Ever since I wrote this post about Five things to keep in mind for first-time visitors in Iceland, where I touched on the subject of showering naked before entering Icelandic swimming pools, I’ve received a lot of e-mails from confused people that don’t quite understand the swimming pool protocols. I’ve got questions about whether the locker rooms are co-ed, whether we swim naked and whether it’s really true that you need to shower in the buff.
So I thought I’d help all of you confused people out there and put together this handy little how-to-guide on what to do when visiting swimming pools in Iceland.
1) Choose a swimming pool
Swimming pools in Iceland is a serious business. There’s one in every town and Icelandic students can’t graduate from school (theoretically, I’m not sure if this is actually enforced) without learning how to swim. It’s a place where you go when you’re bored, when you need a workout, when the sun is out (tanning session, duh) or when you just need to know what’s going on in the world. Swimming pools are where it’s at.
If you are in a small remote town you probably don’t have a lot of options when it comes to choosing a pool unless you’re willing to drive the distance but in Reykjavík you have a lot of choices. The most popular pools for visitors though are Laugardalslaug, Vesturbæjarlaug and Sundhöllin.
2) Buy Ticket
The public pools in Iceland are relatively cheap with entrance fee for one adult at around 950 ISK (January 2017). If you are staying long term or you plan to go often it might be worth looking into getting a swimming card that will give you a small discount off each entrance. A visit to the pools, as often as you want, is included when you buy the Reykjavík City Card.
A visit to the pools is especially economical for families as children 6-17 years old only pay 150 ISK (January 2017). And children under 6 don’t pay anything at all.
When you’ve paid and you’ve found a locker you’re going to store your things in you need to get undressed. You are supposed to take everything off and then walk to the showers with your towel and bathing suit along with shampoo and whatever you need for the shower. Don’t bother with putting on your bathing suit at this point as you have to take it off anyway when you shower.
Soap is provided in the showers.
Yes, you have to shower naked. Yes, you have to wash thoroughly. No, there’s no way to avoid this.
In some of the swimming pools they now have special showers with curtains where more timid guests can wash their bits. The only people you ever pay attention to at the pool are the ones that are trying to avoid this so you might as well play along if you don’t want to draw the attention to yourself.
Also, there are shower guards that make sure you wash before you go to the pool and they tell you off if you don’t dry off when you return from it.The locals that are regulars at the pool will also give you an evil eye if you don’t follow the rules so when in Rome and all that.
Obviously, there are male locker rooms and female locker rooms, each with their own showers. We’re obsessed with cleanliness – not naturists.
5) Put on bathing suit
For some reason, this is the step that has confused most of the people that have sent me e-mails. After you shower and wash up you are supposed to put on your bathing suit before you go to the pool. It’s very important not to skip over this step as it could come with consequences. Public nudity always causes a scene.
6) Go to swimming pool
If you have, for whatever reason, ended up naked in the swimming pool area please refer to number 5.
Once everything is clean and you’re ready to go it’s time to enjoy the pool. A few more things to keep in mind: Don’t play in the swimming area, there are usually designated areas for both and you annoy the locals if you’re doing handstands or splashing around in the lanes.And don’t take photos of strangers in the pool – it’s just not very nice.