Finding a Toilet in Europe
Finding a Toilet in Europe
This artsy set of toilets in the Greek port of Piraeus uses universal symbols to mark units for men, women, and travelers with disabilities
Tracking down decent public toilets in
If you ask for a "restroom" or "bathroom," you'll get no relief. Instead, say "Toilet" or "WC" (short for Water Closet); these terms are direct, simple, and understood. It's smart to carry along tissues, as some WCs are poorly supplied.
My strategy is to use free toilets whenever possible. Like Mom always said, "Just try." Never leave a museum without taking advantage of its restrooms -- free, clean, and decorated with artistic graffiti.
Keep in mind that you can walk into nearly any restaurant or cafe, politely and confidently, and find a bathroom. Assume it's somewhere in the back, either upstairs or downstairs. It's easiest in large places that have outdoor seating, because waiters will think you're a customer just making a quick trip inside. Some call it rude -- I call it survival.
American-type fast-food places are very common these days and usually have a decent and fairly "public" restroom. Timid people buy a drink they don't want in order to use the bathroom, but that's generally unnecessary (although sometimes the secret bathroom door code is printed only on your receipt).
Even at American chains, be prepared for bathroom culture shock. At a new big
When nature beckons and there's no restaurant or bar handy, look in train stations, government buildings, and upper floors of department stores. Large, classy, old hotel lobbies are as impressive as many palaces you'll pay to see. You can always find a royal retreat here, and plenty of soft TP.
Some large cities, such as
Some cities have free, low-tech public urinals (called "pissoirs" -- no joke) that offer just enough privacy for men to find relief ... sometimes with a view.
Rail travelers use the free toilets on the train rather than those in the station to save time and money. Toilets on first-class cars are a cut above second-class toilets. I go first class even with a second-class ticket. Train toilets are located on the ends of cars, where it's most jiggly: A trip to the train's john always reminds me of the rodeo. Some toilets empty directly on the tracks, so never use a train's WC while stopped in a station (unless you didn't like that particular town).
Often you'll have to pay to use a public WC, a European custom that irks many Americans. But isn't it really worth a few coins, considering the cost of water, maintenance, and cleanliness? And you're probably in no state to argue, anyway. Sometimes the toilet is free, but the woman in the corner sells sheets of toilet paper. Most common is the tip dish by the entry -- the local equivalent of about
Western-style toilets are the norm nowadays, but don't be surprised if you run across a "squat toilet," also known as a "Turkish toilet," even though you may find them, say, in
Getting comfortable in foreign restrooms takes a little adjusting, but that's travel. When in
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