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Serious uncomfortable topic. Toilet situation in Greece

We have been told you can't flush toilet paper in Greece. Not being comfortable with putting soiled paper in a bin and having others pick it up. I was wondering about bringing septic safe toilet paper. This paper dissolves very quickly and should not clog.

Have some experience with this in the States at a relatives cabin who insisted on not flushing the paper understandably. We started using septic safe paper and it worked perfectly. In other words, no issues

Anyone try something like this?

Thanks in advance

Posted by
5752 posts

Not uncommon in many parts of the world. It is what it is. I do my best to follow the requests of toilet owners, they know things I do not and I'm not looking to learn lessons the hard way. Ignore their instructions at your peril. Maybe you'll get lucky with your instant-dissolve paper, maybe you won't. No way to know.

Consider visiting Japan, you will never have this issue there. Something to think about for future trips. Good luck.

Posted by
19 posts

We have been to Greece three times. This is our only issue with the country. We actually like it very much. I was thinking this might be a solution to the problem. I will actually buy some here in the States and test it out is by putting it in water and seeing how quickly it dissolves compared to regular toilet paper. If this paper dissolves quickly, I will bring a few rolls with us.

Posted by
21301 posts

I haven't tried it and wouldn't. The plumbing pipes in Greece are too narrow to deal with paper, so you could cause a blockage right away.

It has been decades since my last trip to Greece, but as I recall, the bins are lined with plastic bags, so no one has to touch the discarded paper.

I believe the vast majority of visitors find this to be much less of an issue than they expect it to be.

Posted by
1810 posts

I’m guessing your friend’s request was based on a septic system as opposed to the Greek issue of narrow pipes. According g to the World Nomad site, Greek plumbing pipes are 2”. The clog happens in the pipes, not in a septic tank. So, I don’t think the septic paper will work for you.

Posted by
2764 posts

Yeah I was rather surprised by this at our rental house, but they provided an outside bin with a top that sealed well. (a bidet would have been preferable, I admit.) We each sealed our own bag and deposited it into the outside bin when needed. I would not take any chances on causing a clog in someone else's plumbing, nor would I want to lug tp in my suitcase.

Posted by
2845 posts

Bring along some opaque plastic bags (like dog waste bags) and put your used toilet paper in there, then place the bag in the waste bin.

Posted by
975 posts

It's really not as bad as you think.

Just put the "used" toilet paper in the waste receptacle and it will be fine.

Whoever does the cleaning of your rooms is use to it so it shouldn't be a problem with them.

When in Greece do as the Greeks do

Posted by
1126 posts

I lived with an old style septic system for years on a property that was grandfathered out of having to connect to the sewer. The "septic safe" paper really isn't. It's simply 1 ply. Plus, as a backcountry lover, there are many environmental studies that show paper does not degrade nearly as fast as people assume, even in a water-filled tank (my septic flushing company always showed me what it looked like in the tank). Lastly, as mentioned, the clog would not happen in the tank, but in the pipes. It is a costly flush for the proprietor.

Just do your business and get on with it. It's not a big deal.

Posted by
1240 posts

My own theory, and I've given it considerable thought, is that Lord Elgin absconded with a million miles of Minoan clay sewage pipes, and they are hidden in the basement of the British Museum. The Greeks lost the joy of a full works number two, as well as their marbles.

"It's really not as bad as you think." - Oh, I bet it is.

Posted by
2898 posts

OK, all jokes aside, there really is a reason for this slight problem... and, as in so many other Greek issues (hashtag the Parthenon marbles), we can thank the British. I learned this from a sage contributor to Trip Advisor who was old enough to know about Greece at End of WWII. After 5 years of occupation & devastation, Greece needed massive reconstruction of its plumbing system done by the Allies. I gather the problem was that a British technical "expert" specified a piping dimension that was just about 1/2 or 1/4" too narrow to handle the job, and by the time this was confirmed, the whole network was in place... it would coast Billions to retrofit. So... the Greeks sighed, and set up the lidded-bin system and life went on... After the first day, tourists remember to do it right, and after you get back home, you suddenly realize, our local sanitation systems might work much better if they didn't have to cope with pesky paper.

As for Brit mistakes, we should acknowledge that every nation has its boo-boos. In the 1980s, my brother had a 10-year careet going around America retrofitting Atomic power plants, because a US engineer had specified openings 1/4" too small in support panels for copper cooling pipes, so they developed nasty green corrosion, & entire plants had to be redone.

Posted by
1016 posts

After the first day you will be fine with it . If you flush toilet paper and clog the drains you will likely be finding that you are responsible for a very expensive pluming bill. Just relax you are in Greece just do as the locals do.

