Albergue Etiquette – 20 Do’s and Don’ts for newbie’s on the Camino De Santiago

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For those embarking on the Camino De Santiago let this post be your saving grace when it comes to Albergue Etiquette. For newbies on ‘The Way’, knowing how to behave and act in an albergue (a hostel) can be somewhat of a new experience. Things you may do in the comfort and privacy of your own home may not be acceptable in the very public and very closely shared quarters of an albergue. So to avoid any embarrassing confrontations, huffs and puffs, pissed off pilgrims and awkward silences, here is a list of things to do and not to do in an albergue on the Camino.

1. Don’t leave your things lying around

Space can be pretty limited in some of the albergues along the way so please be considerate as to where you leave your belongings, walking sticks and backpack hanging around. Be mindful of walking passages between beds and don’t leave things on the floor that someone may step on in the middle of the night. Keep your belongings neatly in a corner and remember the space under the bottom bunk is for both occupants of the bunk and not just for your stuff!

2. Do give up your bottom bunk for elderly pilgrims, children and pilgrims with problems

Most albergues assign you a bunk and its pot luck as to whether you get the bottom bunk or not. However should you be so lucky and you see an elderly pilgrim, a family with young children or a pilgrim who will have trouble climbing on to the top bunk, be so kind and generously give up the ease and comfort of the bottom bunk. And don’t be surprised if you get a pissed off glare from the hospitalero if you request a bed away from the window, next to the door or switch to a bottom bunk.

3. Do give your donativo at the beginning so you avoid forgetting in the morning

Despite what some pilgrims may think they is no such thing as a free hostel on the Camino. Donativo places are run by the kindness and generosity of fellow pilgrims and your donation could mean the difference between the albergue opening and not opening for pilgrims the following day. While there is no set amount to donate, the average is anywhere between 5 and 10 euros. By giving it as soon as you arrive you avoid forgetting in the rush and excitement of the following morning.

4. Don’t put your backpack on the bed

I will hold my hands up and admit that in the beginning I was guilty of this golden rule. But think about it. Your backpack has probably been thrown on the floor, in the mud, on dusty paths and on city streets and you are then placing it on a bed that not only you have to sleep on but however many pilgrims after you until they change that bottom sheet. Be thoughtful and pack your backpack on the ground won’t you?

5. Do clean up after yourself in the kitchen

If you decide to cook your own meals in the evening, make sure you don’t wander off to bed without doing your washing up and putting it away. In fact it is much easier to wash up as you go, therefore leaving the sink free of dishes and allowing other pilgrims to use equipment you no longer need. Your mother isn’t there to clean up after you and there is no such thing as cleaning elves. Poor hospitaleros are then left cleaning up after your mess the following morning. Be thoughtful and spend 5 minutes tidying up before you head off for your beauty sleep.

6. Do take your boots off before entering the dorm rooms!

This is a golden rule people! Your boots are not only dusty, mud encrusted and filthy but they also smell! Leave your boots in the designated areas upon entering the albergue or leave them outside under shelter. Most albergues provide a place for your boots that is far far away from the cleaned dorms and noses of fellow pilgrims.

7. Do share clothes line space

If you’re a smart pilgrim and you only pack enough clothes for one set to be worn and the other to be washed then you will most likely be spending time every evening scrubbing your underwear and washing your clothes – as will the other 10 or 20 pilgrims staying at your albergue. So be sparing and mindful when you hang your clothes and leave enough space for other pilgrims to hang their clothes too. Don’t use a peg for every sock and if something can be flopped over the line then spare the peg for someone else who may need it.

8. Don’t late night socialize

The Camino is a fantastic way of meeting new people and it’s perfectly normal to share dinner, stories and a few glasses of vino tinto with your fellow pilgrims. But please be mindful of the noise you create while celebrating and enjoying the company of your new found friends, especially in albergues where the communal areas are not separated from the dorms. Be respectful of other pilgrims who may want an early night and avoid disrupting them when you finally decide to stagger to your bed…and climb to the top of that creaky bunk and then decide you need to pee 10 minutes later….#justsaying

9. Do know the door closing time

Should you find yourself celebrating and socializing outside the albergue, be aware that most albergues have a door closing time roughly around 10 -11 pm. So make sure you are back at the albergue before then or be prepared for evil stares in the morning from pilgrims you disturbed by banging on the door or a night under the stars.

