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So what makes for a really good albergue?

MKalcolm M

Solvitur ambulando - It is solved by walking
Time of past OR future Camino
north route spring 2013
Myself and two friends are in the process of buying an old house and barn to turn into an albergue, and we've been discussing what factors make a good albergue. So what are your thoughts, suggestions, ideas? Conversley, what makes a bad albergue experience? All ideas greatfully received. Malcolm
 
The 2024 Camino guides will be coming out little by little. Here is a collection of the ones that are out so far.
1) Plumbing that works
1a) Plumbing with pressure
1b) Plumbing with hot water
1c) Shower large enough to pick up dropped items without touching sides

Etc........ I think you get the idea - have a DECENT SHOWER and I forgive everything else.

(BTW the best shower I experienced on the CF was at Las Herrerias - Alb Mirriam)
 
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Mg suggestion is to contact Rebekah Scott...while she didn't open an albergue per se, if you read her blog from the beginning, it is no easy thing in preparing a house and surrounding are in Spain.

I am only just embarking on my first Camino this May, but to me an important thing I am looking for is the welcome...knowing that the albergue is to welcome pilgrims versus just wanting to pocket profits.

Kris
 
A Treasure Trove Of Interesting Pilgrim Hacks! Learn & Share Your Own Too!
1) Plumbing that works
1a) Plumbing with pressure
1b) Plumbing with hot water
1c) Shower large enough to pick up dropped items without touching sides

Etc........ I think you get the idea - have a DECENT SHOWER and I forgive everything else.

(BTW the best shower I experienced on the CF was at Las Herrerias - Alb Mirriam)
All of the above plus a decent drying room for laundry, only came across a few in 2012 with proper drying facilities, its great to be able to do the laundry but not so good if you cannot dry them. One albergue had a room with lots of clothes lines and one or two radiators installed, nice and warm and the clothes were dry in no time. A bad experience is when you get one badly working shower for the whole albergue, no drying facilities, no heating and everything damp, beds sheets, pillows and blankets.
Best of luck with your new venture, keep us posted.
 
Myself and two friends are in the process of buying an old house and barn to turn into an albergue, and we've been discussing what factors make a good albergue. So what are your thoughts, suggestions, ideas? Conversley, what makes a bad albergue experience? All ideas greatfully received. Malcolm

Hi MKalcolm M,

It is not rocket science.........................................
EXCELLENT HOSPITALERS.............MINE HOSTS
HOT EFFICIENT SHOWERS / CLEAN TOILETS
COMFORTABLE BEDS
WELCOME TRAY OF TEA OR COFFEE OR FOR A REALLY BIG IMPRESSION, A BEER OR 2 OR BOTTLE OF VINO TINTO.

Numbers 1, 2, and 3 are negotiable.
Number 4 is mandatory.

PLEASE SEND ADDRESS FOR MYSTERY PILGRIM CRITIC TO VISIT.
 
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1. Clean...that you can see when first arriving
2. Good Bed spacing with space for packs. Hooks for hanging packs off floor are great
3. Adequate drying area both inside and outside
4. Paper sheets. Nothing better to separate you from the sketchy mattress and really makes daily bed cleaning easier.
5. Posted information on the next few stages with albergue and other accommodation info
6. Posted directions to grocery shop, bar/restaurant, medico, pharmacy, etc
7. Great memorial sello
8. Electrical outlets!! Ideal would be one for each bed. Many of the the newer albergues are doing this.
 
Ideal sleeping bag liner whether we want to add a thermal plus to our bag, or if we want to use it alone to sleep in shelters or hostels. Thanks to its mummy shape, it adapts perfectly to our body.

€46,-
- fast wifi
- good showers
- plastic type matresses (i've seen 1 or 2 albergues with these and thought they were excellent for hygene/bed bugs ect.
- Dont get complicated beds. Again for hygene. The less places filth and other stuff can go into, the better.
- Washing/drying facilities
- Electric outlet for every bed. Thought that was excellent as well. Some also had a soft bedlight for each bed. Another good one.

