I hiked the Camino Portugues de la Costa from Porto to Santiago de Compostela in June. It was an amazing adventure that I really enjoyed. But it would have been a lot less enjoyable without my phone to help me plan and navigate.
Sure, some people like to go old school with paper maps and guide books. Or use the Camino as an opportunity for a digital cleanse. But if you, like me, don’t go anywhere without your smartphone, here are a few useful apps for hiking the Camino that you should download before you go.
These apps will help you plan your hike, navigate the trails, and keep you entertained. No matter which route of the Way of St. James you’re going, you’ll get good use out of all of these. But don’t forget to put your phone down now and then and really take it all in!
I used the Buen Camino app when I hiked the Portuguese Coastal Way and found it to be really helpful and user-friendly. The app was created by a pilgrim, so it contains a lot of useful information. They have every different Camino route, and you can download the content for offline use.
The app contains a map with the trail, that also shows sights, tips, and accommodations. This makes it really easy to plan your route as you go. There are recommendations for stages, a route profile, and general information. I highly recommend downloading this free app for hiking the Camino, I ended up using it daily.
You don’t need to plan your whole Camino itinerary in advance, but here is mine for the Portuguese Coastal Way as inspiration.
Maps.me & Google Maps
A good backup for navigation are maps.me and Google Maps. You can download maps for offline use, so you don’t need a signal or data to find your way. Google Maps provides more secondary information (restaurants, shops, hotels, etc.), and maps.me shows more detailed trails. So I would recommend downloading both apps for hiking the Camino.
You generally don’t need to book accommodation in advance (at least not on the Portuguese Camino), and municipal pilgrim hostels don’t allow reservation. But if you want a bit more luxury, or are looking for a different place to stay, the Booking.com app is useful to have.
It’s easy to search and book accommodation through the app. Although, I would always recommend booking directly with a hotel or hostel. This ensures that all the money goes to them, and prices are usually lower!
Curious to know which hostels along the Portuguese Camino are worth booking? These are my favorites
Unless you’re fluent in Portuguese/Spanish/French, a translation app will come in handy. Even though I practiced with Duolingo for a bit, and can speak enough Spanish to survive, I’m far from fluent. And you can’t rely on people to speak English, especially in more remote areas and small towns.
With the Google Translate app, you can download language sets for offline use. There is also a camera function, which translates written text by taking a photo. I used this a lot for restaurant menu’s.
Google Drive or Dropbox
Whenever I travel, I keep digital copies of all my important documents in Google Drive. When I was younger, I also had a shared Dropbox with my mother so that she could access those documents in case of an emergency. Store pictures of your ID, insurance, booking confirmations, tickets, etc., in case anything gets lost.
Now, here’s the problem with tracking weather while hiking the Camino: it is largely useless. There’s nothing you can do to change it, and you’ll still have to walk. Even if it is pouring rain all day. I constantly checked the weather, mostly just to torture myself.
But it is good to know when the best time will be to take a break to avoid a thunderstorm, if you should get an early start to avoid the worst heat, and if you can make it to the next town or should just call it a day.
This is a recent addition, of course, and hopefully won’t always be necessary. To travel in Europe, you need a COVID-19 vaccination passport. Each country developed their own app for online registration of vaccine status and test results. If you can, use it, it’s a lot easier than carrying around papers.
Spotify & Netflix
Now, these last apps aren’t technically necessary for hiking. But I included them because I ended up using them so much. In order to pack light for the Camino, my only sources of entertainment were my e-reader and my phone.
While some people treat the Camino as a spiritual journey full of meditation, reflection, and silence, that’s not really my speed. I just wanted to hike. And although I love clearing my head while hiking, your own thoughts can get boring after a while. So I regularly listened to podcasts and music on Spotify while walking. With Spotify Premium, you can download these for offline use, so it even works when you’re without Wi-Fi or data.
And when I was tired after a long day, I didn’t always feel like chatting with the other pilgrims. Sometimes, I just wanted to curl up in bed and watch shitty reality TV on Netflix on my phone.
I got really great use out of all these apps for hiking the Camino. They helped me a lot both in planning and along the way. For me, the Camino wasn’t a spiritual experience, so I had no qualms about using my phone. As an experienced hiker, I’ll also gladly forego the romance of paper maps and guidebooks for the practicality of GPS and internet.
Did you hike a Camino? Which apps did you use a lot? Let me know in the comments which ones I should add for my next pilgrimage.
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