How to volunteer on Camino de Santiago in 2024 and beyond




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Many of us received priceless gifts while walking the Camino. The pilgrimage has changed our lives. It brought new joys, or new questions, it took us out of our comfort zone and taught us the most important lessons about ourselves. And of course the connections with other pilgrims and people on the way we will never forget. But what’s next? Walking another Camino, as I have done on so many occasions? :). Or perhaps volunteering on the way, experiencing the Camino from the other side? But can it be done? Can a former pilgrim volunteer on the Camino, and how? I will try to answer the question on the following lines.

Let me start with good news. There are actually several ways how to volunteer on the Camino. Some of them require more preparation, training, and going through the “bureaucracy” (though I hate using such an expression in a connection with the Camino). Others are more straightforward, but the success isn’t necessarily guaranteed. And then you have one special option, taking this all to another level…. Let’s have a look at all options on how to volunteer on the Camino.


Volunteering with one of the Camino Associations

You may not have noticed that while staying in albergues along the Camino, but many of these places are actually run by some associations, which are typically non-profit organizations, located either in Spain or in one of the countries with strong presence on the Camino (think UK, the Netherlands, US, France, Germany, etc). These associations unite “friends of the Camino“, that means people who want to support the way and the pilgrims in one way or another.

Someone may just donate money, someone is just interested in meeting fellow pilgrims back home and talking about the experience. And some people actually want to come back and volunteer in one of the places run by each respective association, or by people who belong to the association. Depending on where you are from, try to google “Camino association [name of your country]”. Almost always something will show up, and there are actually countries with more than one Camino association!

– Camino Frances, rural Galicia. Picture taken in 2014

Selection process for volunteers on the Camino

Now, there isn’t anything like a general guidance for these associations. Each of them has their own rules, governing bodies, and level of activity. And each association has their own way of choosing and training volunteers. In my experience (and based on stories I have heard from other volunteers along the Camino), you will have to undergo an interview (as the first step of selection, after filling out an application). Then a training session follows.

The training can take place back in your home country, or directly in Spain. It can take one day, a weekend, and it can span over several weekends. I’ve heard about all sorts of scenarios, and it really depends on the association. Once you successfully complete the training, you are ready to go and volunteer as a hospitalero in one of the albergues run by this or that Camino association. You may belong to a team of people, but (especially in the low season or in albergues that provide nothing but bed and shower), you may also be on your ownbasically running the place. And that’s perhaps why the entire selection process and training sessions make sense.

Needless to say, the process is relatively complex, it takes a lot of time, and at the end of the day they may not even choose you. The situation differs from one country to another, but in most places where Camino is popular, many people will apply for a volunteering spot. On the other hand, undergoing the training and everything, you know that you will come to Spain prepared for all possible scenarios, and will do a great job as a volunteer hospitalero. Let’s have a look at other options.


If you find any information on this page incorrect or outdated, or have a suggestion how to improve it for fellow pilgrims, please let us know. Thank you for helping the pilgrim community, and buen Camino 🙂

Finding a volunteering opportunity on the Camino with a help of Workaway or Worldpackers platform

You have probably heard about Workaway, or the ever growing Worldpackers platform. The platforms connect small business and non-profit organizations from all over the world with people who want to volunteer abroad, or work for a symbolic salary. The concept is incredibly simple (and one of the reasons why the platform is so successful): You work 25 hours a week in exchange for bed and food. And though in reality things may be different if you are unlucky (I will never forget my Workaway experience from Gran Canaria, working 100 hours in the first ten days of my stay), if the employer (host) adheres to the concept, you have enough time to relax, explore the place, and connect with locals and travelers.

What many people do not realize though is that several albergue owners also have a gig on Workaway or Worldpackers! Just head to the platform and search the opportunities by keyword, entering “albergue”, or “pilgrim”. At the moment of checking the info right now (January 2024), there are ten active listings from people with albergues on WorldPackers and Workaway combined, nine of them in Spain and one in France. Things do change of course, so maybe you will find even more opportunities! Just do the search and go through the offers.

