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Asian Spa Etiquette: From Stripping to Tipping

24th November, 2018

It happens to us all. After a few days on the road knees, feet and hips start aching.  A massage and sauna are calling but walking into that change room on your own can be daunting, particularly as spas around the world don’t play by the same rules.

Rest assured. I’ve enjoyed a wide range of spa experiences from luxury retreats to downright quirky. Here are some of my tips to ease the stress in any type of spa, from the hole in the wall to a five star establishment.

1. Arrive early: Usually 15 minutes is enough time to settle yourself in, fill in the forms and get a lay of the land. Some spas have lavish waiting areas where you can listen to soothing music and drink herbal fruit teas. Other times they have soak baths that you can take advantage of before your massage and in these situations, you will definitely want to arrive early.

 2. Ask questions: Many spas have a long list of treatments on offer, hydrotherapy massage pools, slow and relaxing massages, bamboo massage to release tension and reactive your circulation…. I think you are getting my drift.  Working out what is best for you really comes to looking at what your body needs at this particular time – don’t be afraid to ask questions or to tell the spa where your aches and pains are so they can guide you on what is the best treatment.

 3. Book your treatment in advance: Nothing is more disappointing than arriving at a spa hotel or resort and after getting settled into your room, you decide to visit the spa to make an appointment and you’re informed that nothing is available. Wait listing might be an alternative, but not that appealing.

4. Know what clothing (or not) you’ll need: Spa etiquette can vary from country to country and treatment to treatment.  I remember my first spa visit in German, everyone walked around naked, which was a big shock to a blushing twenty-year-old. It’s the same in a Shanghai or Japanese bathhouse.

Your treatment will guide the amount you disrobe. Some Thai and Khmer massages are done fully clothed, so wear loose fitting clothes.

5. Speak up: Most spa disappointments come down to communication. If your shoulders and neck are particularly tight for example tell your massage therapist before you start the service so s/he can spend a few extra minutes working on them.  And the same goes with any injuries you have or if you have sensitive skin or allergies. Don’t be afraid during the treatment to ask for more pressure or less, or even a blanket if you’re cold. Remember this is all about YOU and your comfort.

It’s also a good idea to check in with the spa beforehand whether there is anything you should avoid before the treatment. For instance if you’ve booked a salt glow treatment or any body treatment that involves exfoliation, its wise not to shave anywhere on your body less than 24 (or more) hours before your treatment.

6. Avoid peak times and don’t rush: Hotel spas are often busiest around 5 pm until closing time, during that time you can expect less attention from spa staff and more crowded locker rooms and waiting rooms.

7. Afterwards:Don’t rush in and have a shower – why wash away all those beautiful ingredients that have been applied to the skin. Chill for a couple of hours at leastand let the goodness soak in! And don’t forget to drink, drink, and drink (and I’m talking water) … Keep your hydration levels up and flush out all those toxins that have been released! Your body will definitely thank you in the morning.

8. Tipping: There are no real rules here. Some spas add a hefty service fee, while others leave it up to you. I prefer to give the tip directly to the therapist (that way I know they receive it) but it’s equally okay to add it to the bill. 10-15% of the overall treatment is a good tip, but ONLY pay up if you’re satisfied with the experience.

Now, lay back and enjoy your spa experience …..

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