Lets face it, staying on the Camino is not a million dollar luxury experience. It’s often just a bed in a dormitory. Or a private room with a shared bath. After a day of walking that can still feel luxurious. I like a private bath, when I can get one. But staying off stage can prove challenging in that department.
Most hosts, hospitalieros, and hotels use Booking.com. And the platform charges an exorbitant fee to the proprietor to book a bed for €13. Or a room for anywhere from €25-60. Depending upon how up market you want to go in a village with evening cow herding as the main attraction. Pro tip: Wear your gators in the morning. You’ll be walking through that stuff, likely, all day. Ah, the scent of Galicia! 😉
But, of course, where there is a will there’s a way. And an informal network of the acquainted service providers has sprung up from Sarria onwards, and I love it!
Shop owners, cafe bartenders, mochila services, and Albergues are working together outside the Booking.com system and it begins when you check in for your stay. ‘Do you have a place to sleep tomorrow night?’ This surprised. Yes, I know I am on the busiest stretch of the Camino Frances now. But I avoided leaving Sarria on a Saturday, Sunday or Monday. I am behind the giant weekly wave in front of me. Jeff says a few thousand people walked by our house the past two days. I only saw a couple leaving Sarria. And most were long haulers, like me. So I didn’t book ahead. Only two people are in my Pension tonight. But that didn’t stop the reception from picking up the phone. ‘Let me get you a room for tomorrow night. Private bath?’
Hey, I get it. While I could just walk my 22k and find something, they know I will likely look online to check availability as I get close to the town. And that cuts into their profit right off the top. Better to get to me early, and lock me in. Before I stray into an app, or a website where they have to pay a commission for the booking.
Did I feel a bit ‘managed’ in this process? Maybe a little. But I admire the hustle and the organic self-organization of it all. The Albergues have found ways to help each other. Props to them.
The Camino is heating up. By May there will be few beds to be had on this stretch without an advance booking. Leaving Sarria on Tuesday-Friday is the best way to guarantee a decent selection, and to avoid walking with a crowd of thousands. But if all else fails on the securing a bed front, talk to taxi driver or a bar tender or a shopkeeper. They’ll know a guy, who knows a guy in the Camino grapevine. How do I know? Because they just booked a lovely room for me tomorrow that includes dinner. And it’s no where on Booking.com.