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Bar Etiquette

montyhiker

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
April/May 2024
Ok Pilgrims, I’m starting my first Camino (Frances) in a little over 2 weeks and am “wrapping up” my miscellaneous questions.
This is a little trivial (no snarkiness, please): I’m a solo pilgrim. If I stop off at a Bar or Cafe and want a beer or something, do I “seat myself” and a Server comes over to ME to take my order, OR do I go to the counter, order my drink or food and they BRING it to me at my table? —- just trying to be a courteous visitor in another one’s country. Thanks, Buen Camino!!
 
€2,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.
Sometimes it is one way and sometimes the other. There may be a sign that says to go to the bar to order. Usually bar or drink tables don't have silverware and only have a napkin dispenser on them if anything.

Sometimes you will see that tables are set up with placemats, and silverware and that means that that table is reserved for the lunch or dinner meal and not just a coffee/beer table. Don't sit there unless you check with the wait staff and you are planning to eat a meal. Often this will be in a separate room or area. You may be able to order snacks or tapas from your coffee/beer table, but meals are more "formal" in many places and you will go to the dining room or dining area tables.
 
...and ship it to Santiago for storage. You pick it up once in Santiago. Service offered by Casa Ivar (we use DHL for transportation).
Ok Pilgrims, I’m starting my first Camino (Frances) in a little over 2 weeks and am “wrapping up” my miscellaneous questions.
This is a little trivial (no snarkiness, please): I’m a solo pilgrim. If I stop off at a Bar or Cafe and want a beer or something, do I “seat myself” and a Server comes over to ME to take my order, OR do I go to the counter, order my drink or food and they BRING it to me at my table? —- just trying to be a courteous visitor in another one’s country. Thanks, Buen Camino!!
Don't take off your backpack until you have your beer in hand. Don't leave it unattended if you are alone, or with newfound yet unknown "friends" IMHO.
 
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I was going to mention this too. The concept of what is polite or not varies from one place to another. English speakers (possibly other nationalities too, but I'm more familiar with the English-speaking countries) put a lot of emphasis on saying "please" and "thank you". Adding a lot of pleases and thank yous does not make you sound more polite. If you don't start with a greeting, it doesn't matter how many times you say please or thank you. You've been rude already.
Make sure that you start with a greeting, such as buenos días.

I gained a lot of insight from this post from @MariaSP, who is Spanish:

I was going to mention this too. The concept of what is polite or not varies from one place to another. English speakers (possibly other nationalities too, but I'm more familiar with the English-speaking countries) put a lot of emphasis on saying "please" and "thank you". Adding a lot of pleases and thank yous does not make you sound more polite. If you don't start with a greeting, it doesn't matter how many times you say please or thank you. You've been rude already.
 
...and ship it to Santiago for storage. You pick it up once in Santiago. Service offered by Casa Ivar (we use DHL for transportation).
When stopping at a bar/cafe for morning cafe con leche and slice of tortilla etc, I would generally order at the counter, wait for the items and then take them to a table.

If the bar is not busy, often one is not charged upon ordering but rather when leaving. If that were the case, I would take my used plates back to the bar and ask to pay, saying something like "me cobras, por favor."
 
Ok Pilgrims, I’m starting my first Camino (Frances) in a little over 2 weeks and am “wrapping up” my miscellaneous questions.
This is a little trivial (no snarkiness, please): I’m a solo pilgrim. If I stop off at a Bar or Cafe and want a beer or something, do I “seat myself” and a Server comes over to ME to take my order, OR do I go to the counter, order my drink or food and they BRING it to me at my table? —- just trying to be a courteous visitor in another one’s country. Thanks, Buen Camino!!
Drinks inside, 99% of the time it's self-service. If the seating is outside, then there could be a server, best option is ask inside: 'Sirven mesas?'. Don't worry about offending, bars will not take offence about getting this wrong; and a smile and a 'por favor' goes a long way. By the way, we don't usually clear our table afterwards. You can, and it will be appreciated, unless there is no where to leave your cup and/or dishes.
 
€2,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.
I always clear my table (before and after is needed) and it usually gives me a chance to go inside and ask for a stamp (cello) or use the bathroom. On busy days, there may be someone waiting to sit at that table and I personally don't like to sit with a bunch of dirty glassware or cups. Might be the Mom or hospitalera in me to leave someplace nicer than I found it.

Here's a tip: on busy days on some routes, the first bar will be slammed in the morning with pilgrims ordering coffee and eating a little breakfast. If you can see a second bar on your Google Maps, then I would opt to go on to the second one which will almost always be less crowded.
 
