If you have an unlimited budget, you may choose from a full range of accommodations along the Camino, from donation only albergues (donativo) at the most basic end of the spectrum to five star hotels at the other end, and every kind of lodging in between. Or maybe you are on a tight budget and hoping for cheap lodging every night. It is important to note that not every town has all the options. We give more detail in our Guidebook, but these excerpts will help you begin to plan.
Peak Travel Times
The only way to guarantee a bed for the night, especially during peak times for pilgrims like the summer, is to book ahead with albergues and hotels that take reservations, and then stick to that schedule. By scheduling ahead you forfeit a degree of spontaneity and freedom, but certain amenities or a cheap price tag might be non-negotiable for you. If you do want to book ahead at a private albergue or hotel, many are listed on popular websites/apps. We used the Booking.com app most often. If you hope to reserve a bed at cheaper places, which are usually not on a hotel booking site, a good way to do that could be to ask the hospitalero (host/manager) where you are staying to recommend a place ahead on your journey and call for you. Often you can reserve a spot this way, but the nature of the Camino is such that if you have not arrived by 2-3:00 pm to claim that reservation, it will probably be given away to someone else who walks in, unless you call around 2:00 pm to confirm that you are coming, and will arrive at such and such time.
If you are wondering whether or not you will get the “full peregrino experience” if you do not stay at the big municipal albergues, and opt for more amenities, the answer is, “Yes, you are a true peregrino.” Much of the good camaraderie and shared experiences of the journey happen as you walk and at meals, so make your lodging plans according to what works for you, and find other pilgrims to join for dinner if you want to socialize.
Types of Lodging
The cheapest lodging on the Camino will be at the albergues designated as “donativo” that ask each pilgrim to give what money they can in exchange for a bed and use of a bathroom. The most expensive accommodations on the Camino are the four and five star hotels including the Spanish chain called Parador. Here is a glossary of terms:
- Municipal albergues, or hostels are government operated, offer dormitory style rooms with as many bunk beds as will fit in the space. 4-6 euros.
- Parish albergues, (parroquia) are operated by the local Catholic church or diocese. Some offer a pilgrim mass, most serve a meal. 4-6 euros or donativo.
- Monastery albergues, (Monasterio or convento) are run by either monks or nuns, and vary in their facilities. 5-8 euros, some donativo
- A variety of associations and local governments operate albergues along the routes. They are usually run by volunteer staff, many of whom have experience on the Camino. 6-8 euros
- Private albergues are operated by individuals or groups, and vary greatly in their facilities, amenities, number of beds. Amenities range from a bunk in a dormitory style room sharing a communal bathroom to semi-private and private rooms with semi-private and en suite bathrooms. The prices range from 8-40 euros. Breakfast is often included or available.
- Hotels are operated by individuals, chains and the government, generally have private rooms with en suite bathrooms, and range 35-130 euros and up for a double room. Breakfast is often included.
Camino Travel Services
Companies do exist that provide the services for pilgrims in setting up all of your accommodations for your journey based on an agreed upon itinerary. Solo and group experiences are available. Most allow you to choose the level of physical difficulty and type of accommodation you desire, and whether or not you want your pack transported. They may also arrange in-country transportation, so the cost varies a lot depending on your package. While none of our team have used one of these services we have met many pilgrims who were walking using one of these companies, and most of them seemed pleased with their decisions. Engaging a service like this does take the spontaneity out of your experience, but many people would never even attempt the Camino journey without this type of help and assurance. Our opinion: Do whatever it takes to get there!
"Santiago de Compostela is a beautiful medieval city. Be sure to take a couple of days to enjoy being here in this wonderful place."
