How to Choose the Best Camino Tour Company For You
What should you look for in a Camino tour operator?
When you embark on a Camino pilgrimage, it is important to choose the best Camino tour company so you can have the best possible experience.
We’ve produced this list of things to look out for when choosing a Camino tour company so you can be confident when you book your trip. Note that as a full disclaimer, UTracks is a Camino tour operator, and we offer Camino tours that tick all the right boxes.
Why it’s important to choose the best Camino tour company
People sometimes refer to walking the Camino de Santiago as a once in a lifetime experience. This may be so, but we do need to be mindful of two things:
- If you want to do the Camino just once, do it right. This is why you need to choose the best Camino tour company so you can have the ultimate Camino experience.
- Many people don’t stop at one single Camino. Walking the Camino becomes a passion, especially when you learn about the various trails and experiences to be had. Essentially, you don’t want a negative experience with a tour company to detract from your Camino journey.
What to look for when researching Camino tour companies
Tip 1: What travel styles (self guided, guided) are available?
Can I walk the Camino without a tour company?
You certainly can. Some people walk the Camino with all their belongings on their back and do not make reservations with accommodation services, and instead rely on vacancy in alburgues (dormitories along the Camino). This is a definitely a unique Camino experience, although not everyone’s idea of a holiday. See our article on the benefits of an organised Camino tour versus an independent tour.
Are self guided Camino tours an option?
A common way to walk the Camino is on a self guided tour. This is when you walk the Camino by yourself, without the aid of an in-person guide, and have the tour company take care of the necessary logistics such as luggage transfers, accommodation reservation, support and back up. If you haven’t done a self guided tour before, the Camino de Santiago is a great place to start. Self guided Camino tours are more affordable than a guided tour.
Are guided Camino tours an option?
Another tour option is to join a guided tour. These have all the usual benefits a Camino tour company offers (handpicked accommodation, luggage transfers, 24 hour support) plus the huge benefit of having a professional local guide accompany you on your journey. These guides are able to reveal hidden aspects of local life along the Camino that you can’t find in a guidebook, as well as offering walking support, explaining the fascinating history, translation expertise, and more.
Another benefit is your fellow pilgrims in the guided tour group. These are generally like minded travellers who enjoy the social atmosphere of the Camino, and add to a sense of camaraderie.
UTracks guided tours have an average of 14 in a tour, enough to be social and inclusive without that ‘getting lost in the crowd’ feeling.
Tip 2: Range and Diversity of Tours
If you’re a first time Camino wanderer, you may be surprised by the large number of routes and graded trips. More choice allows you to choose the right Camino trip for you.
For instance, at UTracks we offer a comprehensive range of around 75 unique Camino tours. What are all these tours? Firstly, there are numerous Camino trails other than just the famous Camino de Santiago. There’s the Via Francigena in Italy, the Camino Portuguese in Portugal, the Kerry Camino in Ireland, and so on.
Secondly, everyone is different in the way they want to experience the Camino, and at UTracks our mantra is for you to explore Europe your way. Therefore, we have rambler trips (slower paced), luxury parador trips, and we segment long Camino trails into shorter, achievable sections, allowing pilgrims to choose a tour of their liking.
Tip 3: Accommodation Services
We’ve already mentioned the traditional Camino accommodation for pilgrims, albergues. Camino tour companies generally provide private accommodation that allows you to reflect and recharge for the next day’s walk.
At UTracks, we offer handpicked accommodation with the aim of totally immersing you in your surroundings. They tend to be family-run hotels and bed and breakfasts that add to the local charm. Sometimes you’ll wake up with views of neighbouring abbeys and village squares. All of the accommodation we use have private bathrooms. Click here to learn more about our Camino accommodation.
Tip 4: Meal Inclusions
Do you want a Camino tour company that includes all meals or leaves it up to you to decide where to eat? This is a personal decision that is important to understand before choosing a tour.
On UTracks tours, we offer a balance of included meals and independent meals depending on the tour you choose. On all tours, traditional breakfasts are included each morning so you can start your day feeling fueled and ready to go.
For an exceptional culinary experience, look no further than our Food Lover’s Camino tours which pair walking highlights with exquisite local cuisine.
Tip 5: Luggage Transfer
A luggage transfer service is one of the basic features of a Camino tour company. Each morning, a vehicle will collect your luggage and transport it to your next accommodation, freeing you up to walk the route with a light daypack filled with any items you deem necessary.
Tip 6: Service
One of the key benefits of using a Camino tour company is getting peace of mind from travel experts. The service should cover two areas: on tour support and local service.
They say that half the fun of travel is in the planning, and this is the same for when you’re preparing for a Camino pilgrimage. There are so many questions to ask and it’s important to have a reliable local source to satiate your curiosity.
UTracks have a global presence with offices in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Our teams of active travel experts are passionate about walking and cycling in Europe, so there’s a good chance you’ll be speaking with someone who has actually done your trip and can give firsthand advice.
On Tour Support
A trustworthy tour company will have someone for you to contact while on tour. There’s a variety of reasons why this is important: unforeseen circumstances, advice on a restaurant for lunch, or help booking a taxi – you may not even need them – but that peace of mind is worth it.
On a UTracks self guided tour, help and support is only a phone call away (operated 24 hours a day, 7 days a week). And of course, on a guided tour you can always speak to your guide or call our local support hotline.
Tip 7: Experience and Reliability
A quick search of Google will show that there are hundreds of different Camino tour operators out there. It is important to choose a tour company that is well established and reliable – basically, you want reassurance that they know what they’re doing.
UTracks have been helping pilgrims collect their Compostela (the official certificate of completing a Camino pilgrimage) since 2006. We’re continually refining our Camino tours to reflect the best experiences for our pilgrims.
Tip 8: Reviews
Following on from a tour companies experience and Camino knowledge, it’s essential to research the reviews from past travellers. You can find real reviews from UTracks travellers on each of our tour pages, read past travellers stories in our blog, or see our Camino tour review page.