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We recently faced a restriction for children under 16 to enter sauna area of a spa complex in a hotel in Serbia--they are only allowed into a pool, but not into multiple varieties of sauna. No single convincing reason was given, versions from different representatives included:

  • high temperatures impose a serious risk, and hotel cannot give entire responsibility to parents
  • same for infection risk
  • an entry ticket for child has a serious discount compared to adults, and hence the restriction in facilities available
  • children can make too much noise

No notice is given on a web site, nor in our emails with an agency when booking. But there is a paper notice on a door leading to the sauna area.

Update: Our child is 5.5 years old. The reason I'm surprised with the restriction is that we've never seen anything similar before in Europe: in a hotel in Mayrhofen, Austria for 2.5-years-old; in ClubMed in Chamonix, France for 3.5-years-old; in several public baths in Budapest, Hungary, one of which is also part of a hotel, and children of all ages are daily visitors of sauna.

Two questions:

  • is such a restriction so ubiquitous in Europe and a common knowledge, that a hotel with at least half clientele coming from outside Serbia (and ~25% from outside EU) should not give any advance notice on it?
  • how can be the restriction reasonably overcome? What arguments can be helpful in negotiations?
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In some countries it's thought to be not appropriate for children to see naked adults. I'm not sure about Serbia, but in many Slavic countries it is the issue. –  Lukasz Mar 6 at 13:42
    
Btw. it's interesting there's no [sauna] tag yet... –  Lukasz Mar 6 at 13:43
    
Interestingly, in other countries, it's almost the opposite: It's considered appropriate for young children to see naked adults of the opposite gender (in practice for boys to see their mother and other women) but not for teenagers or adults. –  Relaxed Mar 6 at 15:04
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I think in general this is a reasonable question, however the second part about how to overcome this restriction is not really helpful for future user of this site, and it's probably not going to happen. The sauna has these rules (for whatever reason, it's their company) and they are enforcing them. If they would let you in with your child (even if you have some strong arguments), this creates a precedent for other parents who might see the kid and ask why your child is allowed and theirs is not. I would suggest editing out the second question. –  Bart Arondson Mar 6 at 15:26

2 Answers 2

It does not seem ubiquitous as I have also seen kids in saunas in France, Austria or Germany. But I also know some places in the Netherlands where the minimum age is 14 (I am mostly speaking about independent saunas, not hotel spas). Whether that means the hotel should give advance notice I don't know. I always expect some “cultural” differences and spas or saunas everywhere typically have long lists of rules that are not always available on the web (indeed, while trying to double-check the rules at some places I have been to before, I could only find a copy of the “house rules” for one of them).

I also know several places in Austria and Germany where the swimming pool is cheap, noisy, and full of kids and the sauna part (with its own extra swimming pool) is more expensive, calm and free of kids and people really do buy tickets to the sauna to avoid the kids. While I don't know if kids are barred access to the sauna or could go there with an adult if they behave appropriately, it seems to lend some plausibility to the “children can make too much noise” argument.

In any case, I suspect getting the hotel to bend the rules could be very difficult but if the sauna is a big part of your reason for staying there and it was advertised as such, you could try getting a financial compensation (which would seem fair). Still, I have occasionally stayed at hotels where the swimming pool was closed without warning and never got anything back. I did not try to escalate things, though, so maybe a formal complaint could achieve something.

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I've seen this in the US, kids are not allowed in spas or saunas in hotels that I've been to - because of the high temperature which can be harmful to kids who are less able to regulate their own temperature, and might not realize that they are overheating. This page has some information - http://www.the-infrared-sauna-effect.com/sauna-kids.html

In particular it says "Healthy older children and adolescents can use the sauna under supervision with an adult who is experienced in sauna use and safety."

Given that people are on vacation, they're quite likely not experienced in sauna use and safety, so it seems like a sensible rule for the hotel to have, if they want to avoid legal problems and/or unpleasant publicity.

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