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Tips For Booking Advance Reservations . . . If You Are A Planner !

Discussion in 'Albergues - Hostels' started by BROWNCOUNTYBOB, Sep 15, 2018.

  1. BROWNCOUNTYBOB

    BROWNCOUNTYBOB Well-Known Member

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    Some prefer the spontaneity of walking until you have decided that's enough for the day, then check in to the next available albergue. During our second camino (Sept-Oct 2017), I booked 35 of 38 nights in advance. Since my wife developed knee problems during our first camino, we decided to send her backpack ahead every day via Jako Trans for our second camino. The weather was terrific which caused high traffic of pilgrims. Many towns we walked through were "completo" by mid-afternoon. One day I recall was that there was not a single bed available in Zubiri, so the poor soul kept walking all the way to Pamplona to find a bed. My brother and his wife walked with us and it was very convenient to have advance reservations and did not have a single problem. The few days we did not have reservations caused us to worry, get up early and walk a quick pace to get to our destination and get a bed. For example, we stayed in the municipal albergue in Burgos and there was a long line of backpacks reserving a place in line when we arrived at 11:30 am.

    I've enjoy the advance planning. Through websites like Gronze.com it's so easy to check out the various albergues and hostels in each town. Gronze has ratings and comments from pilgrims. Some places have a link to Booking.com, or the website of the albergue, or an email address. For our next/third camino, after I developed a tentative hiking plan, I decided to see if I could book reservations approx 1 year in advance. Booking.com must have feedback from each place regarding how far in advance rooms can be reserved. For several places, I had no problem booking a room using Booking.com for Sept and Oct of next year. However, there were many albergues and hostels that list rooms on Booking.com but when I tried to reserve 12 months out, Booking.com said that rooms were not available that night. I suspected this was not the case, so looked for the email address on Gronze.com or the albergue's website. I then sent an email listing the date we wanted to reserve a room. In all but one or two cases, I was successful in making a reservation. A few times the albergue did not respond, so I simply sent another email (in Spanish if the first one was in English). With perseverance, I was successful in booking all 43 nights (to/from the camino and 37 nights along Camino Frances). I was so excited when I received messages that a room was booked at Hotel Central in St Jean, Hotel Roncesvalles in Roncesvalles, and Casa Rural Navarro in O'Cebriero. Only one or two places stubbornly refused to accept reservations one year ahead, so I used Gronze to check out options for the next town. The last reservation was Hotel Eslava in Pamplona located right next to the historic town walls.

    Even though this is our third camino frances, we are staying in many different towns and many different albergues / hostels. Of 43 nights, we are only staying in eight places we've stayed before - and this is because these were our favorites !

    We fly out of Indianapolis one year from tomorrow. This time we will begin our camino in Barcelona, spend a night there, take a train to Pamplona, one night there, then bus to St Jean. We are staying in private rooms with private baths the entire way! The average price per night is 65 euros (lowest 36 euros, highest 115 euros). Getting a good night's sleep and having the privacy of your own bathroom is worth the extra expense.

    Buen camino to all you planners ! Bob
     
  2. Wily

    Wily Francés 2016; Portugués 2017; Inglés/Fisterra 2018

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    Hey Bob - Excellent, informative post! Like you, I, too, am a planner and I’ve found that booking rooms ahead has not only relieved certain pressures during the busy season, but it also allowed me to walk my own Camino knowing that a bed was waiting for me at the end of the day. My experience with reservations was equally positive as the ones you have had. Gronze.com has really been a great website for identifying accommodations along The Way. Like you, I reserved a number of places from small hotels to albergues through Booking.com. But, for the majority of the alberges I stayed in, I simply wrote to them directly requesting a bed for a certain night. I’m very pleased to say that almost everyone returned my email accepting my reservation. The one thing that I might add is that I did contact a couple places where the website said reservations weren’t accepted. To my great surprise, they reserved beds for me. As I walked in the month of May, waiting until February and March to make reservations proved to be no problem. That seemed to be far enough out that reservations were being accepted and not once did I get the response of completo. For the very few places that did not respond, asking a hospitalero to call a day or two ahead worked out splendidly to reserve a bed while on the Camino.

