We always say that the Camino begins when the thought first enters your mind and heart. Wanting to do the Camino is almost like an inner calling from our experience.
Once you know you want to do it, many questions will come to your mind. One of the most important questions is “How do I do this!?”
Many people prefer to let a specialist handle the logistics of their trip. But how do you pick the best Camino tour company? It can be confusing when you start googling and find that there are many different options with a wide range of prices and schedules!
We completely understand. That is why we will give you an overview of what you need to take into consideration in order to pick the best Camino tour company. There are important things to look out for so that your experience is, not only a safe one but a fantastic one!
You may not know it, but new Camino agencies open every day, some of them in Spain, others in different countries or even just online. The prices vary a lot from agency to agency. If you are comparing different options, you may be wondering why there are such big price differences between them?
To pick the best Camino Tour Agency, please take into consideration these 8 factors:
- Compliance with the Law
- Level of Service, Support, and Comfort
- Shared or private bathroom.
- Cleanliness (to avoid bed bugs)
- Meal options and quality.
- Material and Equipment
- Insider Information: Details you might not have thought of that only the experts know.
- Different Routes
- Ethics, Professionalism, Experience
- Spirituality: A life-changing experience or just a tour? Maximize your personal and life-changing Camino experience
- Reviews from other Pilgrims
The Camino itself is very safe. Here we are referring to your safety regarding legal issues. This is one of the most important factors to pick the best Camino de Santiago agency. Anybody can make a pretty website and have fancy descriptions, but how do you know they are legitimate? This is an important factor to take into consideration before you make any payments.
Is your Camino agency legal?
There are many Camino agencies that are not legal (even some that claim they are official)! Only legally constituted Spanish Travel Agencies are, according to Spanish legislation, able to organize and sell organized packages or tours in Spain. It is considered a ‘Tour package’ when your trip is over 24 hours, includes one night of sleep or if two services are combined (transportation and accommodation for example).
This is important because there have been cases in the past where the travel agency closed or went bankrupt, took the clients money and left them clients hanging. If the services you hired are not legal, you have no way to complain or take legal actions against them.
The requirements to be are legal and official Travel Agency or Tour Operator in Spain are very strict. Official Tour Companies offer guaranteed protection by the state, so you will never be left hanging, no matter what happens. Spain wants to make sure that people feel safe coming to Spain and offer comprehensive protection and guarantee this to its tourists.
Marly Camino is proud to be an official Spanish Travel Agency registered to Spain’s General Tourism Board with license number CYCMA 3031. We are proud and happy to tell you that our license guarantees the fulfillment of our obligations to our clients.
Camino de Santiago tour companies are there to support you, but you must choose what level of support you would like. For many, after walking for several hours, it is wonderful to enjoy a comfortable bed to sleep in, a clean bathroom, taking a long shower and eating a delicious meal.
Full-support (Guided) vs. Self-Guided
Deciding if you would prefer to do the Camino on your own or with the support of a guide is an important first step. Camino Tour Companies that offer self-guided Caminos usually offer booked accommodation, luggage transfer and an itinerary as part of the package. You then walk on your own. Marly Camino has the added benefit of a personal welcome where we prepare you for your Camino and personally give you all your materials.
Full-support or guided Caminos usually include van support along the way. Your guide doesn’t necessarily walk with you, but there is a van which accompanies you and meets you at different checkpoints along the way. At each checkpoint, the van and guide will be available for anything you may need. You can also leave things in the van like an extra pair of shoes, a jacket, or even hop on if you do not wish to keep walking.
There is a wide range of accommodations on the Camino. The most basics are the ‘albergues’ or public hostels which don’t take reservation and work on a first come first serve basis. Camino de Santiago tour companies work with different accommodations of different price ranges and levels of comfort. Some are on the Camino itself and can be reached by foot, and other more beautiful, charming or high-end accommodations can be often be found just off the Camino path.
The key factors to consider with accommodations are:
Marly Camino gives you the opportunity to stay at lovely rural manors and beautiful Paradores carefully selected for their quality in our Guided Caminos, and simple but clean accommodations in our Self-guided Caminos.
You may not want to carry your backpack and all your belongings on your back, which is totally understandable! You can just carry a small day pack and have a company pick up your luggage in the morning and drop them off at your next accommodation. Reliability is a very important factor!
Some Camino Tours include van support, like in our guided Caminos, and in this case, it is the support van that transfers your luggage. The important thing is knowing that your luggage is always safe and under control.
