do you sleep
of Saint James of South Africa
do you sleep?
The official Camino accommodation (refugios or albergues
in Spain or gîte in France) is in simple dormitory-style
buildings of various ages and designs.
Run by a host of organisations including local municipalities
and Friends of the Camino groups, they mostly offer
bunks and showers, some with kitchens and living
A few provide pillows and blankets.
Bathroom facilities vary quite a lot and if you
come late there may be a shortage of hot water.
Prepare for the fact that some refugios (mostly
the ones in Galicia) have communal facilities for
men and women and a few don't have doors on the
showers! Somehow the pilgrims all work this out
without too much embarrassment or discomfort!
The accommodation varies in comfort levels but mostly
pilgrims are so tired that as long as there is a
bed or mat to sleep on, they are happy.
Some offer communal evening meals for a small amount,
others have kitchens with basic utensils.
Most have clothes washing areas and lines.
Many have opening times around lunchtime (between
13h00 and 15h00) and curfews of 22h00.
All expect you to leave by 8h00 in the morning,
and you can't spend more than one night in a refugio
unless there is a serious reason.
Preference is given to walkers over cyclists.
Some refuges only open in June and close again in
It is first come - first served.
When you reach a refuge you secure a bed by placing
your pack outside the door.
Almost every pilgrim refuge is staffed by volunteers
for the sole support of pilgrims from all over the
Refuges are not a right but a privilege and should
be treated as such.
Help to keep the refuge clean and welcoming for
the next influx of pilgrims.
Give a generous donation; be gracious and helpful
to the hospitaleros.
South Africans tend to have quite well developed
'personal space' concept and it takes a bit of getting
used to the lack of privacy and space. Persevere,
as it gets easier after the first day or two, and
staying in the refugios is really part of the whole
Remember you're not looking for five star comforts
on a pilgrimage - otherwise you may as well take
a nice little hike around South Africa or drive
the route and stay in hotels!
The other thing to remember is that many Europeans
seem to prefer having the windows and the shutters
closed - something foreign to most South African
- and Australian - pilgrims who are big on fresh
air, so try to find a compromise.
For most pilgrims the accommodation becomes incidental
and secondary to the wonderful friendships formed,
meals shared and support provided by the hospitaleros
(hosts) and fellow pilgrims.
Also available in most towns are hostals, which
are the local equivalent of our B&B's - but
mostly without the breakfast!
They provide privacy, a few home comforts and quiet
for the pilgrim who needs a break from the refugios.
There is a range of basic accommodation offering
bed and sometimes private bathrooms (cama con baño
or cama combinado) with varying comfort levels.
for refugios and hostals
As with the standard of accommodation, prices for
the various refugios and hostals do vary.
The least expensive - often the municipal facilities
and those run by volunteers - range from "donation
based (donativo)" to 4 €.
We recommend that at least 3€ be paid as a donation.
The private ones range between 6 and 10 €. Some
offer breakfast for an additional 3 €.
Hostals range from 21 to 54 € for twin bed room
with en suite. Some offer breakfast as well.
Camping and alternate accommodation: Rough camping
is difficult as there are not many rural places
in France or Spain which are public open areas.
A guide to accommodation called 'Guia Oficial de
Hoteles y Campings del Camino de Santiago' listing
all accommodation, ranking, and prices etc including
camping sites is available from Spanish tourist
offices or Tourspain in Madrid.
does one stay at night?
to Santiago de Compostela has been going on for
more than a millennium and during that time a strong
tradition of support for peregrinos has developed.
Through the Middle Ages this included hospices chartered
and/or operated by kings and queens and religious
orders. The tradition continues today in Spain in
the form of albergues de peregrinos (or refugios,
the terms are interchangeable).
albergue operates essentially like a youth hostel
except that they exist for pilgrims.
basic overnight facilities. Most have dormitory-type
sleeping arrangements, usually two-tiered bunks,
and (sort of) communal bathing and toilet facilities.
Some have a set price per night (typically 6 to
10 euros), others are donativo (donation).
serve meals, some have cooking facilities available,
and some have neither.
Most open in the early to
mid-afternoon, require that you be on your way by
8:00 the next morning, and only allow one night's
Some put restrictions on cyclists and walkers
who use backpack transport.
Until very recently,
albergues were usually operated by municipalities,
regional governments, confraternities or religious
organizations but in recent years the number of
privately-owned albergues has increased rapidly.
In Spain, reservations cannot be made ahead at municipal
albergues, but reservations can sometimes be made
at privately operated ones.
In order to stay at
an albergue, a pilgrim must present an up-to-date
There are several websites that maintain
listings of albergues in Spain, among them http://caminodesantiago.me.uk
and the Federación Española de Asociaciones de Amigos
del Camino de Santiago, but probably the most exhaustive
list, updated constantly, is at http://caminodesantiago.consumer.es/
is the difference between a refugio and an albergue?
terms both refer to overnight facilities available
to walking or cycling pilgrims who have authenticated
pilgrim credentials. The terms are interchangeable.
alternatives are there to the albergues?
keep in mind, however, that you are not required
to stay at an albergue!
