“How and where do you shower during the trip?” is probably the most commonly asked question from those who are thinking about taking a long-distance trip. It comes as no surprise, since nowadays people are used to comfort and are not too keen on going without a hot shower for long.
Volodya and I hardly ever stay in hotels or hostels, so here we will only be talking about showering in the wild.
To be honest, things happen during a trip. Sometimes you have to go unwashed and covered in dust and dirt for 2-3 days. It depends on where you are travelling. That being said, it’s difficult to imagine these things until you’ve experienced them yourself. And it’s much more painless than you might think.
Usually it’s not difficult to get to shower every day. How do we do that? It couldn’t be simpler.
Usually before stopping for the night, in a village or a town with a well and a sewage system we ask people to get us 3-5 l of water per person. You can use simple plastic bottles for that or a plastic canister, and for the most progressive people there are special shower systems sold in most of the hiking stores. This is it… Pouring cold water over oneself after a couple of dozens of km in the heat is the best shower for a cyclist. Trust me, we do not miss shower cabins.
Of course, it’s a bit different in winter. You won’t pour water on yourself then. However, if it’s not below 0, you still might, as long as the water is warm. We’ve successfully done that a couple of times. Another thing you can do in winter is stay at other people’s houses more often, using couchsurfing.org or warmshowers.org. In every country (not equally easily in all of them) you will find people that will be happy to take you in, let you shower and do your laundry.
Conditions and availability of showers depend a lot on a country you are travelling through. Back in Ukraine, we were worried about showering and doing laundry in Muslim countries, for instance in Iran and especially in winter… However, it turned out that we didn’t have to. In Iran, we slept in a tent only twice in two months. All the other nights amazingly hospitable Iranians invited us in, and then shower was guaranteed. In India things are even simpler: you can easily stand in your underwear under a water tank in the middle of a street in a village or even a city and enjoy a cold shower and then even do laundry. You don’t believe it? Go to India! Of course, I don’t mean the city center of Delhi or other major cities. That being said, bathing in rivers in India is problematic (Indians don’t think so…), because they are filthy, except for the mountain rivers. It’s not an issue in Ukraine and other European countries though.
An Indian woman doing laundry
Laundry is never an issue either. If we are staying with someone, then we do laundry there. In warmer countries, we do laundry under a water tap or in a clean body of water, at a gas station, or using ‘washing facilities’ at temples.
From Thailand on, in every country on our route in every toilet, including public ones we could find water vessels (simple buckets in the worst case scenario) which could be used for washing and doing laundry. This is why there we didn’t even try to get water before settling down for the night, but simply showered wherever we stopped: at a gas station, near a mosque, at a police station…
We dry clothes by strapping them to the outside of our bicycle bags. They dry faster while we are cycling. You could also do laundry during a longer lunch break and hang it on a tree. By the time you finish eating, it will have dried. Your creativity is what’s going to help you figure out the best way to organise things. Just remember that taking showers and doing laundry won’t be an issue during a cycling trip, unless you are travelling through the Sahara desert.