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The Albergue System in Spain

Discussion in 'Albergues - Hostels' started by Covey, May 1, 2010.

  1. Covey

    Covey Active Member

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    There are two types of Albergues on the Camino in Spain.

    The “Official” Albergue is usually owned and run by the Local Government for the area. Sometimes the staff at the Albergue are state employees, but mostly are local volunteers who give their time to assist the Pilgrims along the way. Occasionally, you will come across Albergues run by the Church and staffed either by Nun’s or again by volunteers. Sometimes the volunteers are from one of the National Associations that support the Camino so you might find that the staff are all Dutch, or Brits. The official state run Albergues do not normally offer any food, but the Albergues run by the associations may well arrange a communal evening meal. There is a modernisation program in place for the official Albergues which is not before time, as many struggle with ancient plumbing and electrics.

    There are an increasing number of “Private” Albergues which are owned and run as a business by a private individual/family. They are licenced by the State as an Albergue and have to follow the same rules that apply to the official Albergues regarding eligibility to stay and locking up times. Because they are a recent concept, the buildings and facilities (plumbing etc) are more modern than the official Albergues. Many of the private Albergues offer a communal evening meal and breakfast.

    All Albergues are required by law to lock the doors in the evening to stop late night revellers and to ensure pilgrims get some sleep. Normal locking up time is 10pm (9pm at the Nun’s Albergue in Leon!!) and then changes to 11pm when you cross in to Galicia. When I say they lock up, that includes chains on the doors!

    The Albergue rules are that you may only stay for ONE NIGHT unless you have a medical certificate from a doctor/hospital to say you are sick and under treatment.

    Most Albergues require everyone to vacate the Albergue by 8am so it can be cleaned ready for the next arrivals. Most official Albergues open mid-afternoon for registration where you get allocated a bunk and get your Pilgrim Passport stamped. There will be a sign on the door stating when they open. If there is a queue, you can place your pack in the queue and wander off to have a drink or food until opening time.

    The private Albergues are usually more expensive (€6 -€10 in 2009) per night than the official ones (€4 - €6). Some of the official Albergues are “donativo” where you pay what you can. Most tend to pay €5.

    For that you get a bunk bed and usually a pillow. The mattress cover are usually changed ever few weeks so may not be as clean as you might like. There will be some showers, with or without hot water, and wash basins. Most Albergues will have a washing machine/s and somewhere to hang clothes to dry.

    All Albergues offer some form of cooking facilities. This can range from a very basic cooking ring, to a well equipped kitchen with fridge, cutlery and some plates. In some places you can easily cook communally for a group of 5 – 10, in other Albergues it is impossible and you will have to eat at a bar.
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2010
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  2. fraluchi

    fraluchi 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015

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    Note that there are albergues where you can reserve a spot in advance (by 'phone), and others not. Some have specific restrictions as to who can stay: only pilgrims traveling on foot, by bicycle (often after 5 pm) or on horseback. Some may not accept groups or "turigrinos" (people who have their backpack forwarded by taxi; others who travel with a support vehicles).
     
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  3. Covey

    Covey Active Member

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    Sorry, forgot to cover the reservation bit.

    You CANNOT normally book a bed in an official albergue in advance, but often can in a private albergue, assuming you know the phone number and someone speaks fluent Spanish.

    At peak times, many of the official albergues require cyclists to wait until the majority of the walkers are checked in, but this does not normally happen in the private albergues.

    People who send their pack on ahead by taxi/carrier get no priority in checking in. You check in when you arrive, not your bag.

    Autobus pilgrims are a problem sometimes. The tour companies now tend to use the private albergues because they can book in advance. They learnt long ago not to pull up outside the official albergue in a 40 seat coach!! They then started dropping off their tourists about 100m down the road, but the albergue staff ain't stupid and quite often you will see the volunteer doing the check-in looking at the boots to see if they look as though they had walked more than 50m!!! I have often seen those with support vehicles being told to wait until the real "baggage mules" have checked in.
     
