When I've been staying in a hotels in Spain I often go down to the pool in the morning and find that there are no sunbeds to sit on because people have reserved them with towels.

I'm never 100% if a person has reserved it for later or if they've just gone for a dip in the pool, gone to the bar, etc. Sometimes reserved seats can be there until there owners stroll in after a day out. I know you aren't supposed to reserve the sunbeds but a lot of people do.

What should I do in this situation? Should I do the same as everyone else and reserve sunbeds with a towel or stand around waiting for a free one. Does this behaviour happen in other countries or is it limited to Spain?

  • 1
    What's the problem with taking the towel off? If the sunbeds are free, I see no reason why you would not do that.
    – littleadv
    Mar 24, 2012 at 0:22
  • 1
    The towels on the sunbeds usually belong to the person who has reserved them and are not the hotels. I can't just throw someone's towel on the floor can I? What would I say if they return a few hours later? Mar 24, 2012 at 0:30
  • 10
    You can always say "Oh, sorry, I thought someone has forgotten it here.". I believe the behavior you're describing is utterly rude, so why would you be polite in return? Ridiculous.
    – littleadv
    Mar 24, 2012 at 2:18
  • 2
    Politely pour coffee or soda on every unattended towel, then go shopping. :)
    – Flimzy
    Apr 9, 2012 at 23:06
  • 1
    I have actually seen this done the night before at an almost deserted hotel. Also, in the UK at least, there is a very established joke that Germans do this.
    – e100
    Oct 19, 2012 at 10:23

2 Answers 2


You have bumped into one of the Spanish habits. In Spain there are a lot of people that wake up early just to leave their things at the beach/pool and then go back to bed. It's like planting a flag saying "hey, this is my territory and you should keep away". I hate this behaviour of my fellow countrymen.

What to do? At the beach, there is a recent law that forbids doing this. The pools are different though because they are private spaces. The rule of thumb should be: if there's no space available, wait 5 minutes and remove one of the towels that is not wet (because it could show you that it is in use) and has nothing more in the surroundings, like bags, flip-flops, etc. Leave the towel over other not-really-busy sunbed.

This won't stand surety for not to discuss with the towel owner, but decreases the chances. Even at the beach, I've had discussions where the law has assisted me.

  • 13
    Funny I always thought this was a thing Germans did (-: Mar 24, 2012 at 13:19
  • 3
    I as a german was also thinking that (and hating it)
    – Flo
    Mar 20, 2013 at 14:21
  • 2
    I also always thought that this is very German. Sep 19, 2013 at 20:14
  • 1
    I have to link to this: youtube.com/watch?v=LuIJqF8av6I Sep 19, 2013 at 20:31

Although you are expected to know the law, as foreigner it is difficult to understand every quirky detail of the local laws. Sometimes having the law on your side, is simply not enough. Especially if you have to explain your actions to a grumpy well built guy who is being backed up by his local bunch of good friends.

Personally I think that you have two options.

  1. Bring the towels to the staff and say that someone seems to have forgotten their towels.
  2. You just apply reciprocity. They are anti-social, you are anti-social. Which means that you just throw away their towels and when asked where the towels are, just blame someone imaginary, like the other person that walked away with the towels.

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