The Dirtiest Things You Touch When Traveling

See recent posts by Toby Orton

Germs can lurk in the places you least expect. Read this article and be prepared to sanitize your way through your next trip.

Hotels in this story

Hotel Room Glasses

Looking forward to that chilled beer as soon as you arrive at your hotel room? Just don’t pour it into one of the provided glasses. When it comes to germs in hotels, room glasses are one of the worst offenders, as they don’t always get a proper wash. Many are simply rinsed with water or sprayed with cleaning fluid. That’s why a wrapped plastic cup is a better prospect, even if it looks out of place in that swanky hotel room.    

Hotel Room Light Switches

It’s the first thing you touch when entering your hotel room and one of the parts of a room that’s left untouched by housekeeping — because who cleans a light switch? Tests have shown that the light switches in hotel rooms come up positive for bacteria present in fecal matter. That said, you might just want to keep the lights turned off, or wash your hands after switching them on.    

Hotel Room Remote Control



You can’t avoid the remote control in your hotel room, but given the number of people who have handled it before you — coupled with the fact that it has likely never been disinfected — you should consider washing your hands after changing the channel. Did the guest before you wash their hands after returning from that bathroom visit for more in-room entertainment? Who knows. 

Blanket Topper

You can feel confident that the bedding, including sheets and duvets, is cleaned. However, this confidence shouldn’t extend to the decorative comforters and blanket toppers that cover the duvet, as they don’t receive the same attention from housekeeping. Given the amount of people that have slept under that blanket, stripping it off should be the first order of business when climbing into a hotel bed if you’re worried about germs.  

Plane Toilets

We all want our flights to operate on time, as do the airlines, but the quick turnarounds that keep departures running smoothly sometimes come with cutting corners. If you’ve ever waited to board a flight at the front while watching the arriving passengers disembark in the back, then you can imagine the cursory cleaning the interior received between each flight. And the plane toilet is the worst. Given the large number of people who have used the facilities, the close proximity of the sink to the toilet basin, the high levels of moisture (and therefore, germs), and the perfunctory cleaning it may have received prior to take-off, the airplane bathroom is certainly one of the dirtiest places you’ll encounter while traveling.

Money via 401(k) 2012/Flickr via 401(k) 2012/Flickr

It has long been established that money around the world is teeming with bacteria. The good news is, if you keep your dough dry, germs have less of a chance to multiply and migrate. That being said, don’t go flashing the cash when it’s raining.  

Plane Tray Tables and Seat-Back Pockets

Pro tip: Wipe down your plane’s tray table before eating on it. These unsanitary stations might not receive the proper attention they deserve from the cleaning crew, especially if it’s a tight turnaround between flights. The next part to focus on is the seat-back pocket, which may have collected tons of garbage and old morsels of food in its recent history.  

Public Transport

Loz Pycock/Flickr

Loz Pycock/Flickr

Whether you’re climbing onto an old subway car in Manhattan or a slick new MTR in Hong Kong, you’re about to step into a germ fest. Even if one looks cleaner than the other, the presence of thousands of people passing through every day means that the space is unhygienic. The bars and handles are obviously filthy but don’t even think about sitting down, because the seats are equally as bad (and come with the potential risk of taking home bed bugs).


Whether it’s in your hotel lobby or in the local internet cafe, the keyboard your happily tapping away on is likely riddled with germs amassed by the dirty fingers of all those who have come before you. While keyboards are actually disinfected now and again, we still recommend washing your hands after spending time at a public computer. 

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