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LIVE from the Camino Bed racing on the Norte - thoughts after 1,5 weeks here

RosaStorm

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
May-June 2023
I just commented this on a reddit thread, and thought it would also be good to post here! I was reading a lot about “bed racing” before I left and was quite nervous. Now that I’ve spent 1,5weeks on the camino, I have some thoughts I would like to share 😊

I am on the Norte (Bilbao right now) and I am not at all experiencing a bed race. The only times when it’s good to plan ahead and book something, is when you’re in a bigger city in the weekend (e.g. Zarautz, Bilbao so far). In the weekend, surfers/general vacationers also come to these cities, so it’s a little more difficult to just show up and find a place. I have always found a spot in municipal albergues, where you cannot reserve, even when I arrived quite late (17:30) for an albergue with only 11 beds in Larrabetzu.

Note that I do not care about where I sleep as long as I have a bed. Don’t know the situation for private rooms. I do know some pilgrims who book ahead 1-2 days and they complain that everything is booked sometimes. One friend wanted to book a bed in the same hostel as me via booking.com and it was noted as full. However, I slept in the hostel, and we were 3 people in a 12 spot bedroom!! So booking.com is FOR SURE not always accurate.

I stayed in a hotel once and I was sad and lonely. Yes it is more comfortable to have ones own shower and no snoring people in the bedroom, but the €65 vs €10 cost in a municipal albergue, was not worth it for me. Plus I missed having some time with fellow pilgrims to share stories of the day! Now I try to stay in hostels or pilgrims albergues always. However, others swear by private rooms!

The hostel owner where I am sleeping now gave me a great tip. No one goes for the bigger rooms in hostels (12, 20, 40). Everyone thinks: yeahh let’s sleep in a 4-6 person room. He suggests booking the big room as you will have a lot more space because fewer people than the capacity of the room usually stay there 😉

A final note that for the municipal in Deba, the lady checked if you hadn’t taken the train to Deba. I think this is because the albergue is conveniently located on the trainstation, so she gets a lot of people who just take a train. She sent away about 20 people the day I stayed there! You can prove this by getting a stamp in Itziar, or just taking some photo’s of the scenery between Zumaia and Deba along the way 🙂 I loved that she checked this, as she sent train people away around 15:30, and then when some of my friends arrived at 18:15 having walked the grueling coastal alternative (grueling because of the rainfall), they still had a spot!

That’s my take! 😄

For those planning to walk in summer, june-august, considered high season, I think it will be similar as my post describes. July/august is actually high season for the LAST 100kms of the camino! For first 740km of the camino, May/Sept are high season! I do think you need to plan ahead better when staying in famous surfing coastal towns like Zarautz. But there’s also a lot of pilgrims hostels that are closed now, but open the 1st of June, so in the end I think your experience will be similar.
 
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The hostel owner where I am sleeping now gave me a great tip. No one goes for the bigger rooms in hostels (12, 20, 40). Everyone thinks: yeahh let’s sleep in a 4-6 person room
I actually hate sleeping in small dorm rooms with few people. It just feels too close and intimate too me. Give me a room with 20 any day! I feel more anonymous in a large room.
For those planning to walk in summer, june-august, considered high season, I think it will be similar as my post describes. July/august is actually high season for the LAST 100kms of the camino! For first 740km of the camino, May/Sept are high season!
That's true of the beginning of the Camino Francés, but the Norte is busier in the summer, not just with pilgrims but with those on holiday who also are looking to stay in the small non-pilgrim hostels and other inexpensive accommodations. Each route has its own busy times.
I have walked the Norte in July, and people did have trouble finding beds. That's why I'm doing it now in May/June.
 
Really helpful. Thank you.

To be fair; Booking.com is very accurate indeed, in real-time; but many people don’t take the time to understand what it says. Only a proportion of rooms at any facility are typically listed on booking.com and when those are full it is by no means the case that all the rooms are full.
 
