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Restroom Questions

I am traveling to Italy for the first time (first time to Europe) and I have heard about the lack of public restrooms and that they are not free. I am kind of concerned. We will be traveling to Venice, Milan, Verona/Sirmione, and Lake Como (Varenna and Bellagio). How much do they typically cost? Do you need exact change? If we only have paper Euros when we first get there, what can we do at the airport and train station? Is there some sort of machine you put the money in, or is there a person collecting it? I have read that we should take our own toilet paper. Is this right??? Anyone know how easy or hard to find they are in the places we will be visiting?
Thanks for your help.

Posted by
8889 posts

Laurie, First they are called toilets, not restrooms.
Any restaurant will have toilets, and they do not charge customers.
On trains, they will be free, but local trains (trips of 30 minutes or less) may not have toilets, longer train journeys will.
Railway stations, department stores and airports may have plates or dishes to put the money, or a turnstile. Expect to pay €0.30 or €0.50. Most places you could get away without paying if you are desperate, but the cleaner will give you a killing look.
As soon as you make your first purchase you will have enough coins to pay.
It is not necessary to bring your own paper (unless they run out).

I find this all a strange questions, of course you have to pay for toilets, otherwise who pays the cleaners?

Posted by
7146 posts

Chris, it's not a strange question for someone who's never been to Europe... 😊 We don't have to pay to use the bathroom/restroom/toilet in the US. I just got back from Paris and even after living there twice and traveling throughout Europe for decades, I still find it strange that in Europe you have to pay to use a toilet. Here, the store, restaurant, airport, etc pays the cleaner. It's part of the cost of running a business.

Laurie, in France, you usually have to pay even in restaurants, cafés, dept stores, parks... every where.
Always carry coins, but if there's an attendant, you can get change back.

Posted by
6412 posts

How much do they typically cost?
50 cent euro
Do you need exact change?
No. For example unlike in USA there are 1 and 2 euro coins
These I would keep separate from the paper money. and save for public toilets.
And get rid of them at the airport before you come back home as the banks don't take them or save them for the next trip

If we only have paper Euros when we first get there, what can we do at the airport and train station?**
Airports restrooms are free so use them before you head out. At the train station if you find you don't have coins go buy a bottle of water or a coffee at a kiosk to make change. I find that There is always one these somewhere around serving everyday people not just tourists.

Is there some sort of machine you put the money in, or is there a person collecting it?
Sometimes one sometimes the other
I have read that we should take our own toilet paper. Is this right??? Anyone know how easy or hard to find they are in the places we will be visiting?
You should take a little packet of kleenex buy it here if you want before you go and not hard to find there just in case you go to the toliet and they run out but this has never happened in my 16 trips to Europe over the years. I've never found a toiliet that I put money in to enter through a turn style short on toiliet paper

But I believe you will find that you had nothing to worry about. Have a good trip.

Posted by
2336 posts

I always have a small roll of TP just in case. You never know. In all the many trips I've used it twice. However, be prepared to not have a toilet as you know it, but rather two places to put your feel and a hole in the ground. Practice squatting!

Posted by
30 posts

Laurie,
Don't fret too much. I constantly have to go (too much water, espresso, wine) and I've only once had trouble finding a restroom in Italy - in the Trastevere neighborhood of Rome. Pay toilets are easy to find in tourist areas and most are very well kept. The Rick Steves guidebooks are pretty good (not perfect) about indicating where a toilet can be found in busy areas. If a pay toilet requires change, there is often a machine or person nearby to make change for you.

I've never noticed a lack of TP in pay toilets or on trains, but do know they don't have the paper toilet seat covers (not that they do any good), so you'll be hovering...good for building leg strength!

You can go into most any bar (cafe) and use the toilet, but don't just walk in, go, and then leave. Do buy a little something (if you stand at the bar, espresso is very cheap...which will only make you have to go more, but....). Regardless of where you are, do your best to ask for the toilet in Italian and you'll get a MUCH friendlier response....Is there a toilet nearby? C'e' un bagno qui vicino? (pronounced: Chay oon ban-yo kwee vee-CEE-no.)

Posted by
104 posts

Adding on to Tammie's response, you could also use "dov'è il bagno" to ask "where is the toilet" when you are inside an establishment that should have a toilet, like a cafe, museum, etc. The "qui vicino " phrase works as well.

I'm taking a course in Italian to prep for our trip, but my husband is not. I'm forcing him to learn dov'è il bagno! LOL.

It's pronounced doh-vey eel bahn-yo.

Posted by
44 posts

Thank you for your responses. Do the toilets in the womens' rooms have seats or do some just have footprints on the floor to sand on and squat? I saw some mention of that somewhere. Sorry, but that's just creepy to me. I know it's not strange to some, but I've never had to do that before, and at my age, I don't know if I could. :)

Posted by
2963 posts

One other thing to consider - get a small change purse and keep it stocked with an assortment of 20 , 50 cent and one and two Euro coins , I keep this in my day bag and never have a concern about having admission for Madame Pipi . It's also handy for a coffee or any other small purchases that may arise . When you arrive at your first port of call , buy a coffee or something and start your collection of coins , you will be surprised at how quickly your stash will accumulate .

