When you decide where you want to begin your Camino de Santiago, whether it be St Jean Pied de Port or Sarria, the next step is finding out how you get there. This piece will give you information on how to do such a thing. Bear in mind that all information I give is as of September 2015.
For people living in the US, Canada or Australia, the costs for flights can be expensive, up to $1000 at peak times. As we in Ireland, live that bit nearer, there are alot more options and as a result, the price for a flight can be low if you book it in advance. I tend to book my flights around Christmas time if I am walking a May Camino. Prices tend to increase after that.
If you are travelling from Ireland, both Aer Lingus and Ryanair travel to a number of airports in Spain and France. Aer Lingus travel to Santiago, Bilbao and Madrid while Ryanair serve Biarritz, Madrid, and Santiago. They also serve Santander during the summer months.
Should you wish to start your Camino from St Jean Pied de Port, the easiest option is to fly into Biarritz with Ryanair. From Biarritz, you must catch a shuttle bus or a taxi from the airport to Bayonne Gare, then get the train to St Jean Pied de Port. There are usually four trains a day taking about 1h20m. The cost for a one-way ticket is about 10€. The shuttle bus leaves the airport regularly. The French Train company TER SCNF provides the rail service to St Jean Pied de Port. It is probably best to leave booking your train tickets until you reach Bayonne in case of delays.
Should your Camino start in Pamplona or Logrono, the best option is to fly into Bilbao with Aer Lingus, From Bilbao Airport, you can catch the incredibly handy Bizkaibus feeder bus to the city’s Termibus. From there, there are many buses travelling to all parts of Spain, Pamplona and Logrono being two. La Union Burundesa travel from Bilbao to both cities in under three hours and I have had no problems with the service. You can also fly into Madrid with Ryanair and catch a train to either city with Spain’s national train service, Renfe. So if you are looking to get there quicker, and enjoy the sights as they zoom by, this may be a better option. Prices for buses tend to be cheaper than trains however.
If you wish to start a little closer to Santiago in either Burgos, Leon or Ponferrada, probably the best bet is flying into Madrid with Ryanair. From Madrid’s Chamartin train station, there are regular trains to all cities. You can also get frequest buses at Madrid;s Avenida de America bus station. ALSA is the national bus company of Spain.
And finally for those wishing to start in Sarria, Aer Lingus fly into Santiago airport. From the bus station in the city, Monbus brings passengers to Lugo and from Lugo, you must get a connecting bus to Sarria. As Sarria is the most popular starting point, I find it strange that there is no direct bus there but nevertheless.
There are many buses that serve along the camino and you can find plenty of information in each town’s tourist office. Here are some of the bus services:
- Conda connects SJPdP and Pamplona
- La Estellesa connects Pamplona to Logroño, including Puente la Reina
- Autobus La Union connects Bilbao to Pamplona, Longrono, Belorado and Santo Domingo
- Autobuses Jiminez connects Logroño to Burgos.
- ALSA connects Burgos to Santiago via Lugo departing from the camino at Pedrafita do Cebreiro.
- Pedrafita do Cebreiro is serviced by a daily bus to Sarria via Triacastela.
- Monbus connects Sarria to Santiago via Monforte de Lemos and connects to Empresa Freire in Lugo.
- Empresa Portomarin provides service from Portomarin to Sarria and Lugo.
- Empresa Freire connects Lugo to Santiago via Santiago airport, and provides service to villages along the camino from Palas de Rei to Santiago.
- ALSA (In particular Madrid and Barcelona to Pamplona, San Sebastian, Burgos and others. Pamplona to SJPdP (international). Good coverage over most of the Camino Frances)
- Bilman Bus (Cantabria, La Rioja, Navarra, Valencia, Murcia)
I hope this information proves useful to you, but please feel free to comment if you have any questions.