Wash without swimming suit

“Some feel that their privacy is being violated by the bathing without swim suit rules.”

Avisit to Iceland isn’t completed without a dip in one of the open air thermal pools located all over the country. Warm due to geothermal heat and extremely clean due to the strict bathing rules everyone must follow before entering the pool.

From an early age Icelanders go to the swimming pools learning how to swim and comply to the rules of washing before entering, so showering naked with others of the same gender isn’t a big deal. Men and women undress and shower in separate changing rooms where there is little or no privacy and nobody is making a fuss, at least not the locals. Although, with the growing number of tourist visiting Iceland that come from all over the world this has become an issue for some.

People who are spotted wearing dry swimsuit that stroll casually pass the showers (trying not to look at all the naked people) and are heading straight for the pool are usually not willing to strip down with strangers to comply these rules. Unfortunately that behavior can endanger the health of all the people in the pool since it can compromise the purity of the water.

“People come here from different cultures where the same rules may not apply and where it’s not as common for people to go to the swimming pool. Some feel that their privacy is being violated by the bathing without swim suit rules,” says Logi Sigurfinnsson manager of Laugardalslaug in Reykjavík the biggest swimming pool in Iceland. In respect for different matters on the view on the matter private changing rooms and private showers have been installed at most pools.

A big poster by the showers from the National Center for Hygiene, Food Control and Environmental Health, guides people in five languages on how to wash before going into the water, and washing without swimming suit is required of all in order to keep the water in the pool as clean as possible. The quality of the water is under strict supervision and therefore checked for bacteria three times daily and the Public Health Authority comes unannounced every three months for inspection.

“We pride ourselves in keeping the water clear of harmful bacteria. Since we want to put as little of chlorine as possible in the water it’s essential for people to follow the rules of washing without swim suit before entering the pool and the hot tubs. The one of the most common compliments we get is for the purity of the water. We like to keep it that way,” says Logi.

The rules of washing is not the only thing that confuses visitors from abroad, they are not sure where they should undress and don’t know how to behave in and around the pool. Tourists have even been found undressing outside the changing rooms wrapped in towels for privacy.

To be fair, in some countries that’s how things are done, people of both gender undress in the hallway and then go straight to the pool. And since the pools in Iceland are seeing record numbers of visitors the staff hasn’t always been able to guide every single one of them. But there is no harm done, and everyone gets the pool clean and safe.

What to do

1. Buy a ticket. The admission fee is 550 ISK for adults and 130 ISK for kids up to 18 years old. For those planning on a lot of pool visits it’s cheaper to buy a pass for 10 admissions. Towels and swimsuit are also for rent at the ticket booth.

2. Shoes off. Outside the changing rooms there are shoe shelves where you leave your shoes. Shoes can also be stored in a locker in the changing room, in a plastic bag found outside the changing room.

3. Get a locker. A locker is included in the admission fee so you can lock up your clothes and belongings. The key is on an elastic band you can put on your wrist and bring with you to the pool. Some pools offer roofless changing rooms without lockers, prefered by those wanting the whole outdoor experience.

4. Wash without bathing suit. A very important rule, and one of the reasons it’s possible to keep the pool clean and free from harmful bacteria. The towel and your shampoo you leave on a shelve by the shower. You are welcome to take your towel with you to the pool though, specially if you are going to sunbathe on one of the benches outside. Usually the towels are left inside by the showers. If you are uncomfortable showering in an open space with other people, you can ask the staff for a private shower. Once you hit the shower you have to wash your hair, armpits and your private parts with soap and of course without swim suit.

5. Go to the pool. The locals might wash naked, but swim suit are once they hit the pool. So put your swimsuit on and go to the pool. Usually the swimming pool has a free pool which is good for drills, hot tubs for relaxing, playing area for kids and thermal steam baths and some have water slides. Most of the pools are outdoors which is wonderfully refreshing even when it’s freezing outside.

6. Enjoy yourself. There is no time limit on the admission ticket, so you are allowed to stay in the pool as long as you please. Have a chat in the hot tub, go down the water slides or do some drills or check out the steam rooms.

7. Shower again. This time it’s actually your choice if you shower since it’s more a general rule to shower after a swim and it’s nice to wash the traces of chlorine from the skin and the hair.

For information on all the pools in Iceland go to swimminginiceland.com


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