We can probably write a whole book about albergues but will try to keep this as sweet and short as possible. This is where you will be sleeping most of your nights and hoping to get a good night rest. Hoping to recover from a long walk and be ready for the next day. Below you can read what we learned about albergues and some tips based on our experience.
What are Albergues?
Albergues are hostels for pilgrims…only pilgrims. Usually large rooms with bunk beds and shared toilet and shower facilities. They come in all shapes and forms i.e. Some big, some small, some clean, some... not so much, some hippie-ish, some modern, some very old, some amazing and some not so much..
How do you show you are a pilgrim? Your passport credential. You can get this at a pilgrims office. We got ours at the pilgrims office in St Jean Pied de Port.
Types of Albergues:
Municipal: Run by the government. You cannot make reservations. It is first come first serve. Prices range from donation-10 euros.
Private: Run privately. Usually run by previous pilgrims. You can make reservations. Prices range from 8-20 euros. We seemed to have preferred these... specially if the had a private room (more below).
Private room options:
Albergues are truly a big part of the camino and part of the experience but there are other options along the way. In many occasions we stayed in private rooms. For the most part we slept better with the added privacy. Depending on your preference you may want to treat yourself and stay in a private room. There are many private room options along the way. Some private albergues have basic private rooms with private or shared bathroom. You'll also find hotels, pensions, casas rurales, etc. The cost start around 25 euros +.
What facilities to expect?
Toilets and Showers: You'll have basic toilet, sink and shower facilities with hot water. We did have a couple of places with only cold water.
Beds: Usually bunk beds. In a private room you will usually find more couple friendly options: Queen and twin beds. Some albergues will give you a disposable sheet and pillow case which is great but some will have sheets (may or may not be changed daily). This is where your sleeping bag and liner make it a much better sleeping experience.
Laundry: Washer and Dryers are usually available but not guaranteed. It costs about 3-6 euros per load. Washing in a sink is the next option.
Kitchen: Some places will have kitchens and utensils where pilgrims can cook meals. We ate out all the time as there are many great restaurants along the way with very affordable pilgrim menus (10-15 euros). These include wine, appetizer, entrees and dessert. It feeds a hungry and tired pilgrim.
Remember to leave your shoes a the entrance unless directed otherwise!