Your health on the Camino

Your health on the Camino

Since I started this blog I’ve discussed different topics such as accommodation or food, but I only briefly touched on a very important one: your health during the Camino. So let me correct that.


Do you need any vaccines to walk the Camino de Santiago?

First, I’d like to clarify something: every now and then people ask on forums what vacunas (vaccinations) they need in order to enter Spain. The answer is NONE! You don’t need any vacunas to enter Spain or any other European country.

You can find that information, as well as other practical travel info in the following link:

* May 2021 edit: as a result of the covid pandemic, there are plans to introduce a European ‘vaccination passport’. It’s still not clear how it will work, but it doesn’t look like it will be a travel requirement.


In case of emergency…

Secondly, the number to contact emergency services in Spain and the rest of Europe is 112. It’s a free number. And they speak English. Make sure you know this number or keep it handy at all times. It would be a good idea to store it in your phone.


A few weeks ago I wrote a short post, El botiquín, about first-aid items to carry in your mochila. Hopefully, that’s all you will need: a couple of tiritas and an ibuprofeno or two.

But some things are beyond our control: You could get sick or even have an accident. That’s why it’s a good idea to be prepared.


  • If you are an EU citizen, don’t forget your Tarjeta Sanitaria Europea (European Health Insurance Card). The Tarjeta Sanitaria Europea entitles you to state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay under the same conditions and at the same cost (free in some countries) as people insured in that country.

The following link has contact information for every country where you can apply:


Where should you go?

If you need medical attention while in Spain, you can go to the local centro de salud with your Tarjeta Sanitaria Europea. 

On the other hand, when the centro de salud is closed (or your problem can’t wait) you can go to urgencias (A&E or ER, depending where you are from) to be seen by a doctor.

If you can’t get yourself to the centro de salud or urgencias, call 112 for assistance. Don’t worry if your Spanish is limited. As I mentioned, they have English-speaking operators to help you. They will assess the situation and dispatch an ambulancia or any other emergency services they deem necessary.


  • If you are coming from outside the European Union, then you should consider getting seguro (insurance).

And even if you are coming from within the EU, getting some seguro is not something you should dismiss, since the Tarjeta Sanitaria Europea is not an alternative to travel insurance. It does not cover any private healthcare or costs such as a return flight to your home country.


If you are not convinced, read Nidarosa’s story:

My Scouse Spouse and I have walked together several times – Astorga to Santiago for our honeymoon, Hadrian’s Wall, then Astorga to Santiago again earlier this year. I knew he enjoyed it and he sometimes mentioned wanting to walk the Francés from St Jean Pied de Port to Astorga to see what I have seen, […]

via Accidents and Emergencies — Somewhere Slowly


You can find more health-related info and Spanish in Necesito un médico. Ideally, you won’t need any of this, but you know what they say: Better safe than sorry or Más vale prevenir que curar, if you would like to say it in Spanish!


Today’s Spanish words & phrases

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¡Buen Camino!

El botiquín

El botiquín

El botiquín |

When you are packing your mochila you should leave some space for a small botiquín (first-aid kit). But what should it include? Of course, if you normally take any medications, make sure you pack enough of it, or find out if you can get it in Spain.

As I mentioned in previous posts, it’s important to keep your mochila as light as possible. As one experienced pilgrim advised us last week:

No “just in case” stuff. You can buy what you need in Spain.

And where can you buy health related items? The most obvious answer is a farmacia. Here you can get medicines, with or without prescription, as well as a long list of other items for your personal care.

The pharmacy sector is very regulated in Spain, which means you can’t just open a new farmacia anywhere you like. As a result, a few years ago a new type of business was created: the parafarmacia.

Basically, in a parafarmacia you can find the same stuff as in a farmacia, except for medicines: they sell tiritas and Compeed, creams (sun protection and others), personal hygiene products: from jabón (soap), to shampoo, to pasta de dientes (toothpaste)…

At times when shops are usually closed, such as late evenings and Sundays, there is always a farmacia de guardia (pharmacy on-call). All farmacias have to display a list of the farmacias de guardia in the area. The problem is that if you are in a small town, the nearest farmacia de guardia will probably be in the next town. Not very convenient!

That’s why it is a good idea to always carry a few basic items with you.


So, what should you carry in el botiquín?


Pilgrim foot care


Your pies (feet) are the most important part of your body when you are doing the Camino de Santiago and not looking after them properly can put an early end to your walk.

Ampollas (blisters) are the most common problem that pilgrims face. We should do whatever we can to prevent them, but sometimes they are inevitable. In previous posts I discussed calzado (shoes) and calcetines (socks), as well as vaselina and tennis balls. I have also read an article recently saying that paper tape could be an effective and cheap way to prevent blisters.


  • If all of the above fails and you get ampollas, you will need aguja (needle) to drain the fluid (but don’t remove the skin!). Make sure your aguja is disinfected before you use it and that you also disinfect the area afterwards. Then you can cover it with tiritas or something similar.


  • Depending on the time of the year when you do your Camino de Santiago, you might also need protector solar or crema solar (sun protection cream).


  • Ibuprofeno is a Camino favourite is everyone’s botiquín. It works as an anti-inflammatory if you have any swelling, and as pain relief, too. And you can get it in different formats (gel, tablets and even powder to mix with water). As with any other drug, just make sure you check what the right dose is as well as the possible side effects and contraindications.


So, what are you planning to include in el botiquín? Or, if you already have Camino experience, what did you take? Did you have to buy anything?


Today’s words