When you wish, you can stay
in a hotel or even a luxurious Parador.
many pilgrims choose to stay in a hotel from time
to time. Most however probably quickly come to realize
that albergues are geared to the pilgrim lifestyle
and that you can meet and interact with other pilgrims
much more easily at the albergues.
On the Mundicamino
website there is a detailed list of non-albergue
lodging for every stage of the most popular Caminos.
about accommodation ?
of St James : Frequently Asked Questions
about accommodation ? In France
In France there are gites d'étape all along the
le Puy route (which coincides with the national
long-distance footpath, the GR65). They cost €10-12
a night, and are open to anyone. You get a bunk
and blankets, so need only carry a sheet sleeping
bag. There are hot showers, and generally offer
cooking facilities. They accept reservations (which
are advisable for the busy July-August season).
There are fewer gites d'étape on the Arles route,
but a growing number on the Vézelay route. All are
listed in the Confraternity's Guides.
For a guide to gîtes d'étape throughout France (@€25),
contact: Annick & Serge Mouraret, 74 Rue Albert
Perdreaux, 78140 Vélizy France. E-mail:serge.mouraret*wanadoo.fr
A recently-founded association, Les Haltes vers
Compostelle, links people offering pilgrimsuitable
accommodation, gîtes d'étape and other. Their members
are well worth seeking out, since they offer a particularly
pilgrim-friendly welcome; at present most of them
are located on the le Puy route: the full list is
here. Go to their website for a full list of members,
and their locations. You can contact them at contact*haltesverscompostelle.fr
On the subject of reserving place in gîtes d'étape:
the mobile phone - which more and more people carry
- makes it all too easy to make reservations "just
in case", and then not to cancel those not
taken up. This has resulted in recent years in many
people in genuine need of a bed being turned away,
when in fact there are places to spare. If you do
reserve ahead, DON'T book more places than you need,
and DO cancel in good time !
For a list of places offering a Christian welcome
along the le Puy route, visit the Webcompostella
site, and follow the link "Chrétiens qui accueillent".
about accommodation ? In Spain
In Spain there are refugios all along the Camino
francés, and a growing number on the Via de la Plata.
They are similar to the gites d'étape, but are reserved
for pilgrims carrying a Pilgrim Record or credencial,
and without a support vehicle. Often - especially
in summer - a volunteer warden (hospitalero/hospitalera)
is in charge.
You need a sleeping bag (and, at busy times, a sleeping
mat). Most now have hot showers. They generally
have cooking facilities and ask for a minimum charge
or donation (€3 plus).
All are listed in the Confraternity's Guides (which
are frequently updated every year on the basis of
feedback from pilgrims).
Some are only available in school holidays; some
close in the winter; camping is available often.
There is no advance reservation, and beds are allocated
on a first-come first-served basis. Don't be surprised
to be offered space on the floor at peak times.
Priority is given in the summer months to individual
walking pilgrims with no vehicular support, and
groups of more than 5 or 6, and cyclists, may be
asked to wait for admission until early evening;
at other times discretion will be used.
Remember that the wardens are generally volunteers,
and that your access to the refuges is a privilege,
not a right. Help to keep the refuges clean; be
as generous as you can with your donation; be gracious
and helpful to the wardens.
There are simple hotels all along the Camino francés,
offering the occasional escape from the snorers
in the refugio dormitories; and where there is no
refugio on the Via de la Plata, there is generally
a small hotel or other acceptable alternative.
to Choose Albergues on the Way of Saint James
Sharma Cortez, eHow Contributor
offer pilgrims dormitory-style lodging along the
Albergues on the Way of Saint James (the Camino
de Santiago) in northern Spain provide shelter for
weary pilgrims. The system of albergues continues
to supply ample lodging for all pilgrims, particularly
in the summertime. Types of albergues: church or
confraternity sponsored, municipal, and private,
often located on the main road and in almost every
town or city on the Camino. Some albergues offer
exceptional hospitality that may include a hot meal,
good counsel or treatment for injuries.
Considerations in Choosing
1. Choose on the basis of the type of experience
you want. A more traditional pilgrimage along the
Camino suggests openness to unexpected physical
challenges, emotional ups and downs, and the possibility
of new spiritual awareness. If this becomes your
approach, which albergue you choose -- whether large
or small -- may not matter as you remain open to
the experience. Larger albergues can host over 100
while smaller may have fewer than 12 bunk beds.
2. Choose on the basis of your overall physical
and emotional health. If you have limiting conditions,
consider finding the least stressful circumstances
and ask for suggestions. Many veteran pilgrims will
offer advice when asked. The hospitaleros also have
lots of experience and may offer good counsel.
3. Choose based on spiritual or personal enrichment:
If you would like to use the Camino experience as
a retreat, the combination of physical and mental
exertion may help. Choose albergues with connections
to spirituality that you identify as enriching.
Depending on your temperament, any type may work.
If you seek solitude, you may find solitude in a
larger group where the pressure to engage socially
may be less demanding. You may find enough solitude
during the day, while on the Camino, and welcome
the company of pilgrims in any albergue, large or
small, municipal or private.