- For yourself - build so it is easy to maintain.

Not specifically in this order

For example, i stayed in albergue San Marcos in Palas de Rei. Yes, this was modern and brand new build and purpose build (so lots of people would say, no charm) but hygene wise it was excellent. And for me, the #1 thing that makes a good albergue is hygene. Forget facililties, go for cleanliness. People are gonna remember a clean shower alot longer then your nice vending machine.
People are also going to remember (and talk about) your dirty shower even longer.
Check out the pics of the showerfloor of the double bedrooms from that albergue. Thats how you should make it...Or at least how i would ;) Where the floor and and "floorboard" are one. Just an example of what i thought was smart (purpose) building.
 
I would just add to what has already been mentioned is that some of my best memories are from albergues that were complete dumps but great places to stay because of who else was staying there. Laughter and companionship from a couple of great pilgrims can overcome no hot water and mold in a shower stall in a hurry. Buen Camino.
 
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The 2024 Camino guides will be coming out little by little. Here is a collection of the ones that are out so far.
New albergues will need to be built according to local codes, so the physical plant will be dictated -- number of toilets, number of bunks in a room, the number of exits, handicap toilets, smoke alarms, etc. Other amenities will be up to you and your budgetary constraints. Competing with the established facilities at the new, higher cost requirements will be a challenge, I suspect. Talking with some new owners leads me to believe that you can expect difficulty if you lack a local connection!
 
I would just add to what has already been mentioned is that some of my best memories are from albergues that were complete dumps because of who else was staying there. Laughter and companionship from a couple of great pilgrims can overcome no hot water and mold in a shower stall in a hurry. Buen Camino.

Is a disabled toilet one with or without paper or just without a door !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 
I loved the one albergue I stayed in that had individual bathrooms each with its own shower, toilet and hand basin. It felt like a five star hotel.
 
3rd Edition. More content, training & pack guides avoid common mistakes, bed bugs etc
1. Clean...that you can see when first arriving
2. Good Bed spacing with space for packs. Hooks for hanging packs off floor are great
3. Adequate drying area both inside and outside
4. Paper sheets. Nothing better to separate you from the sketchy mattress and really makes daily bed cleaning easier.
5. Posted information on the next few stages with albergue and other accommodation info
6. Posted directions to grocery shop, bar/restaurant, medico, pharmacy, etc
7. Great memorial sello
8. Electrical outlets!! Ideal would be one for each bed. Many of the the newer albergues are doing this.
Paper sheets are just one more thing to litter the countryside with...
 
I stayed in one albergue that had segregated rooms. That was a pleasant change. There were also fewer beds in the room so I didn't feel crammed in like a sardine. Relative to what early pilgrims experienced, running water is about enough for me.
 
The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.
Safe.
Clean.
Dry.

I always appreciate the host who makes the gesture to relieve one of his/her backpack. While I don't personally prefer, I like the look on the faces of others when someone is helping relieve the weight of the pack. As if found sanctuary. I don't see this much at all anymore.
 
1. Clean...that you can see when first arriving
2. Good Bed spacing with space for packs. Hooks for hanging packs off floor are great
3. Adequate drying area both inside and outside
4. Paper sheets. Nothing better to separate you from the sketchy mattress and really makes daily bed cleaning easier.
5. Posted information on the next few stages with albergue and other accommodation info
6. Posted directions to grocery shop, bar/restaurant, medico, pharmacy, etc
7. Great memorial sello
8. Electrical outlets!! Ideal would be one for each bed. Many of the the newer albergues are doing this.
Ditto to everything, especially the cleanliness/hygiene. I walked a number of days with two older couples. They always checked the albergue bathrooms and bedrooms for cleanliness with very high standards before agreeing to stay.
I think you get the idea - have a DECENT SHOWER and I forgive everything else.
It's also nice when each individual shower has an enclosed area with a seat and space to dress/undress, as well as hooks to hang clothes and a bag with valuables.
WELCOME TRAY OF TEA OR COFFEE OR FOR A REALLY BIG IMPRESSION, A BEER OR 2 OR BOTTLE OF VINO TINTO.
Coffee/tea in the morning as well.