    Whether one reserves beds ahead or not seems to have more to do with how one likes to travel than anything else. There is no wrong way to walk the Camino. What I’ve come to understand is that we’re all out there for a variety of great reasons. No approach to the Camino is more authentic than another. Do what’s most comfortable for you! The learning curve while walking is very steep and you’ll figure out very quickly what the best way is for you to get to Santiago. Buen Camino!
     
  3. hindsfeet

    hindsfeet Collect moments, not things Donating Member

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    Wily...I couldn't agree with you more! And a year and a half ago, as a new forum member, I loved reading all of the different ways Pilgrims experienced their WAY. No right or wrong way. What ever you are comfortable with. For me, the only reservation I made was in SJPP. When I arrived at my Albergue, it had a closed sign on the door. Yikes, I went to the Pilgrim's Office and they apologetically told me that it had closed for this year because the hospitalero never showed up. Went to the Municipal and got a room there. Never had a problem the rest of the CF. Ha...I don't know why, but to me it seemed exciting and adventurous not having a reservation. Because even if I had to sleep under the stars, well, I thought that is what was meant to be for that night! When I return, I will do the same thing. ha.......maybe something is wrong with me, because I never even thought about where I was going to sleep as I was walking during the day, so never had a worry! I am definitely NOT everyone's CUP OF TEA!!! :D Hmmm, no wonder I travel alone.....:D :D
     
  4. RJS

    RJS Well-Known Member

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    I also agree with Hindsfeet that there is no right and wrong way to walk a Camino – In fact a much used saying on here is that “We All Walk Our Own Camino’s” and this is very true.

    Like Hindsfeet, when I walked my own Camino Frances, all I booked was my 1st night in Saint Jean Pied de Port – But this was in 2001 – So a long time ago – And since this time, there are a considerably greater number of pilgrims walking the route, so I have now revised my own advice to –

    1. Definitely reserve your bed / room at Saint Jean Pied de Port – Sites like booking.com have both beds in private Albergue’s and rooms in hotels, but book ASAP as the cheaper / better options get booked up early
    2. If you are considering staying at Orisson then it’s essential to book your bed there http://www.refuge-orisson.com/en/ – Many pilgrims walk from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles in a single day (I did so myself, but at that time there wasn’t the option of staying at Orisson) – However, I now recommend that unless you are a hardened experienced trekker then staying at Orisson is a good idea and has the advantage that this allows you to do some sightseeing in Saint Jean Pied de Port before you start your walk (Many Pilgrims miss doing this and Saint Jean Pied de Port is a really beautiful; place and far too nice to miss) – So, apart from the obvious of it easing you into your pilgrimage by splitting the first and usually considered as the hardest day of the walk into two. You needn’t set off until you have taken an early lunch and can then walk the 8k uphill to Orisson and have a leisurely start to your pilgrimage.
    If Orisson is already full up when you try to reserve your bed, ask if they had any beds available at the nearby Kayola gîte ?? - And if Kayola gîte is also full then there was a thread on here where someone also wanted to break the Saint Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles section into two stages and couldn’t find accommodation to enable them to do this, so, they walked up to Orisson one afternoon, returned to Saint Jean Pied de Port by taxi, then spent the night at Saint Jean Pied de Port, caught a taxi back to Orisson the next morning and continued their walk to Roncesvalles. - Now this may sound somewhat convoluted, but, especially if you aren’t an experienced walker, better than burning out on your first day.