– One of the lovely towns on Camino Portuguese, picture taken in 2016

It can be easier to get in through Workaway or Worldpackers, especially if you live in one of the smaller countries

You will also have to pass a selection process on Workaway and Worldpackers (which again depends from one host to another, but the first step is always contacting them and telling them why you want to come), but it differs from volunteering via a Camino association in many ways:

  • You won’t have to undergo any training before traveling to Spain. They will train you on the job.
  • The criteria are more loose, so you have a chance even if you’ve never walked the Camino before, or if you have some other condition that may disqualify you with the associations.
  • Pilgrim associations in various countries will always prefer volunteer from their countries. Great for them, but what if you live in a smaller country that doesn’t have a pilgrim association, or doesn’t offer volunteering opportunities on the Camino? On Workaway or Worldpackers you apply directly with the host in Spain, hence it doesn’t matter where you are from.
  • You won’t be on your own in the albergue. Hosts on these platforms are the people who own or run the pilgrim hostels, and they will be there with you.

As you can see, this option of volunteering on the Camino has many advantages. But is has one big drawback as well–the opportunities are rather limited. At the time of writing this post, there are ten listings from hosts on the Camino. If all of them reject your application (or do not reply to your message at all, which can easily happen), you won’t proceed closer to your dream of volunteering on the Camino, and will have to look elsewhere.


Contacting the albergues directly, online or face to face, offering your volunteering services

At the end of the day, cold-calling is still the technique to beat when it comes to the scope of opportunity. You will find a few offers of volunteering work on Workaway or Worldpackers, and a few dozens with various Camino associations combined. But in theory you can contact each and every albergue on Spanish caminos, asking for an opportunity to volunteer there. Sure enough many won’t reply, and many will consider you crazy. But cold calling is always a numbers game, and volunteering on the Camino is no exception to the rule. If you contact 100 albergues with a meaningful email or phone call, chances are high at least one or two of them will reply positively and invite you to volunteer.

What works even better–for both parties, is walking the Camino, and as soon as you stop in a place you like, asking whether you cannot stay for a week or two and volunteer. It has countless advantages to any other way of trying to secure your place. First of all, you experience both the place and the owners in person. You stay there as a pilgrim, so you really know what to expect and can avoid negative surprises. At the end of the day, one can write anything online, and reviews are easily manipulated. But once you see the place and people face to face, you know what to expect, and where you will work.

I’ve heard this story countless times from volunteers I met on the Camino. They walked, fell in love with some place, and asked whether they couldn’t stay and volunteer for a while. Sometimes they used the time to heal small hiking injuries and moved on, and sometimes the originally planned week turned to month or two :). Of course, this way of seeking a volunteering opportunity on the Camino has also some drawbacks: you cannot guarantee that you will end up volunteering in any of the albergues. You may not find the right place, or you find one but they do not accept volunteers or already have someone onboard, etc. Just like the other three methods I presented (Camino associations, Workaway, cold calling), this one also has some pluses and minuses.

– It isn’t hard falling in love with a place on the Camino, especially if it looks like this one :). Sonabia, alternative route on Camino del Norte, picture taken in 2021


Cannot find a volunteering opportunity on the Camino? Try running your own place!

You may think that there’s not much place for new business/work on the Camino, especially if you walked the Camino Frances in the high season, and experienced the vast infrastructure (bar at every corner as they say). But Camino de Santiago isn’t only Camino Frances in summer

There are more than 20 waymarked Caminos in Spain, with starting points in every single Spanish province. And while some are well-developed with solid infrastructure, on others pilgrims sleep in hotels and other expensive places, simply because there are very little albergues on the way. What’s more, even on major ways like Camino del Norte or Camino Primitivo you will still find villages (exactly on the way) that do not have a single albergue. Maybe it can be your opportunity? Think about it for a while. I know it may sound like a far-fetched dream, and an expensive one to realize. But you do not necessarily have to own the place. You can rent it, as I’ve seen on many occasions on the Camino.


Final thoughts

Many people volunteer on Camino de Santiago and I see no reason why you could not become one of them. As you can see after reading this post, you have actually several ways of applying and trying your luck. Each of them has some pluses and minuses, and perhaps each one fits different people.

Not everyone has courage to cold-call an albergue, and a twenty-something good looking girl fluent in Spanish and French has a better chance of getting a positive reply on Workaway than a fifty year old guy with a beard…. But I believe everyone has a chance, and as long as you keep trying, you will eventually find a way to volunteer on the Camino. I wish you good luck!


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