Public, parochial or private, the pilgrim “albergues” are one of the main traits of the Camino de Santiago.
Only on the French way, you will find around 300 of these hostels, which helps a lot when it comes to finding a place to stay overnight, this way your Camino tour will almost divided for you. The parochial hostels and the religious orders were the first to open their doors voluntarily to the pilgrims and they need to keep this philosophy in mind in order to keep the origins of pilgrimaging alive.
In some of the public “alberges”, you can give a donation on a voluntary basis that are used to for cleaning and for the overall up keep of the hostel but usually in the rest the fee is usually in between 3 and 6 euros. For the private ones, the fee is from 6 to 10 euros.
In the public hostels, it is not possible to reserve. They usually go by the law of “first come first serve” giving priority to the pilgrims that have travelled by foot. To stay in one of these “albergues” it is imperative you carry your credentials and you cannot stay for more than one night, unless you get very ill.
Public hostels also have some other rules a part from the ones mentioned above. The doors close at 10pm and the lights are off at 10:30pm. You need to leave in the morning before 8am, you cannot waste water or light and everything should be kept tidy at all times. Finally, when drying your clothes, remember only to use the available clothesline.
Since solitary pilgrims that come by foot have priority in the hostels, groups should have a backup plan and look for an alternative place to stay like a private hostel or by bringing a tent or by finding a hotel to stay in.
In the private “albergues” it is possible to reserve and it should usually be done in advance, even before you leave your home, especially in summer. With renewing the Jubilee Camino, these private “albergues” started popping up all over. From the bright room filled with bunk beds of the 90s, these accommodations can now offer you, a part from bunk bed, rooms with single or double beds. It is not bizarre now to have a room with bed sheets, a washing machine, a dryer, a kitchen with a fridge, a mini bar, Wi-Fi and even foot massager.
Out of the French Way, even though it is getting better, there is still a lack of “albergues” and you will probably have to use Hostels or Hotels. This means that you might have to deviate from your path to find a place to stay the night.
The least of your concerns should be to find hotels in Santiago de Compostela itself. There is a wide range of hostels, hotels and flats in the Galician Capital and end of El Camino.