of them are heated with geothermal water and many offer a sauna, a steam room and hot tubs so they are basically like little local “spas” …IF it wasn´t for the dreadful pressure to strip down naked in communal showers and wash thoroughly with soap NAKED – and especially all the hairy parts as signs point out in many different languages. And many a poor blushing tourist who tried to keep his bathing suit on learned the hard way that Icelanders have no humor or tolerance when it comes to personal hygiene in their pool. A loud shout: “Take it off” with a strong Icelandic accent and many angry eyes staring have left many a shy tourist heavily traumatized…..
So what is all the fuzz about washing down naked?
A big poster from the National Center for Hygiene, Food Control and Environmental Health, guides people in five languages on how to wash before entering the pool, and washing without swimsuits is required in order to keep the water as clean as possible. The quality of the water is under strict supervision and checked for bacteria three times daily. The Public Health Authority also carries out random inspections every three months.
“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 swimsuits before entering the pool and hot tubs. One of the most common compliments we get is on the purity of the water; we would like to keep it that way,” says Logi Sigurfinnsson manager of Laugardalslaug in Reykjavík, the biggest swimming pool in Iceland.
This is how to behave at swimming pools in Iceland
1. Pay the entrance fee.
Entrance fees are usually very reasonable around ISK 1.000 for adults. You can pay with most credit cards. If you are planning on visiting the same pool more often it is even cheaper to buy a pass with multiple admissions. Children, students and the elderly often get discounts too. Towels, goggles and rental swimsuits are also often available for rent or to buy at the ticket booth.
2. Shoes off.
Outside the changing rooms there are shoe shelves where you can leave your shoes. Shoes can also be stored in a locker in the changing room. Place them in a plastic bag, found at the entrance to the changing rooms.
3. Get a locker.
A locker is included in the admission fee so you can store your clothes and belongings. The key is attached to an elastic band which you can put around your wrist or ankle and bring with you to the pool. The number of the locker is on the key. Some pools offer roofless changing rooms without lockers, preferred by those wanting the whole outdoor experience.
4. Wash without bathing suit.
Don´t even think about leaving this step out unless you want to take the chance of public humiliation! Your swimsuit must be clean so don’t arrive to the pool or shower wearing it. Undress and make your way to the showers. If you are uncomfortable showering in an open space with other people, you can ask the staff if there is a private shower. Once you hit the showers you have to wash with soap and without your swimsuit. Leave your towel and shampoo in the nearby shelves.
5. Go to the pool.
Put your swimsuit on and go to the pool. Usually there is a larger pool, which is good for drills; hot tubs for relaxing; a playing area for kids; and thermal steam baths. All of the pools have hot tubs and many also have water slides. Most of the pools are outdoors, which is wonderfully refreshing, and since they are warm it’s also great to hit the pool in winter, when it’s freezing outside. There is no time limit on the admission ticket, so you can stay in the pool as long as you please.
7. Relax in the hot tubs.
The hot tubs are the heart of any Icelandic swimming pool. It is where locals gather to discuss current events, politics or football, making it one of the best places to meet locals. Do as the locals, just lounge in the hot water, allowing any stress or weariness to drain out of you.
8. Shower again.
This time, it’s your choice if you shower but it’s good to wash the traces of chlorine from your skin and hair.
Not all swimming pool wardens are as determined as this one but rest assured – we warned you!
Source: Iceland Magazine, 28.2.2018
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