Complete Guide to Albergues on the Camino de Santiago

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Albergues, which are hostels for pilgrims, are a unique part of the Camino de Santiago experience. Even if you’ve never shared a room with someone, or in some cases up to 49 other people, staying at an albergue at least once is essential. Albergues are where the Camino spirit and community come alive, with pilgrims swapping stories, sharing what brought them to the Camino, and gathering for food and drinks in some cases.

While many pilgrims choose to stay in albergues, they aren’t the only accommodation option on the Camino. Although this guide briefly talks about other types of accommodations, it focuses on albergues so that you feel well prepared before staying in one. If there’s something related to albergues that this guide doesn’t cover, let me know by leaving a comment!

Where do you sleep on the Camino de Santiago?

You can sleep pretty much anywhere on the Camino – even outside. Albergues, hostels, hotels, and camping are all options, although they may not all be available to you at every stop. Because of that, it’s important for you to do a bit of planning and to be flexible in case there isn’t the accommodation type that you prefer.

The wide variety of accommodations means that the Camino de Santiago can be done on a tight budget, but if you’re willing to pay more for a nicer place to rest, you can.

Everything you need to know about albergues

What is an albergue?

An albergue is a hostel for pilgrims. Some albergues are pilgrims-only, while others will also accommodate other guests. Albergues come in different shapes, sizes, comfort level, and quality, but they all offer beds (in shared rooms and some will also have private rooms), bathrooms, a kitchen, and a place to hand wash and dry your clothes.

The nicest albergues feel like a hostel or Airbnb. They’re lovely to stay at and some of them even have amenities like laundry machines, free breakfast, family dinner, privacy curtains, and a pool. On the other end of the spectrum, you have bare-bones albergues with rows and rows of bunk beds, little floor space, a poorly equipped kitchen, and not enough bathrooms for the number of pilgrims the albergue serves. They provide the minimum that pilgrims need. They’re just okay, but they’re still much preferred over the worst albergues, which are dirty, dusty, and not maintained.

Similar to hostels and hotels, albergues have a check-in and check-out time. Some open their doors as early as noon, but most start taking in pilgrims at 1 or 2 PM. Albergues also usually require pilgrims to leave by 8 or 9 AM so that they can clean and reset.

Dorm room with alcoves of bunk beds that have floor-length blue privacy curtains at Albergue a Conserveira
One large dorm room made up of “private” alcoves at Albergue a Conserveira

Public vs. private albergues

There are two types of albergues: public and private ones. This table breaks out the key differences, but you can read more about what to expect for each below.

Public alberguesPrivate albergues
OwnerLocal municipal, an organization, or a religious institution.Individual or group of people.
Who can stayPilgrims only, and you must show your pilgrim passport.Some may accept guests who are not walking the Camino.
Quality of facilitiesVery basic. Things are functional, but they’re simple. Nicer and more comfortable, as the owners are able to reinvest money into upgrading and maintaining the albergue.
CleanlinessMost are decently clean.Typically very clean.
ReservationsMost do not take reservations and operate on a first come, first serve basis. However, you should always double check to make sure.Reservations are accepted.
Shared room€5 – €8 €12 – €17
Private roomNone available€20 or more
BedBasic mattress with disposable cover – no sheets provided. Sometimes, a pillow with a disposable cover is also available.Comfortable mattress with a proper fitted sheet and a blanket/duvet.
BathroomSometimes there aren’t enough bathrooms and you may need to wait.Usually have enough bathrooms and you won’t have to wait.
KitchenTypically has a fridge, utensils, plates/bowls, cups, a microwave, and a kettle. In some cases, there may also be a stove/hot plate and cooking equipment.Usually has a complete kitchen with a fridge, utensils, plates/bowls, cups, a microwave, a kettle, a stove/hot plate, and cooking equipment.
LaundryBasin, clothesline, and clothespins for hand washing. There may not be enough clothespins for all pilgrims, and soap may or may not be provided. Basin, clothesline, and clothespins (sometimes there may not be enough) for handwashing. Soap is sometimes provided. There may be a laundry machine, and in some cases, a dryer too.
CurfewSome will have a curfew (usually 10 PM) where you must be in the albergue by a certain time or you’ll be locked out. No curfew.