Here's a tip: on busy days on some routes, the first bar will be slammed in the morning with pilgrims ordering coffee and eating a little breakfast. If you can see a second bar on your Google Maps, then I would opt to go on to the second one which will almost always be less crowded.

During my Camino a few walking pals and I referred to ourselves as the "Second Bar Club", as we made it a rule to always, always stop in the second bar every time we came to a village, even if the first one looked particularly promising or we really had to use the facilities. I don't recall ever having made a bad decision in that regard - that second bar was almost invariably less crowded, and a few reconnaissance missions revealed that they were often a few cents cheaper as well. (Of course, we didn't have a choice on the few one bar villages along the route!)
 
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Is a good question as I am always plagued by these sorts of etiquette thoughts when abroad. With a bar, if I go inside I always order at the bar. If tables and chairs outside and I sit outside I wait for a waiter. I do know that throughout Europe it is considered rude to order without saying hello and how are you, or is a good day isn't it or similar.
 
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Take your rucksack off before you walk into a bar, please! If someone walked into my local with a sack on they would be thrown out.

Carry it by all means, but try to appear civilised. It’s Spain not Mars so behave like you would at home and you’ll be OK.

Rather like those Pilgrims in the Supermarket spinning around in the aisles and almost knocking people over! Be aware of how much a pack 'sticks out'.

I would normally take off my pack and put it in sight just inside the door, or against a wall at a table I will use. Somewhere that won't be a trip hazard. Then go to order.

I do like the custom of 'greeting the bar' on the way in. A bit like being in country Ireland :)

In supermarkets I usually leave my pack in a corner where the check out staff can see it along with the prams, dogs and other 'parked' things. Though on busy routes this may be awkward and less safe.

In that case I take it off, so as not be be a bull in a china shop, and carry it by my side using a loop at the top of the bag.

Just be courteous. ;)

Obviously if you are with someone else, they could guard the bags.
 
Great question @montyhiker. In Galicia, I usually sit down and wait for a server to come take my order. At times I've gone to the bar and ordered something, but I honestly can't remember the last time I took my own plates/cups to a table - usually the bartender would take the order at the bar, and then bring it to me at a table.

And - just a note that in some bars and restaurants, they don't want you to clear your own plates/cups. They'd rather do it themselves, and it would disrupt their system if you were to bring your plates and cups back to the bar once you were done. Perhaps look around at what other patrons at the cafe are doing and follow suit.

Also, during busy periods, if you do want to be seated, there is sometimes a queue of people, but you don't know it! Often Spaniards will check in with a server, be told it's busy and to wait in line, and then they'll mill around/ sit on a wall nearby or across the street/ sit at the bar. The server will know in which order everyone came, and he/she will direct you once it's your turn to be seated at a table. If you do try to sit down at a table before it's your turn (or without realizing at all that there was a queue!), someone will clearly tell you that it's not for you :) .

Buen Camino!
 
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Make sure that you start with a greeting, such as buenos días.

I gained a lot of insight from this post from @MariaSP, who is Spanish:
Yes, the spanish speaking countries, and lots of others, ie Thailand, are really big on the greetings before anything else. AND spoken with a smile!
 
Don't take off your backpack until you have your beer in hand. Don't leave it unattended if you are alone, or with newfound yet unknown "friends" IMHO.
In a crowded place I take off my pack and strap it once or twice to a chair with the waist belt, and in full view of others, not outside a bar....
 
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If the coffee is particularly good, when leaving, I like to tell the barista how good I thought it was. Almost without fail this brings a happy smile. One time, on the Camino Finisterre, when we did that (raving about how great the coffee was), the bar-owner asked us to wait and went to the back and brought out the bag of beans that he used. (Delta, roasted in Portugal.)
 
Famous sign on the approach to Moratinos suggests stopping at the second bar which is the Bodega.

The second bar principle is a good one in most places, but not I think in the instance above.

The Bodega in Moratinos is a fine place and has excellent food, but it's not really a bar as such. The first bar, the Hostal Albergue Moratinos, also has great food and it's one of the best bars, imo, on the Camino. It's a great albergue as well. Don't miss it, and then by all means go and enjoy the excellent dinner in the Bodega.

If you're into bars on the Meseta, don't miss the Albergue Linares in San Nicolas just up the road from Moratinos. Fine staff, the best Brazilian music, and a good view of the unfortunate pilgrims who keep walking and miss out on it all.
 
