I have stayed at over 100 albergues on four Camino routes in Spain and France. There are great albergues and places that I would never want to stay at again.
What are Albergues?
Albergues are hostels. On the Camino de Santiago, the albergues are only for pilgrims. To stay in the Camino albergues, you need a Pilgrims Passport. The albergues on the Camino have very different standards depending on the type.
There are albergues run by religious organizations, local, regional, and municipal authorities, by confraternities, and there are many private albergues. Normally private albergues have better facilities. But, for me, that does not mean they are always the better place to stay.
I loved staying in the Albergue in Grannon. This is run by the local church. Pilgrims sleep on mats on the floor, the cost is donation only, so no fixed price and they have a communal meal in the evening and provide a light breakfast. This place feels special, so I would happily do without wi-fi and a more comfortable bed.
Most people have albergues like this they discover that remains a cherished memory.
The facilities vary greatly. Some albergues are warm and cozy (Grannon, Rabanal del Camino). Some are old school buildings that lack any atmosphere, most have a washing machine and dryer (or line to dry your clothes) There are a few that don’t have laundry facilities where you will need to wash your clothes by hand.
Every place where I stayed had hot showers. Most have kitchens, but almost everywhere, there will be a bar or restaurant that serves the “Pilgrim menu.” This fixed-price menu is usually cheaper but has little choice (about €10 to €15). Most albergues now have wi-fi.
The house rules vary, most will be open from 2 pm and close in the evening at ten with lights out at that time. Beware, some places lock the doors at curfew and will lock you out for the night. Some will wake you at six in the morning and expect you to leave by 7 am. Pilgrims are allowed one night’s stay; unless medical grounds force the person to rest, this happens, sore knees, feet, etc. Most private albergues allow more than one night.
The closer you come to Santiago, the busier the Albergues, patience is a requirement, not an option. However, it all is an incredible experience, see it for what it is, a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.
What is a Xunta Albergue?
Xunta is the name for municple albergues in Galicia. All of these are run by the region. They are purely functional and staffed by employees of the Galicia region. On the whole, they are clean, have good showers, beds, and have a kitchen.
Though, we used to laugh that the lack of cooking utensils encouraged pilgrims to eat at the local bars and restaurants rather than cook in the hostel.
What is a Pilgrims Passport?
A Pilgrims’ Passport proves that you are a pilgrim and have walked that day. To receive a Compostela in Santiago de Compostela, you must have enough stamps on your passport. All the details are in this post.
Are There Albergues with Private Rooms?
There are some private albergues with private rooms. There are also a few municipal albergues that have rooms for two. If you are traveling alone, the rooms for two can feel more awkward than sharing a room with ten pilgrims. I did not see any albergues that have single private rooms.
What is the Difference Between an Albergue, Hostel, and Pension?
Albergues have been well described above. Albergues are pilgrim hostels. There are hostels along the way where you can stay. For example, I stay in the local Youth hostel each time I stay in Leon. It is close to the city center and still fairly cheap. There is no curfew, and you can opt to share a room with people you know or pay for a single room.
Pensions are similar to Bed & Breakfast accommodation but often a bit more basic. They usually offer a room with no breakfast or evening meal. These are good options when you want a night on your own. The pensions cost around €30 per night in the countryside to €70 per night for a double room in a city. An option in between pensions and hotels is Casas Rurales, these are more like Bed & Breakfasts in private rural properties.
How much does it Cost to Stay at an Albergue?
It costs approximately between €5 and €20 to stay in an Albergue. This is the cheapest form of accommodation on the Camino de Santiago. Pensions cost from €30, and hotels from €50 per night.
How to Make a Reservation for Albergues?
You can only make a reservation for private albergues. All the others work on a first come basis. The albergues open between 1 pm and 2 pm, and you will see a line of backpacks from the door.
Almost all can be booked online either via their own website or booking.com. If you speak Spanish, you will be able to call ahead.
I only booked ahead on the last section from Sarria. I did not want to rush my Camino, and I would often finish walking for the day at 3 or 4 pm, sometimes later. I really did take it easy. Often we were the last leaving in the morning. I never walked in the dark early morning like many, it is not my way.
How to Find Albergues
Once you are on the Camino, it is very easy to find an Albergue. Most albergues are situated right on the route, or there will be easy to follow directions in small towns and villages. In cities, it can be harder to find the albergues, Google Maps is my best suggestion in cities.
List of Albergues on the Camino Frances
The Camino Frances has more albergues per kilometer than any other Camino route. It is also well supported by pensions and hotels. During the busy months of June, July, Aug, and early Sep, booking ahead is a good idea if you want to stay in a particular place.
- Pilgrim’s office in Saint Jean Pied de Port. This is a printed list and easy to use. The list does not include many of the private albergues.
These resources are for all Camino routes.
- Gronze – Spanish website with reviews of albergues for all the Camino routes in Spain
- Camino forum printable list. You need to join the forum to download any of the lists.
- Wise Pilgrim – this is an app with all albergues for all routes. Cost $4.99 – this is the most up-to-date list I have seen.
- Booking.com – many private albergues are listed here. It is the best place to find pensions and hotels.
