Pilgrim and Albergue Etiquette
1. Learn the language before you go – especially the ‘polite’ words of greeting, please and thank you. You will be a guest in a foreign land so don’t expect them to know your language.
2. YOU are the foreigner so do not criticize the people, their way of life, their towns, their food, their religion etc. James A. Michener said: “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.”
3. A bed in a church or municipal refuge is a privilege not a right and should be treated as such. Give a generous donation; be gracious and helpful to the hospitalero and other pilgrims.
4. Offer to cook for the group occasionally. It’s a great way to meet people and make friends.
5. If you can always leave some ‘long life’ food behind for the next pilgrim, say a tin of something or pasta/rice. Label it in some way so people know – eg ‘por peregrinos’. The next person to arrive might do so after a long walk and they might not have been able to buy food en route.
6. Use water sparingly and mop out the shower after using it.
7. Put phones and alarms on vibrate or turn them off at night, so as to not disturb or wake up your fellow pilgrims. –If you MUST make a cell phone call after 9:30 pm at night, please go outside AWAY from the windows where weary pilgrims are sleeping and try to keep your conversation at a low volume and short.
8. If listening to a music or podcasts in bed at night – please turn the volume down so the people near you don’t have to listen to it too.
9. When leaving or walking through a village very early in the morning, do so quietly. i.e. soft voices, carrying those clicking sticks aloft. Think of tiptoeing by a sleeping host.
10. Do not walk into a café/bar and use the facilities without buying something. The Spanish people are very kind but they must also make a living. Please show your support.
11. Do NOT litter! Carry your empty bottles, sweet papers etc until you can throw them in a bin.
12. If you need to “go in the bushes” bury the result, put the tissue paper in a plastic bag and place in the next rubbish bin.
13. Do not handle fresh produce in a shop, get the shop-keepers attention and simply point at the item, handling produce causes bruising and damaged items. In Spain you are required to have your fruit and vegetables weighed prior to reaching the cash register. Depending on the store you will either wait for the attendant to get what you request, and then bag and weigh it, placing the price sticker on the outside of the bag. Or, you will put the number into the scale indicating what you are weighing and then place your item on the scale and a price sticker will print out. It is very easy and efficient.
14. Don’t haggle. Prices along the Camino are already rock bottom low, and there is no room for negotiation.
15. Do NOT pick the farmers crop! Fruit hanging on trees on a verge might be the owner’s next bottle of jam or preserve. This is farm country and these people depend on this ripe produce to make a living.
16. Don’t cross people’s yards or “assume” it’s ok to climb fences without permission. Think about how you would react if they did that in YOUR neighborhood?
17. If you are on a bicycle – PLEASE let walking pilgrims know when you come up behind them by ringing a bell or shouting out. They cannot hear you approaching
18. Leave the wild flowers alone, do not pick them. They look better in the field than in your hat.
19. When you’re walking in the woods and you see a backpack lying on the side of the road with no owner in sight, keep your eyes straight forward.
20. Practice kindness. Share some bandages, food, or water. Offer to help someone over the rocky pass. If you see someone in distress, ask if they need to share their troubles. Then, if you can do so, offer help.
21. Be friendly, even when the locals are not. Most are wonderful, but some get weary of the trudging, cranky pilgrims. Give them a break and show them you are appreciative. Remember these people work 7 days a week during the season to support pilgrims.
22. Be a good ambassador for your country.
23. The term “Donativo” does not mean free. It means that the albergue or little roadside stand survives on the kindness and generosity of those who stay or in the case of a roadside stand take goods. It is very important to understand that at the very root level of the Camino is the Donativo. In the middle ages as pilgrims walked the Camino many did so putting themselves at the mercy of God and depending the kindness and generosity of others. At it’s heart Donativo is really – Give what you can (for those who have much) and take what you need (for those that have little or nothing). Give your donativo soon after you arrive, so you don´t forget later on.
24. Find out what time the doors close, and be back in the albergue by then. Not always but normally the albergue will close it’s doors at 10pm. The hospitaleros need to get a good nights sleep. Once the doors are closed/locked you will not be able to get back into the albergue until the doors open in the morning. It happens, please don’t let it happen to you.
25. If you plan to leave early, prepare your things the night before, to minimize the racket you´ll make when you get up. Rattling plastic liner bags or shining your headlights around the room at 4 or 5 a.m. will not endear you to your companions. Try to move all of your things to the salon to get ready.
26. Don´t expect special treatment, and you will be pleasantly surprised when it comes your way.
27. If you are able-bodied and have scored a lower bunk, and the place is filling up fast, and an elderly or obviously suffering pilgrim arrives, give him your lower and take the upper. Elderly and infirm pilgrims should always have lower bunks. Younger and sprier pilgrims must sometimes give them what is theirs by right.
28. If you get up at 5 am and rush through the next etapa/stage to stand in line for an albergue bed, do not expect the people who arrive later to creep quietly around the place so you can enjoy your siesta. You woke them up this morning. It´s their turn to wake you up in the afternoon.
29. If you tend to snore, don´t drink a lot of wine in the evening. It makes you reverberate.
30. While communal living is a matter of fact in life on the Camino. Modesty is always the best policy, No matter how buff you think you are. There is such a thing as Too Much Information.
31. Don´t leave your litter on the floor. Wash up what you dirty. Clean up after yourself.
32. Share. Be kind and thoughtful. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.
33. Take short showers to save a little water for later arrivals.
34. Use just one bunk. The surrounding bunks are not your clothes line.
35. The chair is there for everyone to sit on. It is not yours for pack storage just because you got there first.
36. The space under the bunk generally is shared by both occupants. Save half for the other guy.
37. No maid will wash your dishes, pans, or cutlery. YOU do it.
38. Wear earplugs so the unavoidable disturbances by others will not drive you to distraction.
39. No alarm clocks that others can hear.
40. Don’t steal the toilet paper or anything else for that matter.
41. Trail-side tissues are not biodegradable at a speed that will prevent them from being an eyesore.
42. If you have a cold, go to a private room in a hostel for a few days. No one will be happy sleeping in a dorm with typhoid Mary.
43. Don’t put your backpack on the bed, it’s been put down on the floor, in bars, on the street, in fields, near fountains, etc., so many times each day, before you ever get to see your precious bed for the night.
44. Share clothesline space. If things are filling up, adjust your laundry so others have some room too.
45. Many times albergues have washers (lavadoras) and dryers (secadoras). Make friends with some of your fellow pilgrims and offer to share the cost of doing a load of clothes. It can make for and easy inexpensive way to get clean dry clothes. Often times you can partner up with 3 or 4 or more pilgrims to do one load.
46. Remember that everyone walks their Camino in their own way. The Camino should be free of judgement. Keep your heart and mind open to new experiences and accept everyone for who and what they are.