Several other niceties not mentioned in the thread responses so far . . .
  1. Posted Mass times.
  2. Posted information on any area attractions or points of interest.
  3. Posted location of other services (e.g. barber/stylist, gear shop, etc.).
  4. Nice outdoor ambiance, where a person can sit under cover (sun/rain protection) around a yard or courtyard with grass, shrubs, or even trees.
  5. Nice indoor ambiance, as opposed to a place that feels like a "pilgrim's warehouse."
  6. A well equipped and functional kitchen. A huge plus in my mind would be several separate two-burner cooktops so several groups can cook without standing on top of each other.
  7. Available washers and dryers, or washing service.
  8. No bunk beds (although I recognize the financial challenges this can pose).
  9. If bunk beds, upper rails to prevent accidental falls and comfortable stairs to the upper bunk.
  10. Separate communal area for visiting and a quiet policy in the dorms.
  11. More, smaller dorm rooms rather than fewer, large dorm rooms.
  12. Proximity to church, bar/restaurant, and supermercado.
 
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Prepare for your next Camino on Santa Catalina Island, March 17-20
I always appreciate the host who makes the gesture to relieve one of his/her backpack.
They did this for me when I stumbled into Roncesvalles in sheer exhaustion (didn't eat enough and ran completely out of energy around the fountain of Roland).

I put this under the topic of hospitality where the hospitaleros provide a greater degree of kindness and care where there is obvious need, rather than running something akin to a self-service albergue.
 
Safe.
Clean.
Dry.

I always appreciate the host who makes the gesture to relieve one of his/her backpack. While I don't personally prefer, I like the look on the faces of others when someone is helping relieve the weight of the pack. As if found sanctuary. I don't see this much at all anymore.

We served as hospitalaros in Carrion de los Condes with a couple of young girls from Madrid. After we checked in the Pilgrims and assigned beds, these small girls would often shoulder the pilgrim's packs and carry them up the stairs to show people to the bunks.
Lots of astounded looks from the men and some very grateful looks from some women. It was really unexpected and welcomed by tired people.
The sisters at the Santa Maria albergue always have cold tea and sweets ready for arriving pilgrims.
 
The 2024 Camino guides will be coming out little by little. Here is a collection of the ones that are out so far.
Dear Prospective Albergue owners: Sure thing that really stands out for me: sit down with us at dinner! A big community dinner where we share stories and come together...that's really all I'm in it for. Super sweet showers are nice, but not a priority. Comfy beds, not a priority: If I've been walkin 20+k for some days: I'm gonna drop into a dreamless sleep no prob. Clean is nice, but seriously, I'm not going to remember clean like I remember a big shared dinner with you at the table. I don't even care so much what we eat: as long as I can fill up on rice and there's something green in sight...but I feel a bit sheepish and revealing a bit too much heart saying you could give me hot dogs and pop tarts as long as we came together and shared. Happened only two or three times on my Camino, but those times were the most special ones.
 
Paper sheets are just one more thing to litter the countryside with...

Huh? You dont use 'm outside, do you?

Well i loved them. Even if i only used them inside. Great thing for....yes again...hygene.
 
Prepare for your next Camino on Santa Catalina Island, March 17-20
1) Plumbing that works
1a) Plumbing with pressure
1b) Plumbing with hot water
1c) Shower large enough to pick up dropped items without touching sides

Etc........ I think you get the idea - have a DECENT SHOWER and I forgive everything else.