4. You can choose an albergue even with limited
funds. The albergues that offer hospitality as a
gift to the pilgrim make the Camino affordable to
all regardless of financial circumstances. Choose
those supplied by local parishes or confraternities
asking only for donations. If you have no money,
give your time, energy or expertise, if useful.
5. Suppose you simply want the pilgrim experience
and other categories do not apply to you, then let
your sense of adventure take over. Stay in any available
albergue whenever you arrive at a stopping point.
Keep a log of your experiences and offer the information
to those interested. Whatever you decide, the albergue
offers a good place for rest, meeting others and
learning about the culture, traditions and history
6. Choose a clean albergue.
7. Pack only what you can carry and easily safeguard
while on the Camino or in albergues.
8. Try to avoid blisters, rashes, bug bites, etc.,
but if you suffer from any of them, ask hospitaleros
9. Follow house rules. Each albergue has information
about departure times, check-in times, doors open
or closed and resources available on site or in
the local area.
10. Give generously at albergues that do not charge.
Although they are not hotels, even the albergues
that do charge provide good basic lodging at little
cost. Municipal and private albergues cost three
to 10 euros as of 2011.
Finally, accept the hospitality of the monasteries
or convents along the Camino, for a unforgettable
travel experience -- many groups of religious men
and women are known for their hospitality to pilgrims.
W. Tripp, Jr. 2011
Some pilgrims stay in pensions, hostals (which are
different classifications in Spain) or hotels, but
most stay in the albergues, also called refugios.
An albergue may be run by a church or religious
order, a Friends of the Camino group, or the local
government. For example, the one in Trabajo is run
by the village but one in Rabanal is run by the
British Confraternity of Saint James, whose members
take turns acting as hosts. The charge for using
an albergue in 2011 ranged from donations to 8 euros,
about $12. Priority for using an albergue goes to
those on foot, horse, bicycle and those accompanying
others (such as the driver of a gear van for a group),
in that order.
An albergue provides unisex communal living. Above
is a typical scene in an albergue right after everyone
arrives. The sleeping areas range from one very
large room to several modest sized rooms, each with
bunks, usually doubled tiered but sometimes single
or triple tiered. The bunks are usually furnished
with a mattress and either a blanket or a pillow.
Spacing between bunks ranged from a very tight eighteen
inches to a comfortable three feet. Many albergues
provided additional space for back packs. I used
ear plugs a lot and was not disturbed by the sounds
from those that snored, as others were. Snoring
led to angry words on more than one occasion.
Some albergues, primarily private ones, let you
in as soon as you arrive. Many, normally city or
parochial albergues, however, do not let people
enter before 2 and even as late as 4 or 5 PM, causing
pilgrims to wander around with their packs. This
also results in a busy time inside as everyone tries
to shower and wash clothes at the same time once
they get in. The doors are closed and lights are
out between 10 and 11 PM. All albergues require
everyone to leave by a fixed time, such as 8 AM,
unless someone is sick and should not travel.
Most had separate bathrooms for men and women but
some did not. Showers and toilet areas provided
privacy but not much more. A typical shower stall
would have a lockable door and a single hook to
hang towel and clothes; the stall would be deeper
than it was wide so that there was an ostensibly-dry
dressing area. However, there was seldom a curtain
or door between the shower and the dressing area
and the floor was usually wet after the first person.
Getting completely dry was difficult. Most places
advertise hot water but at least three times I finished
my shower in cold water and once had no hot water
Recent guides to the camino now mention pay washers
and dryers at some refugios.
When looking for the toilets, look or ask for “Aseos”
or “Servicios.” Do not ask for “Toilets,” which
is not in the Spanish vocabulary. Similarly, only
ask for a baño if you are inquiring if your hotel
room (habitación) has a room with a bath. The aseos
in business establishments, such as restaurants,
are usually segregated by sex and have doors marked
with an icon, or a letter (H, M) or the words “Hombre,”
“Señor” or “Caballero” for men and “Mujer” or “Señora”
for women. However, some seem to prefer to use symbols
that are not easily figured out by a non-Spaniard.
Bowl toilets are the type most commonly used. They
are similar to those encountered in the US except
for the flushing mechanism, which is usually self
evident. In albergues, hotels and hostals, they
will be clean and in good condition. Missing toilet
seats and missing toilet paper are common problems
in restaurants, bars and service stations.
Squat toilets were commonly used in the past and
may be encountered in older bars and restaurants,
particularly in poorer areas of Spain. In many of
these, the squat toilet remains in the men’s room
but a bowl toilet has been installed for the ladies.
There is no guarantee that a toilet will be nearby
when nature calls. Whether it is a squat toilet
or squatting in a private spot in the woods or bushes,
the position and physical effort are the same. If
you have not assumed the position since you were
a child, you need to understand/think through the
process. Put on your boots and most cumbersome clothing
combination and think of what will be involved in
going through the process in using the squat position
in going to the toilet—don’t forget the toilet paper.
Carrying your own toilet paper may be wise in any
case since several blogs have commented on the fact
that an albergue may not have toilet paper in the
à Q.Pratique Route