Camino de Santiago: How much should your camino budget be?
Getting your budget right for the Camino de Santiago is critical to being able to focus on “the way” and not on your wallet. The last thing you want to worry about is whether your wallet is going to make it to Santiago de Compostela. You will already be worried about whether you and your feet will. So, how much should your camino budget be? It depends on what sort of experience you want.
I’ve complied three different camino budgets that will give you an idea about the costs associated with the camino. It’s time to play Goldilocks and “taste” different budgets. Hopefully, you will be able to envision yourself within one of or a mixture of two of these models. One of the beauties of the camino, is that there isn’t a “right” way to experience it. Choose which one speaks to you.
First – Let’s list out some basic assumptions that will apply to all three camino budget categories.
The pilgrim will:
- Start in St. Jean and end in Santiago de Compostela.
- Walk for 35 days.
- Eat three meals a day.
- Sleep in some sort of facility and not out under the stars.
- Arrive in St. Jean with all the gear that is needed.
- Not be part of an organized tour. (That’s just a whole different ball of wax)
Luxury Walk – Camino Budget
“Budget” is a loose term here because this is the “money is not an option” camino. The best way to think about this budget is as a do-it-yourself version of the camino tours that you find advertised online. Those tours will book your hotels, transfer your bags and set up picnic lunches for you for the low, low cost of a decent sized mortgage for a ten day period. I’ve always had a little trouble with organized tours. I find them constricting. This luxury option gives you all those great things while maintaining your independence. As a bonus, the price tag is about the same for the whole camino instead of an organized tour of ten days. Everyone has their own journey. No one will fault you for living it up.
- Hotels and Inns – Average Cost per night 130 Euro . Let’s just be honest, the scene from The Way that takes place in this Leon hotel was pretty cool. We all want that room. my next camino, I’m thinking about doing it if I can find three others to do it with me. You will not be able to sustain that level of lux throughout the camino, but you won’t be disappointed.
- Each night is booked well in advance. hotels.com is recommended. You will have to book ahead. Many hotels also advertise for others further ahead on the camino, so the hotelier can be of assistance for any last minute changes.
- Sit down dinner each night – 60 Euro – Spanish food can be outstanding. You will have a hard time spending this much money in many of the small towns, but you can easily overspend this amount in the big cities. A Michelin star dinner after a day of walking doesn’t sound so bad, right? Celebrate your arrival in in Santiago de Compostela with dinner at Casa Marcelo.
- Trail meals during the day – 15 Euro – By trail meals, I am referring to the bocadillos (sandwiches), coffee, juice, and Spanish tortillas that are easily found along the way and enjoyed by everyone. The cafe offerings don’t differ too much along the way. You will find some favorites, but don’t be afraid to try new things!
- Twice a week sit down lunch – 40 Euro. You will be hard pressed to be able to do this on a daily basis. Enjoying a big meal at the lunch hour isn’t a popular option for many pilgrims. Many people will snack along the way and wait to eat until they arrive at their destination. Since you will be staying at hotels instead of albergues, your schedule doesn’t have to be ruled by busy shower times or queueing for laundry.
- Vino, vino, and more vino – 20 Euro (You will be buying rounds for your friends.) Wine, amazing wine, is only about 1 – 2 euro per glass. How many glasses you enjoy is up to you, but there is always a thirsty pilgrim or two somewhere.
- Ship your pack. Average cost is 5 Euro per day. The next nights hotel must be booked in advance as that is how your luggage can be shipped. This service is easily arranged with the help of a hotel staffer. They will know of a service (there are many) and be able to sort out the details if you need help translating.
- Entertainment: Cultural Tours – The camino is rife with history. Every large city and some small cities will have something to offer the tourist. One event a week is probably all the timeline would allow. Average 25 Euro
- Shopping: Purchase of a souvenir in each large city – average 30 Euro
Total Estimated Cost: 8,620 Euro
Midrange Walk – Camino Budget
- Albergues and occasional hotels – Average 20 Euro – I find that I need my own space about once a week while walking. Not so much because I need to escape other pilgrims, but more for the want of a lengthy hot shower and a bed bigger than a twin size.