    Just one thing to be aware of when making your booking and that is Not to use the contact from on the above website, but to reserve your beds using the email address next to the contact form, then, as there have been a few reports of people who haven’t had confirmation emails sent, if it were me, I would telephone them just so that I was 100% sure that I had a bed waiting for me when I arrive :)

    1. It is now also possible to book a bed in the municipal Refugio at Roncesvalles on their website at http://www.alberguederoncesvalles.com/
    2. Then after Roncesvalles, depending on what time of year you are walking the route, you should be OK and not have to book beds until you get closer to Santiago de Compostela – The closer you get to Santiago de Compostela, the busier the “Way” will get – You will see this slowly happen and be able to judge for yourself when there is a need to book a bed in advance, but I would certainly expect that, IF you are intending walking well into the afternoon then you will have to book in advance after Sarria and probably even before – But if you are stopping walking soon after mid-day then it might well be possible to walk all the way from Orisson without reserving a bed


    However – I also agree with what Bob has posted, that some people do prefer to have Everything booked up in advance and this Definitely Does have the advantage of knowing that there is a bed waiting for you at the end of every day without having to either worry about it, or trail the streets looking for vacancies

    But

    There are also disadvantages of booking beds a long time in advance that should (In fairness) also be mentioned and these include

    1) Booking beds in advance will inevitably be more expensive as you can’t book beds in advance in Refugio’s de Peregrino as these operate on a first come, first served basis (Apart from Roncesvalles) and, Refugio’s de Peregrino tend to be a lot cheaper than private Albergue’s and hotels

    2) Some Refugio’s de Peregrino offer communal meals and apart from being a fabulous experience, they are often for a donativo or very small charge

    3) By booking ahead in advance, you are committing yourself to a daily schedule and if for some reason you can’t keep to this (Minor illness, bad weather or fatigue for instance) you would either have to miss walking a section and catch a bus, (Which could well be very unsatisfactory “I walked the 800km Camino de Frances, well apart from 20km in the middle”) – Or rearrange all of your pre-booked accommodation which could be both difficult as well as time consuming.

    4) Some days you inevitably feel fitter than others, on these days (If you have no accommodation pre-booked) you can walk further than originally planned – Likewise on days that you feel less fit, or on days when it is raining sideways, you can stop early.

    5) You might like a particular town or village, or just fancy a day off, or meet up with other people you get on with that walk a little slower than you – There are just so many imponderables that are impossible to foresee when walking a Camino that pre-booking accommodation isn’t always practical – Well at least not for everyone

    So – If you are planning walking the Camino Frances, or any of the other more popular Camino’s then my own “Advice” would be, rather than booking everything up in advance, that if when walking you start to run into problems with overcrowding and start to find it difficult to find a bed, just book one in advance on a day to day basis – I did this (Once) on my last Camino (Where it joined The Camino Frances for the final sections into Santiago de Compostela) and had no problems – By opting for this solution, you both maintain your day to day flexibility as well as have a guaranteed bed awaiting you at the end of every days walk :)

    Best Regards

    Rob
     
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  5. UnkleHammy

    UnkleHammy Well-Known Member

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    @RJS thanks for a well written note on reservations yes or no.
     
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  6. Amy Brooks

    Amy Brooks Member

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    Bob

    Thanks for your thoughts on reserving ahead... I am doing my first Camino in April/May 2019 and have been tossing this issue back and forth. So good to hear your thoughts and Wily's - I think for my first Camino I am going to reserve ahead. I love planning (half the excitement of travel is the planning/research) and my #1 priority for my Camino is to be able to have relaxing walking time - it maybe painful walking time - but I don't want to spend all my thinking time worrying about seeing "completo" signs. Maybe that comes from being a bit older...

    Once I do one Camino I will know so much more and then can make a different call on my next one...

    So having said all that - thank you all for the tips on how to find rooms and how to book them in advance. My Spanish is very limited do you all think that is an issue... I have been taking online Spanish classes but I am pretty limited in my vocab.

    Thank you all for being my Saturday morning check in and bright part of the week - love catching up with everyone and reading about the Camino and getting excited all over again for upcoming rookie Camino!

