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The Difference Between Private, Attached, and Shared Bathrooms

In this day and age of air B&Bs, knowing what is meant by private, attached, and shared bathrooms can help you to avoid some rather uncomfortable or even embarrassing situations. The idea of booking a stay somewhere only to discover that I am using the same bathroom as a stranger is extremely off-putting.

Some people are game for anything in the pursuit of adventure, including sharing a bathroom with strangers. But based on how many people have asked about the difference between these bathrooms, I’d say the majority of us have a clear boundary line as far as this is concerned.

A private bathroom is one in a public building or lodging that is designated for use by a specific person or persons. Attached bathrooms are en-suites or Jack and Jills and are used only by those with access from the adjoining bedroom. Shared bathrooms are those accessible by many or unlimited people.

We Put out a Poll for Opinions on Bathrooms

As so many people seem to want an answer to what is the difference between private, shared, and attached bathrooms, we put out a poll to find out how many people are willing to share with strangers.

Everyone who voted said they would only book the accommodation if they had a private bathroom.

One reason provided was predictable, “People are nasty.”

But the poll revealed another reason that I had not previously considered. It’s a fairly selfless reason, but I imagine it is not the one that many people would give. The commenter said that they get up to use the bathroom a lot at night, which would disturb the other party.

What is Meant By Private Bathrooms?

The term “private bathroom” is typically applied in the context of hotels, guesthouses, air B&Bs, etc., and I confidently say that it is the type we all expect and desire when booking a stay somewhere.

It refers to a bathroom that is intended solely for use by the individuals of a single room, suite, or unit, and it is typically attached to this room, suite, or unit.

Units with a bedroom, living room and a bathroom illustration.jpg

There are some private bathrooms that are not linked to lodgings. Some business offices, for example, will also have private bathrooms intended for the use of only the person whose office it is.

Sometimes, a private bathroom is not actually attached to the bedroom or office but privacy is gained through keeping the door locked and only those who are allowed to use the bathroom will have a key.

1 bedroom, living room, kitchen and a private bathroom in a public or private hall.jpg

In the case of suites or vacation units, it is private because only you have access to the suite or unit.

While en suite bathrooms are considered a type of private bathroom in the USA, the UK differentiates between private and en suite bathrooms, which is important to understand if you are planning international travel.

Bedroom with en-suite bathroom, living room and kitchen.jpg

In the UK, en suite bathrooms are for your private use and they are attached to your bedroom. Private bathrooms specifically refer to bathrooms for only you use but which aren’t attached directly to the bedroom.

What is an Attached Bathroom?

In homes, attached bathrooms are more commonly referred to as en suites or master bathrooms.

When advertised by hotels, guest houses, air B&Bs, etc., they can mean en suites but they can also refer to a Jack and Jill bathroom setup, although they are not called by this name in this setting.

The term Jack and Jill bathroom is applied in residential context; attached bathroom is the commercial term.

En-suite bathroom and a jack and jill bathroom in a residential illustration.jpg

So, an attached bathroom is one that is only accessible through a door off of an adjoining bedroom or bedrooms (typically, not more than two).

Some sources say that an attached bathroom is simply one that shares a wall with another room. However, this definition is incorrect as all bathrooms share a wall with another room; this doesn’t make them a specific type of bathroom.

When you have private use of the attached bathroom, it is highly desirable in homes and vacation lodgings.

In fact, a survey conducted in the UK shows that having an en-suite is known to increase the value of your property significantly.

Part of this may be because having en suites for each bedroom makes the property ideal as a short-term rental, opening up the owner’s options for utilizing their investment.

When vacationing with family or friends, sharing a Jack and Jill style bathroom is perfectly fine, but sharing it with a stranger is a lot less ideal! The etiquette surrounding Jack and Jill bathroom usage only works if everyone is on the same page.

If you are traveling alone or with a partner or friend who will be sharing a room with you, I would recommend looking into the details if the place is described as having an “attached bathroom”.

What is a Shared Bathroom?

The term shared bathroom in the context of lodgings refers to a bathroom that is unattached to any room or individual suite/unit.

Three bedrooms with a shared bathroom in a hall  and an open kitchen illustration.jpg

Most university accommodations and some public lodgings, like hostels, will have shared bathrooms. If you see the term shared bathroom in the vacation listing, understand that you will not be the only user.

It may be set up as a normal bathroom, i.e., one bath and/or shower, one toilet, and one basin. Alternatively, it may be set up with multiple of each fitting.

Multiple units and shared bathroom dormitory with multiple fixtures illustration.jpg

A school locker room would be a good comparison for a shared bathroom. I would say that it can even be classed as a shared bathroom.

In the case of singular fixtures, using the bathroom will mean having to wait your turn. In some cases, a roster can be drawn up, especially around the “high-traffic” times of the day.

When there are multiple fixtures, you are less restrained as to when you can use the bathroom. However, you will have to compromise a certain level of privacy.

In a residential setting, it will not be called a shared bathroom unless the house is used for temporary rentals to multiple parties at a time.

Private Vs Shared Bathrooms

Purpose of Use

Private bathrooms are intended for use by people in a single room, suite, or unit.

Shared bathrooms are not limited for use by specific individuals. In some cases, you don’t even need to be staying at the venue in order to use the facilities.


You might have to wait for your friend or partner to finish in a private bathroom, but the queue for a shared bathroom can mean waiting for an hour or more.

With a private bathroom, you can leave all your toiletries set up. In a shared bathroom, you will have to pack them up again every time you leave.


The facilities of a private bathroom are most likely to be clean (or at least as clean as you leave them).

With shared bathrooms, you never quite know what state it will be in or what kind of odours or germs you’re likely to encounter!

Dirty public bathroom with sink and urinals

Number of Fixtures

A private bathroom may have two basins (a his and hers vanity) in fancier lodgings. Otherwise, it will only have one of each fixture; one basin, one shower and/or bath, and one toilet.

As mentioned before, shared bathrooms can have one of each or multiple of each. When there are multiples, they will be lined up in rows.

Attached Vs Shared Bathrooms

When attached bathrooms are private, all the same differences described above apply.

However, attached bathrooms can also be shared with an adjoining room, whether or not you know the other person or party.

In the vast majority of cases, you will only share it with one other person or party if it is not private.

Shared bathrooms will never be for your own private use. You may be able to use the facilities alone, but in other cases, you may have to shower next to someone.

Private Vs Attached Bathrooms

An attached bathroom can be attached to more than one room, and thereby be accessed by more than one party.

In comparison, a private bathroom is not necessarily attached to another room, but only the person for whom it is designated can use it.

If the attached bathroom is private, then there are very little differences.

If the attached bathroom is shared, it will have some convenience and cleanliness issues compared to private bathrooms.

If you are interested in the differences between a toilet and bathroom, you can read my article on the various names and styles of bathrooms.


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