The one from Galicia (the round) and the one from Castilla & Leon. Individually numbered and made by the same people that make the ones you see on your walk.
I just commented this on a reddit thread, and thought it would also be good to post here! I was reading a lot about “bed racing” before I left and was quite nervous. Now that I’ve spent 1,5weeks on the camino, I have some thoughts I would like to share 😊

I am on the Norte (Bilbao right now) and I am not at all experiencing a bed race. The only times when it’s good to plan ahead and book something, is when you’re in a bigger city in the weekend (e.g. Zarautz, Bilbao so far). In the weekend, surfers/general vacationers also come to these cities, so it’s a little more difficult to just show up and find a place. I have always found a spot in municipal albergues, where you cannot reserve, even when I arrived quite late (17:30) for an albergue with only 11 beds in Larrabetzu.

Note that I do not care about where I sleep as long as I have a bed. Don’t know the situation for private rooms. I do know some pilgrims who book ahead 1-2 days and they complain that everything is booked sometimes. One friend wanted to book a bed in the same hostel as me via booking.com and it was noted as full. However, I slept in the hostel, and we were 3 people in a 12 spot bedroom!! So booking.com is FOR SURE not always accurate.

I stayed in a hotel once and I was sad and lonely. Yes it is more comfortable to have ones own shower and no snoring people in the bedroom, but the €65 vs €10 cost in a municipal albergue, was not worth it for me. Plus I missed having some time with fellow pilgrims to share stories of the day! Now I try to stay in hostels or pilgrims albergues always. However, others swear by private rooms!

The hostel owner where I am sleeping now gave me a great tip. No one goes for the bigger rooms in hostels (12, 20, 40). Everyone thinks: yeahh let’s sleep in a 4-6 person room. He suggests booking the big room as you will have a lot more space because fewer people than the capacity of the room usually stay there 😉

A final note that for the municipal in Deba, the lady checked if you hadn’t taken the train to Deba. I think this is because the albergue is conveniently located on the trainstation, so she gets a lot of people who just take a train. She sent away about 20 people the day I stayed there! You can prove this by getting a stamp in Itziar, or just taking some photo’s of the scenery between Zumaia and Deba along the way 🙂 I loved that she checked this, as she sent train people away around 15:30, and then when some of my friends arrived at 18:15 having walked the grueling coastal alternative (grueling because of the rainfall), they still had a spot!

That’s my take! 😄

For those planning to walk in summer, june-august, considered high season, I think it will be similar as my post describes. July/august is actually high season for the LAST 100kms of the camino! For first 740km of the camino, May/Sept are high season! I do think you need to plan ahead better when staying in famous surfing coastal towns like Zarautz. But there’s also a lot of pilgrims hostels that are closed now, but open the 1st of June, so in the end I think your experience will be similar.
I love the Deba story. I took the long steep alternative route just to find that there were No beds in Deba. I was suspicious of all the so called pilgrims given that I only saw a small handful since I left Irun. This was back in early May. As I have mentioned in my other posts the solution was taking the train back to Zarautz, spending the night in one of many hotels then taking the early train back to Deba to start where I left off. Safe travels to all. BTW, I highly recommend staying at the monastery if possible. A wonderful experience !
 
I love the Deba story. I took the long steep alternative route just to find that there were No beds in Deba. I was suspicious of all the so called pilgrims given that I only saw a small handful since I left Irun. This was back in early May. As I have mentioned in my other posts the solution was taking the train back to Zarautz, spending the night in one of many hotels then taking the early train back to Deba to start where I left off. Safe travels to all. BTW, I highly recommend staying at the monastery if possible. A wonderful experience !
I highly recommend the monastery as well! As for the ‘bed race’, I was up very early to race for a bed at the monastery as I’d heard there were few beds and it was very popular. I was one of the first there, but even late in the afternoon there were still pilgrims arriving and getting beds. Also! The monastery has a ‘hotel’ area in addition to the Albergue where you can have your own room, including dinner and breakfast, for €30 :)
 
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For those planning to walk in summer, june-august, considered high season, I think it will be similar as my post describes.
Thanks for this, an anti-scare, common-sense post. However, having worked as a hospi on the Norte, let me assure you August is not the low season. It is holiday time for a lot of Europeans and a lot of backpackers were taking advantage of the albergue system by acquiring a credencial and using it to get cheap accommodation along the coast so even the municipales can get full at that time.
 
