The hostel kitchen is a place to prepare your own food. But most of all: a hostel kitchen is a place to meet, greet, and share.
Hopefully you enjoy reading this article half as much as I’m pumped about writing it because it connects two of my absolute favorite things in the world: food and travel. As somebody who is passionate about eating well, I was quickly drawn to cooking amazing food, which became somewhat of a struggle once I started traveling and staying in hostels for months at a time.
The reason i’ve always clearly chosen hostels over any kind of hotel or single room accommodation (besides the price, of course) is thanks to the access most hostels give you to a kitchen, and the opportunity to cook for yourself whenever and whatever you want, a massive source of conform for me when i’m spending all day exploring a new city. Not only do you get to save money and avoid eating cheap junk food, you can also eat on your own timetable.
Plus, the kitchen is the new hotspot for meeting cool people, or at least it’s worked that way in my experience. So by now you’ve probably picked up on the fact that I’m passionate about eating, cooking, and traveling, so please accept my humble guidance in the etiquette, survival methods, and sneaky tricks to become a pro in any hostel kitchen that may cross you; onward my good people!
Read: How to Volunteer at a Hostel 2023 – The Pros, Cons, and Websites to use
In this guide we cover:
- Food storage containers
- Your favorite spices
- First steps in the hostel kitchen
- What to buy for cooking in the hostel?
- The best time to cook in the hostel
- 21 best kitchens in hostels worldwide
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Bring a few food storage containers
Before you even leave for your trip, I highly recommend buying some collapsible silicone tupperware.
If you don’t know what i’m talking about, prepare yourself, as i am about to blow your mind. These guys are a lifesaver! I love to pack food with me on trips but it’s always a pain in the butt when you have to carry around this bulky, smelly, and sometimes heavy tupperware. I promise you I’m not getting paid to say this, but please welcome to the stage, collapsible tupperware! The ones I have are made of silicone and have a small air hole on the top with a removable plug, allowing you to microwave your food inside the tupperware without it exploding all over the inside. You can also stick these guys in the freezer and carry them around all day without worrying about a smell sticking around.
I’ve had dirty tupperware in my bag for three days before and after soaking it overnight and a thorough wash, there was no smell. So, prepare yourself to step it up from tinfoil wrapped sandwiches to whatever leftovers (even soups) you’d rather enjoy on the road.
Not only are you saving yourself from the same boring turkey and cheese on white bread, but you’re also saving the environment! On the road you can also hang onto any glass jars or leftover food containers you’ve emptied and reuse them as tupperware for the next time you cook or bring food with you. In addition to grabbing your trusty tupperware, go ahead and throw a wooden spoon and small cutting board into your backpack: over-prepared is always better than under prepared, and think of all the plastic spoons you’ll be saving from a sad fate of spending eternity in a land mine. Why, you’re practically a saint some would say!
Bring some of your favourite spices
Another thing I recommend thinking about before you leave is to pack a few different spices to bring with you.
I sound like a crazy lady, I know, but hear me out. While most places will have salt and pepper and maybe a few random spices, I love having the luxury of choosing between a curry mix, garam masala, italian seasoning, and maybe even cajun spice or a barbecue blend.
Now, imagine stepping into an unfamiliar hostel in a new country where everything is foreign to you, getting into the hostel kitchen and seeing a barren seasonings corner; the horror, the disappointment, the amount of bland food in your future! Well, not if you pack a few different mixes to bring with you, your trusted companions and palette savers!
People may look at you a little funny, but at least you won’t be eating the same pasta bolognese with a boring store bought sauce over it for two meals every day!
First steps in the hostel kitchen – what to check
Okay explorers, let’s get to it! You arrive at your hostel, fresh off an arduous flight followed by some mode of transportation that brings you to the safe haven that will serve as your place of rest and relaxation after a long day of wandering the streets….with one thing on your mind.
I always arrive at my accommodation ravenous due to a lack of appetite during my trip, instantly being replaced by a hangry, grumpy version of myself which needs sustenance immediately. I know some people would just opt for a restaurant, but after setting my things down I will always make a beeline for the kitchen to scope out my new art studio, the place where I will be spending a good chunk of my time in this new home.
