Wondering about what credencial to use for your Camino? I was too! It’s time for a side-by-side comparison of the American Pilgrims on the Camino (APOC) and the Santiago Pilgrim Office credencials.
First off, what is a credencial and why do you need one on the Camino? In short, it’s a passport to collect all the pretty stamps you’ll get along the way, and serves as proof that you’ve completed the journey at the end. Here’s the long version, from APOC website:
While on their journey along the Camino de Santiago, pilgrims carry a credencial (credencial), a document with which the pilgrim authenticates his or her progress by obtaining sellos (stamps) along the way. Sellos can be obtained at most hotels and inns, restaurants, bars, churches, museums, city halls, police stations and at all albergues.
When registering at an albergue, pilgrims will be asked to present their credencial to verify that they are walking or cycling the Camino. In addition, upon reaching Santiago de Compostela, at the Oficina de Acogida de Peregrinos (Pilgrims’ Welcome Office, Rúa Carretas, 33) pilgrims can present the stamped credencial to confirm that they have walked at least the last 100 kilometers or cycled at least the last 200 kilometers, whereupon they are able to receive a Compostela, a document that certifies their pilgrimage.
One can obtain a pilgrim credencial from numerous sources—including from American Pilgrims via this page—before you set out on the Camino or from sites actually on the Camino. The Camino associations in a number of other countries also offer credencials.
I requested my APOC credencial in February 2016 via their website. It comes with a letter that was updated on Jan. 31, 2016, so it has the new Pilgrim Office address in Santiago.
I received the Santiago credencial free when I ordered my Brierley Portugal guidebook from the Camino de Santiago Forum.
I was impressed that the Camino Forum Store had the 2016 Portugal guidebooks in Dec. 2015. Unfortunately their credencial has an upside-down stamp of the Pilgrim Office on the inside cover. Oops! It’s not a big deal, but you’d think someone would catch that one.
The APOC credencial inside cover has the pilgrim’s name and city, as shown below.
Back cover of both:
Size difference: APOC 3 1/5″ wide x 6″ tall. Santiago 3 7/8″ wide x 6 1/8″ tall.
Santiago’s has one side with 6 panels, for a total of 48 squares for stamps. Notice the Fecha (Date) at the bottom of each square.
APOC uses both sides for stamps, has 7 stamp panels, for a total of 56 squares for stamps.
The Santiago version is definitely more colorful. It has four maps, whereas APOC’s has one map of Caminos in Europe.
The APOC credencial is on heavier card stock. Santiago’s is slightly thinner.
Weight difference: APOC 14 grams, Santiago 16 grams
I’ve heard some people like to get two APOC credencials and fill just one side of each with stamps. This way they can frame them and show all the stamps together. With the Santiago version, that wouldn’t be necessary as all the stamps are on one side.
The credencial you go with is a personal choice. Any of them will get the job done and will serve as a meaningful souvenir of your Camino.
I’m going to go with the personalized APOC credencial and save that Santiago one with the upside-down stamp as a keepsake. It will be interesting to see how credencials evolve over the coming years. It was just revised in 2015, so it will probably be a few years before APOC redesigns it.
I leave you with a lovely reminder printed on one of the panels of the APOC credencial.
Spirit of the Camino
LIVE IN THE MOMENT
WELCOME EACH DAY – ITS PLEASURES AND
MAKE OTHERS FEEL WELCOME
FEEL THE SPIRIT OF THOSE WHO HAVE GONE BEFORE YOU
IMAGINE THOSE WHO WILL FOLLOW YOU
APPRECIATE THOSE WHO WALK WITH YOU