Cost per Kilometer -- Survey Results

Introduction

The cost of the Camino (Frances) is always a hotly debated question. No two Camino costs are alike, and most of this is owed to the choice of accommodation (Donativo vs. Hotel, for example), personal dietary requirements and food choices, and overall adherence to guide books (albergues in guidebook stops are generally more expensive than those a little outside the well traveled stage stop).

To make sense of this, I ran a survey from August 11 2018 to September 16 2019. In it, I asked a number of data points pertaining to distance walked, total expenditure without travel to and from, accommodation choices, food choices and dietary restrictions, and fitness levels. In total, I had 9432 responses, which were trimmed to 8293 after removal of outliers.

Methodology

I assembled the data in three distinct sets. Each set, containing distance walked as the common divisor and total cost of the Camino as the denominator, was arranged for outliers and confounders via a simple cross-check logic. Extreme outliers as well as rather inhuman feats of strength (someone walked 850km in sixteen days, making this a 50+km day, each day, which is OK on a bike, not so likely on foot) were removed.

Survey Results

The “average pilgrim” walks 22.8km/day, eats breakfast and dinner, and stops 2.48 times a day for coffee and a snack. They spend 5.18€ on snacks, 9.45€ on breakfast and dinner, and an additional 6.67€ on drinks and wayside incidentals.

This would yield a non-accommodation cost of 1.07€ per kilometer on the Camino de Santiago.

Our Average Pilgrim spends 68% of their time in private albergues running at an average of 16.4€/night for accommodations with breakfast, 15.38€ for accommodations without food offerings. Xunta and Communal/Municipal albergues yield an average of 10.86€/night, while donativo nights (where payments are voluntary and based on a pilgrim’s income and willingness to donate) averaged at 6.06€/night. Hotels came out to 45.8€/night.

Averaging out our pilgrim, we arrive at a nightly cost of 12.58€. This arrives us at a per-kilometer cost of 1.4€.

However, cost varies from stretches. This may be influenced by our Average Pilgrim’s familiarity with the Camino at later stages and higher willingness to peruse donativo albergues or avoid clearly tourist-y cafés in favor of cheaper options. It also waxes and wanes with group building, meaning communal cooking instead of the more expensive dinners and breakfast.

Cost Average Based on Location on the Camino Frances

Areas around major cities (Pamplona, Logroño, Burgos, Leon, Astorga, and Santiago de Compostela) cause higher per-km cost due to more expensive accommodations and food offerings. Santiago also contains the cost of confession and other usually free services offered only for a fee.

Conclusion

Based on this, you can do some simple calculations. Here are some baselines to get you started, plus a few examples…

RouteKilometersCKP €Total €
SJPdP-Santiago8001.431144
Burgos-Santiago5101.64840
Leon-Santiago3251.56507
Sarria-Santiago1201.86223

In general, for anyone interested in doing the “normal” route (meaning you stay more than half of the time in a private albergue, you’ll spend one night per 500km [1] in a hotel, and you’ll be eating pilgrim menus and albergue breakfasts, rather than eating out) I’d suggest putting down 1.5€ per kilometer. This leaves a little space.

What does this mean? It means, that you should be OK if you took kilometers times three, divided by two (yielding 1.5) to have a loose idea how you’d walk, if you were an “Average Pilgrim.”

However: if you have dietary restrictions, add a general 10 Euros per planned day. This will allow you to eat out or purchase additional foods to compensate. For a standard Camino Frances, this means about 400€ extra. Vegan pilgrims as well as pilgrims on other highly restrictive diets (Keto, etc.) may need to add a little more.

From the Files: Vegan Pilgrim

A. is vegan and (her words) “easily annoyed.” She spent six, instead of two nights in hotels and did not visit donativos or municipal albergues. Her cost for the Camino Frances came out to be 2106 Euros, meaning 2.6€ per kilometer on average.

From the Files: M.

M. decided to spend a Zero Day every week. She stopped in Pamplona, Logroño, Burgos, León, Astorga, Sarria, and Santiago for one extra night, spending the second night in a hotel. She also did not visit municipal or donativo albergues, and ate out every night. Her overall cost for the Camino Frances came out to 2984€, including a one night stay at a hotel due to snoring. That’s an average of 3.73€ per kilometer walked.

Add and Subtract

If you are staying exclusively in municipal/donativo albergues, do not take Zero Days, and do not eat out except for Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port and Santiago de Compostela, you can safely subtract 15 cents per kilometer, dropping your overall cost for the full Camino Frances to 920€ per person. This applies to all routes, Burgos to Santiago (1.64 CPK, 840€) now clocks in at 760€.

Don’t be common :)

Uncommon stages (omitting “Brierley” stops) and passing through large cities (Burgos, León, Astorga, etc.) allows you to subtract another 5-8 cents per kilometer. Being conservative at 5 cents, this drops the overall cost of the Camino Frances for the “Average Pilgrim” from 1144€ to 1104€. While this does not sound like much, it’s nothing to sneeze at. For our pilgrim with municipal and donativo stops alone, this means 912€ for the Way.

Other ways to save

Common ways to save, skipping Brierley stops and taking the cheapest albergue aside, include buying your own food at supermarkets. There is not one stage on the Frances that does not have at least one supermarket directly on the Way or one street parallel to it. This drops the per-km price by a whopping 10 cents.

All things said

You can make the Camino as cheap or expensive as you wish.

While wild camping in Spain is generally tolerated, you will sometimes run into overzealous police or locals who fear the loss of income that comes with it. On dry nights, however, there’s nothing that speaks against spending some of them under your poncho stretched between two trees and on your mat and inside your sleeping bag. That’s an easy savings of 15€ right there. Do it six times of the 33 stops, and you’ll have saved a cool 100€.

The more you mind yourself and the less you mind others, the cheaper it gets. If others’ snoring drives you into hotels or if the need to have a long shower means you’ll only stay in 20€ privates, you’ll pay more.

The cheapest response that was actually doable by mere mortals like you and me, was 550€ with a few nights in haystacks or the forest, combined with supermarket dinners and breakfasts, and only one café stop a day.

Walk.


  1. This would be twice on the full Camino Frances, once for all other distances. ↩︎