As you prepare for your Camino pilgrimage, you will be making decisions on where to rest your feet and get a good night’s sleep. There are many types of accommodations along the Camino de Santiago, each offering different ways of experiencing the Camino.
We wanted to help you sort out the various lodging options so that you can make the best decisions for your needs.
Where is the best place to stay along the Camino de Santiago? For those walking the Camino, the best lodging will be albergues. Albergues are run by the municipal government, local church or a private individual and offer extremely affordable rates to stay in a dorm-style room with bunk beds. Pensions, hotels or casas rurales will offer more amenities like private rooms but at a higher price.
Here is a quick list of the different types of accommodations you will find on the Camino de Santiago:
4) Casas Rurales
8) Miscellaneous Others (not found as much)
While it may seem like there are a lot of different options to choose from, the most common places to stay will be albergues, pensions, hotels and casas rurales.
1) Staying in Albergues Along the Camino
Albergues are the main (and most basic) lodging type along the Camino de Santiago. Regardless of whether you are staying in a municipal albergue, parochial or private albergue, most offer similar amenities at similar prices.
All albergues will offer dorm-style rooms with bunk beds. Some albergues will have a room of 20 beds while other albergues will offer massive rooms with over 200 beds. The price you pay will be for one bed (not room) for the evening.
The price of a bed for one night at an albergue will range from 4 euros to 12 euros. Some albergues (typically parochial albergues) will be donation-based (donativo). You cannot make reservations at municipal or parochial albergues, but you can make reservations at private albergues.
Albergues are the cheapest lodging option for your Camino pilgrimage. Because of this, they are typically the most sought after, despite the unpleasantries that can come from sleeping in a large room full of fellow pilgrims.
All albergues offer hot water and communal bathrooms. In busy months, the hot water can run out quickly, so you may need to plan your shower for when the hot water comes back. If you walk the Camino in the winter, almost all albergues have adequate heat.
Many (but not all) albergues will come with a communal kitchen with cooking supplies.
The marker for albergues is the letter A.
Your check-in procedure will be the same at all albergues. Most will open in the early afternoon. You will need your pilgrim passport in order to complete check-in. During busy months like July, a line will begin to form, sometimes before the albergue officially opens. You can hold your place in line by placing your backpack in the queue to hold your spot. You will want to stay relatively close though, because municipal and parochial albergues are first-come, first-serve.
All albergues are required to lock doors at night by law. Most will lock their doors at 10:00pm. If you are staying at a parochial albergue, check to see if they lock their doors early (there have been reports of some parochial albergues locking doors at 9:00pm). Also, when you get into Galicia (the final part of the Camino de Santiago), you will find that many albergues lock their doors at 11:00pm.
Albergues are the only form of accommodation along the Camino that are required to lock their doors at night.
You are only allowed to stay for a maximum of one night at albergues. After staying the night, you must vacate early in the morning, usually 8:00am or 9:00am. The only exception to this is if you have a medical condition (with a note from a doctor). For most who walk the Camino, the one-night maximum stay at an albergue will not affect your schedule unless you want to stay several nights in a location, in which case you will have to look for alternative lodging.
Who operates the albergues? A hospitalero is the person who runs the albergue. A hospitalero may be a local, or a religious (nun or monk) or a volunteer from a different part of the world. Each albergue will have a hospitalero who is in charge of opening the albergue, checking in pilgrims, cleaning up as well as locking up for the night.
Most hospitaleros live in the albergue while others live right next to it. Non-resident hospitaleros will live in town. You may hear hospitaleros also referred to as wardens or innkeepers.
Hospitaleros will have the best information about the local town, as well as restaurants, Mass times, shops and the Camino in general. Please express kindness to your hospitalero as they are offering their hospitality to you.
One of your main priorities while staying at an albergue will be washing and drying your clothes. There will be times where you will need to hand wash and hang your clothes outside. However, an increasing number of albergues are beginning to offer washing machines (lavadora) and dryers (secadora). Just keep in mind that other pilgrims will want to use the machines too, so you may have to wait (or find another pilgrim to split a load of laundry with you).
The pilgrims who enjoy staying in albergues typically like the low cost, as well as the social aspect of the albergue. It is easier to make friends when sharing a large room together. Pilgrims also report enjoying albergues because it feels more like a pilgrimage (by focusing on simplicity and not having as many amenities).
Some albergues will have wifi, others will not. Keep this in mind when deciding to stay at albergues.