While on my Camino in 2022 and afterwards in various places in Ireland, I always bused my cup and plate. Sometimes there was a clear place and sometimes not but in every case, the employees were appreciative.
 
The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.
While on my Camino in 2022 and afterwards in various places in Ireland, I always bused my cup and plate. Sometimes there was a clear place and sometimes not but in every case, the employees were appreciative.
I also have this habit of returning my plate or cup, especially in a really busy bar or when I sit outside. I do this everywhere I travel and often are asked have I worked in hospitality! Yes, and it makes a difference to a long day on your feet!
 
If you're into bars on the Meseta, don't miss the Albergue Linares in San Nicolas just up the road from Moratinos. Fine staff, the best Brazilian music, and a good view of the unfortunate pilgrims who keep walking and miss out on it all.
I love to sit at the bar in Plaza Mayor in Castrojeriz in the early afternoon, sipping a cold beer, and watching the pilgrims just passing by me, heading to (unknowingly) climbing the Alto del Mostalares in the afternoon heat, and afterwards they're having a good long afternoon walk through nothing before the next village... :cool:

Edit: Instead of sitting quiet and enjoy Castrojeriz, where I am relaxing, and taking the steep climb in the next cool early morning... :)
 
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Make sure that you start with a greeting, such as buenos días.

I gained a lot of insight from this post from @MariaSP, who is Spanish:
So very true. In Latin countries and of course Spain. Good manners (in Mexico when someone has bad manners they say they have no education) will go a very long way to enhance your experience and have more people reach out to lend a helping hand.
If I stop off at a Bar or Cafe and want a beer or something, do I “seat myself” and a Server comes over to ME to take my order,
In most bars during the day you rarely see a waiter or waitress. Go to the bar and order. If you want more than a drink or the tapas, pan or tortilla the bartender will take your order or tell you to sit and someone will come serve you. Restaurants of course will almost always have waiter service.
Remember being polite and showing a willingness to try to communicate even with horrible Spanish will serve you so well. Respect is very important.
 
€2,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.
Hi... thinking back I'd typically go up to the bar to order unless it was clear that it was the sort of place where there were plenty of waiting staff etc. Quite often, there are signs to indicate how to order etc.
 
Don't take off your backpack until you have your beer in hand. Don't leave it unattended if you are alone, or with newfound yet unknown "friends" IMHO.
Really? I don't think I've entered a bar without putting down my pack and then going to the bar. I've also never heard of a pack being stolen. Except in the The Way of course. You're kidding right?
 
Really? I don't think I've entered a bar without putting down my pack and then going to the bar. I've also never heard of a pack being stolen. Except in the The Way of course. You're kidding right?
No.

Trust your fellow pilgrims, but don't lead them into temptation.

Edit: Over many years on different Caminos, I have heard of several pack thefts. Once I had to help a young woman with enough money so she could call home and get help from her family (on another continent), and pay for a bed for the night, after her pack, with all valuables like phone, cards, passport, etc. etc. was stolen while she was inside a bar. Stupid to include everything in her pack and then leaving it unattended.
 
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€2,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.
No.

Trust your fellow pilgrims, but don't lead them into temptation.

Edit: Over many years on different Caminos, I have heard of several pack thefts. Once I had to help a young woman with enough money so she could call home and get help from her family (on another continent), and pay for a bed for the night, after her pack, with all valuables like phone, cards, passport, etc. etc. was stolen while she was inside a bar. Stupid to include everything in her pack and then leaving it unattended.
Yes I often see people leave rucksacks outside or in bars when they go to bar. And think am I the most untrusting person on the camino! I keep it on my back when ordering and put it back on when finished drink/food to go to loo.
 
Ok Pilgrims, I’m starting my first Camino (Frances) in a little over 2 weeks and am “wrapping up” my miscellaneous questions.
This is a little trivial (no snarkiness, please): I’m a solo pilgrim. If I stop off at a Bar or Cafe and want a beer or something, do I “seat myself” and a Server comes over to ME to take my order, OR do I go to the counter, order my drink or food and they BRING it to me at my table? —- just trying to be a courteous visitor in another one’s country. Thanks, Buen Camino!!
Always go to bar
 
Yes I often see people leave rucksacks outside or in bars when they go to bar. And think am I the most untrusting person on the camino! I keep it on my back when ordering and put it back on when finished drink/food to go to loo.
Way to go, so to speak. On the Camino, we are walking in a very safe and trusting environment, generally speaking, but: Never create temptations, and always take care of your belongings. Easy, really.
 