- Camino guidebooks – all the guidebooks have hostels lists. These are usually the most out of date, but they are still helpful.
If you know of any printable lists for the other Camino routes, let me know, and I will link to them here.
Albergues in Santiago de Compostela
I have stayed in bother pensions and albergues in Santiago. During the summer high season, I highly advise booking ahead as accommodation in the city is limited.
|Website||Albergue Seminario Menor en Santiago de Compostela||881 031 768||12€||199 beds|
|Albergue Mundoalbergue||981 588 625||18€||30 beds|
|Albergue the Last Stamp||981 563 525||25€||62 beds|
|Km 0||604 029 410||26€||38 beds|
|Albergue Porta Real||633 610 114||15€||24 beds|
|Albergue la Estrella de Santiago||881 973 926||14€||24 beds|
|Albergue Fin del Camino||981 587 324||8€||110 beds|
|Albergue Acuario Santiago de Compostela||981 575 438||12€||60 beds|
|Albergue Meiga Backpackers||981 570 846||13€||30 beds|
The Camino was the first time I had stayed in shared dormitory accommodation in many years. The last was in my teenage years while hiking in Scotland. I was not looking forward to sharing a room with up to 100 people or sharing showers or toilets. Surprisingly I became used to it quickly.
Most of the staff running the albergues do not speak English. But, they are used to just taking your Pilgrims’ Passport, copying the details, and pointing you towards a room and a bed. Some albergues have many rooms, and some have only one large room. Some have bunk beds and some don’t. If you know you will be up early or need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, make sure you sleep on the bottom bunk.
The most important attribute you will need is patience.
I took off my rose-tinted glasses very early. I mistakenly thought everyone would be better behaved/kinder because it is a pilgrimage. I saw much more kindness on the Camino than in my daily life at home. But we are all still human, so keeping expectations of others reasonable is a good starting place.
Here are some guidelines that will help:
- don’t put your backpack on the bed. This stops the beds from getting dirty and helps stop the possible spread of bed bugs. More below
- use a safety belt/fanny pack, and always take your valuables with you, even to the show and toilet. Passport, credit cards, money, etc.
- clean up after yourself
- if you are leaving very early, pack the night before and keep the noise down
- take off muddy shoes or boots before entering the Albergue
- give the bottom bunk to elderly pilgrims
- know the closing time, and don’t get locked out, respect lights out
- take short showers, hot water is limited
- avoid using a headlamp or torch after lights out
- don’t walk around in your underwear, this is a shared space dress appropriately
Do you snore? I do. And, it was much worse than usual on one Camino due to hay fever. If there is a room for snorers, it is best to use that. Alternatively, don’t choose a bed in the middle of the room, try and stay at the side.
Bedbugs: after four Caminos, I have not had a problem with bedbugs. However, I do buy a spray before I go and lightly spray my bed before using it. I guess continued use of a bedbug/insect repellent spray is not healthy, but I have only used it on the Camino in albergues. On the Camino from Le Puy en Velay, most albergues would spray our backpacks and shoes before letting us into the building.
I have shared my full packing list for the Camino. The following is restricted to what you will need in an Albergue.
Did you see my note above about patience? It is the most important thing to pack.
- Earplugs – the cheaper foam variety is the best. Try some before leaving home.
- Toiletries – I go lightweight and use my body wash for everything. I have tried a bar of soap because it is lighter, but it is also way messier.
- Sleeping bag liner – this and the next are related. Almost all albergues have blankets, so you don’t need a heavy sleeping bag during the summer. I have created a curated list of Camino sleeping bags.
- Ultralightweight sleeping bag. I don’t like using blankets that someone else has just used, so my sleeping bag opens like a blanket. (I don’t mind this little extra weight)
- Headlamp – I prefer this to a torch as I can still use both hands
- Lightweight pot – if you are keeping costs as low as possible, this will ensure you can cook wherever there is a kitchen.
- MicroFiber towel – these are lightweight towels that dry quickly. Wash a few times before you leave home to ensure it drys your body.
- Most places sell disposable sheets and pillowcases for only €1
Can You Camp on the Camino?
I am not a lawyer. Double check the following yourself.
Wild camping is illegal in Spain, though it is tolerated on open land that is well away from towns or villages. It is best to ask the landowner first. Do not camp on the beach, as you can be fined up to €1,000.
All that said, here is what I have seen. Many albergues have a bit of land attached, and I have seen pilgrims camp with permission on this. I have seen pilgrims camp well off the tracks and in forests. There are also some campsites, but given the cost, you are likely better staying in an Albergue. If you do camp, set up your tent as it is getting dark and take it down at dawn.
At the time of writing (Dec 2022), wild camping in Portugal is illegal, but the law is changing to allow it in various places. It is best to check with each local tourist office first.
I love hiking, backpacking, and camping. From the Camino de Santiago to the West Highland Way in Scotland or simply a great day hike on the weekend. Hiking refreshes me, my mind, and keeps my body reasonably fit. So far I have walked three Camino routes and many other long distance hikes in the UK, Canada, and around the rest of Europe. One of the best was my hike up Ben Nevis.