Really helpful. Thank you.

To be fair; Booking.com is very accurate indeed, in real-time; but many people don’t take the time to understand what it says. Only a proportion of rooms at any facility are typically listed on booking.com and when those are full it is by no means the case that all the rooms are full.
Absolutely. If your Spanish is up to it, (or they may speak English) it is worth calling a place listed on Booking.com that seems to be full because they may still have places and not only that you may get a better price than on Booking.com - there is no commission.
 
Thanks for this, an anti-scare, common-sense post. However, having worked as a hospi on the Norte, let me assure you August is not the low season. It is holiday time for a lot of Europeans and a lot of backpackers were taking advantage of the albergue system by acquiring a credencial and using it to get cheap accommodation along the coast so even the municipales can get full at that time.
Exactly. As regards crowds August is the worst month to walk the Norte. July the second worst.
 
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I just commented this on a reddit thread, and thought it would also be good to post here! I was reading a lot about “bed racing” before I left and was quite nervous. Now that I’ve spent 1,5weeks on the camino, I have some thoughts I would like to share 😊

I am on the Norte (Bilbao right now) and I am not at all experiencing a bed race. The only times when it’s good to plan ahead and book something, is when you’re in a bigger city in the weekend (e.g. Zarautz, Bilbao so far). In the weekend, surfers/general vacationers also come to these cities, so it’s a little more difficult to just show up and find a place. I have always found a spot in municipal albergues, where you cannot reserve, even when I arrived quite late (17:30) for an albergue with only 11 beds in Larrabetzu.

Note that I do not care about where I sleep as long as I have a bed. Don’t know the situation for private rooms. I do know some pilgrims who book ahead 1-2 days and they complain that everything is booked sometimes. One friend wanted to book a bed in the same hostel as me via booking.com and it was noted as full. However, I slept in the hostel, and we were 3 people in a 12 spot bedroom!! So booking.com is FOR SURE not always accurate.

I stayed in a hotel once and I was sad and lonely. Yes it is more comfortable to have ones own shower and no snoring people in the bedroom, but the €65 vs €10 cost in a municipal albergue, was not worth it for me. Plus I missed having some time with fellow pilgrims to share stories of the day! Now I try to stay in hostels or pilgrims albergues always. However, others swear by private rooms!

The hostel owner where I am sleeping now gave me a great tip. No one goes for the bigger rooms in hostels (12, 20, 40). Everyone thinks: yeahh let’s sleep in a 4-6 person room. He suggests booking the big room as you will have a lot more space because fewer people than the capacity of the room usually stay there 😉

A final note that for the municipal in Deba, the lady checked if you hadn’t taken the train to Deba. I think this is because the albergue is conveniently located on the trainstation, so she gets a lot of people who just take a train. She sent away about 20 people the day I stayed there! You can prove this by getting a stamp in Itziar, or just taking some photo’s of the scenery between Zumaia and Deba along the way 🙂 I loved that she checked this, as she sent train people away around 15:30, and then when some of my friends arrived at 18:15 having walked the grueling coastal alternative (grueling because of the rainfall), they still had a spot!

That’s my take! 😄

For those planning to walk in summer, june-august, considered high season, I think it will be similar as my post describes. July/august is actually high season for the LAST 100kms of the camino! For first 740km of the camino, May/Sept are high season! I do think you need to plan ahead better when staying in famous surfing coastal towns like Zarautz. But there’s also a lot of pilgrims hostels that are closed now, but open the 1st of June, so in the end I think your experience will be similar.
Thank you!
 
