In Africa, the majority of sauna facilities are found in more upmarket Hotel, Spa and Health Club environments and predominantly share both Sauna heater technology and design concepts as applied in Europe.

Even though outdoor temperatures remain warmer and more humid, this does not affect the general application or intended sauna experience offered within these commercial environments offering a traditional sauna and or steam shower experience.

Traditions and old belief

One word in Finnish, strictly connected to the sauna, is löyly. Steam vapour, also called löyly [ˈløyly], was created by splashing water on the heated rocks. (Löyly, pronounced [ˈløyly], can be understood as "sauna steam"). In many languages related to Finnish, a word corresponding to löyly is found. The same approximate meaning is used across the Finnic languages such as in Estonian leil. Originally this word meant "spirit" or "life", as in e.g. Hungarian lélek and Khanty lil, which both mean "soul", referring to the sauna's old, spiritual essence. There still exists an old Finnish saying, "saunassa ollaan kuin kirkossa," – one should behave in the sauna as in church.

The same meaning of "spirit" is also used in Latvian.

Saunatonttu, literally translated as "sauna elf", is a little gnome or tutelary spirit that was believed to live in the sauna. He was always treated with respect, otherwise he might cause much trouble for people. It was customary to warm up the sauna just for the tonttu every now and then, or to leave some food outside for him. It is said that he warned the people if a fire was threatening the sauna, or punished people who behaved improperly in it – for example slept, or played games, argued, were generally noisy or behaved otherwise "immorally" there. Such creatures are believed to exist in different cultures. The Russian banya has an entirely corresponding character called a bannik.

In Thailand, women spend hours in a makeshift sauna tent during a month following childbirth. The steam is typically infused with several herbs. It is believed that the sauna helps the new mother's body return to its normal condition more quickly.

Communal sweat lodges were commonplace in Ireland until the 19th century. The structure was a low stone mound with a small entrance. After the lodge was heated, participants entered and the door was sealed shut from the outside with a stone slab, typically for five hours before the participants were let out.