My trick to you upon first encounter: see what appliances the hostel has before you go grocery shopping, so you know what you’re working with (and without.) While most hostels will have the basics of a few pots and pans, cutting board, utensils, and leftover cooking oil from previous guests, it’s always best to know for sure that you have whatever is necessary to cook the food you’ll be buying.
Some hostels get real fancy with a microwave, oven, blender, and maybe even a panini press! But people, don’t just assume that your hostel falls into this category of sheer culinary bliss; some hostels don’t even have a single sharp knife. Small trick in terms of dull knives: if you sharpen the knife against the bottom ring of a ceramic plate, you can actually get it to be quite sharp!
Next up? Check out the communal food section where travelers have left behind unused or unwanted food items; I’ve curbed my inner hangry beast many a time by feeding her whatever chips or cookies some angelic soul thought to leave behind in the free food bin. Even if there’s nothing big, you are almost guaranteed to find at least some oil, spices, pasta or rice left behind by the recently departed nomads.
So, check that bin!
After all, you wouldn’t want to be that noob that goes out and buys salt, pepper, pasta and oil only to find out that there was already plenty for free in the hostel. In connection to this, I believe it is good karma and good sportsmanship to also leave behind whatever ingredients and foods you won’t be needing for whoever comes next.
What to buy for cooking in the hostel?
Okay. So you’ve scoped out the digs and made a mental list of all the available appliances: off to the shop we go!
It’s always a good tip to ask the receptionist or guests who have been around for a bit which shops are the cheapest and where they have the best produce, as often you’ll be better off buying your dried goods at the cheapest, while fruits and veggies are worth spending a bit more money on to make sure they’re good quality and clean.
I say this because I spent entirely too long in Spain buying everything from the big grocery stores until somebody finally told me that for just a little more money, I could get amazing, organic, and local produce from small shops called fruterias found on just about every corner.
Once you’re at the shop, don’t get carried away.
Keep in mind how many days you’ll be spending at this hostel and how often you’ll realistically be eating in as opposed to going out to eat: it’s always better to stock up a second time than to constantly be leaving behind massive quantities of food because you stocked up for a month at a hostel that you stayed in for two days. Trust me, I am guilty of doing this more than once, and it gets old constantly carrying around your food supply from the previous town because you spent twenty bucks on vegan cheese…again. Though the next guests will definitely appreciate the stocked up common food bin, do your wallet a favor and go small. Something you could do is just shop daily, and stock up on whatever you’re craving for lunch/dinner, since you never know when you’ll meet people and end up eating out, and seeing food go bad is never fun.
Also, you don’t want to take up half of the entire fridge to yourself: it’s a jerk move and won’t be appreciated. Try to keep a decent amount of your food in the dry storage area, and only have a small amount of stuff that requires a fridge.
The best time to cook in the hostel
When it comes to cooking, something worth thinking about is the peak hours for people to be using the kitchen.
While it’s one of my favorite places to socialize and meet people, showing up at the kitchen with your hands full of groceries and your stomach dangerously empty, only to find ten other people in there, is far from an enjoyable experience. I like to get an idea of the peak cooking times and prepare something either before or after that hour, so I can avoid fighting over the stove top while politely smiling and pretending I’m not immensely frustrated.
In connection to this, try not to take up every burner: there’s nothing worse than getting into the kitchen and seeing one butthead who’s taken over three of the four burners. Oh, and the available one is tiny and barely works to make a cup of coffee. Be considerate, and even if you start out alone in the kitchen, when somebody comes in to make space for them. Also, don’t cook at three am if the kitchen is adjacent to rooms.
Sounds like common sense, but you’d be surprised…and then very quickly furious.
Not only does this reduce stress and possible tension with other guests, it’s also a lot less time consuming and an overall more enjoyable experience. You can also see hostel cooking as an opportunity to get creative and work on your resourcefulness, becoming a sort of MacGyver with kitchen appliances to fulfill all of your cooking needs.
That said, remember that you’re cooking in a shared kitchen and should aim to make simple meals rather than something super intricate and time consuming: save yourself the frustration of making a four course meal with a crappy pan and a dull knife.
As I’ve mentioned, many people who stay in hostels do take advantage of the kitchen.
