Hostel Etiquette: The Do’s and Don’ts of a Hostel Kitchen

by Stephanie Walsh · 8 comments

in Travel Thoughts

Hostel Etiquette: The Do’s and Don’ts of a Hostel Kitchen

Sharing a kitchen with strangers has its challenges, and it can be especially difficult for new travellers who have not yet learned the unspoken rules of hostel kitchen etiquette.

With my experience of staying in hostels over the last few years, I’ve seen varying degrees of hostel kitchen foolery.

So to help you avoid making any awkward faux pas, I’ve put together a list of some of the most important do’s and don’ts of a hostel kitchen.

So let’s start off with the most important….


DON’T steal other people’s food

Obviously. This seems, well, obvious so I’m going to assume nobody reading this would do it on purpose. Instead, I’ll focus on ‘accidental stealing’. Don’t do that either. Always check to make sure what you’re eating is, well, yours! You may be in a small town or a village with just one shop and limited supplies, so don’t be surprised if many of the other hostel guests have the same food supplies stocked in the hostel kitchen fridge.

Speaking of…

DO label your food

I know this can be a pain, especially when you’re frequently moving from hostel to hostel, but it helps to avoid confusion when it comes to food ownership. To make things easier for you, just put all of your food in a plastic bag and write your name on it with a permanent marker, and re-use the bag in each hostel; +1 points for being eco-friendly!

DO label your food

DON’T leave your mess in the kitchen

There’s nothing worse than entering a hostel kitchen to cook your meal, only to find a pile up of dirty dishes in the sink, left behind from the previous users. You’ll find that a lot of hostel kitchens put up signs like, ‘you’re not at home now, clean up after yourself’, and they’re right. If you can’t manage to clean up some dishes after preparing a meal, you should really ask yourself if you’re  ready to travel the world! Consider that other people have to use the kitchen after you. Take 5 minutes to clean up…properly!

DO offer to donate seasonings and condiments

The great thing about hostel life is that it’s a cyclically moving ecosystem. As so many people come and go all the time, most hostel kitchens will have a nice supply of seasonings, condiments and other food that previous backpackers have donated to the cause. So, before you go shopping for your next meal, make sure to check out what’s available for use in the kitchen.

DON’T take forever

Hey, you’re a backpacker staying in a hostel, not a gourmet chef in a Michelin star restaurant; there’s no need to spend 5 hours in the kitchen preparing a pork loin roast.

Most people just stick to pasta…


DO make your local dish and share it with other travelers

When we were in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico, we got to experience a traditional Israeli dish made by a group of Israelis celebrating their country’s New Year. When we were in Isla Holbox, a group of German backpackers invited us to a huge dinner they were preparing. It wasn’t necessarily a German dish, but we really appreciated the kind sentiment. So be nice, invite other travellers for food and get to know each others’ culture.

hostel kitchen etiquette

Celebrating Mexican Independence Day with new friends from the hostel.


DON’T be stingy

Most backpackers are on a budget. When someone offers to cook a giant meal for 15 people, they more than likely don’t want to pay for it all. Different cultures will read into ‘being invited to dinner’ differently, so it’s always good to ask beforehand whether you need to pay your share or not. If not, try to help out in other ways in the kitchen, by chopping vegetables, or run to the local shop to buy something to contribute to the dinner.

DO pay it forward

Are you really gonna bring that tub of butter with you on an overnight bus to another country? I know you’re on a budget, but you’ll probably only use it a handful of times again. Why not offer it to new guests who have just arrived and are about to go buy food supplies or, like above, donate it to the hostel so other guests can get the most out of it. Who knows, when you arrive at your next destination, some other travellers might just do the same for you!

Pilgrim House Kitchen

Good karma and the chance to do something nice for others is always good idea.

 Did I miss anything? Do you have any other do’s or don’t to add to the list?

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Vanessa February 14, 2014 at 6:09 pm

I love hostel kitchens! My specialty was bruschetta and pasta! My advice to frequent hostel guests is to travel with a Sharpie marker and a bag of Ziploc bags (yep, brand names and quality matter here). Ziplocs are always invaluable for many uses, not just preserving your leftovers, and the Sharpie is perfect for labeling your stuff. I’d also recommend checking the free shelf for vegetable oil and, if there’s none you should buy some. Any non-stick finish on a hostel pan rubbed off years ago and your food will stick!


2 Kirsty McGregor February 15, 2014 at 10:54 pm

Milk always seems to cause a problem in hostel kitchens… So many backpackers can’t seem to justify buying a carton of milk. “I just need a splash for my coffee.” It is often difficult to store it in your labelled bag (prone to being knocked over or leaking on other food) so is stored separately in fridge making it easy to ‘steal’. Don’t be the milk thief or the milk nazi… Buy milk occasionally, it’s good karma!
Kirsty McGregor recently posted..FREE eBook – ‘Overlanding: How, What, Where & Who With…?’My Profile


3 Best holiday destinations February 17, 2014 at 12:29 am

Nice job…… thanks for sharing nice views……….
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4 Andrea February 19, 2014 at 3:36 pm

I was tempted to write one of these when we were hostelling. Great points! Don’t let your kids run around the kitchen and get underfoot when others are cooking (that water boiling on the stove has to make it to the sink at some point and it’s hot!)
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5 NZ Muse February 19, 2014 at 8:54 pm

One of my favourite hostels was the Belford in Edinburgh. HUGE well equipped and CLEAN kitchen, with a communal cupboard with condiments, spices and fruit. There also happened to be free cake there one afternoon while we stayed there 🙂
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6 kat June 26, 2017 at 2:17 pm

Skip the grocery shopping and have a meal kit delivered to your hostel! For places in the U.S. you can try something like HelloFresh. This code will get you 40$ off your first box!
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