My first time was in a rather upmarket restaurant in Paris. I asked for the bathroom and when shown the way I entered what surely was the wrong room, since it was only a porcelain hole in the ground. I ran out, looked at the sign on the door, went back in, and to my horror realized that hole was the toilet. Mon dieu non! I was never ever ever going to use such a thing.
Yes, despite being an all around scrappy person, I have a long standing fear of public toilets. I have nightmares about them. A lot. Next to my fear of flying (more on this later), my bathroom fear has been my greatest traveling obstacle. Not just fear of dirty bathrooms, but not being able to find one when I need it.
Depending on where you are traveling, finding public bathrooms can be a challenge. Here are some tips on locating one:
- Ask at the tourist office.
- If you are in a larger town, look for fast food chains and stealthily sneak into their bathroom.
- Major landmarks often have nearby public toilets. Most of the time, you’ll need to pay. Carry change. (Yeah, it sucks to pay for a bathroom, but on the plus side those are usually the cleanest.)
- Department stores (again, you have to be in a larger city for this) have bathrooms.
- Buy a coffee (but make sure the coffee shop has a bathroom first).
- Walk into a fancy hotel like you belong there. There’s generally a bathroom on the first floor somewhere.
- Free museums, like museums with histories of the town or some famous person from the area, often have a bathroom.
- Most trains, and even some long distance buses have bathrooms, ranging from surprisingly pleasant (you know I heart you, German public transportation) to downright disgusting.
- Larger cities, notably Paris, have free-standing toilet pods on street corners and squares that wash themselves down between use. They are often full.
- One advantage of staying in a centrally located hotel is, if you’re desperate, you can always go back to your room.
Wherever you end up doing your business, come prepared. Always have a travel sized roll of toilet paper handy, and change, since as I mentioned you may need to pay, (anything from .50 to a euro). And hand sanitizing wipes–have one of these puppies unwrapped and ready to go.
So about those Turkish toilets (weirdly, I’ve encountered more in France than in Turkey): they’re not so bad after all. At least there’s less surface area to touch. In fact, I’m feeling downright macho these days about my squatting ability. Go ahead, ask me–“Wife of Bath, have you ever used a squat toilet in a moving train with a broken light bulb over head?” And I’ll reply, “Been there, done that, brought my own hand sanitizer.”