When I’m cooking, I am probably the most calm, happy, and easygoing version of myself, and I find that to be true for many other people too. If you’re traveling alone or accompanied but are trying to make new friends, the kitchen is for you! You can meet people who are also cooking or snacking, share food and stories, and maybe even make plans to share your next meal together!
Who needs tinder when you have a hostel kitchen 😉 In connection to sharing meals though, be mindful of any allergies people may have and make sure to announce the ingredients of your food before pushing it onto somebody else. Same goes for if you’re cooking with a common allergenic food: make sure nobody is severely allergic and if someone does have an allergy, be extra thorough when cleaning your utensils.
Okay, back to business. You’ve cooked your meal, met the love of your life, shared childhood stories over the amazing food you’ve cooked, and now it’s time to go out and explore. Before you leave, make sure to clean up thoroughly after yourself.
That means washing and drying all of your dishes, pots and pans, and putting them away. Wipe down the counters and your eating space and if you have leftovers, make sure to label them with your name and the date, before sticking them in the fridge or in a cubby.
While some hostels have cubbies or boxes in the fridge dedicated to each room/bed, not all do, and you can bet that some hungry volunteer is going to come back from partying at four am and see your unlabelled food. What this means in the world of hostels is….that food is game for eating. Unlabelled food is considered communal food, so don’t be surprised if your food gets eaten by somebody if you forgot to label it.
That said, don’t be the asshole who eats other peoples (clearly labeled) food: you will be found out and the collective will get its revenge
Jokes aside, just don’t be that guy, it’s not cool.
Ladies and gentlemen, I believe this is all of my tips, tricks, and warnings in terms of using the communal kitchens in hostels. To summarize, eating is amazing and being able to cook and share that meal with new friends is even more so. Cooking in a hostel gives you the chance to make friends, have interesting conversations over all kinds of international food, save money, and have more control of the food that goes into your body. I’ve always loved organizing potlucks of barbecues on the rooftop terrace, or even cooking a massive amount of food for a family style dinner: something fun to do with friends that brings everyone together, and can also be quite cheap if everyone just chips in a few euros (plus, if you cook, someone else has to clean 😉 I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this and are not motivated to go and cook in every communal space you encounter! Bon appetit friends!
And finally, we made you a list of the 21 best kitchens in hostels, so maybe one of them will be the place to start your hostel culinary adventure.
21 best Kitchens in Hostels worldwide
Here we have a list of 21 kitchens in our 5 star hostels. We believe that some of them will be very inspiring for you and your culinary magic.
1. SPIN Designer Hostel in El Nido, Palawan, Philippines
The SPIN Designer Hostel comes with a fully equipped kitchen, made out of upcycled materials.
The breakfast is also served here. And we highly recommend the breakfast: fresh and delicious fruit!
Read: best hostels in el Nido
2. Most Art Boutique Hostel in Leiria, Portugal
The art gallery of Leiria, or as we call it Most Art Boutique Hostel also has a homey kitchen. The team loves to post photos of their guests sharing time and food. Keep it up, Most Art Team!
Read: best hostels in Portugal
3. Wow Poshtel in Taipei, Taiwan
A big kitchen in a big social area and this one happens to take up an entire floor of Wow Poshtel in Taipei, Taiwan. You’ll enjoy cooking here 🙂
Read: best hostels in Taiwan
4. Sunset Destination Hostel Lisbon, Portugal
When staying at Sunset Destination Hostel, it is the rooftop terrace and the pool you want to spend most of your time. Fair enough, we understand.
After all, this is where you will find us, when we’re in Lisbon.
The hostel kitchen at Sunset Destination has everything you need: Big fridges, space, and the dining area is really special as well.
But, you know what, have a look for yourself:
Read: Party Hostels in Lisbon
5. Maverick City Lodge Budapest, Hungary
Kitchen in Maverick City Lodge Budapest is big enough and useful, there is a few fridges and dish machines. You can find everything here you can use. Just hanging out in this kitchen gives you a great chance to meet other travellers.
Read: Best Hostels in Budapest
6. Lollis Homestay in Dresden, Germany
The cosy kitchen at Lollis Homestay comes with two self-build dining areas.
Here is a photo how guests and staff at Lollis Homestay in Dresden, Germany are baking traditional Christmas biscuits.
Read: Best Hostels in Germany
7. Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof in Interlaken, Switzerland
The Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof in Interlaken, Switzerland offers two fully-equipped kitchens.