Posted by
11573 posts

I find this all a strange questions, of course you have to pay for
toilets, otherwise who pays the cleaners?

Chris, I don't remember the last time I had to pay to use a restroom, as we call them in the U.S. At the very most, businesses in areas which might have a lot of vagrants around might lock them and customers have to ask for the key.

Laurie, gaining access to a restroom is one of the reasons we take a fair amount of coffee breaks during the day! The few euro it costs is well worth spending not only for the facilities but to give our feet a break as well. Italian cups of coffee are not large so we can go awhile before needing another break. Don't drink coffee? Get some ice cream or a soda.

Many restrooms in cafes and bars have signs on the doors stating that they're only for customer use so do expect to make a purchase. Other than that, you learn to use the free restrooms at every museum or other paid attraction you visit, and at every restaurant where you have a meal.

Save your change for the toilets which require payment. We have run into enough which were out of toilet paper to be glad we carried tissue around, and in public places get used to toilets with no seats (yes, you hover). Soap? Not always a given either.

I've only run into a couple of "squat" toilets so they're rare but they are out there! If you've spent any time hiking or camping in the outdoors, you'll know what to do. LOL, I've never used those paper seat covers here in the States, and you won't find them in Italy. :O)

Posted by
976 posts

Laurie-totally legit question! I was surprised to find out you needed to pay to use a "public" restroom like at the train station and attractions. Like others have said, sometimes it is a machine and sometimes there is a live person. I personally loved that all bathrooms had an attendant, always stocked with TP (the TP containers can be different also...I took pictures of some of the stranger ones), no funny business going on etc. You can also try at a restaurant, if your kind, smile and ask they will usually just point. Rule of thumb, if you have access to a bathroom use it!! You can always pop into a McDonalds and use theirs. I always have a small kleenex packet with me for just in case anything. Came in handy at a train station where it was just a bowl, no lid and no TP (attendant was outside and I paid them). The most fanciest one was in the Carrousel under the Lourve , it was two Euros, the lady would clean the stall after every person and spray it and they even had colored TP you could purchase.

Posted by
1455 posts

On our Italian visit, the only challenging toilet I ran into (hole or tray with foot spots) was at the public restroom in Cinque Terre. Others may have lacked a seat, but nothing particularly distressing. The RS guides used to say ( and I think it says this in the guide books), "never pass up a chance to use the toilets." I used to carry those compact rolls of Charmin, now I just take a pack of tissue. I think I've only used that once per trip.

Posted by
818 posts

I have never found a toilet in Italy that had foot spaces and a hole in the floor. I would say that most toilets I find in Italy outside of my hotels do lack toilet seats. They are usually just regular toilets that appear to have the seat removed. I haven't found a lack of toilet paper either, but always have a tissue pack just in case.

Posted by
2235 posts

Laurie, good advice here already. I will just mention:
1. Yes, visit the free bathrooms wherever you can, whether you think you need to or not. These include your own hotel or apartment, airports, museums, and restaurants where you eat.
2. As I always say. "When in doubt, have a gelato!" If in need of a loo, first order your gelato at the cashier, then ask for the loo and use it, then get your gelato on the way out, and enjoy!
3. The trickiest ones are those where you need to pay €0,50 to get in, but they don't tell you that you'll need to pay €10,00 to get back out! Just kidding, April Fools!! (A little early...)
On most trips to Europe I have ended up paying for a bathroom maybe once or twice during the whole trip.

Posted by
16847 posts

The farther south you go (beyond Rome, I mean), the more likely you are to run into squat toilets and toilets without paper. The former are quite rare; the latter, sadly, are not. Toilets in museums and restaurants are normally fine, as are nearly all that charge a fee or have a tip-collecting attendant. It's at out-of-the-way (small-town) train stations and bus stations that I've run into the most problems. And on long-haul trains, the condition of whose toilets tends to deteriorate as the trip progresses.

I finally figured out one reason there's often no toilet paper: It's quite common to find no means to dry your hands after washing them, so some people step back into a toilet stall and grab a wad of TP for that purpose. With that going on, a roll of TP doesn't last long in an unattended restroom. I have a very strong suspicion that (again, I'm talking about unattended restrooms) TP is often restocked only once a day.

Except in exorbitantly-priced joints in places like Venice's Piazza San Marco, I don't think it's a problem to walk into a bar, catch the eye of the bartender, smile, place a 1-euro coin on the counter and ask for the toilet. I've done it myself when I didn't need anything to drink. I figure the money's going into the employee's pocket, so why would he or she object? One abnormally kind (female) bartender in Sicily insisted I take my money back even though it was clear I wasn't a customer.