Get a spanish phone number with Airalo. eSim, so no physical SIM card. Easy to use app to add more funds if needed.
Was at the first, very busy bar with only one person serving. He served the guy next to me who came 15 minutes after me. I put my hand up to say what about me and the person serving went ballistic at me in Spanish. It was obvious what he was saying but a woman told me what he said later.
At the same bar, a German woman cleared the table to sit down and an American couple promptly took it.
Always second bar from now on.
 
Ok Pilgrims, I’m starting my first Camino (Frances) in a little over 2 weeks and am “wrapping up” my miscellaneous questions.
This is a little trivial (no snarkiness, please): I’m a solo pilgrim. If I stop off at a Bar or Cafe and want a beer or something, do I “seat myself” and a Server comes over to ME to take my order, OR do I go to the counter, order my drink or food and they BRING it to me at my table? —- just trying to be a courteous visitor in another one’s country. Thanks, Buen Camino!!
Order at the bar and take with you to your table. Buen Camino!
 
Ok Pilgrims, I’m starting my first Camino (Frances) in a little over 2 weeks and am “wrapping up” my miscellaneous questions.
This is a little trivial (no snarkiness, please): I’m a solo pilgrim. If I stop off at a Bar or Cafe and want a beer or something, do I “seat myself” and a Server comes over to ME to take my order, OR do I go to the counter, order my drink or food and they BRING it to me at my table? —- just trying to be a courteous visitor in another one’s country. Thanks, Buen Camino!!
I like your question! :)
If you need the Servicios, then please buy something first unless it’s a busy bar and they won’t notice. The bars are often family owned and so you are walking into their home. Sometimes you have to ask for a key. That’s because pilgrims sometimes take the toilet paper which must infuriate the owner.
Yup, order at the bar and never take your shoes off unless you sit outside. Even then, only if it’s ok with them. I once asked and the owner produced a little towel! What a welcome that was. Happy hiking
 
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€46,-
Thank you all for this information! I am starting the Camino on the 7th of May if all goes as planned. (And if you want to hear God laugh? Tell him your plans). that aside, I am beginning to study and listen to some basic Spanish, learning enough to be courteous...

I honestly hadn't thought much about slinging my pack around inside a bar. Most of the places I have been hiking has been in the US where you pack all you need. and there are no restaraunts.

I do look forward to this pilgrimage, as I am bringing both my wives ashes along with me. I lost my first wife in 2001, reconnected with my high school sweetheart in 2003, and she transitioned in 2023. So, while my focus has initially been on grief, it is now shifting to the pilgrimage itself.

My second wife and I had watched the movie "The way" and while neither of us are religious, we thought what a wonderful way to see part of France and Spain, and just enjoy some time together. well? she is still going, both are, in fact. maybe not the way we had hoped for, but? going all the same. will see how the universe unfolds after that.

Buen Camino!
 
Sometimes it is one way and sometimes the other. There may be a sign that says to go to the bar to order. Usually bar or drink tables don't have silverware and only have a napkin dispenser on them if anything.
If thee’s no sign, I’d say order at the bar and if it’s only a drink, wait there for it.
 
You can order at the bar and they will take it ro your table. I only went to one place once where they did not bring it to the table.
 
€2,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.
Great question @montyhiker. In Galicia, I usually sit down and wait for a server to come take my order. At times I've gone to the bar and ordered something, but I honestly can't remember the last time I took my own plates/cups to a table - usually the bartender would take the order at the bar, and then bring it to me at a table.

And - just a note that in some bars and restaurants, they don't want you to clear your own plates/cups. They'd rather do it themselves, and it would disrupt their system if you were to bring your plates and cups back to the bar once you were done. Perhaps look around at what other patrons at the cafe are doing and follow suit.

Also, during busy periods, if you do want to be seated, there is sometimes a queue of people, but you don't know it! Often Spaniards will check in with a server, be told it's busy and to wait in line, and then they'll mill around/ sit on a wall nearby or across the street/ sit at the bar. The server will know in which order everyone came, and he/she will direct you once it's your turn to be seated at a table. If you do try to sit down at a table before it's your turn (or without realizing at all that there was a queue!), someone will clearly tell you that it's not for you :) .

