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2019 Camino Guides

What is the difference between an albergue and a pensione ?

Morgan Holmes

Every day is a path to walk.
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances to Santiago from SJPDP (2014); Fromistá to Santiago (2018).
#2
Pensiones will provide a room, or set of rooms, with (usually) not more than 2 beds. Albergues generally have dormitories, though some also offer rooms. The pensiones generally cost about 30 euros per night. We did stay at two albergues along the way this last time where we were fortunate to have our own rooms with en-suite bathrooms, each time for less than 40 euros for 2 people. It was a great way to get some deep sleep and privacy away from the crowds.
You will also see "casa rurales"; these are more like B&B's and I think they are more common in the Galician mountains than elsewhere along the CF. They tend to run 30-35 euros for a room, usually comfortable for 2 people.
Forum members? Am I missing any of the finer points?
 

LizKhan

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
2019
#3
Pensiones will provide a room, or set of rooms, with (usually) not more than 2 beds. Albergues generally have dormitories, though some also offer rooms. The pensiones generally cost about 30 euros per night. We did stay at two albergues along the way this last time where we were fortunate to have our own rooms with en-suite bathrooms, each time for less than 40 euros for 2 people. It was a great way to get some deep sleep and privacy away from the crowds.
You will also see "casa rurales"; these are more like B&B's and I think they are more common in the Galician mountains than elsewhere along the CF. They tend to run 30-35 euros for a room, usually comfortable for 2 people.
Forum members? Am I missing any of the finer points?
Thanks Morgan.
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata.
#5
Albergues are like youth hostels. Dormitories, with usage of common areas like bathroom, sitting or lounging rooms, and eating areas. Often (but not always) with a kitchen for guests to use. Sometimes a few private rooms in addition to the dormitories.

A pensione provides private bedrooms for all guests. As does a casa rural, which also usually provides meals.
 

annakappa

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Part frances jun 07/rest frances may- jun 2008/Frances sept-oct 2009/ Sanabres Oct 2010/Frances sept-oct 2011/Aragones Sept-Oct 2012. Hospitalero Sept 2010, Amiga in Pilgrim's Office Oct 2013. Part Primitivo Oct 2013. Portugues from Porto June 2015.
#6
Ah, another bonus for albergues is that there is a place to wash and line dry your clothes. In a pension, usually you have to make do with washing in the wash basin and drying on the shower rail.
 
Camino(s) past & future
'Portuguese,Frances,Norte,Salvador/primitivo,Le puy, Inglés, CDM, Invierno, Fin/Mux, VDLP spring19
#7
You have another alternative too. Hostales..
These are usually private rooms similar to pensions. Edited: to Hostales .,
If you prefer your own company or just need a break, then these are perfect. If you want that camaraderie...it can be lonely stuck on your own in a room., although you could make arrangements to meet up with your ‘tribe’ for a meal later.
So you’ve got a selection of accommodation types . Hotels, Hostales , hostels, Paradors, Casa rurales, pensions, and then the variety of albergues, (municipal, private etc some donativo , others fixed rate. )
Try them all !
Buen Camino
 
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Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP-Finisterre X 2, El Norte incompleto
#8
You have another alternative too. Hostels.
These are usually private rooms similar to pensions.
I think that you mean hostales, which are similar to pensiones, with private rooms and private baths. Hostels are like albergues with dorm style accommodations, but not specifically for pilgrims.
 
Camino(s) past & future
'Portuguese,Frances,Norte,Salvador/primitivo,Le puy, Inglés, CDM, Invierno, Fin/Mux, VDLP spring19
#9
I think that you mean hostales, which are similar to pensiones, with private rooms and private baths. Hostels are like albergues with dorm style accommodations, but not specifically for pilgrims.
Fair point Trecile.. I actually did mean Hostels but confused it with other places I’ve stayed. (Ie thinking or recalling a private room?) So there is another choice then of hostales ..
Annie
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016). Seville-Astorga (Mar 2017). Mozarabe (Apr-May 2018)
#11
These definitions are not always strictly applied. There might be precise definitions in law and regulation, that we don't know or care about. Also sometimes several terms are used at once for a facility.

The term "hostel" is not used much in Spain, so put it out of your mind. On the camino, it will only cause confusion.

