Camino Etiquette: Albergue Nakedness, Showing Off Blisters, & More

Camino life includes lively conversations on every topic. Respect for everyone's opinion is the key. And don't be surprised if pilgrims start showing off their blisters at the table.

Camino life includes lively conversations on every topic. Respect for everyone's opinion is the key. And don't be surprised if pilgrims start showing off their blisters at the table.

If you’ve walked any portion of the Camino, or have been reading this blog for a while, you know that life on the Camino is different from life at home. The basic rules for how to behave still apply, of course, but there are both new freedoms and new restrictions on the Camino (not to mention in Spain), and in the midst of pilgrims from dozens of other countries, knowing and observing these will serve you well.

At the Albergue

- Don’t be too concerned about your place in line if you’re waiting for an albergue to open its doors. In my experience, even disorganized-looking lines (from an American or British perspective) sort themselves out pretty well, and your fellow pilgrims will often make sure everyone gets to the check in counter in the same order they arrived.

- Expect to have a lot more conversations than you’re accustomed to in the showers and bathrooms; we English-speakers tend to be a lot less comfortable being naked than the rest of the world. If you feel threatened don’t hesitate to say so or call for help, but most of the time your showermates are just being friendly as they try to chat.

- Always ask before taking a bed or moving another person’s belongings. People use different ways to mark out their “territory” for the evening, so it’s best to be deferential to avoid having to move beds later.

- Snorers, if possible, warn your roommates that you are loud at night, but be prepared to be woken up repeatedly until everyone else is asleep.

At Restaurants and Cafés

- If you’re trying to order in Spanish, you will sound more polite if you say Me gustaria ________ (literally “_________ would please me”) or Puedo tener _________ (“Can I have _________?”) Don’t be surprised, however, if servers or baristas they correct your pronunciation or grammar, or switch to English for the sake of time.

- If you’re sitting outside, you won’t get kicked out for taking your shoes off.

At All Times

- The topics that are usually considered poor taste to bring up here at home and everywhere else– politics, religion, etc. – are completely on the table for discussion among pilgrims. No one will be offended if you ask about such matters respectfully; most likely someone else will ask you something deep before you think to bring it up.

- Whereas most Americans would consider it strange or rude to draw attention to something on our feet, on the Camino everyone wants to brag or complain about their blisters, so don’t be shy about showing yours off to impress the crowd.

- Do your best to learn at least a few phrases or words in fellow pilgrims’ languages. Hearing something in their heart language is the quickest way to bring a smile to someone’s face.

Hunter Van Wagenen’s Camino experiences began in 2007, and he enjoys sharing the humorous and the miraculous stories, in addition to practical advice he has lived and collected. His dream is to live in Spain helping pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago. He currently lives in Greensboro, NC with his wife Stephie, who is walking her first Camino right now with Hunter. hunter@CaminoProvisions.com