Your Pilgrim's Passport (aka 'Credencial')
What It's For
Your pilgrim's passport is a document that identifies you as a pilgrim, and provides proof that you have walked, cycled or ridden on horseback, the required distance to gain your compostela. It allows you to sleep in the albergues and hostals at special rates. It can also be used to get access to the low-cost pilgrim's menus as well as qualifying you for reduced-price entry to certain tourist spots. On a deeply personal note; it provides a wonderful record of the places that you stayed, and makes for a beautiful, soulful reminder of a special spiritual journey.
How It's Used
Your credencial is a long piece of card, folded over a number of times to produce a mini booklet. At the pilgrim's office, you will receive your first stamp and after that, you will produce it every time you arrive at an albergue or hostal. On payment of your accommodation, you will get a stamp in the passport to prove that you stayed the night in a specific hamlet, village, town or city.
Where to Get it
You can obtain it at the Pilgrim's Office at the start of your camino. You simply find the office, register as a pilgrim, and you will be given the passport for a small fee (currently 2 euros). If you start in a town without a Pilgrim's Office, you should be able to obtain a credencial at the local church, or at one of the municipal albergues. Simply ask around and you should get lucky.
Alternatively, before you leave, you can obtain a pilgrim's passport from the camino associations and confraternities in your country. Be careful, though, as the Pilgrim's Office in Santiago is coming down on some of these associations for charging too much and ruining the spirit of the camino pilgrimage. Check if your home confraternity is towing the line. It is probably better to buy one when you arrive at your starting point.
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When You Can't Find A Pilgrim's Passport
If you can't find a credencial, don't panic. As long as you have blank paper, you will be alright. What is important is the stamps that you get from your accommodations, restaurants and churches. These prove you have done the camino. If you make sure you get your paper stamped and dated, the Pilgrim's Office in Santiago de Compostela will be satisfied.