The Unexpected Benefit of Staying in Hostels

Salento, Colombia

We love staying in hostels. We love meeting new people in hostels and we have met some interesting characters doing amazing stuff – like the guy who’s riding his bike from Vancouver to Argentina for example.

But another thing that we love about hostels?

We get to meet people who are better at cooking than us.

Awhile back we gave a plea for help on our FB page for idiot-proof recipes to make in a hostel’s kitchen. We’re tired of scrambled eggs and mushy rice (my specialty).

We’ll be the first to admit that we often find ourselves confused and out of a place in a kitchen.

Maybe that’s why we’ve found the food situation in Colombia so challenging?

But thankfully by staying in hostels we can pool resources with everyone in the hostel and come up with a great meal despite our… impotency in the kitchen.

Like the potluck we had in our hostel in San Gil.

Potluck at Sam's VIP hostel, San Gil
Mango salsa, guacamole, with our coconut rice in a pot to the left.

Our contribution was coconut rice with bean, courtesy of Hecktic Travels (it turned out delicious!). One of the people in the group made fish taco, complete with mango salsa, red salsa, and guacamole. Other food included pasta fettucini, garlic bread, veggie fajita, and grilled pineapple. Dessert was a brick of strawberry ice cream with fruit salad consisting of mango, passionfruit, and banana.

A brick of ice cream for the potluck
I was not kidding when I said a 'brick' of ice cream

It was one of the best dinners we’ve had in Colombia. We would never have been able to pull anything like that ourselves.

And here in La Serrana, Salento…

Meet Zach, our chef extraordinaire.

Zach preparing our meals in La Serrana

Zach loves to cook and has offered to cook meals for fellow travelers in the hostel in exchange for us splitting the food bill.

Let’s see… homemade meals done by somebody else that most likely won’t consist of mushy rice and scrambled eggs or well, mushy rice and scrambled eggs?

It was a no-brainer decision.

He made us lentil curry one night, and ‘pad thai’ was the menu for tonight. Loaded with veggies such as eggplant, broccoli, carrot, and mushroom on spaghetti noodles it looked nothing like pad thai but it was delicious!

After a tough hike in Valle de Cocora, it hit the spot.

(the only thing that was missing was this)

Newfound friends in the hostel
Zach, Carl, Melanie, Jack, Jill's empty seat

Sharing a homemade meal that does not consist of overcooked rice with newfound friends? – just one of the many reasons why we love staying in hostels.

Tell us

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had in a hostel?


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28 Replies to “The Unexpected Benefit of Staying in Hostels”

  1. Hi Guys,

    Ran across your blog on the web. Great site and terrific posts! My girlfriend and I have been traveling for a while now and we collect recipes in hostels as we go. We've compiled a list of our favorites on our website: if you have any recipes to add it would be much appreciated!

    Take care and safe travels

  2. Cooking for two can be just cost ineffective, especially when it comes to veggies. Unless you're pretty good about saving and eating leftovers. In our case, it's further complicated byour different preference in veggies (I love eggplant and mushroom, Jack not so much). So yes, a communal cooking experience has worked out really well for us.

  3. Lucky!

    I'm unlikely to experience the same good fortune – being a terrible snorer, hostels are not my natural habitat..

  4. An ice-cream brick?? Yes, please! This co-cooking seems like a great benefit to hostels that most people don't really think about. Hostels: 1, Jack and Jill's cooking skills: still 0. πŸ˜‰

  5. So that's what the large brick on the middle of the table was LOL Very creative use of tinfoil and plastic. Here's to more curry rice and shared meals abroad!

  6. I have to admit I rarely cook in hostels (except breakfast). Cooking for one doesn't really work out all that cost effective in my experience, and I've never come across a big group cook up like this – will have to try and participate in (or instigate) one on my next trip!

  7. Just finally made it back to the blog. Wow! already one month on the road.
    Will catch up with reading, can't wait.

  8. Um, those fish tacos with mango salsa have my name on them! Yum! We actually never cooked in our hostel- three really bad cooks in this kitchen! We did make a few pb &j's though!

  9. I love La Serrana, such a great hostel.

    While I can cook, and have realized it's really key to backpacking my favourite meal was Christmas Eve when a Polish couple made a traditional dinner and invited everyone in the hostel to it.

  10. We also had great meals cooked by the volunteers at La Serrana. We struggle to cook in hostel kitchens too especially when we are only staying for a few nights. Usually the equipment is limited and we lack things like oil so it's hard to think of what to cook.

  11. Yum!! That food looked delicious!!!

    I'm pretty lucky that I travel with a chef, so always our meals are pretty scrumptious-even if it is just eggs on toast!!

    The best meal we've had though was BBQ pork with potato salad and pasta salad. All of us in the hostel pitched in and made different dishes….great night and great food!

  12. Wow, that looks amazing! A lot of times I end up just opting for a cheap hotel so I can get some privacy and some work done, but this makes me want to re-think that choice more often.

    1. Ah, then there's private room in hostel, the best of both worlds in our opinion. You get the privacy when you need it, and the social life right outside the door.

  13. The best meals are the ones where everyone pitches in. I suck at cooking!

    My best meal yet was when a small group of us decided to go buy a whole pig to cook on the beach. The tiny indigenous town of Las Salinas in Nicaragua doesn't have supermarkets, so we went from home to home asking families if we could buy one of their pigs. Then they slaughtered it in front of us, we threw it in a pickup truck, and went back to the beach to have it marinated & grilled up by a professional chef from Argentina.

    The neighbors were cooking a goat the same night, so we joined forces for a feast fit for kings.

    No side dishes allowed, only giant helpings of tasty free-range farm animals!

    1. Holy crap! That sounds like a carnivore's dream comes true. We don't eat meat, but if we do – free range animals is definitely the way to go. Especially if it's cooked by a professional chef.

  14. Haha, funny you should mention the rice and beans when we just put it out on our site this morning! Glad you enjoyed it! I, on the other hand, do not. πŸ™‚

    Our favorite hostel meal is a lentil-chorizo soup that a girl from Spain taught us in Bolivia. YUM!

  15. Wow, I would never have even considered that as one of the advantages of hostels but having seen the pics I'm convinced! It seems like the food in Colombia isn't really living up to your expectations which is disappointing – good food usually makes a place even better for me.

    1. It's not the food that's disappointing, it's the lack of variety I guess. Then again we're quasi vegetarians so it's partly our own making too. Good food definitely makes the place though – no doubt.

  16. You are making me SO hungry! I haven't embarked on travelling yet, but luckily for me, I'm a good cook…maybe not that good, but I don't starve/punish myself with the same meals.
    That "Pad Thai" still looks yummy…and as long as fish sauce, chilli, lime, garlic and sugar are thrown in there somewhere then it's definitely Thai.

    1. Yup, we definitely lucked out. And we all happened to be missing veggies in our diet so it was our chance to load up. Which worked out quite nice because with only the two of us, cooking so much veggies would mean a lot of leftover/waste.

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