Posted by
44 posts

So, would most of you say that the majority of toilets in public, restaurant, or museum bathrooms (in northern Italy) do not have seats attached? Oh my...

Posted by
16847 posts

In my experience, the majority do not have seats. A major exception is that even in the least expensive lodgings, my hotel/B&B room toilets have always had a seat. I assume the same would be true in rather high-class restaurants (I don't frequent those, so I'm just guessing).

Honestly, I'm not sure about museums. I got so used to having no toilet seat that I stopped noticing whether one was there or not.

Posted by
308 posts

My best advice is to use a toilet every chance you get when you are out for the day at museums, restaurants, and other sites. Try to be flexible and open-minded. Just keep reminding yourself that it's all a part of traveling to get out of your comfort zone!

I don't find it that strange to pay for use of a public restroom in Europe. I never use a bathroom at a gas station in the U.S. unless I plan to buy a pack of gum or something.

Posted by
1070 posts

We did florence, day trip to Pisa, train changes in milan, up to varenna, and back thru to venice. i always carry one of those mini packs of kleenexes (had more in my suitcase) and had a one ounce hand sanitizer hanging off my purse (also nice to use before you get gelato) anyway.....florence was well equiped, Pisa was a sunday afternoon so bars and resturants weren't open, and we got lost walking back to train station shudder. Milan train station you need a one euro coin to drop into a turn style to access restrooms, with no attendant. veranna all of the resturants have restrooms and staff was just lovely, in one i bought a huge shortbread cookie on the way out. We went over to bellagio just for the day & i dont remember ....perhaps we made good use of the ferry restroom? in venice we used some (city owned?) public restrooms, well marked entrance rt at street level , i think they were one euro, but i think they had attendants to make change. in all of those stops (and 48 hours in slovenia) there might have been one or 2 toilets with out seats, but those were exceptions. one roadside attraction had a squat toilet in one stall...we looked at it, giggled, & used the other stalls. i do remember washing my hands in a couple of places and having to dry my hands on my pants. only a few times was there no tp...and the quality was always adequate. i was grateful for spare kleenex & my handsanitizer, however.
Acraven, thanks for the fabulous idea of basically tipping the bartender to gain access to the restroom.

Posted by
30971 posts

laurie,

Pay toilets are quite common in many places in Europe, including Italy and Switzerland, including rail stations. Some of them even provide showers and other features. One of the reasons for paying is that the washroom functions have been contracted out to private firms, and of course they're in business to make money. In most cases they do a good job of keeping the facilities clean. One good example of that is the McClean facilities that seem to be in all Swiss rail stations.

In some cases you'll hand the money to an attendant or put it in a small dish, and in other cases there will be a Turnstile that accepts coins. The latter option is used at Milano Centrale rail station, and as I recall the charge is €1. Therefore it's a good idea to keep some change at hand. Be quick in getting through the Turnstile as the gate doesn't stay open long!

I've found that in some restaurants, toilet seats are not always provided, but bath tissue usually is. The infamous squat toilet will be found in some locations, usually in public facilities in smaller towns but I've found them in some restaurants too. They will look similar to THIS. In washrooms with squat toilets bath tissue may or may not be provided, so it would be prudent to carry some. Check travel stores in your area as there are small travel size rolls available. It's also a good idea to carry some disinfectant Wet Wipes as some washrooms may not have soap, paper towels, etc. Those are also useful for cleaning the airline seat trays and arm rests.

You'll probably find that all of your hotel rooms will have a Bidet installed, as well as a toilet. That's very common in Italy. If you'll be staying in smaller hotels, you may find the shower a bit "cramped". Those take a bit of getting used to, but they do the job. If you'll be staying in large, posh hotels, you may not encounter that.

How are you getting between each of the places that you listed? If you'll be using trains there are some potentially expensive caveats that you'll need to be aware of. If you need more information on those, post another note here. Sirmione is not the easiest location to get to, as it doesn't have a rail station.

As this is your first trip to Europe and to Italy, I'd highly recommend reading Europe Through The Back Door prior to departure, as that has a lot of great information on the differences you'll find in Europe. After that use the RS Italy 2017 guidebook to plan sightseeing, transportation, etc.

Posted by
463 posts

I have encountered the squat toilets here in Italy in several places. I have to admit that the bathrooms/restrooms are something that I do miss from the US. They are much more accessible in the US than here in Italy.

Posted by
11970 posts

All restaurants and coffee bars or ice cream parlors will have restrooms that customers can use. All you need to do is get inside a coffee shop or bar, order something, even as little as a glass of sparkling water, or an ice cream, or an espresso, then use the restroom as you please.

Some public restrooms, at some train stations for example, may require payment of a token amount, never over one euro. The European word for Restroom is Water Closet (WC) or Toilet (which comes from the French "Toilette") If you ask for a "restroom" few will understand that American euphemism, not even in Britain.