Buen Camino!
Wow, Faith, I never knew all of these things! I always bring my coffee cup and plate back up to the counter, thinking I am "helping", especially if it is busy in the morning. I thought it a courteous gesture and I make sure to put it out of the way. The bartender often smiles, but now I am unsure if I should continue doing that. I'll be back in Spain in less than two weeks, so I will pay more attention to what others do. I do realize clearing the whole table after a meal in a restaurant would be pointless.
 
...and ship it to Santiago for storage. You pick it up once in Santiago. Service offered by Casa Ivar (we use DHL for transportation).
I am not talking about a civilized looking place with plenty of wait staff. I take dishes back at the first stop of the morning on the Camino at the place where every table is already overflowing with cups and plates, the line at the bar is long and Mom and Pop are both working hard to serve pilgrims in a long line. It's also why I go to the second bar instead the first stop of the day.

I would not bus my own table in Santiago, or somewhere where the wait staff are present and available and already doing it.
 
I love going into a quiet bar and trying to communicate with the person attending. Many times between the two of us there is just enough English and Spanish that is understood that an enjoyable conversation about the bar, the town, the pilgrimage route, etc. can be had. I guess that is why I tend to hope there is more than one bar in a village or town where I want to stop for a bit, so that I can hit the second or third if the first one is busy.

It is amazing the amount of local information about a place can be learned to add to one's insight into local life and culture. Not to mention any tips or helps about the route ahead.
 
It is amazing the amount of local information about a place can be learned to add to one's insight into local life and culture. Not to mention any tips or helps about the route ahead.
This is a regret for me by not learning to speak any Spanish beyond a few basic pleasantries. I'm sure chatting with locals would add another wonderful element to further enhance an already great experience.
 
€2,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.
I've likely taken empty glasses back to the counter, I can't remember. A comprise between that and leaving them on your table would be to collect yours and maybe others and leave them on a table that already has to be cleared.
 
What about tips, when there is a waiter, and it is not appropriate to clean up after yourself? In south/east Spain, in typical tourist places, it is common in restaurants to tip as much as 10% as I have understood. But maybe there is a difference between "bar" and "restaurant"?
 
The 2024 Camino guides will be coming out little by little. Here is a collection of the ones that are out so far.
I've often brought a glass or cup back to the bar, especially if i ordered it there, but I'm not sure how it would be considered helpful to stack up cups, plates and glasses after breakfast and dump them all over the counter.

You'll notice many Spanish, especially when alone will sit at the bar rather than a table so, best just leave your stuff on your table and the barman will clear it over when he's ready.

Tips, i know it's not necessary but i usually leave a few coins for table service.

As pointed out earlier buenos dias/buenas is obligatory before ordering. I've often just waited patiently until the barman said "dime" before ordering. I had no idea this was considered rude, as at home it's common to give a friendly nod/smile or say "hi" as acknowledgement, state your order, and say please and thanks.
 
Way to go, so to speak. On the Camino, we are walking in a very safe and trusting environment, generally speaking, but: Never create temptations, and always take care of your belongings. Easy, really.
An old saying comes to mind - "Trust in God, but tether your camel".
 
One of the pleasures of the Camino is the intersection of so many often mutually bewildering cultures and anthropologies. Then of course the plethora of foreigners are all in the same position in relation to Spanish culture and its myriad regional variants ...

Returning glasses to be bar is one example, and there are so many others.

Given the range of potential miscomprehension, it's part of the magic that we get on so well together. The Camino doesn't just provide, it enlightens.
 
Train for your next Camino (or keep the Camino spirit alive) on Santa Catalina Island
Really? I don't think I've entered a bar without putting down my pack and then going to the bar. I've also never heard of a pack being stolen. Except in the The Way of course. You're kidding right?
me too, i don't think thiefs might be interested in my stinky clothes, different story for my fanny pack which i always had on my waist.
 
Regarding returning empty cup and saucer to the counter. I'm always torn about this. Don't want to cause more work, etc. But this morning (on the Camino del Norte), we were leaving a busy bar and I left the cups on the table. My husband went outside while I went to the bar to pay. While I was waiting to pay, another customer (a local man) picked up our cups and saucers and took them to the bar. I was embarrassed he did this and I didn't. I think from now on, especially if the bar is busy, I will probably bring our cups and saucers up.
 
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Yes, I always do in the morning. When the bar is especially busy I make sure I bring them to the far end of the counter, out of the way of "the action". I most always get a nod and an appreciative smile.
Me too, Chrissy! We often find ourselves doing that ... even in non-Camino settings. Once a pilgrim ... If the bar person notices, it's usually met with either a thank you (in words or a nod) - or a (bemused) smile.😍
 

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