08:02 am

    Bayonne
    Arrive 08:33 am


    Sunday.Monday /Tuesday /wednesday/Thursday/Friday no change at Dax

    Austerlitz Train Tnc4053
    Depart 22:12 pm
    Bayonne
    Arrive 08:41 am

    Friday

    Austerlitz Train Tnc4053

    Depart 22:12 pm

    Change at Dax Train Tnc4778
    Arrive 07:49 am
    Depart 09:44 am

    Bayonne
    Arrive 10:27 am

    Monday /Friday

    Austerlitz Train Tnc4053
    Depart 22:12 pm

    Change at Dax Train Tnc4731
    Arrive 07:49 am

    Depart 09:56 am

    Bayonne

    Arrive 10:39 am

    Sunday/Monday /Fridays

    Austerlitz Train Tnc4053

    Depart 22:27pm

    Change at Dax Train Ter66507

    Arrive o7:49 am
    Depart 10:13 am

    Bayonne

    Arrive 11:12 am
     
  19. highlander

    highlander Donating Member Donating Member

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    by Jay
    (this is an excerpt from this review) .... As we proceeded to find a comfortable area, we came upon the same information booth upstairs, and asked them of any restaurants for our hungry bellies. They mentioned all the restaurants in the airport had closed, however, the life-saving ladies soon realized we were stranded in the airport, and after making a few calls, they found us a pizza delivery place and we had dinner delivered to our seats at the Orly-Airport. The generous ladies also mentioned for us to go upstairs once we had finished our dinner, as the airport would try to help accommodate the few stranded passengers. As we approached the top floor of the airport we were in for a surprise.

    We walked into a large room with our luggage and found cots set-up with overnight kits (water, pillows, blankets, toothpaste/brush, etc) for passengers. A gentlemen smiled at us as we walked in and said to make our selves feel at home. My wife and I found a snugged corner in the room, and we noticed another gentlemen walk in with a few stuffed animals to hand out to the little kids stranded. The generosity and kindness exemplified by the airport staff was heart warming and all passengers that stayed overnight wholeheartedly smiled with the services provided to us. Never have I been in a situation at an airport were the staff wholeheartedly ensures the comfort of stranded customers, and we just wanted to express our gratitude and say THANK YOU for being a leading example off customer service and the way an airport should really operate like. [ read the full review ]
     
  20. highlander

    highlander Donating Member Donating Member

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    cheap flights From Orly .Example May 5th 2015 07:10 Depart, landing at 8:25 £38:50 total if carry on pack
    this will allow time for the train 11:10 depart arrive Sjpp 12 23 pm

    flights after this
    08:50 am
    then 11:15 am
    and so on
     
  21. Orava

    Orava Active Member

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    Thanks Highlander. Will take the internal Paris Orly - Biarritz Air France flight early in the morning.
     
  22. etthejet

    etthejet Member

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    Earlier this year, or late last.. Highlander sent me great information about taking the train from Paris CDG to Bayonne. Because we would have to take the late train, we would spend the night in Bayonne and then take the train to SJPP in the morning. I had read other people fly Easyjet and so just checked that out as a diiferent option. This would require staying either in Paris overnightand taking Easyjet the following morning or waiting for 8 hours in Paris CDG, catching the Late Easyjet flight to Biarritz and then getting to SJPP late that night or staying in Biarritz and getting to SJPP the next morning. I was just wondering if anyone thinks train or flying is the best way to travel. This dizzying scenario reminds me of traveling to Eeyries, Ireland several years ago. Four hours to Boston, flight to Shannon, 5 diiferent bus changes to Eeyries where I arrived a full 24 hours later. Thanks for any ideas. I am the leave no stone unturned type.
     
  23. TinaB

    TinaB Member

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    Hello etthejet,
    I'm setting off on 8th April from London on the Eurostar . I decided to travel by train in order to settle into the whole experience and bond with my rucksack. The train from Paris to Bayonne, night stop in Bayonne then train and short bus ride to SJPP felt to me less stressful. One of my favourite things is sitting in a train staring out if the window watching the landscape change. When do you travel? I will let you know how it goes.
    Bueno Camino
    TinaB
     
  24. highlander

    highlander Donating Member Donating Member

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    Hi Ettejet.

    That was staying at the airport accommodation at CDG Airport. not PARIS itself which is some distance away.....22kms. so more practical to stay in the airport Vicinity to rest and take the TGV Train withing the airport to Bayonne via Bordeaux.

    flight time 1 hour to Biarritz.

    Notes all travellers. attempting to arrive after 22:00 pm in SJPP for albergue lodging is not allowed due to disturbance to other pilgrims, however hotels may have all night staff. SJPP is a small town
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2015
  25. etthejet

    etthejet Member

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    Thanks Tina B, your post remibded me of how muchI actually love trains so I think we will stick with that. Your reasons for taking thectrain make sense.

    Thanks, too, Highlander. I think we will take the train to Bayonne that same day as you gave us such great information including pictures!!!
     
  26. Jax

    Jax New Member

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    Hello . I am arriving in Biarritz airport at 20.10 on the 21 May and wanting to get to st Jean that night . Express Bouricott have said that they dont pick up that late from the airport which surprised me a bit ...are there other taxis i can book ? Is anyone interested in sharing that evening ?
    Thanks

    Jax
     
  27. Wily

    Wily Francés 2016; Portugués 2017; Inglés/Fisterra 2018

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    Hey Jax - That is a relatively late arrival into Biarritz. A regular taxi to SJPP can get you there, but it will cost you around 120€. Even if you do find someone to share it with you, that's still a pretty expensive ride. If you're not planning on walking the following morning, I'd suggest that you take a taxi over to Bayonne and stay at an inexpensive hotel downtown and take the 07h45 morning train to SJPP for just 10€. Check out Booking.com for some hotel ideas. If you do decide to taxi over that evening, be sure to have a bed/room reservation in Saint Jean. Buen Camino!
     
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  28. Jax

    Jax New Member

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  29. Jax

    Jax New Member

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    ok thanks for that Wily . I will think on but have already booked a room in Saint Jean .
     
  30. danvo

    danvo Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi Jax,
    if I remember correctly, you can take train to SJPP (ca. 9pm from Bayonne). Pilgrims office is opened little longer than 10pm, I think you can go there directly from train. Of course you must have booked albergue, some of them are opened to 11pm. important: write email to pilgrims office and verify it!
     
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