Public albergues

Public albergues are typically run by the local municipal, an organization, or a religious institution such as a church, monastery, or convent. They’re solely for pilgrims, so you’ll need to show your pilgrim passport in order to stay.

Public albergues are cheaper than private albergues, but the facilities reflect that. There are no private rooms, only shared rooms that usually have bunk beds. You’ll be given a disposable bed cover to put on the mattress. And if the albergue offers pillows (some don’t), you’ll also be given a disposable pillow cover for it.

Bathrooms are available, although some albergues have really bad bathroom to pilgrim ratios. For example, one or two bathrooms for 50 pilgrims. There’s a place to hand wash your clothes and dry them. However, space on the clotheslines can be limited in some cases.

Public albergues also have a kitchen, with some being more basic than others. Not all will have a stove or hot plate for cooking. So if you plan on making dinner, you should always check in to your albergue and scope out the cooking situation before going grocery shopping.

Private albergues

Private albergues are privately owned and run by an individual or group. In some cases, they’re run by fellow pilgrims – people who have walked the Camino and are passionate about it.

Although private albergues cost a bit more than public albergues, they’re still cheap. By paying slightly more, you’ll get much nicer facilities at private albergues. Because the owners make money from the albergue, they’re able to invest that money back into upgrades and routine maintenance.

Are albergues free?

Albergues aren’t free, although there are some that take donations instead of payment. If you’re really tight on money, it’s perfectly okay to not make a donation. However, these donation-based albergues are usually entirely run off of donations and the hosts and owners work for free. So if you have the means to, donate what you feel like and know that your money all goes toward pilgrims like you.

How much an albergue costs depends on whether it’s a public or private albergue. Public albergues are cheaper, usually costing between €5 and €8 per night for a shared room. Private albergue dorm rooms are around €12 – €17 and private rooms (if available) are €20+.

What is the difference between a hostel and an albergue?

An albergue is essentially a hostel for pilgrims, while a hostel provides accommodation to any and all types of travelers. Albergues are typically for pilgrims only. In particular, public albergues only house pilgrims and you’ll need to provide proof with your pilgrim passport. Some private albergues will also accept travelers who are not walking the Camino.

Common area with a couch, TV, and fireplace at Sea Soul Esposende
Common area at Sea Soul Esposende, a hostel that also accommodates pilgrims

Do you need to book albergues?

While you don’t need to book albergues in advance, it’s always a good idea to make a reservation so that you’re guaranteed a bed at the albergue you want. Albergues do fill up during the peak season (June – August), making it difficult to just walk up and secure a spot.

Note that some albergues do not take reservations. This is usually the case for public albergues, but you should always double check. Public albergues typically take pilgrims on a first come, first serve basis. Some accept reservations, but they only hold the reservation until a certain time. If you don’t show up by then, they’ll give your bed away to the next pilgrim.

My advice is to always book in advance when possible. You don’t need to book far in advance though – one or two days in advance is enough. Depending on the albergue, you may need to reserve on Booking.com or by contacting them via email, WhatsApp, or phone.

I’ve seen pilgrims get turned away from albergues. When this happens in a small town with only one place to stay, your only option is to walk further or take a taxi/public transportation to the next area with accommodation and then backtrack the next day. If you decide to walk it, that extra distance can be brutal depending on how much you’ve already walked and how far the next town is.

Even when at capacity, some albergues do have extra mats that they can pull out for overflow. But it’s best not to take a chance. Make a reservation when possible, and if reservations aren’t accepted, be sure to get to the albergue early (at the latest, within a few hours of the albergue opening).

Do albergues have private rooms?

Public albergues do not have private rooms, but private albergues do. Their private rooms typically sleep one to two people. In some cases, you might be able to find private rooms that can fit up to four people.