You wind through city streets following the Camino arrows and signage, and as you get closer to the Cathedral you may hear the music of Galician bagpipes and the bustle of other pilgrims and tourists getting louder. You approach the Cathedral from the side, past souvenir shops, cafes, and other medieval buildings. At last look ahead through an archway to see the huge open space of the Plaza Obradoiro, the square where pilgrims finish their physical journey. Turn to your left and see the magnificent Cathedral face. Take your time to stay in this moment and consider your thoughts and emotions. Find the official seal of the Camino destination point embedded in the center of the plaza pavement. You made it. You did it.
Call your family, take your photos, pay your respects to St. James, attend a mass, greet friends from your walk, and check in at the Pilgrim’s Office. Now what?
Volunteers at the Pilgrim’s Office are helpful and you will find good information there. Here are some tips from our team.
Visit our good friends at Pilgrim House at Rua Nova, 19, just a 3 minute walk from the Cathedral. A year round American team volunteers here, offering services and advice to pilgrims. They are a non-profit group who host a space much like a family room back home. Relax, use free wifi, check your heavy backpack, get your laundry done and boarding passes printed while you sip a cup of tea for minimal donations. The good folks at Pilgrim House live year round with their families in Santiago and are a treasure trove of help and trustworthy advice. Their website is full of ideas for where to stay and eat in Santiago.
Some of our team’s favorite places to go and things to do in Santiago from our trip last summer, with websites mentioned where they exist:
- Favorite Small Hotel near old town Santiago — Hotel Avenida, just 450m from the Cathedral; nice clean rooms, free wifi, breakfast included, friendly staff, economical. Reserve rooms through booking.com.
- Favorite Chocolate con Churros — Cafe Bar Metate, on Travesa de San Paio de Antealtares; chocolate lovers, do not miss this experience. Our team members have an ongoing private survey of Chocolate con churros on the Camino, and Café Metate remains our favorite. You might be able to share one portion…but maybe not!
- Favorite Authentic Gallego Restaurant — O’ Dezaseis, on Rua San Pedro; you walk by this little gem as you approach the old town on the Camino, but you may miss seeing it. Authentic dishes from Galicia, in nice, historic room. Not fancy (you are welcome in your walking clothes), but really good food. Each time we have eaten here, there are always more locals than pilgrims. Prices are a bit higher than other Camino restaurants you might have encountered, so maybe you will choose this for a celebratory meal. We met a crew from Oprah’s network eating there two nights on one of our trips. This is a place we go more than once each trip when we can budget for it.
- Favorite Garden Café — Costa Vella, at Rua da Porta da Pena, 17; a serene little walled garden where you can order beverages in the shade of trees or umbrella tables. A nice destination after wandering and exploring the old town.
- Favorite Park — Alameda, located at the western edge of the old town; our team members love to spend time in Alameda because it is so big, shady, and has really good groomed trails for walking. We go at least once a day to walk the trails in the park, because it is always hard for us to quit walking! We see mostly locals of all ages, and some Spanish tourists. Gorgeous views of the Cathedral and rooftops of the old town, and plenty of benches and grassy meadows where you can relax.
- Favorite Authentic Tapas — Antollos, at Rúa das Orfas, 25; Antollo’s is on FaceBook; There are many good places for tapas, and the location impacts your experience, but for consistently good food, self-served from a glass case at the bar, Antollo’s has been reliable, affordable, and good. Frequented by mostly locals and Spanish tourists, Antollo’s tapas can provide a good alternative to a three-course menu.
- Favorite Tour — Cathedral Roof Tour; Get information and tickets via the entrance at Cathedral Visitor Reception Center located beneath the front of the Cathedral (the Portico de Gloria); discounts for seniors, pilgrims with credenciál, etc. Interesting with beautiful views!
- Favorite Pilgrim Meet-up — Pilgrim House, at Rua Nova 19; the wonderful team volunteers at Pilgrim House sponsor gatherings open to all pilgrims to share stories of their journeys on the Camino. A lovely way to begin to process your experience with people who understand what you have just experienced. Pilgrim House is also a good place to arrange meetings with pilgrims you meet along the way. Leave notes on their message board for your Camino friends.