Where do I Stay? Accommodation
In Spain, France, and Portugal, pilgrims’ hostels have beds in dormitories all along the the common routes. They provide overnight accommodation for pilgrims who hold a credencial (see below). In Spain this type of accommodation is called a refugio or albergue, both of which are similar to youth hostels or hostelries in the French system of gîtes d’étape.
Staying at pilgrims’ hostels(albergues) usually costs between 6 and 10 euros per night per bed, although a few hostels known as donativos operate on voluntary donations. (Municipal Albergues cost 6 euros, while private Albergues generally cost between 10 and 15 euros per night). Pilgrims are usually limited to one night’s accommodation and are expected to leave by eight in the morning to continue their pilgrimage.
Occasionally these refugios are located in monasteries, such as the one run by monks in Samos. Pilgrims can stay in whatever accommodation they wish, 5 star Parador Hotels, Hostels, Albergues or just camp under the stars.
For pilgrims who are unable to carry their own luggage, transfer services exist which charge between €4-12 per day to pick up luggage at one accommodation and deliver to the next. The service is available at most private albergues or hotels and can be reserved in advance.
Remember that you should still have water, snacks and a medical kit with you while you walk. Check out the Spanish Post Office – Correos – English website for more details on the service they provide.
How much should you budget for the Camino?
Pilgrims who need to watch every cent can do the Camino on a daily budget of about 15 euro. This will mean staying in the ‘donativo’ albergues - and giving a donation of about 5 to 10 euro (please, give a donation if you can!): not eating in restaurants or cafe-bars: buying wine, beer or cold drinks in supermecados or markets: preparing your own food in the albergues or eating mainly bread and pasta for a month.
If you don’t want to stay in the albergues, prefer to eat in restaurants, and can afford hotels, visits to the museums and Cathedrals - your pilgrimage could cost about 100€ a day: 3€ for breakfast: 5 - 10€ for lunch: 10 - 15 € for dinner: 30 - 45€ for a hotel room: plus extras such as wines, beers, cold drinks, sweets, museum and Cathedral entry fees. For a middle-of-the-road traveller daily expenditure will include the cost of a bed, breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks: the cost of washing and drying clothes in some shelters.
They estimate an average cost of €30 to €40 a day. Many small cafe-bars, grocery shops, markets, small hostels and all albergues do not accept credit cards so you will need sufficient cash available to pay for these. Most villages and towns have ATMs.
Even though you will be sleeping indoors in a bed or bunk-bed, if you are planning on staying in the pilgrim shelters you will need either a sleeping bag or a sleeping bag liner. Most pilgrim hostal owners insist that you have ‘sack’ of some description. Some shelters don’t have blankets. Albergues nd monasteries in high places can be chilly at night so you will need a sleeping bag for colder times of the year, but a sleeping bag liner will suffice for the warm, summer months.
Most Camino pilgrims only need a small pack to carry their clothing and toiletries. Unless you are planning on camping along the way you do not need a heavy duty, steel framed or military-type backpack. The guideline is to carry no more than 10% of your bodyweight.
To find out more...
...log on to the internet – there are multiple suggestions!
Some Albergues on Camino Francés
For atmosphere – not for upmarket standards: in no particular order (as voted by members of a pilgrim forum).
• L’Esprit du Chemin – St-Jean-Pied-de-Port – wonderful start with caring owners, communal meals and blessing. Book ahead: www.espritduchemin.org
• Granon – sleep on mattresses in the bell tower of a church – sing for your supper – pilgrim blessing. (Open all year).
• Tosantos – sleep on mattresses – pilgrim blessing in the attic chapel – pray for pilgrims who have left a prayer request..
• Arroyo San Bol – 1000yr old medicinal spring at the back, fantastic communal dinner (Open April – mid October).
• Convento San Anton – magical, basic albergue in the ruins of the San Anton convent (Open to end of September).
• Hospital San Nicolas – loft of restored church. communal meals. Pilgrim blessing includes washing of pilgrims feet.
• Bercianos – ancient straw and mud house, watch the sunset before being allowed to have a communal dinner.
• Villafranca del Bierzo – Ave Fenix run by the Jato family for almost 30 years – Jesus Jato is a healer. (Open all year) Can book ahead.