Posted by
3713 posts

When we were in Greece in 2014, all the toilets we used had the same requirements and had bins of varying types to put the used TP in. That included public toilets in museums, the airport, etc. We also encountered western-style toilets that lacked seats and squat toilets as the only options available in some places.

I'm sure that there may have been newer western-style toilets in Greece that had butt-washers in them, but we didn't experience any when we were there.

That was a bit of a surprise because we'd been in Istanbul before going to Greece. Turkey has the same requirements, except none of the western-style toilets we used there lacked a butt-washer, so the used TP that went into the receptacle was never very dirty. Neither of us used the much more common squat toilets in Istanbul, but all the ones we saw had hoses.

Like others have said, you'll get used to doing it the Greek way. The last thing you want to do is clog up the pipes. And if the cleaners see that there is no used TP in the trash receptacle, they will know that you are not doing things properly.

Posted by
8505 posts

Wilson55, Thank you for asking this question. It has allowed many of us to be educated in a touchy subject. As long as it’s now crystal clear why you need to use the basket, have you considered taking a package of adult wet wipes for a clean sweep?

Posted by
177 posts

It's the same thing in Costa Rica. The hardest thing to do is to remember the rule in the middle of the night.
The idea of taking animal waste bags is a good one.

Posted by
1236 posts

We always took sanitary wipes along with us in Turkey. It came in handy when using the Turkish toilets which usually were the only ones unoccupied and sometimes you can't be choosy. Not flushing can seem weird at first but you do get used to it. And the hotel staff in Greece are used to it. If it makes you feel better bring along some ziplock baggies.

Please don't try to flush any toilet paper even if "safe".

Posted by
293 posts

I don't care if the locals are used to it or not. I am not comfortable leaving soiled TP in the basket. So I did my best to poop 1 time per day, just before my morning shower. It worked well for the most part.

Posted by
6016 posts

My, my. Sounds like you all are giving up on traveling "through the back door" (seriously, no pun intended, those are Rick's words) and refusing to "live like a local".

Seriously, this is not a ruse that the Greeks are foisting on gullible tourists, this is how people live every day, in Greece, and many other countries I have been in. To think that anyone else involved in the process even bats an eye (except for the large amounts of toilet paper Americans seem to use) is no concern, it is completely your own discomfort; a good opportunity to "broaden your horizons through travel". Oh, have you heard about the squat toilets, better known as the hole in the floor?

If you really have discomfort over someone else disposing of your waste, then at the least take the bag out and tie it or seal it before housekeeping gets there for the day, maybe dispose of it your self. Taking the smaller bags might be OK, but keep in mind you are just increasing plastic waste, you accomplish the same by tying the bag once a day yourself.

Posted by
255 posts

When in Rome...! Okay, when in Greece, simply have a conversation with the staff at your accommodations. They may be able to give you great insight as to why things must be done a certain way. I was quite uncomfortable with the thought of putting paper in a bin also but with understanding it became very easy to acclimate. In regard to the septic safe toilet paper I recommend against using it. I would suspect that if that product were not an issue it would already be in use throughout the country. Save yourself and the property owners a headache and potential expense. My first experience with the non traditional American type toilet in Italy was overwhelming and awkward but I adjusted. Notwithstanding, I completely understand your concern. Visiting Greece was awesome. I had tons of fun!

Posted by
6788 posts

Seriously, I've encountered this same situation in other countries including Germany and the US.

Posted by
15045 posts

I guess if it dissolves there wouldn't be an issue.

BTW I was on the RS tour in Greece and 2 of my tourmates were engineers. They said the problem wasn't likely to be with pipes, but rather with the inability of the waste processing plants to deal with the paper.

I assume that people living in Greece dispose of used TP the same way guests are expected to, so they accept it as part of everyday life.

Posted by
48 posts

This is commonplace in many countries, including (my most recent trip) Mexico. Just do as they ask, they know what they're doing and are used to pickup. Dealing with a clogged toilet in your room isn't fun. It is easy to forget though when you've just automatically tossed it in your whole life. I find it helpful to leave a reminder note to myself where I will see it when the occasion arises, saying "TP!" or other words to that effect.

Posted by
5752 posts

True. Late at night, if you've had a glass or wine or are otherwise distracted, it's awfully easy to just continue lifelong habits (been there, done that). A note reminding yourself (visible from "the throne") isn't a bad idea.

Posted by
1851 posts

“Late at night, if you've had a glass or wine or are otherwise distracted, it's awfully easy to just continue lifelong habits (been there, done that). A note reminding yourself (visible from "the throne") isn't a bad idea.”