Turkish bathrooms (the hole in the ground) are so rare nowadays that I haven't seen any in a long time.

The lack of toilet seats in many public restrooms is due to the presence of so many jerks vandals that break them and the operator of the establishment decides it's not worth to bother to replace it. I used to work in the City of Florence office managing some City sports facilities, including the stadium. The plastic toilet seats somehow wouldn't last a week before they would be broken by some a--hole. After a while you say F--- It! And leave the toilets without the seat and lid. I don't know why those European kids get so much pleasure out of breaking toilet seats. Maybe it's because they aren't allowed to own guns.

Posted by
5318 posts

OK, OK -- have you people never used public (free) restrooms in parks or highway rest stops?? Gas stations ?? They are the reason I always try to have a pack of tissues with me, at home or abroad. For the €0.50 (we make it a point to save those coins for "pee money") you get an attendant who sweeps up, refills TP, and keeps things tidy.

And, as others have noted, never pass up a free toilet in a museum or restaurant.

Posted by
16847 posts

Doric8: "...one roadside attraction had a squat toilet in one stall...we looked at it, giggled, & used the other stalls."

I had forgotten this. It's something I encountered once, I think in Croatia at a bus station or something like that. If you come across a restroom with a squat toilet, consider the possibility that a western-style (traditional to us) toilet may be present in another stall in the same restroom, if there is one.

I imagine that most travelers to northern Italy never encounter a squat toilet, so I'd say, "Try not to worry about it." On the other hand, I wholeheartedly endorse the policy of using every toilet you encounter in a museum, restaurant, etc., just in case.

Posted by
2295 posts

This is the Italy forum so I will be specific to Italy - I have never paid for an Italian restroom. France is different. Yes, I know many restrooms do charge, but I have never had trouble just using the ones at the restaurants where I eat (free, at least in Italy), in museums (free as far as I can remember), on the train, or in the airport (free). So while you may need to pay occasionally, it is not a big deal. I travel with kids and every time we leave the hotel or a restaurant or sight with free restrooms I just make them "try" and I do so myself.

As far as change - since there are 1 and 2 Euro coins you will get these all the time. Believe me, having change will not be an issue. Buy a snack for 2E with a 5 and you get 3 back - in change. 5Euro is the smallest paper money.

Toilet paper - not an issue very much anymore. I say very much because I hear that in some more rural places this can be a concern, but I have never seen it and it looks you will be in cities or popular areas so I'd be surprised. I've been in a bathroom that seems to have run out of paper at that moment (just like happens in the US), but not one where paper is not provided at all. Just bring those little purse packs of tissues - useful for this and many other things, like if you get a runny nose :)

Posted by
11613 posts

There was a squat toilet stall in Palazzo Della Signoria in Firenze, at least there was a few years ago; maybe it's been replaced. Women's toilet, so Roberto would not know about it.

Say "toilet" rather than "bagno".

I always carry a packet of tissue, which you can find in tabacchi or newsstands. Not always visible, you may have to ask for it ("Kleenex" should do it).

Posted by
8293 posts

In May of 1990 when the Central European countries were still part of the .Soviet Union, using public toilets in Hungary and Czekoslovakia was a great adventure. As a rule there was a fierce looking, stalwart woman attendant, who indicated which cubicle you must use and then handed you 2 or 3 sheets of very thin, very scratchy toilet paper. We soon learned to always have Kleenex with us.

Sometimes there was no attendant on hand to graciously dole out the t.p. In that case, there would be a roll of the same scratchy stuff padlocked (!) to the wall. Fond memories ......

Posted by
11573 posts

I love the restroom threads on the forums; they're always pretty funny. :O)

I should have mentioned in my previous post that I've never paid for one in the United State; done so quite a number of times in Europe.

Will mention this too as it had me stymied the first time I ran across it. The basin for washing your hands might have pedals on the floor for making the water run. Press the red one (with your foot) for hot water, and the blue for cold. Again, they're rare but I've encountered at least two of them.

Squat toilets? I remember one at the Vatican but that was some years ago, and one more recently at a train station between Bergamo and Varenna. I think it was at Lecco but won't swear to it.

Posted by
3811 posts

I'm always taking advantage of free toilets where I can, but yeah - change is good. I second the motion to carry a half roll of TP with you if you can - actually, hubby and I both had issues with lack of toilet paper in Cinque Terre, as well as the damn hole in the floor in one of the CT villages.

If you see the hole in the floor type, and there is more than one stall - look for the handicap stall - as long as there isn't anyone who needs to use it - worked for me in France, where there were 5 hole in the floor stalls, and a real toilet in the handicap stall.

Posted by
7640 posts

I always have a small packet of Kleenex and hand sanitizer with me when I travel. I've encountered more 'squat' toilets in Italy than elsewhere in Europe. Generally in small towns. That said, you won't find many. I had only seen porcelain ones until I was in Sirmione (Lake Garda) last May. I saw a stainless steel one in a public bathroom there.