    Amy
     
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  7. Bryan Morlock

    Bryan Morlock Pilgrim Bryan

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    Lots of good advice in these posts. We set up reservations in SJPDP and Orisson, and then were winging it for a few days. After a couple of instances of staying in places my sister did not find appealing, she began making reservations a day in advance for the four of us. As we got close to Leon she started doing two days ahead. By the time we got to Sarria she had the entire last 100 km and Santiago to Fisterre booked. I would be hesitant to book too far in advance due to potential injuries or medical treatment delaying your progress (although a taxi is always an option). We did wind up taking one day off due to physical ailments and firm reservations would have put us in a bind of deciding to take a taxi. My sister became an expert at each day picking out our next place to stay and then we would call ahead for the reservation. Our Camino was Sept-Oct 2017. Unless a very experienced and fit hiker I would be hesitant making reservations for the full trip in advance for a first Camino. We would have had to cancel our reservations as things just did not go according to plan. Our 36 day plan to Santiago became 40 (including the one day off for medical reasons and another day drastically shortened for a doctor visit). But, lots of very excellent info included above. Should be a must read for everyone heading out on their first Camino.
     
  8. Wily

    Wily Francés 2016; Portugués 2017; Inglés/Fisterra 2018

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    Hey Bryan - Excellent advice for Amy! To support your point, we had reservations made a year ago from Porto up to SdC. My wife developed knee problem after a few days on the cobblestones. We slowed down which affected us making our reservations as planned. Luckily for us, walking the CP in late March-early April, we had no difficulty contacting our lodging and moving our reservations ahead by a day. However, had it been a busier time, we might have had more problems doing this. Once again, all the folks we dealt with were most kind and there were no extra charges for changing a reservation at the last minute even those we made on Booking.com.

    My experiences calling ahead to an albergue a day or two in advance along the CF was very similar to yours. I had no difficulty reserving a bed for the next night. The hospitaleros were most helpful in arranging the calls and helping connect with my next stop. It all worked out most splendidly! As you found, all albergues are not equally pleasant and some are not necessarily places I’d want to stay. I found that doing my research to identify places where I wanted to stay really payed off. If one arrives early enough in the afternoon, beds seem to be available at most of the private albergues where I stayed. However, that phone call the day before can really take some of the pressure off particularly during a busy time along The Way. It’ll all work out. It’s just a matter of how one prefers to do it. Buen Camino!
     
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  9. Wily

    Wily Francés 2016; Portugués 2017; Inglés/Fisterra 2018

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    Hey Amy - A few words of Spanish will go a long way for you. You’ll be glad you put time in studying Spanish before your Camino. If you haven’t already found it, check out Duolingo. It’s a fun and user friendly app for learning the basics. Being able to put together some simple sentences and knowing some vocabulary will not only be useful, but it will also be greatly appreciated by the folks you meet in stores, restaurants and cafes, and on the street (believe me, you will find yourself asking for direction on any number of occasions). Plus, speaking another language is great fun! Buen Camino!
     
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  10. Amy Brooks

    Amy Brooks Member

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    Wily and others

    Thanks for the good advice. So sounds like I should have a general plan of potential places and call ahead.

    Wily - I do have Duolingo... just have not been practicing as much as I would like... I also listen to Coffee Break Spanish which is a really good (and free) resource - the gentleman who records those sessions is really good. I listen to his podcasts on the way to work and have found that really helpful.

    And then Duolingo helps with vocab building.

    Thank you all so much for all your advice... it is invaluable!

    Ok off for a training walk!

    Amy
     
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  11. RJS

    RJS Well-Known Member

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    Sounds like things worked out very well for you Bryan – And what you did is more or less exactly what I advise pilgrims to do on the more popular Camino’s as sometimes the routes can be very crowded, and sometimes not, and therefore there is no reason to book ahead and when this happens, you can then try staying in a Refugio de Peregrino and perhaps take advantage of one of the communal meals I mentioned :)

    Some people prefer to book ahead and that is fine too – And some people who booked ahead for their own Camino Frances now seem to advice others that the more flexible, see how it goes and then decide option is better – We All Walk out own Camino’s :)

    Best Regards

    Rob
     
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  12. BROWNCOUNTYBOB

    BROWNCOUNTYBOB Well-Known Member

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    Amy, I'm sure you are very excited about your upcoming / first camino. I also love to plan, so making advance reservations is very fun for me. Just to think ahead what each place will be like, whether the hotel / albergue has an adjoining bar or restaurant, what the size of the town is, etc. During our camino last year, we made 35 advance reservations and we didn't have a single issue.