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  4. mike

    mike New Member

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    This year I did Sjpp to Burgos and stayed the last night in the municipal albergue, when I return next year to complete my camino starting in Burgos will I be able to stay in the same albergue again for one night.
     
  5. Ashton

    Ashton New Member

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    I am going to be walking the Camino Frances in June/July. I know that is a very busy time so I am concerned about finding a bed. How likely is it that the beds all fill up and you are stuck with nowhere to stay? Is it worth it to try to book ahead where I can?
    Thanks,
    Ashton
     
  6. Wily

    Wily Camino Francés 2016; Camino Portugués 2017

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    Hey Ashton - Welcome to the Forum. May through September are busy months on the Camino. First, the bottom line. You won't be without a place to stay. There are a lot of options for beds, but there is also considerable pressure on the albergue system during the busiest months of the year. Without reservations, you may have to look around more and try a number of places before getting a bed in some towns. In others, you will be able to walk right in and get a bed. In general, the earlier you stop in the afternoon, the easier it is to get a bed.

    Regarding making reservations, you can do it one of two ways. I made many of my bed reservations from the States before leaving. A simple email to an albergue reserved a bed. Albergues were very good about writing back and confirming that I was set to stay there. Your second option is to simply reserve a day or two in advance once you're on the Camino. The hospitaleros at the albergues will happily call ahead for you to reserve a bed in the next town you're stopping in. The system works very well.

    In part, it depends on your comfort level. Some pilgrims let it unfold as it happens and don't want to be tied to reservations. On the other hand, many pilgrims like knowing in advance where they are staying and reserve ahead. Although I liked walking into an albergue knowing I had a bed for the night, that's not everyone's style or preference. But, at the end of the day, everyone finds a place to sleep. Buen Camino!
     
  7. RJS

    RJS Well-Known Member

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    Hi Ashton and welcome to The Camino Forum



    Based on my own experiences, I have to disagree with a lot of what the above poster has said as finding a bed, especially on the latter stages of The Camino Frances in the busier times (As when you are walking the route) can be extremely difficult with, on occasion the possibility that you might have to resort to getting a taxi or bus to either somewhere off the route, or back / forwards of where you are to find one.

    Booking in advance is one way of getting around the problem, however you should also know that you can’t reserve a bed in a Municipal Refugio as they work on a first come, first served basis, Only private Albergue’s and (Obviously) hotels allow reservations in advance.

    This is the most up to date list that I am aware of and it might be worthwhile you printing it off and taking it with you

    http://caminoteca.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/List-of-Albergues-2016.pdf

    However, even in busy times, you should still be able to find a bed by booking on a day by day basis and by doing this; you will still be able to maintain your flexibility.



    My own advice would be to Definitely secure your bed in Saint Jean Pied de Port in advance as these soon get booked up, especially the less expensive options, then I would also Definitely book your bed at Orrison ASAP as these can get booked up months in advance – But after that, I would just see how it goes – If you are starting your daily walks reasonably early and finishing in the mid afternoon, then finding beds in the Municipal Refugio’s should still be possible in the earlier stages, but as you get closer to Santiago de Compostela you will start to see queues forming outside these anytime after mid-day and they are often full soon after opening their doors.

    Much will depend on your budget, if this is tight then the next consideration you will have is whether to take a sleeping bag with you and my own advice would be Definitely Yes – I have written my reasoning for this at http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/p/m/24e9a0/



    Good Luck and Buen Camino

    Rob
     
  8. Wily

    Wily Camino Francés 2016; Camino Portugués 2017

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    Hey Rob - I'm not sure when you last walked the CF, but last May, which is one of the busist months on the Camino as you know, there were no greater problems securing a bed in the latter section of the Camino than there were in the first section. As I stated and you verified, if one leaves early in the morning and finishes by early to mid-afternoon, there is a very good chance of walking right into any albergue and securing a bed. Due to the large number of pilgrims leaving SJPP when I did, 300+ a day, there was much greater pressure on beds in the first part of the Camino. Early on, I experienced a number of pilgrims having some difficulty finding beds on their route to Pamplona. Later on, as people spread out, the situation got better, although late arrivals would more regularly have problems. There was even less pressure on beds in the last third of the way into SdC. The ever increasing number of private albergues opening on the Camino has taken pressure off the municipales making finding a bed less problematic in some towns.