Thank you for posting this! I’m walking the CdN in July/August and booked the first two nights but planning to wing the rest, maybe booking ahead on weekends if I’m going to end up in a popular place. The Deba news is funny! Luckily I take tons of photos naturally. Buen camino!
 
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I just commented this on a reddit thread, and thought it would also be good to post here! I was reading a lot about “bed racing” before I left and was quite nervous. Now that I’ve spent 1,5weeks on the camino, I have some thoughts I would like to share 😊

I am on the Norte (Bilbao right now) and I am not at all experiencing a bed race. The only times when it’s good to plan ahead and book something, is when you’re in a bigger city in the weekend (e.g. Zarautz, Bilbao so far). In the weekend, surfers/general vacationers also come to these cities, so it’s a little more difficult to just show up and find a place. I have always found a spot in municipal albergues, where you cannot reserve, even when I arrived quite late (17:30) for an albergue with only 11 beds in Larrabetzu.

Note that I do not care about where I sleep as long as I have a bed. Don’t know the situation for private rooms. I do know some pilgrims who book ahead 1-2 days and they complain that everything is booked sometimes. One friend wanted to book a bed in the same hostel as me via booking.com and it was noted as full. However, I slept in the hostel, and we were 3 people in a 12 spot bedroom!! So booking.com is FOR SURE not always accurate.

I stayed in a hotel once and I was sad and lonely. Yes it is more comfortable to have ones own shower and no snoring people in the bedroom, but the €65 vs €10 cost in a municipal albergue, was not worth it for me. Plus I missed having some time with fellow pilgrims to share stories of the day! Now I try to stay in hostels or pilgrims albergues always. However, others swear by private rooms!

The hostel owner where I am sleeping now gave me a great tip. No one goes for the bigger rooms in hostels (12, 20, 40). Everyone thinks: yeahh let’s sleep in a 4-6 person room. He suggests booking the big room as you will have a lot more space because fewer people than the capacity of the room usually stay there 😉

A final note that for the municipal in Deba, the lady checked if you hadn’t taken the train to Deba. I think this is because the albergue is conveniently located on the trainstation, so she gets a lot of people who just take a train. She sent away about 20 people the day I stayed there! You can prove this by getting a stamp in Itziar, or just taking some photo’s of the scenery between Zumaia and Deba along the way 🙂 I loved that she checked this, as she sent train people away around 15:30, and then when some of my friends arrived at 18:15 having walked the grueling coastal alternative (grueling because of the rainfall), they still had a spot!

That’s my take! 😄

For those planning to walk in summer, june-august, considered high season, I think it will be similar as my post describes. July/august is actually high season for the LAST 100kms of the camino! For first 740km of the camino, May/Sept are high season! I do think you need to plan ahead better when staying in famous surfing coastal towns like Zarautz. But there’s also a lot of pilgrims hostels that are closed now, but open the 1st of June, so in the end I think your experience will be similar.
I agree. Just finished Irun to Santander and did not experience a bed race. Currently in the Albergue in Santander at the end of day, and there are only 6 pilgrims in a 50 bed facility!
 
I agree. Just finished Irun to Santander and did not experience a bed race. Currently in the Albergue in Santander at the end of day, and there are only 6 pilgrims in a 50 bed facility!
The other night there were just two of us in a private albergue in Geraria. But I just want to point out though that current conditions can change - the Norte is usually much busier in the summer than Spring and Autumn.
 
I just commented this on a reddit thread, and thought it would also be good to post here! I was reading a lot about “bed racing” before I left and was quite nervous. Now that I’ve spent 1,5weeks on the camino, I have some thoughts I would like to share 😊

I am on the Norte (Bilbao right now) and I am not at all experiencing a bed race. The only times when it’s good to plan ahead and book something, is when you’re in a bigger city in the weekend (e.g. Zarautz, Bilbao so far). In the weekend, surfers/general vacationers also come to these cities, so it’s a little more difficult to just show up and find a place. I have always found a spot in municipal albergues, where you cannot reserve, even when I arrived quite late (17:30) for an albergue with only 11 beds in Larrabetzu.

