As we were planning our Camino pilgrimage, we wanted to know what was the best way to book our accommodation ahead of time. We sought this information because we were traveling as a couple and wanted to make sure we could stay together every night while walking the Camino.
We are going to cover the best ways to make reservations on the Camino de Santiago as well as offer reasons why you may want to consider booking ahead. As a bonus, we include a sample email and phone script in Spanish which you can use for booking!
How do you reserve an albergue on the Camino de Santiago? The best way to reserve an albergue on the Camino de Santiago is by calling or emailing the albergue in advance. Reservations are only accepted at private albergues while municipal albergues are first-come first-serve. You can typically make a reservation one day in advance or several weeks in advance. Having some basic Spanish skills is helpful.
There are two main approaches to making reservations at private albergues on the Camino. Both are straightforward and simple to do.
To find the contact information for private albergues, check out the Wise Pilgrim app. This app offers the email addresses and phone numbers for most accommodations. It makes it easy for calling while walking the Camino. You can also grab an up-to-date Brierley guide (pick the guide for the route you are walking), and this book will give all of the contact numbers for accommodations. Another helpful place for information on albergues in each town is this pilgrim site.
One more recommendation for making reservations is www.booking.com. This does not include information for albergues, but it is a great service for booking hotels, pensions and apartments.
Booking Ahead while Walking the Camino (Usually a Day or Two in Advance)
If you are booking one or two days in advance while walking the Camino, you will want to have a cell phone that can make calls and/or access email while in Spain. We provide a simple phone call script later on that you can use. Or if you do not feel comfortable making the call yourself, you can ask the host at your current albergue to make the call for you. There are also many Spanish-speaking pilgrims (some who speak some English) who you could ask for help.
Remember that private albergues will offer beds in a dorm-style room (where you reserve one bed in the room for the night), while also offering private rooms (which typically have one or two beds where you reserve one room for the night). When you talk to them, you will want to let them know if you are reserving a bed or a room.
Sample Phone Script for Reserving a Bed Ahead of Time
For additional useful Spanish phrases on the Camino, check out our post here.
When making your reservation by phone, offer a later arrival time, so that you do not need to call again if you do not make it there by the specified time. If you do not arrive by your stated arrival time, you will need to call again to make sure they did not give your bed away.
If you have problems communicating in Spanish, try English (or your native language). Many albergue hosts have some basic English skills for things like making reservations.
Booking Well in Advance (Typically Before Leaving for Your Camino)
If you plan on making your reservations at private albergues before leaving for your Camino, the best way to book is by email. You will want to communicate similar information as the phone script. The advantage of email is that you can use our script for contacting the albergue host, and then when they reply you can use an online translator to understand their email.
Sample Email Script for Making Reservations on the Camino
Important: If your plans change and you no longer plan on honoring your reservation, call the albergue to cancel your reservation. Here is a simple script to use: “Hello, this is (name), I am calling to cancel my reservation for (tomorrow or date). Thank you.” “Hola, hable (name), estoy llamando para cancelar mi reservacion para (manana). Gracias.”
Please be kind to your fellow pilgrims. Imagine showing up to an albergue only to be turned away because they report being full (due to reservations), only to find out later that there were plenty of beds available because people did not honor their reservations. This is becoming a major problem on the Camino and is one of the most frequent frustrations reported by pilgrims. There have been reports of people who “got the last bed” only to find out that 2 people stayed the night in a room of 20 beds because pilgrims did not cancel their reservations!
We want to state it again, please cancel your reservation if you will not be arriving. This will show respect to the albergue hosts (and your fellow pilgrims) who are offering such hospitality to you.
Pilgrims have varying views on whether to reserve ahead or not while walking the Camino de Santiago. Those that want a more spontaneous, flexible pilgrimage tend not to make reservations. They view reservations as something that hinder their experience of the ancient pilgrimage. Meanwhile, other pilgrims who want the security of knowing where they are sleeping for the night (as well as avoid the “bed race”) tend to plan ahead and make reservations.
Do I need to make reservations when walking the Camino de Santiago? You do not need to make accommodation reservations when walking the Camino de Santiago. Many pilgrims choose to walk the Camino and sleep only at municipal albergues, which do not accept reservations. Private albergues, hotels, pensions and apartments do accept reservations and you may want to strongly consider booking ahead especially if you are walking in the busy months of June, July and August.
Here are several reasons why you may want to consider making reservations on the Camino.
Reserving Private Rooms on the Camino de Santiago
Many modern-day pilgrims will choose to stay in private rooms rather than in the dorm-style bunk bed rooms. There are many advantages to staying in private rooms, but we wanted to point out that the reservation process is a lot easier for private room accommodations.
If you are looking to book private rooms (either at private albergues, hotels, pensions, or apartments), you can simply go to www.booking.com and make all of your reservations ahead of time (or while you are on the Camino if rooms are still available). The website is a great resource as you will be able to see pictures of each accommodation as well as availability and amenities.
We used booking.com to make reservations for our Camino. It can take a little bit of time up front (because you will need to have a route planner and plan exactly how many kilometers you will walk each day, which can be difficult to gauge if you are not used to walking long distances), but we found the overall experience seamless and straightforward. You can most likely make all of your accommodations on this site, although you may need to book ahead depending on the time of year you plan on walking. We did have two private albergues that we had to email/call to make reservations, but it was very easy to do (especially with our script!).
We found the best two things about staying in private rooms was that it was about the same price per person as if we had stayed in a dorm-style bunk bed room, AND we each got a good night’s rest almost every night (which gave us the energy we needed to walk the Camino).
Should I make reservations when walking the Camino de Santiago?
Deciding to make reservations or not comes down to personal preference. If you want your Camino to be spontaneous, then you will most likely feel restricted by making reservations. If you enjoy planning most of the details of your trips, then making reservations can provide extra peace of mind.
There is a popular saying that goes “the Camino will provide” and this is certainly true when it comes to finding a place to stay. If the albergue is booked, an overflow area will be opened (most likely at a church or stadium). If there are no rooms in your town, someone will taxi you to a neighboring town for an open bed. There are countless stories of pilgrims being helped along the way to find available beds.
We wanted to mention one more time, that if you decide to make reservations ahead of time, and for any reason you cannot honor your reservation, please call or email the albergue to cancel so they can open up the bed for someone else.
One last note about reserving ahead of time. Some private albergues are beginning to ask for a small deposit to hold your bed or room. This is because of the many reservations that simply do not show.
Hopefully after reading this post, you are equipped with more information about making reservations for your upcoming Camino pilgrimage. Whether you decide to book ahead or not, we are confident that your Camino de Santiago will be an unforgettable experience!