    Personally, I liked having my bed reserved for most of my nights in the Camino. Most of mine were done from the States, but a number were also reserved along the way. However, not everyone wants to be tied into a series of reservations and let their travels unfold as they may. As I said above, one may have to work harder to secure a bed in some locations, but I know of no one who went without a bed.

    Definitely reserve in SJPP. After that, you need to decide how you want to walk the Camino. If you're more comfortable having a bed reserved each night, make them. If you'd rather be less structured, you will find a place to sleep at the end of each walking day although more work may be involved. Buen Camino.
     
  9. RJS

    RJS Well-Known Member

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    Hi Wily

    In answer to your question, I walked the latter sections of the Camino Frances last time in June 2014 and had some difficulties myself finding beds, especially as I got closer to Santiago de Compostela.

    This was when I noticed the large queues forming outside the Refugio’s soon after mid-day that I mentioned above.

    In some Refugio’s pilgrims were getting up before 4am and walking in the dark so that they could secure their beds in the Municipal Refugio for the next night and I certainly didn’t want to be part of this Madness.

    As Ashton isn’t walking The Camino Frances until June/July it could be a lot busier than you found it in May Wily – BTW, where did you get your info that “May, which is one of the busist months” from as this isn’t what I understand - http://caminoways.com/busiest-months-on-the-camino

    You are of course entitled to your opinion and, hopefully others will post their own experiences and then the OP can make an informed decision on their best way forwards

    Regards

    Rob
     
  10. Wily

    Wily Camino Francés 2016; Camino Portugués 2017

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    Hey Rob - My information regarding May and September being two of the busiest months came directly from hospitaleros I spoke with along The Way. According to them, the summer months are busy as well, but the shoulder months are even crazier for them.

    I believe we may be comparing apples to oranges here. If one is only looking to stay in the municipales, then yes, longer queues after mid-day may be encountered. But, as we also know, reservations can't be made in these albergues. I, too, remember pilgrims getting up at 4 am hitting the trail. Although they were certainly in the minority, some do do this in order to get to the next town. The situation in the private albergues seems very different. It was the rare situation that a private albergue was full by early afternoon (except between Roncesvalles and Pamplona). Even though I had reservations, I was almost always arriving at an albergue with someone without a reservation who easily got a bed as long as it was still early in the day.

    As Amorel just posted yesterday about her recent Camino in September (another busy month), she, too, experienced the crowding near the start of the Camino, but enjoyed the flexibility of not having reservations as she walked and did well even on a fairly tight budget.

    As I stated, I personally enjoyed knowing where I was staying at the end of the day. Reservations allowed me to do this. However, I don't want to scare people into believing that this is a requirement to get a bed or in having an enjoyable Camino. The Camino provides!
     
  11. RJS

    RJS Well-Known Member

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    Hi again Wily

    Looking at the stats it would appear that around there are 45% more pilgrims on The Camino Frances in August compared with September – But it’s OK to have different opinions, so there is really no need to argue the point – I am sure that others will post their own experiences and then Ashton can make his own mind up without being scared

    And – Yes, “The Camino provides!” – But for someone on a tight budget, this might come at a cost !!!!



    Best Regards

    Rob
     
  12. Wily

    Wily Camino Francés 2016; Camino Portugués 2017

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    Hey Rob - This past August probably saw the most Compostelas awarded on record for a single month. I also keep in mind that 2016 was a Holy Year and that there was a significant spike in pilgrims due to this. There is almost no difference between June (when Ashton mentioned walking) and September. They're all very busy months for the albergues.

    In my experience, pilgrims are very resilient people. We all figure out a system for walking the Camino that works best for each of us and ultimately leads us to our destination of Santiago.
     