    Keep in mind, there are a few fallbacks should you run into issues. My wife and I agreed that if one of us developed an injury which made it difficult to walk, then the injured one would take a bus or taxi to the next day's destination and the other would walk alone. During the first camino, my wife developed severe knee pain. We learned about Jako-Trans and shipped her backpack ahead every day from Carrion de los Condes all the way to Santiago. For our first camino, we took one rest day (in Leon) which gave some recovery time. Last year my wife shipped her backpack ahead every day. Also, we allowed two rest days (Burgos and Leon). We also slowed down our pace and walked fewer Kms - knowing that a bed was waiting for us when we arrived.

    With regards to Spanish, I studied one semester in Spain during my college years. The basic phrases came back pretty easily and I served as interpreter for our group of four last year. In terms of making contact with the albergues for advance reservations, my initial contact was always in English. Sometimes the response is in Spanish and if I have any trouble, I simply copy and paste into Google Translate. When I did not get a response to the English message I sent, I copy and pasted into Google Translate then sent a second message in Spanish. That usually worked. Keep in mind that pilgrims are the source of revenue for many albergues so there is generally someone nearby that can speak some English.

    Have fun planning your camino! Bob
     
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  13. Bryan Morlock

    Bryan Morlock Pilgrim Bryan

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    It is interesting to read about others experiences. I met with someone who had done the Camino (has now done a second and is planning a third) for advice and education. He had taken courses in Spanish at a college in preparation. For him it was worthless as the Spanish he learned was not the same Spanish they use in the Basque region of northern Spain. Suffice to say, I now know more Spanish than I knew when I started the Camino, although neither is very much. :)
     
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  14. UnkleHammy

    UnkleHammy Well-Known Member

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    In high school I took Spanish classes for 3 years. It was oriented towards translating textual stories. There were occasional times we had to talk about something in Spanish. But there was almost no listening to spoken Spanish. The result is that, these many years later, I can make simple requests but I am totally unable to understand any thing other than a very simple answer. One of my friends joined the Peace Corps and was in South America. He found that the Spanish in the several countries he was in differed. Even Microsoft has options for different versions of Spanish.
     
  15. BROWNCOUNTYBOB

    BROWNCOUNTYBOB Well-Known Member

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    Aside from different languages and dialects that exist in Spain (Catalan, Valenciano, etc), there are regional accents as well. No different than the strong accents that exist within a country - a southern drawl down south in the US, a New York / New Jersey accent, etc. I've studied in Spain, was a Spanish major in college, traveled there extensively and have walked two caminos. Castilian Spanish seems to be a common denominator throughout Spain. If you are patient and demonstrate a sincere interest to communicate in Spanish particularly along the camino, most people you interact with will find a way to communicate with you. Bob
     
  16. BROWNCOUNTYBOB

    BROWNCOUNTYBOB Well-Known Member

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    Well, I discovered a downside of making reservations too far in advance. So far, I've been contacted by three places that we made reservations for Sept-Oct 2019 and each place mistakenly thought the reservation was for 2018. Amazingly, two were made using Booking.com. Booking.com contacted me and said there was a complaint by the albergue and I needed to contact them and pay the amount due. The customer service rep from Booking.com didn't bother to check details on my reservation before contacting me. Then I was checking charges to my Visa credit card and saw that an albergue charged my card for payment Sept 24, 2018 when my reservation is Sept 23, 2019. The third reservation was made directly with the hotel. Their note was nice and was only asking if everything was okay since we did not check into the hotel. Again, I forwarded the email exchange that showed the reservation date was 2019. So lesson learned - you need to be very attentive to your credit card charges if you are booking far in advance since the albergue may process "no show" charges based on mistaken dates. Bob
     
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