Note that I do not care about where I sleep as long as I have a bed. Don’t know the situation for private rooms. I do know some pilgrims who book ahead 1-2 days and they complain that everything is booked sometimes. One friend wanted to book a bed in the same hostel as me via booking.com and it was noted as full. However, I slept in the hostel, and we were 3 people in a 12 spot bedroom!! So booking.com is FOR SURE not always accurate.

I stayed in a hotel once and I was sad and lonely. Yes it is more comfortable to have ones own shower and no snoring people in the bedroom, but the €65 vs €10 cost in a municipal albergue, was not worth it for me. Plus I missed having some time with fellow pilgrims to share stories of the day! Now I try to stay in hostels or pilgrims albergues always. However, others swear by private rooms!

The hostel owner where I am sleeping now gave me a great tip. No one goes for the bigger rooms in hostels (12, 20, 40). Everyone thinks: yeahh let’s sleep in a 4-6 person room. He suggests booking the big room as you will have a lot more space because fewer people than the capacity of the room usually stay there 😉

A final note that for the municipal in Deba, the lady checked if you hadn’t taken the train to Deba. I think this is because the albergue is conveniently located on the trainstation, so she gets a lot of people who just take a train. She sent away about 20 people the day I stayed there! You can prove this by getting a stamp in Itziar, or just taking some photo’s of the scenery between Zumaia and Deba along the way 🙂 I loved that she checked this, as she sent train people away around 15:30, and then when some of my friends arrived at 18:15 having walked the grueling coastal alternative (grueling because of the rainfall), they still had a spot!

That’s my take! 😄

For those planning to walk in summer, june-august, considered high season, I think it will be similar as my post describes. July/august is actually high season for the LAST 100kms of the camino! For first 740km of the camino, May/Sept are high season! I do think you need to plan ahead better when staying in famous surfing coastal towns like Zarautz. But there’s also a lot of pilgrims hostels that are closed now, but open the 1st of June, so in the end I think your experience will be similar.
Thanks Rosa Storm, that's very helpful. 👍😊
 
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The one from Galicia (the round) and the one from Castilla & Leon. Individually numbered and made by the same people that make the ones you see on your walk.
Best albergue so far, again plenty of beds at 16:30! Albergue Izarbide Aterpetxea
I was there last week. The only problem was lack of sun to dry my clothes, but that wasn't the albergue's fault!

I liked the way it was set up - they gave you a large bin to bring your things into the dorm with lockers in a separate area before you got to the dorms. Each bed had its own electrical outlet and lamp, and the bottom bunks had plenty of headroom!

I particularly like the bin idea - I've been staying in a lot of private rooms, but most of the albergues I've been in have used bins to keep backpacks out of the sleeping space.
 
Ok, best place to stay so far is Casemiro Ponzueta. Clean, welcoming and awesome dinner and breakfast. 4 course dinner soup, proper salad, pork with red peppers and dessert. Breakfast was also a feast. And to top it all, the hosts were wonderful. Only challenge, it was full and I was lucky enough to get the last bed.
 
How are your experiences now with full albergues and hostels…I am starting 18th of June in Irun only until bilbao… thank you!
 
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Places with just one Albergue may fill up fast even on the Norte. Towns with multiple will be better luck. Walked into Colombres today at 3pm and the only albergue a completo sign up. But, if you can’t walk any farther, pensions can be reasonable in small towns. Stayed at Ponzueta like a week ago. Great as others have said. They sleep 16 but opened another room the night I was there for over 20. I knew I wanted to stay there so made a reservation via email and they responded in a few minutes.
 
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Our Atmospheric H30 poncho offers lightness and waterproofness. Easily compressible and made with our Waterproof fabric, its heat-sealed interior seams guarantee its waterproofness. Includes carrying bag.

€60,-

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