  13. RJS

    RJS Well-Known Member

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    Wily – Ashton actually said “I am going to be walking the Camino Frances in June/July” so if he is setting off from Saint Jean Pied de port then he could well be still en-route in the very busy month of August http://caminoways.com/busiest-months-on-the-camino (where the stats have been gathered by “the most recent statistics from the Pilgrims Office in Santiago de Compostela to give you an idea of the number of pilgrims arriving in Santiago and claiming their Compostela month by month” and not from a few random hospitalario’s – BTW, These were taken from the 2015 statistics which weren’t from a holy year.



    It also says on “You will see August is by far the busiest month on the Camino (this is likely due to the fact that many Europeans take holidays that month. That is the case in Spain; Spaniards still are the most predominant nationality on the Camino), followed by July and September. Click on the graphic to enlarge.



    But as I already mentioned “it’s OK to have different opinions, so there is really no need to argue the point”



    Now let’s give someone else a chance to post before it looks as though we have taken over the thread ;-)



    Regards

    Rob
     
  14. Wily

    Wily Camino Francés 2016; Camino Portugués 2017

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    Rob - You still seem to miss my original point in my first posting on this thread that with or without albergue reservations, pilgrims walking the Camino, regardless of the month, will be just fine. Of all people, you should know this! Buen Camino!
     
  15. RJS

    RJS Well-Known Member

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    Wily – You also seem to miss my point – And that is that I don’t entirely agree with you for the reasons that I have already stated

    Now let’s give someone else a chance to post before it looks as though we have REALLY taken over the thread ;-)

    Best Regards

    Rob
     
  16. Wily

    Wily Camino Francés 2016; Camino Portugués 2017

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    Hey Rob - Nothing wrong with a spirited discussion on a good topic! I, too, would like to hear how others, particularly during busy times on the Camino, have manage the "bed" situation.
     
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  17. Randy Dickow

    Randy Dickow Donating Member Donating Member

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    I booked SJPdP and Orisson from the States before leaving. I departed SJPdP on September 8th, 2016. With one exception, I never made other reservations in advance. Never had an issue with finding a bed, sometimes in the municipals other times in the private alburgues. Generally I stopped walking around 2:30 in the afternoon.
     
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  18. Ashton

    Ashton New Member

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    Thank you all for your replies. This is really helpful info. I think I'm going to go ahead and book my first two nights and then see how it goes from there. At this point I'm not sure what my walking pace is going to be so I think it'll be hard for me to make reservations too far in advance. I am on a budget and hope to stay the majority of my time in the municipal albergues, but as I'm one who likes getting up really early, I'm hoping that I'll arrive early enough to avoid issues there. I guess we'll just have to see how it all unfolds.

    Thanks again for all of your advice!
     
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  19. BROWNCOUNTYBOB

    BROWNCOUNTYBOB Well-Known Member

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    Ashton, during our camino, most mornings, my wife and I were packed up and left the albergue by 7 am. That time of the year (late Sept and month of October), meant it was dark when we left. We used headlamps to find the waymarkings. Including breaks, our average daily walk was around 7 hours - but some days we hiked only 5 hours and one long day was 9 1/2 hours. So most days we arrived at our destination town between 1 and 2 pm. We never had a problem checking directly into a private albergue. We did experience firm opening times at a few municipal albergues, such as Logrono (1 pm), and Ponferrada. For the latter, we wanted to arrive early afternoon so we'd have time to tour the Templar castle. We walked to the Albergue San Nicolas de Flue and it didn't open until 2 pm. There was a sign in the patio area that encouraged pilgrims that arrived early to use the toilet and shower facilities that were in a separate outside building. So I walked over with my backpack (needing towel and toiletries), stripped down, went into the shower. The water was turned off ! After we finally checked in, I asked the hospitalera if we / someone could wash our clothes there. She told me that only one hospitalero was allowed to use the washing machine (? !) and he was busy moving furniture. I checked back every 15 minutes or so and was told "he's still moving furniture". Unbelievable. Finally she pointed out the hospitalero. I went up to him and asked if he could wash a load of our clothes. Within five minutes they were being cleaned in the washing machine. For sure we'll skip that albergue during our next camino - and our priority will be to mostly stay in private albergues where there is more flexibility in checkin time. Bob
     