- Which albergue? As a rule, the midrange walker’s want for comfort will overpower their wallet. This pilgrim will not wait for the municipal or donativo (donation based albergue) to open. Instead, they will pay a few euros more to check in at an albergue upon arrival to the city. (Many donativos and municipals don’t open their doors until after 3pm for check in.) Best practice tip: Get your laundry done right when you get in so it can dry sooner rather than later. Check out my list of what you need here.
- Mixture of cooking and pilgrim meals – 12 Euro – Pilgrim meals are the main fare on offer throughout the entire camino. Practically every cafe and bar will have a menu for you to choose from. In addition, cooking can be a great way to enjoy the camino as well. There are a few farmers markets that I won’t miss when I walk. Saint Domingo in Pamplona is one of them. Get there by 2pm!
- Trail meals during the day – 7 Euro – Grab a coffee and a bocadillo and you are good to go in the morning. A second snack a few hours in will help tide you over until the dinner hour too.
- Vino, Vino and vino – 4 Euro – It is almost compulsory that you should enjoy a glass of vino at the end of the day. Relaxing in plastic chairs outside the cafe is one of the best ways to get to know people on the camino.
- Entertainment: Major Event Attendance – 15 Euro total – Maybe you want to see Gaudi’s castle in Astorga or tour the cathedral in Burgos? If so, you will have to pay for entry. Not to worry, though. The prices for admission are low to these popular sites.
- Shopping: Purchase of a souvenir in Santiago – 30 Euro – You need something to remember this epic adventure!
Total Estimated Cost: 1,550 Euro
Budget Walk – Camino Budget
- Albergues – Average Cost per night 9 Euro – Stay in the few remaining donativo albergues when they are available. Otherwise, there are quite a few albergues with a price tag of under 10 Euro.
- Another way to save is by breaking one of our assumptions listed at the top of the page. Sleep outside. I would only really advise this if you are prepared for it. (If you lugged a tent with you….make use of it.)
- Cooking at the albergue – 6 Euro – You are at the mercy of what you can find but you will be able to feed yourself well if not a little bit monotonously. The budget walker encourages family meals at the albergues because food will stretch farther amongst a group. To be honest, family meals are the best meals on the camino. A few cooks are selected from a group of ten friends. They will then shop (with the friends’ money) and prepare dinner. Everyone sits down and enjoys themselves.
- Trail Meals– Bocadillo and coffee – 4 Euro – You’ll make it until dinner without more than that. The one euro coffee that comes out of the vending machines isn’t that bad. Chances are that you will also have leftovers from dinner the night before. Instant savings!
- You are on a budget. Souvenirs are the photos you take and the friendships you make.
- Vino – For a little bit more luxury you can add a glass of wine a day onto the tab for an additional 35 euro.
Total Estimated Cost: 700 Euro
Camino budget stories:
The Ultimate Budget Traveler: I met a 26 year old Frenchman from Lille in the town of Najera, Spain. He left his hometown two months before on his journey to Santiago. He walked the whole way. His mother thought his was crazy, but he felt that the walk was something he had to do. What made his story unbelievable, was that he left home with only one euro in his pocket.
The Family Travelers: Think the Camino de Santiago is just for adults? Think again! One of my favorite groups of folks I have met on the camino, is a family of four from Germany. I affectionately call the family “my favorite Germans.” The couple and their two pre-teen daughters do at least one section of the camino a year. My favorite Germans find the camino to be a very economical family vacation. When the oldest daughter was only two years old, the couple walked the entire way with the child. When the children were small, they were more selective in their housing arrangements. They booked into private rooms not wanting to disrupt the other pilgrims. However, now that they are both old enough to walk over twelve miles a day, they stay in normal albergues. The oldest told me that she’ll have three credentials by the time she graduates!
Notes about Money on the Camino
ATMs – They are plentiful. All the cities, towns, and villages have access to a camino. That being said, the Camino is really a cash business. You will pay for everything with cash. A best practice is to take out the maximum amount from an ATM to minimize on fees. 50 euro notes can be difficult for vendors to break. Try to bust up these big bills into smaller currency whenever possible.
Coins – *****For those not normally using the Euro***** Americans, I’m talking to you here. I’m especially talking to American males that refuse to carry coin on a normal basis. Coin be your number one money drain if you don’t change your ways during the camino. Get used to coin. You will get change in coin. Coin is heavy. You will want to pay with coin whenever possible. Remember, coin cannot be exchanged for your home currency. Just get one of these.
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