(BTW the best shower I experienced on the CF was at Las Herrerias - Alb Mirriam)

A propos shower at Miriam's, it's nice to hear that she and her boyfriend managed to repair it, because in 2011 there was a flood after each pilgrim take the shower :D
 
There is more than a little bit of the "five second rule"(for things you drop on the floor) in thinking that the disposable sheets do much! They fractionally improve hygiene in an environment of sweaty bodies, backpacks, dirty laundry, dust, bugs, germs, and close proximity to airborne disease. If they give you comfort, fine, but the mattress on which you put them may already have had a decade of use, and the porous sheets do not make them clean. They were instituted first in Galicia to justify charging for the albergue; a 50 cent sheet for a 5E bed charge. The skinflints had to start paying, and someone's brother-in-law got a lucrative contract to supply the sheets, and there was one more thing for the hospitaleros to do in the morning as they collected things for the landfill. I suppose there is plenty of ground between my cynicism and naivete, to have faith in disposable sheets...;)

I have a pillow pocket in my sleep sack preventing any mattress contact, so I leave the sheets in their original plastic wrapper. It saves the albergue 50 cents.
 
What makes a great albergue? One that is 5k less than than the guide says! Seriously so many suggestions above. Anyone incorporating all (and many are not that difficult/expensive) would be guaranteed a place in heaven. Apart from the practical ones (and for some of those think of multiple languages) the one thing that makes a real difference is YOU!
 
Prepare for your next Camino on Santa Catalina Island, March 17-20
All great suggestions. When we served as hospitaleros we were determined to provide three things:
1. Greet every pilgrim with a smile...
2. Have a spotlessly clean Albergue...and most important
3. ALWAYS have toilet tissue in the washrooms..

If you provide that everything else falls into place. Karen and Dayton
 
I agree with almost all the suggestions made by others: cleanliness, good amenities, and so on. However, what makes the biggest difference for me is that elusive, hard-to-define thing called 'the experience'. I like clean showers and a good quality bed just as much as anyone, but if I show up and am warmly greeted by a genuinely friendly host who is clearly doing his or her best and creates a welcoming environment, that makes up for almost everything. The overall ambiance and 'feel' of the albergue is more important than any specific characteristic.

I don't do the Camino for the comforts (though I'll certainly take them when I can). While on the Camino, I'd rather sleep on a thin mattress on the floor in a shack with no electricity, but hosted by someone who knows how to create a great environment, then stay in a perfectly appointed but inhospitable assembly-line place.

If I'm in Paris on a two-week vacation with my daughter, then my priorities and interests would be different. The Camino is a different sort of journey. I'm not looking for a 'Paris' experience. And when I *do* want greater creature comforts along the Camino, or just a night away from snorers and 5am risers, that's when I'll opt to stay in a pensión or hotel for the night.

My favorite albergue memories almost never have anything to do with the specific attributes / amenities of the place, but instead with the 'little' things - the genuine welcome, an immediate sense of 'belonging' ("my home is your home"), the social ambiance, the communal dinner (even if informally arranged by a sub-set of the guests), the confidence that I am in the good hands of someone who genuinely is looking out for me, the sense that while there is nothing wrong with an albergue earning a profit their every action isn't about squeezing every last possible euro out of me (indeed, I'm perfectly happy to pay a higher price up-front than to be 'squeezed'), and so on. A building with 'character' or history is also nice, though of much lesser importance.

About the only amenity that will often be the deal-breaker is wifi - I can't 'go dark' on my family or on my company. I need to stay in touch. I can go without for one night, if necessary, but that will almost certainly make it a deal-breaker on the next night.

Good luck with your venture!
 
The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.
Many wonderful suggestions. But my most memorable and perhaps cherished albergue experience happened at the somewhat dumpy albergue at
Granon. It met few of these requirements: we slept on thin mattresses on the floor; it was cramped and there were too few showers and toilets and it wasn't exactly spotless.

But I never slept better and what riches it offered the weary pilgrim! A "fishes and loaves" type dinner in which we shared a common meal that seemed to offer just the right amount of food. And a candlelit service in the choir loft of the old church, offering a deeply moving experience that bound us to each other and the legions of pilgims who preceded us on the path.

