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Where to take a toilet break overseas

Published March 9th, 2015

Travelling in distant countries means being out of your comfort zone, and that includes being away from your bathroom at home too. When you’re wandering around new cities, trekking in remote locations or just at an outdoor festival, eventually you’ll have to go while on the go. You’ll already know to trust the facilities at certain Western fast food chains, but did you know that some public restrooms may charge you for the privilege? Here’s the lowdown on where to take a toilet break overseas.

 

The most important international sign.

Get appy

Because your smartphone can do pretty much everything (except actually wipe your bottom!), of course there’s an app (or a few) to help you navigate your way to a toilet wherever you are. The free SitorSquat toilet-tracking app (brought to you by US toilet paper manufacturers Charmin) uses GPS and reviews to pinpoint the closest commodes to you (sit = clean, squat = room for improvement). You can also filter to find only the free loos (both in price and unoccupied) from the over 100,000 locations reviewed.

 

Room with a view - prime real estate in Nyhavn, Copenhagen.

Spend a penny?

For Aussies who are used to free public restrooms, paying for the privilege of using the loo can come as a shock and an annoyance. If you’re travelling to the UK or Europe, be prepared to drop some coins in the tip dish or to an attendant selling TP squares before you go. Backpackers travelling around Europe will also know to hoard tissues just in case! Coin-operated public street toilets are also common in Paris, London and Amsterdam, or guys can tackle the (free) outdoor urinals (pissoirs) in the Netherlands, Germany, the UK and Denmark. In London, expect to pay from 30p to ₤1 for a public pit stop. Don’t even get us started on the bidets.

 

On the go - toilets on a Thailand train.

Pit stops

If a dining establishment has tables and chairs, it’s more than likely to have a restroom for its patrons too. Just ask - they can only say no, or just go! Failing that, fast food chains are your best bet and due to their ubiquitousness in big cities, pretty easy to find too. Some may print a bathroom code on a receipt for patrons or you can loiter and just go in after someone else. Other bathrooms available to the (paying) public that are worth a try if you’re in a hurry include hotels, pubs, bookstores, department stores and museums.

 

There's even facilities in the Himalayas. How's the serenity?

Do you even squat?

Ah Asia. From musical, modesty-flushing toilets in Korea and Japan to Asian-style squat loos, there’s some things to know before you go, and plenty that gets lost in translation. Like toilet slippers in Japan (toilet slippers stay in the toilet area!), you’ll need to know how to hover on a trip to Asia (and many other countries around the world) as several countries use variations on the squat toilet. You’ll also need to BYO paper, or know when to hose, dip or bin. Just sayin’.

 

Any other travel toilet tips you’ve got for us? Let us know in the comments below.

Cassandra Laffey

Consumed with unrequited wanderlust, I get my fix in 24/7 cities and hippie retreats. I'm still looking for the ultimate combo of secluded beach and major metropolis, and my happy place is a 5-star hotel room all to myself - sigh.