Apps, connectivity and technology on the Camino
While I have travelled to different countries before, travelling into Europe was a first for me. Questions around connectivity, cell phones, data plans and the like, are issues for many of us in todays world of connectivity. #caminoconnectivity #caminodata #caminowifi
Some walk the Camino with no connectivity as a preference while on their pilgrimage, but many like me, take their friends and family on the journey with them. I specifically wanted take my Mom on my Camino journey and as she was in Frailcare, the only way I could do it was to send her a WhatsApp update with loads of photos. So I needed a data plan that could cater for this or access to free wifi that could take the uploading of photos.
I am a very connected person, so apps and technology are a part of my daily life. I found some great apps and websites that I found extremely useful on my Camino. Let me share with you my experience and how I organised myself technologically.
I took along my iPhone 7Plus. Having a phone that can take good pictures is a must and its much lighter than carrying a camera. Of course being a smart phone its battery life is limited when taking lots of pictures. I took along a battery pack which I landed up never using. I found that putting my phone into Flight mode saved the battery when I did not need connectivity (which was most of the day) and then I charged it at night while sleeping. Most private Albergues have a wall plug at your bunk and the Municipal Albergues have charging stations.
I had no need to make phone calls and if I did need to call, I would connect to free wifi/or my Mobile Data Hotspot and make WhatsApp calls. Many pilgrims I encountered had bought Spanish sim cards for their phones, so this is also an option you may want to consider. These were easily available in the bigger towns along the route.
I invested in a Mobile Data Hotspot. I have learned that the cheapest way to travel internationally in so far as Cell and Data costs are concerned, is to set my phone to "Roam" status (this allows me to receive SMSs only) and I rely on free wifi or my personal data hotspot for connectivity. I had purchased a Data card which I topped up online when I needed data.
I was not sorry I did this. To be honest, I struggled to get onto the free wifi simply because of the sheer number of people accessing it and then when I did get access, it was so slow I was not able to upload photos as I wanted to.
Websites & Apps:
I am an Apple fan, but I am sure that most of the Apps I refer to here are also available in Android. Here are the Apps/Websites I used:
onlypilgrims.com This was my #1. I used it to prebook and pay for private Albergues. This enabled me to enjoy my walk without worrying about where I was going to sleep that night or have the stress of rushing to get a bed in the Municipal Albergues. This is not an App but a website. (I saved the site to my home screen which gave me direct access to it as if it were an App).
WisePilgrim (this is a link to their website) but they have a suite of Apps available for download. They do cost, but you don't have to buy the whole suite, you can buy only the route you are doing. This App was fantastic, it gave me a view of the elevation of the route, links to accommodation as well as provides amazing information on the area. What was great about this App was that it worked offline too.
Camino Forum This is a fantastic forum and a must to join. Its a website and again I loaded it on my home screen so that I could access it like I would an App. It allowed me to communicate with other pilgrims (I actually bumped into a person I had been communicating with online). There is a wealth of information here and many experienced people to help answer your questions.
RometoRio A definite must have App. It is extremely useful to plan your Camino from your front door to your starting point, whether you are flying, going by bus or train or using a taxi.
Booking.com I used this twice on the Camino to spoil myself and check into hotels in Burgos and Leon. (I always use it when travelling abroad) . They have great deals on here.
I am sure that there are many others, but these are what worked for me. I did not take heavy books with me - it was easier to use technology.