I think that maybe 99 percent of all pilgrims (Peregrinos) sleep in albergues while walking Camino de Santiago.
Albergue, if simply put, is a pilgrims hostel. They offer you a bed, a shower, a toilet, just simple basic stuff. Some of them have books, some have additional tourist information or some other services/utilities like washing machines for a small price.
And as well, that is a place where you usually get a stamp on your precious pilgrim passport. After a couple of weeks, those stamps look very nice, you will be proud of them a lot.
Most of them have a kitchen with all the stuff you would need to cook a meal and some of them offer you a meal for a price. Most of the albergues have bunk beds and just very few have simple beds.
But let’s group those albergues.
There are, I would say, three types of albergues: private, public, free. You may find that there are other names like association albergues, parochial albergues, but most of them fit in these three groups.
Public albergues are mostly cheaper than private albergues and the cost is usually 5 euros for a night. Public albergues as well are mostly pretty big, in some albergues there can sleep 100 people and more (the biggest one is just 5km from Santiago de Compostela and can fit 800 people). Sometimes in public albergues there are like 50 or more people in one room. So it’s basically a pretty crowded place.
Most of them have kitchens, some not. And mostly the most modern ones, the newest ones do not have kitchens which can be pretty inconvenient.
Most of the public albergues as well have wifi as well. So don’t worry, you won’t be out of radio coverage.
Public albergues have as well pretty strict rules and the administrators can be as well even pretty rude sometimes, but that’s simply because they have to manage many of piligrims under one roof, mostly in one room.
Private albergues belong to some people who simply do business. And because they are private, mostly they are more friendly, better quality stuff all around, they offer dinner for maybe 8-10 euros, homemade and very delicious and all that other stuff.
From my experience, I would say that you find private albergues much more in smaller cities along the road. They as well have kitchens, wifi, and all other stuff you would need to sleep tight and continue the trip in the morning.
Free albergues mostly as well belong to the municipalities and you can actually sleep for free there or leave some money voluntarily in a box left there.
The bad thing that most of those albergues have no hot water, no heating, no kitchen, no wifi, just beds. So if you come there wet and tired and want to cook something, that’s not a place to rest.
I slept in a free Albergue three times. Actually, in one free albergue in Ages, I had a great time as that albergue was managed by a nun which made a free dinner for us as well. Of course, then you donate some money, but it’s not a must. They had some mattraces on the 2nd floor to sleep on in your sleeping back, but it was very cold as well.
So Where to Sleep?
It totally depends on your preferences.
The first time I slept a lot in public albergues, the second time in private albergues and I would always choose private albergue now.
Let me explain why.
Public albergues are mostly pretty crowded and that causes few things:
- You may have to wait long in line to get a shower which is pretty uncomfortable if you are tired and wet after walking all day.
- You may have to wait very long to cook a meal and that well can drive you nuts, especially if the person cooking before you is in no rush.
- Huge numbers of people will have to sleep in one room. It can be 50 or more people, especially if you choose to sleep in big albergues in popular cities like Burgos, Leon or any other. This is a problem because some people go to sleep very early, like 8 pm, and they just turn off the lights in the room and it’s kind of rude to turn them on. So when the first people go to sleep, it’s like a sign for all others to do so. Second thing is that there are people who wake up crazy early, like 5-6 am, and start walking around, using the shower, packing their bags and all other stuff which causes a lot of noise. And if you woke up, you woke up for good. There’s no way you will get into a deep sleep after waking up to that noise. And the last thing is snooooooooooring. Oh, that happens a lot. So I strongly suggest taking earplugs with you.
As well, some of the public albergues are really old so they have mold, bad smell, and very very old beds with uncomfortable mattresses.
So, it’s good to try them, but if you want to sleep comfortably every night, that’s not a good choice.
Private albergues is a much better choice as they are mostly much smaller, they are in smaller cities, they offer better quality service and so on and so forth.
Further reading: How much time you need to complete Camino de Santiago?
Still, some people may go to sleep early and wake up early in private albergues, but people are just more considerate when you are in a smaller group. They won’t cause too much noise.
Private albergues are more costly, around 8-15 euros a night, but it’s worth it.
How to Find Albergues?
Well, before the trip, in the pilgrims’ office in Saint Jean Pied de Port or any other city, you will get a huge list of all albergues along the way to Santiago de Compostela and it will be written if it’s private or not. In the list, there are most of the prices as well. So it’s very easy to choose.
Some of albergues as well add ads on the trees, poles, stones along the Camino, so that helps as well. In those ads, you may find the price and the distance from the point you are at that moment.
Hotels, pension, and private rooms
Camino Francais is a very very popular destination for hikers to go so the business along the way is booming. You can find a hotel, pension or private rooms in almost every tiny tiny town or village. They indeed offer even better service than any Albergue and if you get tired of sleeping with all the pilgrims, you may choose that option. In case you’re walking another Camino, be sure to check out our guide that goes into detail explaining which Camino to choose.
As I saw from the ads, most of the rooms are for 20-25 euros a night, pensions are mostly around 30-50 euros and hotels can be more expensive. So it totally depends on you.
Make sure to plan your accommodation budget before heading to Camino, as the cost can rise pretty fast. Here’s how much I’ve spent on average on Camino walk.
If you don’t mind the hustle and big crowds, definitely choose the public albergues as they are cheaper as well.
If you want a calmer evening with better service, choose the private albergues.
And if you want to be totally private, sleep in hotels or pensions, that’s no problem at all.
I hope that helped you to understand what can you expect from all of these accommodations and please let me know if you have any questions.