"Hostal" (plural: hostales) are like small hotels, perhaps with fewer amenities like 24-hour reception. Pretty much the same as a pension. This is one of the most common types of accommodation in Spain.

"Albergue" is what we might call "hostel" - where you get a bed in a room with many others. Sometimes albergues will also have some private rooms you can rent for 1 or 2 people only.
 

notion900

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
>
#12
Hostales can be very generic and impersonal. Every cheapish hostal room I have ever stayed in merges into every other one. They are often not very comfortable either, eg they nearly always have cheap foam mattresses, so don't get too excited by the prospect of staying in one. Signage Hs. A hostal residencia is a hostal with no restaurant. Signage HsR

Be aware that in touristy areas the word Hostel can be used to denote a backpacker or surfer type hostel.

Hoteles are normally bigger than hostales, and have a restaurant. Signage H. Not necessarily more expensive or better though.

Pensions in rural areas are more homely. They can be called a Casa de Huespedes. Signage P or CH. They can range from usually great to sometimes awful, depending on the character of the hosts.

In my experience casas rurales (CR) are quite luxurious, like a gîte. Some will not rent by the room, some will. Some are self catering. They are not usually a very budget option, and they can be sited outside villages in situations more suited to car tourists. They are good in a pinch if everything else is full. They never have a reception, so always phone ahead.

Albergues can be quite luxurious, despite being dormitory style, eg great mattresses, small dorms, lovely common areas and gardens etc. They can also have very charming and kind hosts. So don't assume an albergue is necessarily an institutional option. Some have live-in owners and feel very cosy like an extension of their home.

There are also albergues juvenil. These do not specialise in catering to pilgrims but can be useful from time to time.

There are various hybrid places, like albergues with a couple of private rooms as mentioned above (sometime called albergue-pensiones), and a very few hotels with an albergue attached.

There's also hospedería and hospedaje, and posada. And mesón and acogida. I don't really know the finer points of these o_O
 
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KinkyOne

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
I'am not perfect, but I'm always myself!!!
#13
Hospederia/hospedaje/posada/meson/acogida are very similar or equal to CR in my knowledge.

Maybe two or three types are missing in above posts.
First one is Albergue Turistico which could be also called non-pilgrim orientated albergue or even youth hostel (more commonly albergue juvenil).
And the other two are more or less connected to less walked Caminos: acogida municipal and refugio. That's very small albergue or even just a room with a mattress or few of them (most commonly within the town halls, polideportivos or centro social) usually for walkers or even transeuntes (homeless).
 
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notion900

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
>
#14
Mesón sometimes means Inn in the British sense, ie a pub with food / unpretentious restaurant. I do love a good Albergue Turistico. (Albergue Juvenil is usually bigger and institutional)
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015); Camino Norte/Primitivo (2016); Camino Frances (2017); Le Puy (June 2018)
#15
All good definitions, although they can still be a little confusing and overlap somewhat. I would like to draw attention to B&B's and I often enjoy using them in the USA with hubby. However, when I've "tried" to book them on my various Caminos it is never an option for me as my walking partner is either my adult son or a girlfriend, so we need one room with TWO separate beds to share the cost. I have yet to find that as an option on any B&B. They mostly cater to "couples", having only one full or queen bed per room and I've often been disappointed as I've had to pass on a nice place to stay.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016). Seville-Astorga (Mar 2017). Mozarabe (Apr-May 2018)
#16
@notion900 had some very good descriptions and I was glad to see some explanation of the signs. However, I am a bit uncomfortable with the rather negative generalization of hostales. To a large degree, you get what you pay for, and I've found them to be good value. You can often choose to have private bathroom or a shared one. It's true that hostales are not "boutique" accommodation and the quality varies - just like albergues. In that way, it's part of the adventure! :p
 
Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP-Finisterre X 2, El Norte incompleto
#19
@notion900 had some very good descriptions and I was glad to see some explanation of the signs. However, I am a bit uncomfortable with the rather negative generalization of hostales. To a large degree, you get what you pay for, and I've found them to be good value. You can often choose to have private bathroom or a shared one. It's true that hostales are not "boutique" accommodation and the quality varies - just like albergues. In that way, it's part of the adventure! :p
I have stayed in some great, welcoming and homey hostales.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances: September 24 - October 31 (2015); February/March (2019)
#21
It’s funny, in Léon we stayed at the Hostal Albany, which for all intents and purposes was a hotel. I highly recommend it by the way. It is right off the main square by the cathedral. I’ve always wondered why it is called a Hostal. In Nájera I stayed in a pensione which was several single beds in a room with a nicer shared bathroom. It wasn’t that much different from an albergue.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Hice el camino francés hace 20 años (1999). Ahora quiero cruzar el del norte. (2019)
#22
Pensiones will provide a room, or set of rooms, with (usually) not more than 2 beds. Albergues generally have dormitories, though some also offer rooms. The pensiones generally cost about 30 euros per night. We did stay at two albergues along the way this last time where we were fortunate to have our own rooms with en-suite bathrooms, each time for less than 40 euros for 2 people. It was a great way to get some deep sleep and privacy away from the crowds.
You will also see "casa rurales"; these are more like B&B's and I think they are more common in the Galician mountains than elsewhere along the CF. They tend to run 30-35 euros for a room, usually comfortable for 2 people.
Forum members? Am I missing any of the finer points?
Morgan, your description is clear, but I have a nagging question about 'Camino' lodging. Do 'refugios" which were usually associated with a religious house still operate? 20 years ago a clean bed for a night cost as little as $2 or $3. I fully recognize that I could be thinking in the past.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Primitivo June 2013
SJPP - Logroño June 2014
Ingles July2016
#25
Morgan, your description is clear, but I have a nagging question about 'Camino' lodging. Do 'refugios" which were usually associated with a religious house still operate? 20 years ago a clean bed for a night cost as little as $2 or $3. I fully recognize that I could be thinking in the past.
This could be a "refugio espiritual". l think there must be still refugios espirituales in some congregations.
But as far as I know the word refugio for acommodation is only for mountain shelters.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 15,Portuguese 16,Finisterre Muxia 16,Ingles16,, Almeria to Muxia,Finesterre 18
#26
on the Camino Mozarabe earlier this year i stayed at a Refugio ,,, completely free ,, in Campanario
 

notion900

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
>
#29
I have stayed in some great, welcoming and homey hostales.
I know such ones do exist, but what I mean is don't necessarily get excited to 'upgrade' from an albergue to a hostal. It often doesn't feel like a 'treat' at all.

One thing I have never seen in Spain is a motel. Although some out of town puticlubs do look very like them.
 
Camino(s) past & future
2035 km of the way to Saint James in Galicia done.
#30
One thing I have never seen in Spain is a motel. Although some out of town puticlubs do look very like them.
If you mean motel as in "a hotel designed for motorists that usually has a parking area for motor vehicles" or with a similar definition, there are several along the Camino Frances, for example the Avia Hotel just before El Burgo Ranero where camino walkers/pilgrims seem to be happy to stay for one night. A few other similar ones along the CF come to mind. But the puticlubs which my dictionary defines as brothels, ie. establishments for commercial prostitution, may well elicit more comments.

I did not really notice pensiones or B&Bs along the Camino Frances in Spain, but I'm sure they are there. I noticed mainly establishments that call themselves albergues, hostales, hoteles and casas rurales, and the distinction between these categories is still not quite clear to me, in particular when they offer both private rooms and dormitory style beds. Not that a distinction between these categories matters much to me, actually. In my albeit limited experience you can find a room and bed of reasonable quality in all four categories :cool:. Hm ... now that I think more about it, the main difference, apart from breakfast, kitchen etc, for me is whether there are private or shared toilets/shower rooms.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP-Finisterre X 2, El Norte incompleto
#31
I know such ones do exist, but what I mean is don't necessarily get excited to 'upgrade' from an albergue to a hostal. It often doesn't feel like a 'treat' at all.
It always is a treat for me to have a private room with my own bathroom and a real towel!

