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Bath rooms/ bathing customs

I have never before been to Europe. I am looking at photos shown of three different places in Ireland that I am interested in renting for a week long stay in the Connemara area. In the listing info for all of them, there are photos of the interior and exterior of the place. All of the photos of the bathrooms show a tub that does not appear to have a shower. There is no showerhead seen, nor is there a shower curtain or even a curtain rod for a shower curtain. Is this just a bizarre coincidence or is it a common thing in this part of the world that bathrooms do not have showers?

Posted by
14788 posts

In France, bathtubs seem to be more prevalent, especially in apartments. There is usually a showerhead attached to a flexible hose, but often there is nowhere to hang it for a shower and it needs to be hand-held.

Posted by
2119 posts

I've encountered that lots of times in apartments I've rented in various countries. It's less common in more corporate hotel-type places. If it's a deal-breaker for you, keep looking. You'll eventually find places where, at a minimum, they've put a pipe up from that bath faucet and affixed it to the tub wall at a reasonable height for showering. Even if there's just a shower head that hangs down at tub floor level, it's possible to get a reasonable shower just holding it in your hand...it's not ideal, but I've done it.

As to the shower curtains...when I first started traveling to Europe in the '90s I seldom saw shower curtains and I drenched a lot of bathrooms. They're pretty common now in the places I seem to rent.

Posted by
18241 posts

I think the Europe that I know (and I tend to stay in small, more traditional places as opposed to big international hotels that cater to American tastes) is slowly coming around to American tastes. I see, today, far more showers with fixed shower heads that you can stand under. But that has not always been the case. I understand that European, to save water, that was expensive to get and expensive to heat, would turn on the shower, wet themselves with a handheld wand, then turn it off , soap, and scrub. They would then turn the water back on to rinse.

I've stayed in places with a tub with a handheld shower head. You didn't need a shower curtain because you stood in the tub and aimed the low flow head at you body with the tiled wall behind you.

Does anyone remember the shower scene in "Last Tango"?

Posted by
11280 posts

In the US, bathrooms are designed so that only the bath/shower area itself gets wet. There are always curtains or doors to prevent the rest of the bathroom from getting wet when you take a shower. In some European countries, this is simply not the case.

The two countries where I've seen this consistently are France and Italy (I've never been to Ireland). And it's not just the "cheap" places. I've stayed in moderate fancy hotels in Italy where there's only a partial piece of glass rather than a full one, and if I wasn't careful when moving around in the shower, much of the bathroom got sprayed with water. In cheaper places in Italy, I've had just a showerhead coming out of the bathroom wall and a drain in the floor - with no barrier at all, so everything in the whole area got wet.

In France, as said above, it's common for the shower to be just a hose with a showerhead, and no place to hang it while you shower hands-free (you have to hold it with one hand the whole time). In this situation, there's no shower curtain - you just have to learn how to aim the showerhead carefully to avoid wetting the rest of the bathroom. I find that by the third day, I can usually do it reliably; before that, I spray water around because I'm moving under the water as I do at home.

Only once, in York, England, did I have a room with a bathtub that had no showerhead at all. So it is possible. The converse, however, is very common - a shower with no bathtub. If you do want a tub, you must make sure you get one, and in France, it often costs more than a room with just a shower.

Posted by
3661 posts

What you describe is a deal-breaker for my husband and usually impossible to search for. The only way I've ever been able to determine if there's a shower head high on the wall for him is to carefully scrutinize the pictures, sometimes by looking at the reflection of the shower in the mirror! You're doing the best you can, short of contacting the places to see if there's a separate shower not shown.

It's possible that the tub is featured because they are becoming so rare that having a tub is a luxury. It's also possible that the places are so old that they only have a tub, possibly with a shower wand that sits in a cradle above the faucets.