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  20. Wily

    Wily Camino Francés 2016; Camino Portugués 2017

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    Hey Ashton - Liking to get up early will put you in a good position to getting to your next albergue ahead of the majority of pilgrims on the road. I regularly started walking just as it was getting light. I found no need like some to be gone by 4:30 am! Rarely did I walk beyond 1:30 in the afternoon. Although I primarily stayed in private albergues, I was also always among the first to arrive. In the municipales that I stayed in, this was also the case. I did have to queue up from time to time, but that was due to later opening times. Nonetheless, by arriving early in the afternoon, I was always near the front of the line and had no trouble getting a bed.

    You mention booking a bed in SJPP which is highly recommended. For your second night, unless you plan to stay in Orisson, you won't have trouble getting a bed in Roncesvalles if you arrive there early. I remember leaving SJPP at 6:15 and arriving bt 1:15 at Roncesvalles and being among the first to get there. I enjoy being able to get a bed in the newly remodeled section of the monastery. Due to their system, reserving a bed in Roncesvalles is not as convenient as elsewhere.

    Like many other pilgrims, I, too, traveled on a budget. I had planned €30 a day for my expenses and I actually didn't spend that much. Although the typical private albergue cost me about €10 a night, I paid as little as €5 and as much as €14 (prices can be higher, but not always, in the cities). You can definitely save on expenses by cooking with others in the evening. However, try to take advantage of some of the pilgrim dinners that albergues offer (usually about €10). I found them to be an important part of the Camino experience. Breakfast and lunch were typically very inexpensive meals for me. Other than one's bed, food, and drink, there not much else to spend money on while walking. There are a couple other threads on the Forum where budget is discussed that you will find helpful.

    Buen Camino!
     
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  21. RJS

    RJS Well-Known Member

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    Hi again Ashton

    No Problem - Pleased to be of help and sorry for the slight hijacking of your thread as Wily and myself “Discussed” our different opinions ;-)

    Alas, no one else has come along and posted of their own experiences with accommodation in the busier times when you are walking, so therefore I think you have done exactly the right thing booking your first 2 nights and then seeing how it pans out – And like you said, if you get up early enough, and therefore finish your days walking early enough then you shouldn’t have a problem in finding a bed in a Municipal Refugio – The only question being what time “early enough” turns out to be as to join the 4am rustlers packing in the dark and walking mainly in the dark to form the queue “early enough” to secure a bed in the next Municipal Refugio really wouldn’t be the way that I would choose to walk my own Camino – Not that I think that you will have to do this in the earlier stages of your Camino, but, Alas, I do think that this could well happen (If you want to stick to a tight budget and only stay in the in a Municipal Refugio’s) in the later stages.

    I look forwards to reading how it all went

    Best Regard and Buen Camino

    Rob
     
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  22. Ashton

    Ashton New Member

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    RJS-
    I do like getting up early, but 4:30 isn't going to happen, so if that's what ends up being needed in order to get into the municipales, then I guess I'm out of luck there. I'm more like a 6:00am type of person. Ideally it'd be great if I could go during another time of year, but alas that isn't possible. Thanks again for the help!
     
  23. RJS

    RJS Well-Known Member

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    Hi again Ashton

    No Problem - Pleased to be of help and I don’t blame you at all for not wanting to get up at 4 / 4.30am as I wouldn’t either !!



    The trick is going to be to know when you call a halt, and, from my own experience, If you want to stay in the Municipal Refugio’s, then the closer you get to Santiago de Compostela, the earlier you are going to have to stop – So – Depending on how many days you have available, one “Idea” might be to try to walk longer days in the earlier stages where there will probably be less pressure on the Municipal Refugio’s and this might give you the extra time need to continue staying in them by walking shorter days as you get to the latter stages.