It was a gentle reminder that it's important to leave ample space in your pack for the Spirit, too.

In short, my body was thankful for clean albergues, but I was moved to deeper gratitude by places like Granon that understood a soul was on the path, too, and had its own desire to be cherished and fed.

--Rebecca
 
Myself and two friends are in the process of buying an old house and barn to turn into an albergue, and we've been discussing what factors make a good albergue. So what are your thoughts, suggestions, ideas? Conversley, what makes a bad albergue experience? All ideas greatfully received. Malcolm
Everything above! Especially cleanliness and that everything works - but most of all, kindliness, being welcoming, treating every stupid question as if it is the first time you have heard it - kindliness

p.s. plus sink plugs

Throw in some free ear plugs might prove handy!
 
Myself and two friends are in the process of buying an old house and barn to turn into an albergue, and we've been discussing what factors make a good albergue. So what are your thoughts, suggestions, ideas? Conversley, what makes a bad albergue experience? All ideas greatfully received. Malcolm

We stayed at an albergue just before Sarria. It had everything that people have listed. The brother and sister running it have done the Camino Frances. There was a lovely lounge area for people to meet and chat, have a cup of tea, or just relax. Everything was clean, the evening meal was one of the best we had, and everybody (including owners) joined in. There was even a resident pet chicken.

http://caminodesantiago.consumer.es/albergue-privado-paloma-y-lena

If I get to do this Camino again, I plan to stay there.

Donna
 
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A selection of Camino Jewellery
If possible, buy bunk beds that allow you to SIT upright if you are on the bottom bunk! They do exist, but the majority if bunk beds don't give enough room between the top and bottom bed. Anne
 
If possible, buy bunk beds that allow you to SIT upright if you are on the bottom bunk! They do exist, but the majority if bunk beds don't give enough room between the top and bottom bed. Anne

Plenty of room to sit up if you choose a top bunk, Anne. ;)

Seriously, I wonder how much higher the top bunk would be in order to increase the head room in the lower??
 
Ideal sleeping bag liner whether we want to add a thermal plus to our bag, or if we want to use it alone to sleep in shelters or hostels. Thanks to its mummy shape, it adapts perfectly to our body.

€46,-
Location, location, location.

There are some great albergues just before and just after major stopping points. They often are quite vacant. Since no one will walk back to a place, it is better to be after the major stop. At least you can catch the overflow traffic.
 
Huh? You dont use 'm outside, do you?

Well i loved them. Even if i only used them inside. Great thing for....yes again...hygene.

One presumes that the paper sheets can be recycled for processing. If not, they should be.

That reduces the need to kill more trees to make more paper sheets. While not exactly a linear relationship 1 used sheet = 1 recycled "new" sheet, I would suggest this is preferable to having to wash cotton or poly sheets repeatedly.

The washing process uses more energy and imposes it's own pollution issues with wastewater treatment. During the recycling process, these things are taken care of.

I would personally JUMP at the chance to buy a "disposable" paper sheet at each albergue I came to.
 
Ideal pocket guides for during and after your Camino. Each weighs just 40g (1.4 oz).
Terrific thread Malcolm and fantastic responses everyone - really interesting. I'll add a small thing which is much appreciated in hot weather - a jug of cool/iced water and some glasses to be available at Reception.
 
I suppose you have already considered this, but you will need a license, and there are regulations about albergues.
If you are planning to establish yourselves in little villages...well, the "social" part may be complicated. Asking the "señor cura" for the ritual blessing of the new albergue may be a good idea.
My congrats, a new place, run for enthusiastic former pilgrims is always welcome!
 
Ideal sleeping bag liner whether we want to add a thermal plus to our bag, or if we want to use it alone to sleep in shelters or hostels. Thanks to its mummy shape, it adapts perfectly to our body.