Transfers and Vehicles
Many companies like ours assist you with transfers to cities that are difficult to get to on the Camino. Most our routes include transportation to the starting on the Camino from a main city, for example, from Madrid to Sarria or from Pamplona to St. Jean Pied de Port.
If your Camino Tour does include van support, make sure that their vehicles are legal, insured and in good conditions. For example, Marly Camino’s vans are of the best quality, our drivers are qualified and include you, beverages, snacks and most times wifi.
Unforseen circumstances: Can you count on them to help you if you need it?
In a foreign country, where you might not speak the same language, you might need some extra support! It is good to know that somebody is there to help you in case something important comes up or in case of an emergency. The Camino agency that you choose must have English-speaking staff available to you and good contacts in all cities to solve any emergencies. You should ALWAYS feel comfortable calling them in case you need anything, at any time.
In Marly Camino’s guided tours, you even get a phone with a Spanish SIM card to go with you along the way. If you need anything, just call us, at any time!
A backpack with Camino Goodies
Think about your every-day on the Camino and then think about the many small things that you will need. Would you need to purchase everything? Marly Camino provides all pilgrims with a complete pilgrim’s kit: A backpack that can be used as a daypack, full of Camino goodies. Check out everything that it includes HERE
Program and Information
What kind of Camino materials will you receive? At Marly Camino, we give you a full day-by-day program that includes recommendations, reflections and useful phone numbers for both our guided and self-guided Caminos.
The details: birthdays, greetings…. your feet?
Talking about making Pilgrims feel special, the details REALLY count. When you are greeted with joy and lots of information, when an agency celebrates your birthday or a special occasion, making you feel special that day. When your feet and legs are taken care of…. It really makes a BIG difference. Every detail counts.
The Willingness to help you even with small things is very important in your decision to pick an agency, For example, have you thought about blisters? Blisters and other minor physical pains can really make a difference in the quality of your experience. Marly Camino’s guides are trained to take care of your feet and well-being. We take care of EVERY detail.
Additionally, it would be great that your Camino Tour Company offers the right health insurances for to be fully covered in case of any eventuality. At Marly Camino, we believe our pilgrim’s health is a priority, so we’ve got your back.
Make sure the Botafumeiro is guaranteed.
One of the best and most important moments on the Camino de Santiago is the Botafumeiro experience. Botafumeiro is the Galician “censer”, a famous Camino symbol that you will bring lots of emotions and that you can only see at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
Make sure the botafumeiro is included:
This is a beautiful experience that NOT every Camino tour Company includes. In fact, most Camino companies DO NOT offer it, or can’t guarantee it.
Don’t miss out on the beautiful Botafumeiro Experience, with Marly Camino, you will FOR SURE see it.
Check the dates and the different routes that each company offers. If you have doubts about which route to pick, call your Camino Company! They have to be able to better explain and compare the different Camino de Santiago routes.
New Camino travel Companies appear every day, remember that the more experience an agency has, the better they are able to handle any situation (good or bad). Pay attention to their commitment to transparency and ethics and pay attention to the way they handle customer service with care and professionalism.
Do they see you as a person or a number:
There are many companies that produce mass tours; the Camino tour company that you choose should make you feel valued and special. Some people are more independent and others need more support. Your Camino tour agency should respect the way that you like to travel, but maintain the levels of respect, quality, and support. Each person is different. You want to go with a Camino company that treats you like the special person that you are.
The Camino de Santiago has an incredible and powerful impact on your mind and spirit. Pick a Camino agency that values the inspiration and spiritual impact that the Camino experience offers. Marly Camino’s guides have been trained to ensure that you feel the magic of the Camino within yourself and of course, in case you need, you can have a shoulder to cry on, a smile to give you a push during difficult moments along the way, and friendly conversation in case you want to talk.
Nowadays the Internet lets us have a good view and compare through the experiences of others. Check the different sources of information and social networks for the different tour companies. Check the comments. Most of the times, they should give you a good idea of what to expect.
Call or email the different agencies or have them call you, they should be able to help you pick a route, they should be able to give you any advice, they should be able to make you feel comfortable. At Marly Camino, we love to hear from you and will be happy to answer any questions. Please call us at or email us at [email protected]
Dear Pilgrim or Future Pilgrim, do you have a better idea of how to pick the best Camino Company? Please send us your comments using the form below.