And they are busy!
Many travelers staying here at the Backpackers Villa love to cook up their own meals after a long day of adventure.
The breakfast area however is in the lobby, right in front of the reception. For the coffee, there are different coffee machines.
And you know what? The coffee is excellent quality. If you’ve been following us at Hostelgeeks, you know, this is quite important to us.
Read: Best Hostels in Switzerland
8. Mountain Hostel Tarter in Andorra
The living room is the heart of Mountain Hostel Tarter, and the kitchen is its right hand!
We love the organization of the Mountain Hostel. The owners are originally from Mallorca, Spain, and they brought their habits with them.
The kitchen has EVERYTHING! When the owner created the hostel, they knew their guests are nature-lover. The guests want to find a kitchen with all main facilities and extras as well. So, Mrs. Foodie, here you go!
Well played, Mountain Hostel Tarter!
Read: Best Hostels in Andorra
9. Santurcia Hostel & Bar in San Juan, Puerto Rico
The kitchen in Santurcia Hostel is expansive and well-stocked for cooking. It is ideal for mingling and making friends too.
Read: Best Hostels in Puerto Rico
10. The Hostello in Verona, Italy
There’s a good kitchen in The Hostello with all you need to cook your own meal if you wish and enjoy it in a very pleasant back garden. They have loads of free food too.
Read: Best Hostels in Italy
11. The Yard Hostel in Helsinki, Finland
The kitchen in The Yard Hostel is spacious with a lot of utensils and ingredients free to use. It has more than basic items to use and is very clean.
Read: Best Hostels in Helsinki
12. KEX Hostel in Reykjavik, Iceland
To help keep up with the amount of guests, KEX Hostel has included not one but two kitchens to help your cooking experience run smoother.
Read: Best Hostels in Iceland
13. Cocomama Amsterdam, Netherlands
Kitchen in Cocomama Amsterdam is clean and have sufficient cooking equipment. Breakfast is included – toasts, eggs, milk, juice and some cereal to choose from. Coffee and tea is also free. Also worth noting that the kitchen don’t have an oven.
Read: Best Hostels in Amsterdam
14. Combo Torino in Turin, Italy
The kitchen in Combo Torino is open and fully equipped from early morning until late offering a multitude of tastes and flavours inspired by local markets.
Read: Best Hostels in Turin
15. Swanky Mint Hostel in Zagreb, Croatia
It goes without saying that the Swanky Mint has a fully equipped kitchen. It is very clean and you can get good coffee for free.
Read: Best Hostels in Croatia
16. STAY Hostel Rhodes, Greece
STAY Hostel Rhodes has well equipped kitchen, with a lots of extra facilities. It is really big, next to garden and clean, and they have everything for cooking.
Read: Best Hostels in Greece
17. The People – Lille, France
The People – Lille hostel has a lovely kitchen area with everything needed and you can use it until 21:00. It is really big, with nice facilities and an extra fridge.
Read: Best Hostels in France
18. The Nomad Hostel in Sevilla, Spain
The kitchen in The Nomad Hostel is well equipped, there is tea and coffee whenever you need, and you can put your things into the fridge on your floor. The trash in the kitchen is separated, so you can easily contribute to the eco-friendly practices yourself.
Read: Best Hostels in Spain
19. Cocoon City Hostel in Chania, Crete
The kitchen in Cocoon City Hostel has absolutely everything to cook a meal, and you can buy the freshest fish just a couple hundred meters down the street. And there are also a few seats so that conversation can continue over a hot stove.
Read: Best Hostels in Crete Island
20. The Bivvi Hostel in Breckenridge, USA
Kitchen space in The Bivvi Hostel is small but has everything you need. Also, they have breakfast included which is great.
Read: Best Hostels in USA
21. The Pipe House in Playa Grande, Costa Rica
The kitchen in The Pipe House is big with high counter tops and lots of fridge space. Also, all of the rooms are centered around the kitchen/communal area, so this is the best place to meet people and make new friends.
Read: Best Hostels in Costa Rica
Before you go: have a look at all of our ‘Best Hostels in …’ guides.
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Do you have any experience in this area? A bad one, a fantastic one? Share your experience in the comment sections below.
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