A good rule of thumb is to never pass up a bathroom, especially in museums and restaurants. Keep change with you for toilets.

Posted by
741 posts

Practice squatting!

Don't Europeans get bad knees just like us? I could still squat to line up putts on the golf course until a couple of years ago, but my arthritic knees won't permit it anymore.

Posted by
1039 posts

I was in Italy for 19 days in 2015 (Rome and North). I only encountered one squat toilet and that was at a very small restaurant in the Cinque Terre. I did find that the majority of public toilets (not in restaurants or museums) did charge around 0.5 Euros and were very clean, but did not have toilet seats.

Posted by
345 posts

The public toilets in the US are "much more accessible" and are free? Not in Boston and Cambridge. For that matter, not in any big cities I have visited like NYC, SF, LA etc. When desperate, my "go to" places are the closest McDonald's.

http://news.wgbh.org/post/flushing-out-truth-about-bostons-public-toilets

http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2016/1/25/public-toilet-near-opening/

Locals (and tourists?) of one EU City are famous for their "bad behavior", pastime, or art form.

http://inbedwiththefrench.com/2015/04/20/the-french-art-of-peeing-in-public-a-popular-parisian-pastime/

And the City came up with a solution.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/02/world/europe/paris-turns-to-flower-growing-toilet-to-fight-public-urination.html?_r=0

New Zealand's public toilets, otoh, are in abundance, free, clean and well stocked. They know how to take care of their visitors' business, and their streets don't smell. Restaurants' toilets in Spain (Andalusia) are also free, clean and well stocked. Even when I was not a customer, they would generously let me use their toilets.

Posted by
11573 posts

Hmmm. My go-to places (no pun intended) in San Francisco, NYC and some other big cities (haven't been to Boston yet) were dept. stores and big hotels. I've strolled into all sorts of hotels and used facilities located near their bar lounges or lobbies. I guess I don't look like a bum 'cause no one has ever bothered me! I've used some at museums as well that didn't place them behind ticketing.

Posted by
31 posts

In a little sandwich shop we bought food and drink. The owner let me use the tiny but clean little toilet but asked me not to put the toilet paper in the toilet. Like in parts of Mexico and Central America.

I should have had tissues in hand for airplane home though!

Posted by
9363 posts

The widest assortment of toilet facilities I encountered was in China. Even there, though, most restrooms had one "western" toilet along with the squatters. I always carry a Charmin-to-go roll and wet wipes in my bag, since you just. never. know. At one facility, we discovered (fortunately before the fact) that you needed to stop at the little office between the men's and women's facilities to get toilet paper on your way in. I spend a lot of time in Spain and, without exception, their facilities are clean and well-stocked even at roadside gas stations. The only place I have paid to go, in recent years, was a train station in London.

Posted by
30971 posts

laurie,

One additional comment to add.....

The WC's on trains sometimes leave a lot to be desired. Some that I've encountered have been dreadfully filthy while others have been quite modern and clean. Generally speaking the fast trains such as Freccia and Italo have modern, clean facilities, while some Regionale trains have been grungy and with the appearance that they're not cleaned on a regular basis. The water taps in the small sink may or may not be working, and there may or may not be paper towels or bath tissue. As you don't have any choice on trains, you'll have to make the best of whatever facilities there are.

Posted by
715 posts

Laurie things are different in Europe and that is one of the things that makes it so dang fun.

This response is not directed at Laurie its just a general comment. I find it odd that so many of us from the US find it so strange that we have to pay, up to a euro, to use a clean toilet in Europe (emphasis on clean) yet we just can't fathom not tipping at a restaurant, a cab, a tour guide, etc.

Posted by
11573 posts

...while some Regionale trains have been grungy and with the
appearance that they're not cleaned on a regular basis.

Haha, Ken, you can say that again. I remember one where The Husband came back to our seats after a trip to the biff and strongly suggested I "hold it" until we got off the train. Well, the lady across from us figured it couldn't THAT bad? She was back in seconds; yes, it was that bad. We both held out for something better (we hoped) at the station.

Posted by
11970 posts

When you are in Florence, the public restrooms are mapped below. Some are free some require a payment.
Not having coin change in Europe will be the last of your concerns. With the smallest bill being 5€ you will need extra reinforced pockets to hold all the change you get without ripping your pockets.
http://www.firenzeturismo.it/it/informazioni-utili/firenze-senza-barriere/servizi/2627-servizi-igienici.html

Posted by
381 posts

I find the differences while traveling to be part of the experience. If you want everything to be exactly like it is at home, maybe travel is not for you.

Posted by
44 posts

I thank you for all the responses and suggestions. As I said in my original post I have never been to Europe before, so I am not used to these things. I am 63 years old and have always wanted to visit Italy. I never thought it would happen. A great airfare deal made this trip with my daughter possible. We had to make the decision quickly, without time to research these things. I realize for most people, these are minor bathroom inconveniences, however I have an issue which makes it more of a worry (without getting graphic). Don't know what I'll do. Just cross my fingers, I guess.