Here is an excellent guide to the different types of lodging in Spain. https://about-spain.net/tourism/accommodation.htm
 

MikeyC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF - September 2016
CF - April May 2017
Shikoku - October 2017
Kumano Kodo - October 2017
#33
This link has an exhaustive list (exhausting as well if you read it all).
In Spanish though my smartphone offered me an English version.

https://www.spain.info/es/reportajes/alojamientos_para_todo

Edit - Link appears to be broken. Relevant text is:

Hotels The quality of Spanish hotels is internationally renowned. They are classified by a system of one to five stars with five-star hotels being the maximum category, as well as hotels designated Grand Luxe. The category is determined by the size of the rooms, the facilities and services it offers, and the standard of comfort… You'll find everything from simple accommodation through to the most luxurious hotels, often located in the city centres. The prices vary according to the category of the hotel and the season. If you're travelling with your family, you can choose hotels designed to serve as genuine holiday complexes, as they offer a range of facilities for children. You'll also find hotels specialised in business meetings, senior citizens, gays and lesbians... Parador hotels There are currently more than 90 parador hotels located all over Spain, offering a total of over 10,000 hotel places. These are distinctive establishments located in natural or historic sites of outstanding beauty, and offering a range of leisure activities all year round. Many of these are old castles, palaces and monasteries, with all the comforts of the 21st century. As with all other hotels they are classified by the star system. Tourist apartments These are normally rented by the week, fortnight or month. They are equipped with a kitchen and are very common in the coastal areas of the Spanish Peninsula and in the Canaries and Balearic Islands. They are usually classified by a system of keys, from 1 to 3 and luxe (4 keys). Other options are chalets, villas and bungalows.


Aparthotels These accommodation units combine all the advantages of tourist apartments with the services and amenities of a hotel. Guesthouses and hostels This accommodation is more economical than hotels, and also tends to be classified using a star system of one to three stars (although some autonomous regions have their own categories). Occasionally, and particularly in the lower categories, one bathroom may be shared by several rooms. Rural tourism accommodation Country house lodges offer friendly service from the owners of the property, a home atmosphere and home-made cooking. It is possible to rent either the whole house or individual rooms, and they make the ideal place for a getaway in natural surroundings. They are classified according to their level of comfort and facilities. There are various types of categories according to the autonomous region. You can also find rural hotels and guesthouses, generally classified between one and five stars. Within this variety, there is an increasing presence of the accommodation type known as agrotourism: this involves staying in country houses where visitors play an active part in the daily chores with the owners, who tend to be farmers and cattle ranchers. Distinctive accommodation The various regions in Spain each have their own traditional style of buildings which have been adapted to offer accommodation of exceptional quality and often located in rural areas. Here are just a few: Pazos in Galicia: these are ancient noble homes which have been fully refurbished, and are genuine symbols of the history of this area in the northwest of Spain. Casonas in Asturias: quality hotels, small and with charm, perfect for rural tourism in Asturias. Hospederías in Extremadura, Aragon and Castile-La Mancha: these hotels are generally built on the site of historic or traditional buildings typical of these areas. Posadas in Castile-León: all of these are located in towns with historic and architectural value or in natural areas of outstanding beauty. Haciendas and cortijos in Andalusia: these traditional buildings were originally used as farms and cattle ranches on the surrounding estates, and today are equipped with a full range of comforts. Masías in Catalonia : beautiful rural farmhouses commonly found in this area in northeast Spain.


Tourist campsites These have all the basic services (hot water, electricity, drinking water and surveillance) as well as properly delimited and equipped spaces on the terrain. They offer the possibility of staying in caravans, tents or bungalows. The campsites are generally classified into third, second and first categories, and luxe. Hostels Thanks to their economic prices, these are generally the choice of young people and students, and tend to offer shared rooms with a combined rate for accommodation and breakfast. They usually have common facilities such as a breakfast room, bathrooms, recreation room and the possibility of renting towels, laundry service... The Spanish Youth Hostel Network (representing the International Youth Hostel Federation) has over 250 establishments in the main tourist areas. Anyone wanting to stay in one of these establishments must have a members' card (you can find out all about it on their web page). Spain also has what are known as 'pilgrims' hostels' to provide accommodation for people on the Way of Saint James. These include both free public hostels and others in which small donation is required. There are also private hostels which cost a little more. These are just a few of the options, but there are many others, including farmworkers' houses, caves (fully adapted for use by tourists and very typical in Granada), luxury resorts (with spa, golf course and a full range of amenities), spa resorts and mountain refuges in some of Spain's National Parks and nature reserves.
 