Most pilgrims agree that the main disadvantage to staying at an albergue is you will not get a good night’s rest on most nights. Sleeping can be very difficult in an albergue dorm-style room, as there will be people who snore, others who get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, and pilgrims who rustle through their backpacks to find something to keep them distracted because they are having a hard time sleeping! In order to get a better night’s rest, it can be a good use of money to opt for a private room at a private albergue, pension, hotel or casas rurales (or split a private room with another pilgrim).
As stated before, reservations are not accepted at municipal albergues or parochial albergues. However, you can make reservations at private albergues. We wrote an entire post covering how to make reservations along the Camino, you can find it here. For the last 100km of the Camino Frances route, you will want to highly consider reserving rooms, as this is the busiest part of the Camino and beds start to become scarce. Some pilgrims also recommend reserving beds at St. Jean Pied de Port.
Cyclists on the Camino will want to keep in mind that most municipal albergues will give priority to walking pilgrims. This means that you might arrive at an albergue, but they will ask you to wait until later in the day to check-in (typically 6:00pm), sometimes you will have to wait until 8:00pm to check-in. To avoid this, cyclists can opt to stay at private albergues, as they will not give the same preferential treatment to walkers. Cyclists are not required to wait at private albergues.
One note about municipal and parochial albergues that are donation-based. Please give some form of compensation to the albergue for their hospitality. Some pilgrims believe that since it is donation-based that they do not have to give anything. While this may be true, remember that the hospitalero and staff are giving their hospitality to you as well as their most precious commodity: their time. Most agree that a minimum donation of 4 or 5 euros is appropriate. When in doubt, follow the popular Camino phrase “Pay what you can, take what you need.”
If you are a Catholic or Christian walking the Camino, keep your eye out for parochial albergues (especially ones run by a monastery or convent) as they will have spiritual activities that pilgrims are welcome to attend. You will find vesper services, hymn sings, prayers and Masses offered. We wrote a post for Catholics and Christians on the many things you can do to deepen your faith on the Camino de Santiago.
To wrap up albergues, here is a quick reference guide to some of the distinctions between albergue types:
Municipal albergue (albergue municipal) - This is the official albergue system run by the local government. You will find state employees as well as local volunteers. Municipal albergues do not typically offer food. These will offer bunk bed dorm-style rooms with a pillow. There will be a place to dry your clothes. Price will be 4 euros to 8 euros (or donation-based).
Parish albergue (albergue parroquial) - Parochial albergue run by the local church. Most of these albergues are donation-based or a very low price. Sometimes they are run by the local convent or monastery (convento, monasterio). These are the most basic lodging. Most do not have wifi. Parochial albergues will offer spiritual practices open to pilgrims like vespers, prayers and Mass. Price is typically donation-based or a small fee of a couple of euros.
Private albergue (albergue privado) - Private albergues operate the same as municipal or parish albergues, but are owned by a private individual or family (many times by someone who previously walked the Camino). These are run more as a business. Because of this, they are usually updated and offer evening meal and breakfast. Some private albergues also offer private rooms. Most have washing machines and dryers. Price will be 6 euros to 12 euros.
Youth albergue (albergue juvenil) - These are albergues designed for younger people. You will not encounter many of these on the Camino.
Tourist albergue (albergue turístico) - Tourist albergues designated for non-pilgrim guests. You will not encounter many of these on the Camino either.
Refugio - this word was previously used to describe what we know as albergues. Now, it typically denotes a small albergue.
There are several other albergue types including association albergues and network albergues. These tend to run the same as the previous albergues, but they are part of a network of other albergue owners.
We hope this gives you an overview of what to expect if you choose to stay at an albergue. Now let’s move on to the luxury option on the Camino: paradores.
2) Staying in Paradores Along the Camino
Staying at a parador is the exact opposite experience of staying at an albergue. Paradores are luxury hotels managed by the Spanish government. They are typically located in historic buildings such as castles, monasteries, or other stately structures. Paradores are run by the company Paradores de Turismo de España.
These paradores are typically rated as a 3, 4, or 5 star hotel with all the amenities you would expect to find at a luxury hotel. They feature huge private rooms with beautiful architecture and decor.
Paradores are the most expensive option for lodging along the Camino. Costs per night vary greatly, but most cost several hundred euros per night per room.
Because of the price, most pilgrims will choose to stay at other lodging options such as albergues, pensions and hotels. If you would like to splurge on an experience, choosing to stay at a parador will give you an unforgettable memory.