€46,-
I agree whole-heartedly with all that has been suggested by others, but for me, the best two nights that I'll always remember most fondly were Grañon and the Convento at San Anton -- two of the albergues with minimal amenities. San Anton had neither electricity nor hot water, but both were magical nights because of the fellow pilgrims with whom we shared the evenings, the simple but wonderful meals served, and especially because of the graciousness of the hospitaleros at those places.
 
Myself and two friends are in the process of buying an old house and barn to turn into an albergue, and we've been discussing what factors make a good albergue. So what are your thoughts, suggestions, ideas? Conversley, what makes a bad albergue experience? All ideas greatfully received. Malcolm

You have to look at it from a different perspective, first, it's a business and you and your 2 friends are investing a lot of money to make it work.

Easy to clean and maintain.

Decent beds.

Toilet seats on all toilets.

Good ratio of showers and toilets.

Will you charge enough to keep things running?

I'd recommend all three of you volunteer for at least a month to really see what's involved in running an Albergue before you spend your hard earned cash.
 
The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.
I have an almost-finished document that deals with a lot of this stuff. Malcolm (or whomever) if you are interested, IM me with your real email and I will send you a copy.
 
A common evening meal, breakfast, NO leaving before 7.30 lol, a few books/magazines in all possible languages, NO wifi (talk to eachother) and music....
 
A smile at arrival and NOT giving the pilgrims the impression that they are little more than 20 Euro bills with a backpack. And yes, I second the idea of doing a long stay as a hospitalero voluntario before opening your own albergue. Plus, if at all possible, having your own, different source of income from the albergue will also help to keep you relaxed and welcoming. Running an albergue and earning a decent living wage might be too big a challenge. For everything else, contact Rebecca ;-) Buen albergue! SY
 
3rd Edition. More content, training & pack guides avoid common mistakes, bed bugs etc
Hola

I may be repeating some things but these I think about to to get many kinds of pilgrims to come:
Washing machine
Kitchen utilities
Bicycle shed / tools
Dog house
Tent area
Blankets

But as stated above, friendly hospitalero/a makes up any lack of facilities.
Good luck and keep us posted how it goes.

Lettinggo
 
Dear Prospective Albergue owners: Sure thing that really stands out for me: sit down with us at dinner! A big community dinner where we share stories and come together...that's really all I'm in it for. Super sweet showers are nice, but not a priority. Comfy beds, not a priority: If I've been walkin 20+k for some days: I'm gonna drop into a dreamless sleep no prob. Clean is nice, but seriously, I'm not going to remember clean like I remember a big shared dinner with you at the table. I don't even care so much what we eat: as long as I can fill up on rice and there's something green in sight...but I feel a bit sheepish and revealing a bit too much heart saying you could give me hot dogs and pop tarts as long as we came together and shared. Happened only two or three times on my Camino, but those times were the most special ones.

As to sitting down with the pilgrims for dinner...I saw this at Orisson. Of course, there were no other places to eat near to there than what was provided at the albergue but the food was excellent and the spirit of comraderie among the hospitaleros and peregrinos was wonderful.
 
Electricity outlets by the bed and hospitalieros that talks to you, show an interest in the visiting pilgrims and offering a foot bath with salt.

After that a hot shower is nice but good facilities to wash my clothes (I don't need a machine) and hang them to dry makes the stay even better.

Community dinner is also really really nice. My best meals on the Camino was in albergues offering that. My top 2 albergues are Villares do Orbigo and Casa Banderas in Vilacha. They have to right mentality to really welcome the pilgrims.
 
€2,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.
All great suggestions. When we served as hospitaleros we were determined to provide three things:
1. Greet every pilgrim with a smile...
2. Have a spotlessly clean Albergue...and most important
3. ALWAYS have toilet tissue in the washrooms..

If you provide that everything else falls into place. Karen and Dayton
Long term hospitalero and I put these in my must do list as an hospitalero.
 
Great suggestions. I would just add that in the showers it is nice to have hooks outside the shower for your clothes / towel, and inside the shower for you kit and maybe a shelf for soap/ shampoo etc
 

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