10. Do not surround nearby bunks with your belongings

If you are a person who arrives at an albergue early while surrounding bunks around you are empty, avoid unpacking your bag and using other bunks as clothes lines or a dumping ground for your belongings. Other people will be sleeping in them and it is only fair to give them a clean and un messed up bed that they deserve – just as you had.

11. Do take short showers

Be considerate and take short showers in order to save some hot water for pilgrims who may arrive later than you. While most of the larger albergues have plenty of hot water, some of the smaller and rural albergues may not. How would you like it if you walked 30 km and couldn’t enjoy a warm shower when you arrived?

12. Do keep your valuable with you at all times

While theft inside albergues is rare, it is not unheard of. Always carry your most important documents, money, jewellery or any valuables with you at all times. You never know who is in the bed next to you and the in a case of while I was on the Camino – what local can sneak his way in the back door and go through your belongings while you’re at dinner.

13. Do not pick your feet

Blisters, hard skin and feet sores are all part of the Camino experience, but please please please do not pick your feet, pick at dry skin and then drop it on the floor inside the dorm rooms. It is disgusting. Go and sit outside or rub and see to your feet in the bathrooms. Please don’t subject fellow pilgrims to watching you pick your feet and flick skin on to the floor and then have to actively avoid a 1 meter radius around your bed in an already cramped room.

14. And another pick up your rubbish!

If you decide to dress your feet and change your bandages in the common areas please be sure to pick up the rubbish from plasters and please do not be so disgusting as to leave used plasters and bloody bandages behind either.

15. Do know your time zones when you set your alarm

If you haven’t updated your time zone on your phone, make sure you do it before setting your alarm to wake you up in the morning or be prepared for angry pilgrims swearing and hissing at you when your alarm goes off at 2 am and wakes the entire dorm up!

16. Do not have alarms with loud noises

Unless you have managed to synchronize your body to the rising of the sun, make sure the alarm you set in on either a quiet volume or on vibrate. Chances are not everyone in the dorm will rise the same time as you, so be considerate and avoid alarms with loud rings or irritating tunes.

“Do to others as you would have them do to you” – Luke 6:31

17. Do respect lights out time

When the lights go out the lights go out and its time to respect the fact that it’s now time to be silent. Even if it is too early for you to sleep please respect that others will be trying to get to sleep, so avoid texting and making clicking sounds, talking on the phone or chatting with your bunk mate.

18. Do pack your bag the night before

If you are an early riser who plans to depart before 6am it is strongly advised that you pack your bag the night before and leave your wash bag or clothes you need in a place that doesn’t mean you have to hunt around and disturb everyone in the morning. Rustling bags and noise are two things that will get you the worst evil stares from other pilgrims in the morning. If you need to pack your bag, grab all your things and finish doing so in an area outside of the dorm room.

19. Do not wear your skivvies around the albergue – it is unacceptable.

I don’t think much explanation is needed with this one. No one and I mean no one wants to see you wandering around the dorm room in your boxers, budgie smugglers, tighty whities or thongs.

20. Do not use your torch at night

Do not be that person that turns on the brightest torch imaginable to find their way to the toilet or pack their bag in the morning. Bring a head torch with a red light option or a dim light to avoid waking the entire dorm up with your beam of light. It is one of the most annoying things you can do!

If you’ve walked the Camino what other things do you think pilgrims should be mindful of?

One thought on “Albergue Etiquette – The Do’s and The Dont’s

  1. Natascha from Westwards says:

    I have walked the Camino in 2001, it seems not much has changed – the same “problems” I encountered back then. Actually I always thought it is pretty obvious what the “Do’s and Dont’s” are if you share a room with so many people – but sadly it is not or some people just do not care. Great sum-up on the Camino rules.

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