• Ruitelin – Gregorian chants, Shiatsu massage, healing.
• San Xulian – family run, classical music and great food.
• Samos – ancient Benedictine monastery, pilgrim blessings (Open all year).
NB: This is a sample only and subject to constant change. We are not making any Albergue recommendations, we are just sharing information we found on the Internet. Albergues are a vital part of the Camino infrastructure and an important tradition.
Things to know about walking the Camino
• Money: Small café-bars and village shops don’t accept credit cards. ATMs work well in most large towns and cities.
• Make copies of all your documents and email them to yourself.
• You will not be allowed to take your walking pole home as hand luggage.
• Almost every pilgrim refuge is staffed by volunteers for the sole support of pilgrims from all over the world.
• Refuges are not a right but a privilege and should be treated as such.
• “Donativo” does not mean free - give a generous donativo soon after you arrive, so you don´t forget.
• Some refuges only open in May and close again in November.
• Sleeping bags or liners are essential. Most refuges have blankets but they insist that pilgrims have their own ‘sacks’. In summer a sleep liner will do and a lightweight sleeping bag in winter.
• “Will I find a bed in May, June, July, August etc?” It is first come, first served. When you reach a refuge you secure a place by placing your pack outside the door. Some refuges only open after 2pm so you might have a long wait if you get there early. Once inside, you secure a bed by rolling your sleeping-bag out on the bed. In Galicia some refuges do not accept pilgrims who have walked less than 20km. Most refuges vacate at 8h00 – 8h30.
• The bed closest to the bathroom is the noisiest!
• Only a few refuges offer basic food – usually dinner and perhaps bread and coffee for breakfast. Pilgrim Menus are offered in most villages and towns. You can buy food in supermarkets to cook in the refuges. Most refuges have electricity but they don’t all have kitchens or utensils.
• Washing clothes: Take 8 Plastic pegs and a 2m-nylon cord to use as a wash line. Useful when it rains and you can string it across the bars of the bunk beds. Take 8 large safety pins to pin damp clothing onto the backpack so that it can dry during the day whilst walking.
• Take toilet paper. Remove the inner tube & flatten it. Most Albergues run out so be prepared.
• Post Offices in Spain: Most are open from 8:30 – 20:30 on working days and 09:30 – 14:00 on Saturdays. Parcels sent ahead will take 3 – 5 working days. Charges are ± €5 for up to 2kg to €12 for up to 20kgs.
Pilgrim and Albergue Etiquette
• Learn a little of the language before you go – especially the ‘polite’ words of greeting, please and thank you. You will be a guest in a foreign land so don’t expect them to know your language.
• YOU are the foreigner so do not criticize the people, their way of life, their food, their religion etc.
• A bed in a church or municipal refuge is a privilege not a right and should be treated as such. Give a generous donation; be gracious and helpful to the hospitalero and other pilgrims.
• Use water sparingly and mop out the shower after using it.
• Put phones and alarms on vibrate or turn them off at night, do not disturb or wake up your fellow pilgrims.
• When leaving or walking through a village very early in the morning, do so quietly. i.e. soft voices, carrying those clicking sticks aloft.
• Do NOT litter!
• Do NOT pick the farmers crop!
• Be a good ambassador for Ireland.
• Find out what time the doors close, and be back in the albergue by then.
• If you plan to leave early, prepare your things the night before, to minimize the racket. Rattling plastic liner bags or shining your headlights around the room is bad manners.
• If you are able-bodied and have a lower bunk, and an elderly or obviously suffering pilgrim arrives, give them your lower and take the upper.
• Don´t prance around the albergue in your skivvies.
• Don´t leave your litter on the floor. Wash up what you dirty. Clean up after yourself.
• Take short showers to save a little water for later arrivals.
• Use just one bunk. The surrounding bunks are not your clothes line.
• The chair is there for everyone to sit on. It is not yours for pack storage just because you got there first.
• The space under the bunk generally is shared by both occupants. Save half for the other pilgrim.
• Wear earplugs so the unavoidable disturbances by others will not drive you to distraction.
• No alarm clocks that others can hear.
• Don’t put your backpack on the bed, it’s been put down on the floor, in bars, on the street, in fields, near fountains etc.