There are currently 94 paradores operating in Spain, some of them are along the Camino de Santiago. The most famous parador on the Camino is the Parador de Santiago, which is located in Santiago de Compostela.
So far, we have covered albergues and paradores. If you are looking for something in between these two extremes, then you will want to consider pensions, casas rurales and hotels.
3) Staying in Pensions Along the Camino
Pensions will typically offer a room or set of rooms with no more than two beds per room. Some pensions also offer bunk bed style rooms, although it is more common to stay in a private room in a pension.
One advantage to staying in pensions is that a meal is typically included and you will have the privacy of staying in a room. Pensions typically have washing machines and dryers, but (typically) do not offer a place to dry your clothes.
The price of staying a night at a pension will be 30 to 40 euros per room per night. Many pilgrims choose to split the cost of a pension with another pilgrim for the many benefits of better sleep, additional privacy, food included, wifi, and bathroom access. Some pensions will have a private bathroom, while others will offer communal bathrooms (but you won’t be sharing the bathroom with nearly as many people as an albergue).
We stayed at several pensions during our Camino and found the added amenities worth the price. Since we were traveling together, the price per person was only slightly more than if we had stayed at a private albergue in a bunk bed dorm-style room.
You can make reservations for pensions and you can stay for as long as you want in each (there is no overnight rule). The best place to book online is www.booking.com. Another benefit of pensions is there is no “lights out” time, and no lock out time.
The markers for pensions are P and CH.
Pensions are a great way to spend your nights along the Camino, and can also be a nice retreat from the bustling albergues.
4) Staying in Casas Rurales Along the Camino
Casas rurales are more like a bed and breakfast and are most common in the region of Galicia, Spain. They are similar to pensions in that you will receive a private bed, food and laundry services.
Casas rurales can be luxurious at times, which can add to the price. You will typically spend between 30 euros to 40 euros per night per room. If it is an exceptionally nice casa rural or offers exceptional food, the price may be more.
A difference between pensions and casas rurales is that pension rooms usually have two beds, while casas rurales rooms typically have one bed. In this respect, casas rurales tend to cater to couples since there is only one bed in the room. Having one bed is not always the case, but it has been the experience of many pilgrims.
The signage for casas rurales is CR.
Casas rurales offer many of the same amenities as pensions at a similar price. Casas rurales are a good lodging option for couples.
5) Staying in Hotels Along the Camino
As mentioned previously, you will be able to find private rooms at pensions, casas rurales and (some) private albergues. Hotels offer another option to find a private room. Most hotels will be found in medium to large sized cities along the Camino.
Hotels will offer private baths and laundry services. Some hotels will offer breakfast (usually a continental breakfast), while others will not. Hotels typically will not have a communal kitchen.
Hotels will vary in price, but the prices are comparable to pensions and casas rurales. The rate will also vary depending on what city you are in and what time of year you are traveling. The best place to book hotels for your Camino pilgrimage is www.booking.com. You will be able to see the amenities of each hotel as well as pictures and other helpful information.
You can also choose to stay at apartments along your Camino pilgrimage. This is much like renting a room on AirBnB where a host rents out a portion or entire house for the night.
Apartments can be the best option if you are looking for a “homey” feel on the Camino. They tend to be large, with several bedrooms, private bath, and full kitchen and refrigerator.
We stayed at several apartments during our Camino pilgrimage and loved the independence that they offered. We used www.booking.com to make all of our reservations and found the process smooth and seamless.
7) Other Less Common Lodging Options on the Camino
While the previous lodging types are the main accommodations you will encounter on the Camino, we wanted to include a couple more words you may come across. You will not see these much, as they are not common along the Camino.
8) Camping Along the Camino
Camping the Camino will not be the lodging option of most pilgrims. However, if you are interested in how to successfully camp the Camino, we wrote an entire post covering the details from A to Z, including the many camping laws of Spain, you can find it here.
Respecting fellow pilgrims while staying in a dorm-style room
While this post has mainly covered the nuances between the different types of lodging along the Camino, we wanted to include a couple of things to keep in mind if you are staying in a large dorm-style room at an albergue, pension, or casa rural.
Do I have to stay at albergues when walking the Camino?
As seen in this post, there are many lodging options for walking the Camino. You can successfully walk the Camino without staying at albergues. You can choose to stay in pensions, hotels, casas rurales or apartments.
We hope this information helps you decipher the different accommodations available to you on your Camino pilgrimage. Regardless of which lodging type you select, we are confident that your pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela will be one you will never forget.