Shared rooms vary in size. The smallest ones are like a regular bedroom that sleeps two people, although these are rare to find. There are also massive dorm rooms that fit 50 or even up to 100 pilgrims.

Do you need a sleeping bag for albergues?

You need either a sleeping bag liner or sleeping bag when staying at public albergues, since they don’t provide sheets or blankets. For private albergues, they provide blankets or a duvet but usually not sheets. While you don’t necessarily need a sleeping bag or liner when staying at private albergues, it’s a good idea to carry a liner that provides a much lighter covering compared to the thick blankets.

I used the Sea to Summit Premium Silk Sleeping Bag Liner when I did the Camino Portugués in September and it was the perfect choice. It’s light, high quality, and packs down extremely small into its own zippered stuff sack.

Do albergues have blankets?

Public albergues do not provide blankets, so you’ll need to come fully prepared with either a sleeping bag liner in the warmer months or a sleeping bag in the colder months. For cool summer nights when a sleeping bag liner didn’t provide enough warmth, I would just put on an additional layer when going to sleep or drape a hoodie over the upper part of my body.

If you’re staying in a private albergue, they’ll provide a blanket or duvet. Although the blankets are washed, I recommend using them over a sleeping bag liner at the least. I also found these blankets to be pretty thick, so it might be too much if you’re walking the Camino in the summer.

Do you need a pillow on the Camino de Santiago?

Having a pillow is up to your personal preference. The majority of public albergues do not provide pillows, while private albergues do. I don’t think I saw any pilgrim on the Camino carry their own pillow, since you want to carry as little as possible. My opinion is that a pillow isn’t a necessity and it’s something I was perfectly fine without. When I stayed at an albergue that didn’t provide a pillow, I folded my hoodie up into a makeshift pillow and it worked well enough.

Do albergues have wifi?

All albergues have wifi, and in most cases, I found it to be pretty speedy. Websites load quickly, and I was able to watch YouTube videos.

📱 Stay Connected on the Camino With an eSIM

While there’s wifi at albergues, you’ll need to have cell data in order to message people as you’re walking and check apps, maps, and other resources.

Airalo offers eSIMs or digital SIMs so that you can stay connected no matter where you are on the Camino. They have local eSIMs for one country, as well as regional eSIMs for an entire continent. If you’re walking a Camino route that spans multiple countries, like the Camino Portugués or Camino Frances, the Europe regional eSIM will work for your entire trip.

Do albergues have towels?

Public albergues do not provide towels. Some private albergues provide towels for free, require a small payment for a towel, or do not provide a towel. If you plan on staying in albergues, it’s best to bring your own towel – just don’t forget it when you pack up in the morning! You should get a quick dry towel that’s light and compact.

Do albergues have showers?

All albergues have bathrooms equipped with showers, toilets, and sinks. However, bathrooms range in quality. Some are basic and sparse, while others are nice and modern. Most showers have enough room, but there are some that are small and cramped.

There was also one shower that I encountered that didn’t have private stalls but rather one large showering area that would be shared by other pilgrims of the same gender. Luckily, I was the only person in the bathroom at the time.

Albergues also differ in their bathroom capacity or the ratio of sinks/toilets/showers to pilgrims. Some albergues have a horrible ratio, with two bathrooms for 50 people. You’ll see this in public albergues. Private albergues usually have more bathrooms – enough so that there’s never a wait.

Do albergues have lockers?

If you’re used to hostels that have lockers, you won’t find that on the Camino. Albergues generally do not have lockers, although I was pleasantly surprised at the few that did offer them. If there are lockers, you’ll need to have your own lock.

Pilgrims typically don’t carry much of value, except for their ID/passport, money, and a cellphone. Some will also have a laptop or camera. Theft is rare in albergues, but does occasionally happen. So if you have valuable items on you, either keep them on your body at all times (for example, put your wallet, ID, and cellphone in a small crossbody bag) or lock your backpack.