Posted by
2295 posts

Laurie, worst case scenario in any town - find a cafe, buy a coffee and use their restroom. I've had trouble finding truly public restrooms sometimes (that is, ones that anyone walking by can use, free or pay) but cafes are never hard to find and you are welcome to buy just a bottle of water or coffee. It can be a welcome break anyway to have a drink and sit awhile.

Posted by
16847 posts

Bars are good, too. As a tourist you're likely to be within a couple of blocks of a bar just about all the time. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised about how little a problem it is to find a toilet. Just carry that paper!

Posted by
1070 posts

Laurie, go have fun....all of those other tourist women are finding restrooms, just be willing to ask (& occasionally pay)
Norma, I think I was one of those fierce stalwart eastern European bathroom attendants in a previous life (would explain a LOT)
Your description of carefully locked up toilet paper reminds me of a college experience here in the US
We pulled off to get gas and use a restroom in a gas station in East St Louis (this was about 1985)
the stall in the women's room had about 6 rolls of toilet paper threaded on a chain up and around the stall, and padlocked shut. the padlock was as large as my fist and the chain would have pulled a car out of a snow bank.
my college room mate and I still refer to that as the station that had the "bondage toilet paper"

Posted by
183 posts

I always prefer the European toilets where you have to pay a small amount to use them as they are almost always cleaner and well stocked with toilet paper and soap. Well worth the few coins needed. Never pass up a clean restroom as you don't know when the next in any condition will be available.

Posted by
3263 posts

Worst toilet experience in Italy: The toilet at a famous coffee maker's bar next to the Pantheon. I'm hoping it was under construction back in 2009 and is fixed now. It was disgusting in so many ways.

Funniest toilet experience in Italy: Got locked into a stall at the train station in Florence in 2011. I don't know what happened, but I couldn't get the door to open to get out. It was my last stop before getting on a bus outside for a tour. I hollered. I screamed. And finally someone came to help. They had to use a key to open the door.

Tie for the most accommodating toilet experience in Italy: The women at a tiny artisan gelato place near where our Vatican tour group was meeting allowed me to use their toilet. But first they had to get the brooms and mops out of it so I could get in. We had already bought our gelato. The women who were closing up their shop as we left the Villa Romana del Casale in Sicily allowed me to use their toilet, even though they had already cleaned it and would have to clean it again after I left. Yes, we did buy something.

Place where I saw the most toilets with seats ripped off, like all of them: The women's public toilets just before going through the entrance gates to the Acropolis. Paper was in short supply there and I remember neither soap nor hand towels.

Most controlling toilet attendant: The "toilet paper roller" at the tourist hotel where I stayed in Moscow in about 1983. She had the cores of old rolls and would wrap very little paper around them, then hand one to you as you came in.

Favorite toilets: I don't know if it's still this way, but at least one regular pit stop for me when I lived in Germany was at a gas station on a major road near Nuremberg. The women's facility had a couple of toilets with seats, but my favorites were ones that lacked seats. They were kind of tall and shaped like a very large keyhole. They were always spotless, but that porcelain was a little chilly.

In general, I love seeing how people in other parts of the world handle this human necessity. It seems like the basic appliances exist, be they public or in your room, but the variety of shapes and designs are a delight to me. I also love seeing how this was managed millennia ago. Privacy? Not for most of the population.

Posted by
11573 posts

Laurie, worst case scenario in any town - find a cafe (or bar), buy a coffee
and use their restroom.

Lauries, this is the BEST advice. A restroom is never far away if willing to make a small purchase to have access to one. You will be fine, and you will LOVE Italy. For any inconveniences/differences, the benefits far outweigh them. Have a wonderful time!

Posted by
976 posts

Kathy_ I have used the "hotel" trick more times than I care to mention, any nicer big hotel will have a lobby in the bathroom, just walk in like you belong there and do what you need to do.

As far as having arthritic knees and squatting, I have severe arthritis in both my knees (I am at the stage where i get cortisone shots just to walk) and I can do squats all day long. If your doing them right you are using the largest muscle in your body, your booty and thighs to keep you up...your knees just bend. Now ask my to do a jumping jack and that is when I wither in pain.

Posted by
11970 posts

Letizia.
I have never seen a hotel lobby inside a bathroom. But I guess I don't go to fancy hotels.

Posted by
44 posts

Letizia, I too have arthritic knees. I've had one replacement already! I am wondering how to squat without knees hurting. Thanks!

Posted by
69 posts

OMG Ken! I've NEVER seen one of those toilets in my life! The squat toilet. I'm Canadian and as the poster stated, we have free washrooms as well in Canada, at least where I've been. We never have to pay for any public restroom. Toilet tissue is usually there but sometimes the rolls do run out. Some washrooms even have nice terry cloth hand towels in the finer establishments.