I'm in the UK right now. Only one of the 9 lodgings I've been in so far has had a tub/shower combination. All the rest have had showers only, really small showers, like if you drop the soap, make sure you don't hit your head when you bend over to pick it up. More problematic has been figuring out how to regulate the heat of the water and the water pressure. The water has been pretty hot. The water pressure has been pretty not. These places have some serious governors on the pressure to control water consumption.

Good luck with finding what you want or deciding what you can do without for a week.

Posted by
53 posts

We just came back from Ireland and every one of the seven places we stayed in (mostly B&Bs) had showers or tub/shower combinations. I recall only one that was just partially enclosed. Most of them had shower heads that could be removed and hand held.

My recollection of our trip to Switzerland and Italy a few years ago is similar.

Hope that helps.

Posted by
345 posts

We have also stayed in a couple of places in Ireland that had separate water heaters for the shower/tub that must be turned on when you are ready to bathe. If you see a gadget/box on the wall near the bath that you don't know what is for, be sure to ask how to operate it when you arrive, rather than wait until you are standing there shivering! Not sure how common that is, but just in case....

Posted by
11280 posts

"We have also stayed in a couple of places in Ireland that had separate water heaters for the shower/tub that must be turned on when you are ready to bathe."

I had this once in a pension in Berlin as well. I kept forgetting and ended up shaving with ice-cold water.

Posted by
6258 posts

Yes things are different from America throughout the world.

On my first visit to Paris some 40 plus years ago the toilet at the train station was a holel in the floor, the elevator in my hotel was exactly like the tiny one in Charade and very few Parisians made any effort to speak English. Also there were absolutely no lines for the Eiffel Tower, no beggars or pick pocketers outside Norte Dame, you could get your mail at an American Express office and hordes of tourists were non existent.

In Ireland in the early 90's few rooms at Bnb's were ensuite, few showers, and if there was a shower it was always a handheld no curtain situation. There has been a vast improvement as tourism has increased and following the celtic tiger years but don't be surprised to still find both in Eire and the UK.

Wait till you have find the handle or chain to flush toilets! Or climb up or down flights of stairs to get to toilets in pubs.

Heck what will shock you the most is realizing a room at a Best Western is huge compared to what room size will most often be throughout Europe.

Embrace the difference. Respect their way of life.

Just remember: take plug adapters, have international phone plans (unless you're savvy with Skype and other WiFi apps), understand calling 911 isn't universal, and know in advance that the Irish are very proud of their beautiful country. Lovely people. a smile and politeness on your part goes a long way.

Don't miss Slea Head, Dingle, Killarney National Park or the Sally Gap while on the West Coast.

Posted by
4638 posts

In the UK the hot water system is often not pressurised. Indeed it was against building regulations to do this prior to 1986. This means the hot water will only be at the pressure achievable from gravity from the elevation of the cold water feed tank in the loft.

Modern purpose built hotels may well have a pressurised system but older ones and guest houses or b&b in people's houses are unlikely to have it.

Incidentally this is also one of the reasons for taps in bathrooms to be separate rather than mixers.

Posted by
237 posts

We've stayed in numerous regular B&Bs and several Airbnb cottages over the course of our two trips to Ireland, and as far as I can remember every one of them had a shower--sometimes with a tub, often without. The only real difference from what we are used to here was the previously mentioned water heater--and it was never a problem.

Posted by
5536 posts

British locations have been the only places where I've seen the electronic box on the wall that regulates the water - not always, but some places still have them. Any shower curtains are still hit and miss (France, Italy), although they seem to be more and more common -- and my aim has improved, so I don't necessarily spray or flood the whole room anymore :-) The renter in Ireland should be able to confirm how the facilities are arranged if it will help your decision.

I'm not a washcloth person, but from other folks' comments I've seen, America-style washcloths aren't necessarily provided or available, so you might want to bring your own, and maybe a Ziploc bag to keep it from getting other things wet if you pack up.

Posted by
1095 posts

Just a memory. In the 80s we rented a terrace house south of Dublin which had a bath tub (with two separate water spouts and no shower) and a carpet on the floor - I don't think the carpet ever got dry in the week we spent there :-)