If you carry a lock, metal locks are sturdier but heavy. Instead, use a plastic lock that does the job while being much lighter.

How do you find albergues on the Camino?

There are several ways to find albergues. You can simply stumble upon them, since most albergues are located on the Camino route. This isn’t the greatest option, since you can’t plan ahead and are relying on sheer luck that you find an albergue and that it has space for you.

Instead, use Camino apps such as Buen Camino (available for Android and iOS). These apps are specifically created for the Camino de Santiago and they contain a wealth of information, including a map of the route, tools to plan out your stages, and a list of accommodations in each town.

There are also several websites that compile all the albergues in one place. Gronze.com is the most complete website that I’ve found and used in addition to the Buen Camino app. Although Gronze is in Spanish, you can easily use Google Translate to convert it into your language.

It can be difficult to keep these lists of albergues updated, so you will always need to double check if the albergue is still operating. You can do this by searching for the name of the albergue in Google or any search engine. Albergues usually have a Google Maps listing that’s up to date.

Lastly, for those who prefer a physical book, there are also paper Camino guidebooks. Although the guidebooks are fairly small, carrying one means adding a bit of extra weight to your pack. John Brierley is the most well-known Camino guidebook author. Before he passed in 2023, he wrote many guidebooks that cover the multiple Camino trails.

When picking up a guidebook, make sure you get the most recent edition for current maps, notes, and accommodations.

🛌 Albergues on the Camino Portugués

What you’ll need when staying in an albergue

If you’ve read the rest of this article, you’ll be able to start putting together a list of the things you need when staying at albergues. Here’s a list of everything I’ve mentioned so far, as well as some items that you may not have thought of:

  • Sleeping bag liner or sleeping bag
  • Headlamp – A headlamp is useful if you’re up after the lights have been turned off at night or before the lights have been turned on in the morning. I found that it made more sense for me to use the flashlight on my phone in the albergue, instead of my headlamp. However, my headlamp came in handy when I started walking before the sun came up.
  • Quick dry towel
  • Toiletries bag with a hook
  • Flip flops – Change into these after a long day of walking in athletic shoes or stuffy hiking boots. You’ll also definitely want flip flops for the shower.
  • Combination lock – A combination lock keeps your things safe in your bag or in a locker. Since I had several pieces of technology on me when I walked the Camino, I locked the zippers of my backpack when the accommodation didn’t have lockers.
  • Crossbody or sling bag – If your only valuables are a cellphone, ID/passport, and money, keep them securely on you at all times with a small sling bag.
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss
  • Body wash (and optional face wash) – Multi-use products are key to keeping your backpack light. If you’re able to use the same product for your body and face, you’ll reduce what you have to carry.
  • Shampoo (and optional conditioner) – Liquid shampoo and conditioner weighs more than a bar and doesn’t last as long. I personally used LUSH’s Jumping Juniper shampoo bar and barely made a dent over the month that I spent walking the Camino.
  • Laundry soap – A lot of albergues don’t provide soap for hand washing your clothes, so you’ll need to have some with you. I recommend using a multi-purpose product like Campsuds that can be used for both body wash and laundry soap.
  • Ear plugs – Unless you know that you’ll be staying in a private room during your entire Camino, you’ll likely encounter some loud snorers when sharing a room.
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Pilgrim credential/passport – You can either order one to be shipped to you in advance or buy a pilgrim credential when you land.
  • Travel adapter – Unless you’re from Europe or a country that also uses plug type C and F, you’ll need a travel adapter in order to charge your electronics.

This list is not meant to be a comprehensive packing list for the Camino. For that, check out my Camino de Santiago packing list for women (it can also be adapted for men).

What is a hospitalero/hospitalera?

At some point in your planning or Camino journey, you’ll probably come across the word hospitalero or hospitalera. A hospitalero (male) or hospitalera (female) is the Spanish word for someone who works at an albergue. Hospitaleros are volunteers who contribute their time and effort to helping run and maintain an albergue. They’re typically people who have done the Camino before and want to give back to the community.