We have been to Rome twice and luckily the washrooms we used were quite nice in restaurants and museums. I do always carry tissue with me and hand sanitizer. I have come across the toilets that have no lift up seat, just porcelain. Those are tricky to use too and you sort of have to hover or fall in. That gets challenging as you get older. LOL. Europeans must have strong legs.

In other countries sometimes there is even no running water to wash.

Sharon

Posted by
1516 posts

Hi Laurie, the guide on our first RS tour passed out little packets of toilet paper and told us to carry them "just in case". They came in handy more than once and are now part of my packing list! Don't over-think the toilet issue, just be aware that things are different when you're traveling. Have a great trip!

Posted by
16847 posts

I don't think anyone has revealed the secret of using a squat toilet without falling over backwards:

First you bend forward at the waist, then you squat.

For those wearing slacks: I suggest that you first turn up the cuffs. The floors in squat toilets are sometimes--well, I leave it to your imagination.

Posted by
976 posts

Laurieptm- Knee replacement is what I am looking at 15 years down the line, I hope your recovery is going well. I was doing squats wrong for years, you can you tube proper form for squats but it comes down to your knees not going forward over your toes, they should be straight with your ankles, like when you sit down, keep your chest up.

Posted by
3811 posts

acraven - been there, done that - let's just say that wide legged pants and a woman (moi) having to squat and try to hold her purse out of the way (since she didn't realize it was a squat toilet) - didn't end well. Not at all impressed.

And my husband telling me when he went into one in Les Baux that someone missed the hole in the floor with a huge...uh...#2...gross gross gross...

Posted by
11573 posts

I just blew coffee all over the keyboard....
As I said earlier, these threads are always a howl!

Posted by
11970 posts

Having to hold a purse with one hand is good. Make sure you stretch your arm with the bag in front of you. It will provide a counterweight so that you don't fall back inside the hole. Every year some tourists are found inside those holes and later their remains are displayed in museums dedicated to squatting tourists lost in bathroom holes

Posted by
231 posts

I found the previous comments and suggestions on the money to to speak. Always carry tissue and hand sanitizer and ALWAYS ALWAYS take advantage of restrooms that are available along the way. I just had to add our most memorable experience in this area. Before leaving a cafe after a wonderful lunch in Piazza Navona we took advantage of the facilities. We had enjoyed an outdoor lunch as we people watched and had to go inside the building to the restroom. We went down a winding stone staircase to wait in line. We were "greeted" by an older woman of about 4'9" who pointed to a saucer for coins. She did not speak English but got her point across as she directed each guest to an enclosed stall along the hallway. When she thought thought someone was taking too long she yelled quite loudly and got her point across by quickly flicking the lights on and off. We gave her a pet name back in 2013 and she has forever been a fun antidote we share from that trip. On our return trip to Rome 2 years later we made a point to go back to the same cafe to look for her. We were very disappointed to find that she was not there. -------Just a side note: Many of you are probably too young to remember, but there used to be little coin operated locks on the BR stalls found in restrooms here in the US!

Posted by
8293 posts

Oh, Roberto, you really are a sketch. Love the "remains" museum piece. Can't stop laughing.

Posted by
5318 posts

@Pat, yes, I remember coin-operation toilets at airports -- in California assemblywoman March Fong Eu led the fight to free the potties.

Posted by
715 posts

For those wearing slacks: I suggest that you first turn up the cuffs. The floors in squat toilets are sometimes--well, I leave it to your imagination.

I would also suggest that if you are using a squat toilet you step out of it before you pull the chain. Sometimes the flush is like the LA River, sometimes the flush is like Niagara Falls.

Posted by
30971 posts

allofus2,

"OMG Ken! I've NEVER seen one of those toilets in my life! The squat toilet."

You won't have much trouble finding squat toilets in many parts of Europe, including Greece and Italy. The one shown in the link is one of the cleaner versions; they can be much worse.

Kathy,

"Haha, Ken, you can say that again. I remember one where The Husband came back to our seats after a trip to the biff and strongly suggested I "hold it" until we got off the train."

The situation can be worse on trains, which I discovered on a trip last September. On a trip from Milan to the C.T., the coach I was assigned to (as I recall it was an Intercity train), the A/C was broken. It was a hot day so the temperature in the car quickly rose to very uncomfortable levels, which I estimated to be at least 45C. At some point in the trip, the W/C in the coach became "backed up" or whatever, so the stench of raw sewage was added to the already dreadful temperatures. The Conductor tried to open the windows in the foyers at the end of the car, but his "key" wouldn't work so the windows stayed closed. At the time I had visions of the scene from Bridge on the River Kwai where Colonel Nicholson was locked in the tin hut in the blazing sun.

Travel in Italy can sometimes be an adventure!

Posted by
3811 posts

Nothing like some scatalogical humour for your weekend ;)

Posted by
11573 posts

Ken, I can only imagine.