They had signs in the loos in Costa Rica ( including in the hotels) and I still forgot half the time. The one time I forgot at a public toilet in Greece, the toilet automatically overflowed when I flushed. I ran out and the bathroom attendant ran in with a plunger. Very embarrassing. LOL!

Posted by
2898 posts

Chani, that was a good guess by those engineers but wrong... as noted, history says it's the piping -- the paper doesn't even get out of the neighborhood to reach the processing plant.

Posted by
1126 posts

How the myth of "rugged Americans" lives on is a mystery to me.

Posted by
2950 posts

Be respectful. As uncomfortable as you might be at first, stick with the wishes of the locals. DO NOT drop soiled toilet paper into the toilet. All it would take is a few people refusing to comply thinking "it's only just me" to clog up an antiquated septic system. Get over being squeamish and go with the flow (pun intended!).

Posted by
139 posts

With decades of experience (in construction or as a user), I say to follow RULE #2: do as the locals dodo and do not put anything in w/c that you did not eat. Marine/soluble tp and flushable wipes are NOT. And they require additional material to do the 'job'. We usually take baby wipes - they are more efficient than tp and are often available locally. (They can be used as hand wipes as an alternate use). We take a few small trash bags for when housekeeping hasn't been keeping up. And often take some disposable gloves just in case. Yes, the problems are with the piping and systems - too small, too old, not well maintained, and even nonexistent. These problems are not confined to other countries - witness the numerous pooper pumpers, utility contractors, maintenance crews, etc in the good ol' US. Your flusher is their business.

Posted by
1782 posts

In 2018 we went as a family to Greece with our young adult children. I still remember the conversation when we informed them of the “toilet situation”. They made appropriate squeamish faces. We asked them if they wanted to go to a different country then. They were adamant that they wanted to go to Greece and would do what was necessary.

And we all did. It really wasn’t that big of a deal, even though it seemed like it would be.

Posted by
1094 posts

Believe it or not, it can be just as difficult for folks traveling the other way, meaning from a non-flushing country to a flushing one. When I was at the city hall in Stockholm, our city guide warned us that if we used the toilet there we would find the small waste baskets in the stalls (meant for sanitary products) overfilled with toilet paper. Despite the pictures on the door instructing one to flush the paper, the Chinese tourists weren't comfortable doing that and left the paper on the floor if the basket was full.

Posted by
182 posts

Lol...

I was trying to google the truth of "Previous British Colonies have smaller toilet pipes" or variations of such, to check the truth of such statements. I was told the same by someone that vacationed in Belize who had to deal with the same TP issue.

But what I came across was a Rick's page on such issues. Has a couple of funny spots.

https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/health/toilet-tricks

Posted by
784 posts

I spent 13 nights in Greece. I followed the rules and put used tissues or toilet paper in the garbage can next to the toilet. I don't know why I just accepted it as normal or not disturbing.

It is never a bad idea to carry around little packets of tissues or napkins, in case the bathroom doesn't have any toilet paper. Your septic paper won't be a waste of money, But Do NOT attempt to put any paper in a toilet in Greece. It doesn't matter if it is septic paper. Just put up with putting it in the garbage can next to the toilet. The most horrifying situation would occur if somebody finds out that you screwed up their toilet or their pipes by putting paper in the toilet.

Posted by
975 posts

Throwing "used" toilet paper in a bin isn't really that hard to do. It's just a different way of disposing it.

Nothing difficult or "icky" about it.

Be flexible and considerate of the people and country you are visiting. They are the ones that may have to pay the price for damage to their infrastructure because one cannot adapt to other countries' ways of doing things.

Posted by
1204 posts

When traveling to a country where plumbing is a problem always carry a pop-up potty tent and small army shovel in your backpack. That way you're prepared to avoid having to put used toilet paper in the trash no matter where you go (excuse the homonym). You should also carry a small plastic bucket and bag so when you're inside someplace like the Greek National Archaeological Museum you're also prepared. The best place in Athens for an outside "go" is the Ancient Agora with the Temple of Olympian Zeus a close second. Try to avoid going on up on the Acropolis due to the strange looks you'll get from the large crowds; however, if you're going to attract a crowd you can put out a small tip basket so as to recoup some of your trip costs.

Posted by
1126 posts

Ha KBK, I know you’re being facetious, but in real life, I have been in fragile environments many many times over the years where you can’t even dig a cathole to bury your proper waste (I have packed out my TP for 20+ years.). It simply all goes into a WAG bag, which then stays in my pack until the end of the trip.

:shrug. You get used to it. It’s a lot less of a thing than the imagination would like to suggest.

Posted by
48 posts

Another thing that may help you feel better about this is, when leaving a tip for your chambermaid (always a nice thing to do), be extra generous considering they are taking this waste.