White chair and small metal table on a balcony surrounded by plants and hillside views at Albergue Peregrinos St Antonio de Agueda
The balcony with hillside views at Albergue Peregrinos St Antonio de Agueda

How much does accommodation cost on the Camino de Santiago?

Accommodation costs on the Camino vary depending on the type of accommodation. Ranging from €5 to €8, a dorm room at a public albergue is your cheapest option. Dorm rooms at private albergues are €12 – €17 and private rooms usually start at €20.

Staying at a hostel costs €15+ for a dorm room and €40+ for a private room. Guesthouses and hotels start at around €50 for your own room.

When considering how much you’ll spend on accommodation, you also need to factor in seasonality. Prices go up during the peak season (June – August). If you want to save on accommodations, then you should walk the Camino during the shoulder months (April to May and September to October) to get both cheaper prices and enjoyable weather.

Bed bugs on the Camino

Although bed bugs aren’t dangerous and they don’t spread disease to humans, they are a huge nuisance and can throw your Camino plans off track. Bed bugs do pop up from time to time on the Camino, so your best way to deal with them is to learn how to spot and prevent them. If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having bed bugs, you should also know what to do to get rid of them.

How to spot and prevent bed bugs

There are four ways to keep you and your belongings free of bed bugs: do the Camino early, spray your things with permethrin, check the bed when you arrive, and read reviews.

Walk the Camino before most people do

Beds see the most turnover during the summer, when it’s peak season on the Camino. When there are more guests, there’s a greater likelihood of bed bugs. To reduce your risk, do the Camino before the majority of pilgrims by going in the spring. Many albergues close during the winter to do a thorough cleaning, so you’ll arrive at a sparkling clean place when you walk early.

Although I walked the Camino Portuguese in September, I made it through without any bed bug incidents. So it’s possible to leave unscathed even when you’re walking after most people have already passed through.

Spray your bags and clothes with permethrin

Permethrin is an insect repellent that can be used on clothing, sleeping bags, backpacks, and anything else made of fabric. It’s effective at repelling common outdoor pests like ticks and mosquitoes, but it also works against bed bugs. If you decide to use it, you’ll need to spray your gear and clothing before you leave for the Camino.

Some people are hesitant to use permethrin on their clothes. In that case, just use it on your backpack.

Make sure to follow the directions on your bottle of permethrin when applying it.

Check the bed before sitting on it and do not put your stuff on it

When you arrive at your accommodation, do not put your belongings on the bed or near it. Check the mattress and bed frame for bed bugs first. They usually hide near mattress seams and tags and in the cracks of bed frames. You can spot bed bugs or signs of them, such as dark spots and reddish stains. The United States Environmental Protection Agency has more information on how to spot bed bugs.

If you suspect that there are bed bugs, you should alert the staff and feel comfortable with asking for another bed or moving to another accommodation. Bed bugs need to be treated immediately, so speaking up is extremely helpful in preventing an infestation.

Read reviews before you book

Your last defense against bed bugs is to read reviews of the accommodation before you make a reservation. If a place has had bed bugs, there will be reviews calling it out. My personal preference was to not stay at a place that had any reviews mentioning bed bugs, even if those reviews were written months or a year ago. Figure out what you’re comfortable with and book accordingly.

How to treat bed bugs

One of the most obvious signs of bed bugs is waking up to a trail of bites on your body. If you’ve gotten bed bugs, you should take action right away.

An easy way to kill bed bugs is to throw your things in a dryer on high for at least 20 minutes. Drying machines can be difficult to find on the Camino though, so a more convenient method is to wash your clothing and bags in water that’s at least 120° Fahrenheit (48.9° Celsius).

If the bed bug bites are itchy, you can use a cream that contains hydrocortisone or take an oral antihistamine. For a more severe reaction, you should consider seeing a doctor.

Don’t forget to alert the accommodation about what’s happened so that they can also address the bed bugs and prevent it from getting worse.

More resources for the Camino de Santiago

Camino de Santiago Guide to Albergues