Laurie, a bit of good news? We had a hilarious thread awhile back about the various types of T.P. some of us had encountered back in the 60's and 70's. IF the toidies provide paper, it's unlikely these days to leave slivers in your bum or be the consistency of waxed paper...which did NO good at all. Some of us had made souvenirs of the stuff to show the folks at home! :O)

Posted by
2002 posts

Hahaha! This has been a great topic--thanks Laurie!
The tp we had to use in boarding school in Switzerland in early 60's was also perfect to use as tracing paper! Not so great as tp though.

Posted by
11681 posts

I remember that wax-paper TP from my student days in 1967. Not pleasant.

One thing you may well encounter these days is the toilet space with motion-sensor light. If you hold still too long, you may be plunged into total darkness.

But in Sweden in the 1990's I ran into a pay toilet that was timed, with no motion sensor. When the darkness hit (and it was total) I had to feel my way along the wall to find a switch. Fortunately there was one.

Posted by
2737 posts

To the OP: I'm made many trips to much of Europe and never paid for a toilet. This has required zero effort. I just go before leaving each place I spend time (hotel, restaurant, an attraction) just like my habit from home. I've never had to go on the way. I've traveled with 3 children and it hasn't come up for them, either.

Posted by
11613 posts

For the motion sensor stalls, waving your arms around usually gets the lights turned back on.

Posted by
3811 posts

Nothing like pitch black toilets! When we visited Herculaneum in 2008, they seemed to be doing renos. The ladies bathroom - for some reason the light wasn't working...only had the crack of light coming thru the bathroom door - it was pretty darn dark, but at least they weren't squat toilets!

And I learned from my mom - never pass up a free toilet - whether I have to go or not, I'll still give it a whirl. I think I used the toilets at the Louvre 3-4 times before we left ;) The worst tho - both me and hubby had to go really bad while walking up the Tulleries - there was supposed to be toilets at the far end - except they were closed - getting desperate - I think we used everyone's favourite washroom - at the McD's on the Champs Elysee...haha.

Posted by
44 posts

Suppose you wish to use a toilet in an establishment, but don't have "time" (get it?) to buy something first? I intend to purchase something after. Is that OK?

Posted by
11970 posts

Yes that's ok. It always happens with my wife. Generally I start getting ready to order, while she goes to the bathroom first. You can do the same if you travel with someone else. You go ahead and use the bathroom while your travel partner stands in line to order. That way when you are done with your personal business your drink is ready and you can replenish your fluids right away. You must always stay hydrated.

Posted by
1084 posts

Another tip: if you do find squat toilets ( known as jump- then- flush- toilets in our house), it's best to be wearing a skirt rather than pants.
Much easier then trying to keep your pants out of the way and squat at the same time.
The places you are most likely to find these are on railway platforms at smaller stations, in my experience.
Again:go to a bar, café, hotel. Much more likely to be a toilet there as we know them in N. America.
However, if you know it's a squat toilet, even if you don't have to go; go and have a look anyway so you can see what we are all talking about!

Posted by
258 posts

I have to add my 2 cents to this discussion: Ladies, please, please, please do not pee on the seat and then not wipe it off!!!! Why some women think it's OK to squat with the resultant urine on the seat without wiping the seat after is beyond me! You are not comfortable enough to sit on the toilet but you expect me to clean off YOUR urine before I sit? If you are that much of a germaphobe, clean the seat before you sit.

Posted by
44 posts

You are soooo right! Disgusting! Someone where I work does that and we had to put up a sign..."If you sprinkle when you tinkle, please be neat and wipe the seat."

Posted by
3811 posts

Good idea - if you are germaphobic about toilet seats - carry a small package of anti-bac wipes in your bag. You can usually find a small travel size pack in pharmacies or box stores. And if you sprinkle, you can use one to clean off the seat.

I'm not germaphobic per se, but after following Passenger Shaming on facebook and seeing photos of people putting their various filthy body parts on tray tables and seat arms (dirty bare feet - ugh - and for God's sake, don't walk to the airplane toilet in your bare/sock feet!)...I now wipe down my seat, seat arms, entertainment unit screen and tray before I sit. It did come in handy on our last flight when hubby's tray had sticky pop or something on it. Or if we've been using the hand bars/grips in the subway or on buses, it's always nice to have a hand wipe to clean your hands (OK, maybe I am turning into a germaphobe...). I'm not a Purell user at home, but I always seem to get a cold or something a few days before we come home from vacay, so I try to keep my hands as clean as I can...

Posted by
131 posts

Laurie, I've found that most of the toilets for the public, whether in restaurants or elsewhere, do not have seats attached. I didn't come across any holes in the ground during my travels last year in Italy and Spain, but our friends did when they visited similar cities. So I guess we just got lucky. Sometimes, such as in Sorrento, our travel guide explained to us to order an espresso at the counter in order to be able to use the restroom for free. Fair enough trade. We were happy with the boost of caffeine.

Our hotel rooms all had seats attached.