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Stivandrer

Perambulating & Curious. Rep stravaiging offender
Camino(s) past & future
I´ve got Camino plans until 2042,
- or till I fall flat on my face, whichever comes first !!
#35
Pensiones might cost you 10 to 20 Euros more pr night,
- but an Albergue will get you more than 20 Roncadores / snorers in your immediate vicinity .....
 

nathanael

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Via de la Plata
#36
Ah, another bonus for albergues is that there is a place to wash and line dry your clothes. In a pension, usually you have to make do with washing in the wash basin and drying on the shower rail.
Although a number of times I have had my laundry done by the lady of the Pension, one in Gihon she didn't charge me although I wanted to pay her.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2012), Norte (2013), Plata, (2014), Levante, Portugués (2016), Ruta de la Lana (2018)
#37
Hola, peregrinos past and yet-to-be. Thanks to MikeyC, we all know the variations on the theme of the original question.

I am assuming the "albergue" mentioned by LizKhan atop this page is the classical Albergue de peregrinos. In the old days, any town along the camino (any "official" camino) had, out of pure religious faith and by order of the local priest, to offer free food and lodging to any peregrino who showed up to spend the night - when there was no space left on the church floor. The local priest or convent staff welcomed the pilgrims who were, for the most, poor and diligent and grateful.

Hundreds of years passed and churches started closing. Parish priests now say half a dozen masses in as many churches per Sunday, small towns all over Spain are empty while peregrinos have increased in numbers. So the tradition has been maintained.

The old church installations (Albergue de peregrinos) are now mostly cared for by volunteers/hospitaleros who sometimes lack enthusiasm, except when they show you the way out at 8 am, it's the Law. Installations vary a lot in quality, all depending on the (mostly) waning spiritual fervour of the locals - save for the few convents and monasteries still open. Some albergues are shared with the local homeless - you may have to get the key at the police station, if that makes you feel any better ...

The majority of towns have turned their faith to Euros. Where the town councils are smart, visitor-oriented and well-intentioned with "christian values", the albergue is clean, has good plumbing, more than just one pot and pan (if any), cooking gas and local info are available, the shower head works and the water is at least lukewarm.

Meek without chic.

"Luxurious" items include a wash-dry cycle machine for 4€, free wifi and ceiling lights which don't turn off at 2200 hrs. You may have to leave your dirty clothes for pickup at the local lavanderia which charges a humongous 10€. But it's clear to see that the lady wearing a veil who hands the pile to you has folded it carefully.

Tienes un menu ?
If you are lucky, this is a donativo-type of albergue (you put what you want in the till). You may have to get the key at the local bar. It's the only place still open in the pueblo but the barman, his wife or kids are still able to smile and will suggest the peregrino menu for 9-11€ : bread, calzado/soup, pork cutlet, slice of red sweet pepper, fries, flan and all the red wine your judeo-christian guilt will let you consume ; D

Now if the kitchen is well-equipped and the grocery store in the previous etapa was open, you could prepare all this yourself in la cocina del albergue for maybe 4 Euros including the bottle of tinto or blanco for 2€ . But who's counting when can watch a futbol match in the noisy café while the locals argue about which national party, archbishop or member of the royal family is the most corrupt.

Cuanto cuesta ?
Clearly one third of all pilgrims are Spaniards - the ones most likely to look for the cheapest lodging in exchange for the richest of conversations; the second third is made up of German, US and Portuguese peregrinos.

Looking at the list of all types of lodgings (municipal, institutional and private) along the Francès, one can see that the number of albergues municipales accepting donations (ie, gratis if you so wish) is down to a few, some 25 of the 600 listed. Three charge 4€, a handful 5, some 6€ and about 10% (65) charge the next lowest rate, 10€. Pensiones and hostales charge substantially more as they are clearly not in the same league.

Bottom line, do not hesitate to take in the locals. I was lucky to walk only off-season on all my various caminos (and so-called voies in France). They are all shown attracting less than 1% of pilgrims in official stats. Altogether in some 200 albergue towns, I must have met 100 grocery cashiers, the same number of café owners, 20 nuns, 18 monks, 15 pilgrims and two roncadores, tops.
 


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