Guide to what to wear at spas around the globe. Nudity etiquette exposed.
To bare or not to bare? That is the question.
While asking for precise guidance is a good idea, the fact is very few people actually do; after all, those who are confused and anxious about nudity issues are generally not likely to want to even discuss them with a stranger. So here are some tips that will hopefully give you the information you need before you visit a spa in any country around the world - so you can achieve what you came for in the first place: total ease and relaxation.
1 Locker room
Most spas have separate locker rooms for men and women where you change into a robe and slippers. While some spas have private changing cubicles, many do not and you have to change in front of others. If you're uncomfortable, you can always change in a bathroom stall. Some spas will invite you to change in the actual spa treatment room.
2 Relaxation room
People generally go to a spa's relaxation room before or after a treatment in their robe and slippers with nothing, a swim suit, or underwear underneath. Be careful with how you are positioned/sitting in the waiting room, especially if the robe is small for your body size. Many spas have extra large robes but you need to ask for them specifically.
3 Sauna, steam, and Jacuzzi
Spas offering these facilities generally incorporate them into the men and women's locker room area. In that arrangement you can go totally nude, go nude and wear a towel around you, or wear a swimsuit (unless you're in a country that doesn't allow swimsuits in these facilities). In coed facilities, one generally wears a swimsuit except in countries like Austria or Germany where coed nudity is the norm.
4 Massage room
For popular massages the therapist will generally explain the treatment, advise whether you should be face up or face down on the table, and then (and this is the law in some countries) step out of the room while you take off your robe and slip underneath the sheet. The therapist will knock before reentering.
Quick Quips on Nudity
★★★★★Shower with soap before entering a hot tub, sauna or steam if you're in a country where you will enter the facilities — whether nude or with a bathing suit on.
If provided, wear plastic sandals in the shower to protect your feet from coming into contact with the floor and to keep from slipping.
Spas often allow you to select the gender of your therapist (usually early in the spa treatment booking process and/or if your preference is available). Did you know that 75% of preference requests are for female therapists? Most females prefer a female therapist and most males prefer a female therapist as well.
If you do feel like asking about spa nudity protocol on the phone or in person, try these questions: What is the custom here regarding what I should wear for my spa treatment? What is the custom regarding clothing in the sauna? In the hot tub? Etc.
While your "privates" are generally covered during spa treatments and genitals are not massaged, in a few countries, a medical massage might include breast massage - however usually only upon a woman's request. (And a post-mastectomy lymph drainage massage could include massaging the female breast area.) Buttocks are often massaged as these are large muscles often in need of treatment.
And finally, for those who want to make the process as simple as possible; here is the best way to prepare for nearly 99% of all spa nudity possibilities: Undress completely in the locker room, put on a swimsuit, a spa robe and spa slippers. Carry a large towel with you and look around to see what everyone else is wearing and consider following "suit." Remember: it's always easier to take something off than it is to find something to put on.
Nudity and National Nuances
There is greater modesty in these areas and traditionally most people wear swimsuits in saunas, steams, and Jacuzzis.
In onsens (hot spring) and sentos (public bath), the sexes are generally segregated these days, although coed nudity can still be encountered in a minority of settings. You will be given a small "modesty" towel that you wring out and put on your head while in the bath. Wash your body with soap and rinse thoroughly before entering the bath.
One receives ayurvedic treatments in the nude but only administered by someone from the same sex.
There is always a separation of sexes. Muslim women are naked in the hammam, although Islamic strictures require men to cover their genitals.