Along the Camino, Pilgrims who have a Credencial, the official Pilgrim Passport, may stay in Albergues. Albergues fit into one of six categories: Municipal, a basic hostel with limited facilities owned and operated by the local authority with an average cost of 6 Euros; Parish hostel, albergue parroquia, owned by the local diocese and run by the parish priest and costing about 5 Euros or a donation (donativo) and offering a regular pilgrim Mass and a communal meal; Convent or Monastery, owned by monks or sisters with an average cost of 5 Euros or donativo, with some going back to the 15th Century; Association hostels owned by the local Spanish or other national confraternities, usually well equiped and staffed by former pilgrim volunteers; Network hostels which are private and have formed themselves into a loose association providing additional facilities such as washing/drying machines, internet access and a cost of 8 to 10 Euros; Private hostels with all facilities but with no code or regulations for a cost of 8 to 12 Euros.
In general, albergues are clean, providing bunk beds and mattresses, and some with kitchen facilities for preparing communal meals. When arriving at the day´s destination, I would often go to the market for food, and prepare a meal for up to 8 companions – each sharing the total cost. Also, I would wash my clothes at the albergue, and hang them out to dry for the next day. Most albergues opened at 1 or 2 o´clock in the afternoon; lights out usually at 10pm (with the doors locked), and you had to leave the next morning by 8am.
Here are some photos of albergues that I have stayed in:
Sleeping Quarters (first photo is Juna from Korea and Chu from Taiwan, companions I traveled with):
My bunk at one of the albergues with my green jacket hanging on the post:
Outdoor patios where we would hang our laundry:
Some of the albergue kitchens:
And an albergue in Zubiria with a poster of Shirley MacLane´s memoir of her Camino walk in 1999, translated in Spanish.
No matter the size, facilities offered, or the number of bunk beds, albergues were heaven at the end of a long day of walking.