    Good Luck and I Do look forwards to hearing how it all pans out

    Best Regards

    Rob
     
  24. Randy Dickow

    Randy Dickow Donating Member Donating Member

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    I booked SJPdP and Orisson from the States before leaving. I departed SJPdP on September 8th, 2016. With one exception, I never made other reservations in advance. Never had an issue with finding a bed, sometimes in the municipals other times in the private alburgues. Generally I stopped walking around 2:30 in the afternoon.
    To clarify. I had prebooked SJPdP from home, but when Iberia changed my flight by a day, I cancelled that reservation and spent my first night in Hendaye. Took the train the next morning to SJ arriving around 8:30. Left walking around 11 to Orisson (with Babs44 whom I met on the train!)
     
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  25. Wily

    Wily Camino Francés 2016; Camino Portugués 2017

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    Hey Randy - For anyone who can get to SJPP early in the morning, I like your plan very much. In just a couple hours, one can easily visit the old part of the town, take care of business at the Pilgrim's Office, and then head on to the albergue in Orisson for an early to mid-afternoon arrival. Although a steep walk, Orisson is only 8 km from SJPP. Reserving a bed in Orisson allows you to both get on the trail, particularly with at morning arrival in SJPP, and also break up the climb over the Pyrenees. The remaining 12 km up to the Col de Lepoeder becomes much more manageable.
     
  26. Randy Dickow

    Randy Dickow Donating Member Donating Member

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    Wily: That wasn't my original plan, but Iberia changed my flight by a full day into Madrid, but not my second flight to San Sebastian. It turned out to be serendipitous though. Arrived SJPdP fully rested at 8:30 in the morning. Raining. Went to the Pilgrim's Office, wandered around a bit (I spent a whole day there the previous year.) Had a light breakfast and we left around 11. Got to Orisson in less than 2 hours. I had booked there ahead thinking I would not be rested. As it turns out, I could have made the whole trip to Roncesvalles in one day (as done in 2015), but splitting the day was a good thing with the rain and fog .
     
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  27. James Christopher Gay

    James Christopher Gay New Member

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    Regarding the Alberques - How does one pay? Can you use a credit card? Is cash required? Are ATMs readily available along the way? I would prefer not to carry much cash.
     
  28. Wily

    Wily Camino Francés 2016; Camino Portugués 2017

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    Hey James - It's primarily a cash system. The cost of albergues tend to run between 5-10€ for a bed depending on your choice of the municipales or privates. I have been to some that take cards, but you can't depend on that being the case very often. Be prepared to use Euros. ATMs are everywhere, but primarily in the larger towns and cities. My US debit card was accepted at all the larger bank ATMs, but not at the smaller regional banks. I would change money and carry enough to last me for a week to ten days. There aren't many expenses on the Camino outside food and lodging. I lived comfortably on 30€ a day, but one could do it for a bit less. Hope these ideas help. Buen Camino!
     
  29. Terry Wilson

    Terry Wilson Active Member

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    Hi Wily. Have taken your advice on other post I will get the 12 oclock train from paris and try for the 10 o clock.
    Have booked at St john pied. for two nights to give me time to get over jet lag. Should I book for roncesvall while at St john pied or just turn up.
     
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  30. Wily

    Wily Camino Francés 2016; Camino Portugués 2017

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    Hey
    Hey Terry - Sounds great! Don't be surprised to find out that you do have time to catch the 10 am train depending on time in Immigration.

    Here's a link to the bus shuttle service that will get you from CDG to the Montparnasse station. Le Bus Direct leaves every 30 minutes. Plan 1h15m to get to Montparnasse. The price is 17€.

    Regarding Roncesvalles, the albergue/monestary is very large. There are about 200 beds with overflow space as well. Ideally, you can get there early enough to stay in the newly renovated section which is very nice. You can make a reservation there, but they don't make it easy. You would have to wire money through your bank or give them your credit card number in an email. My suggestion is to leave SJPP early and you should make it by mid-afternoon. You'll get a bed! Depending on your conditioning and strength, consider having Jacotrans transport your pack to Roncesvalles for you. You'll find hiking across the Pyrenees with just a light day pack much easier than your full pack. There will be plenty of days ahead to carry your pack. Buen Camino!
     
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