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BATHROOMS IN PARIS

Thanks to all who helped us prior to our trip. In an effort to return the favor, we just returned and here are some tips: 1. Noticed that when you encounter a pay toilet in an establishment (rare but it did happen) if the door goes to the ground it is a normal toilet..if the door stops at the bottom into a step, you are about to encounter the dreaded "hole in the ground". Tried my best but just could not do it....save your money if you notice this unless you are adventurous and want a really "interesting" experience. 2. There are many many bathrooms everywhere, pay and free. Never had a problem just walking into a restaurant and saying "Le toilette sil vous plait". Most have signs that direct you, usually to the basement. Only twice in 8 days saw that "toilettes for customers only" sign. 3. parisiennes don't seem to like paper, rarely found paper towels, many times hand dryers and sometimes nothing. 4. Get used to sharing...many many bathrooms are for men and women. My first experience in a Parisian bathroom had me standing in an open hall using a urinal while women washed their hands in the sink right behind me (and i do mean RIGHT behind me). Got used to it surprisingly quickly. 5. for men...there are the "pissoirs", basically a wall outside, usually under an overpass or behind a hedge. Really smelly and gross but surprsingly handy if you are out and about and just have to go. 6. Regarding tipping for bathroom attendants. my personal habit was to tip if the bathroom was clean and/or if the attendant was helpful in any way. If the bathroom was dirty, no towels, no toilet paper etc. they were not doing their job and I did not tip.
That is it for my personal experience. Would be happy to answer questions if you are planning a trip.

Posted by
1820 posts

Funny thing to post about but you are obviously very "culturally" aware. Good tips all.

Posted by
1068 posts

I beg to differ - this is a topic of VITAL(s) importance! Seriously - thanks. Cool - and useful - observations! As a female traveler who has sometimes been driven frantic by the need for a public toilet, I can tell you that this website has been very helpful: http://www.go-girl.com/ But yes, in Paris, there's generally always some place to "go."

Posted by
1928 posts

This reminds me of a co-ed bathroom experience we had in Paris several years ago...in a public bathroom sort of around the corner from a large white church/top of a hill (can't recall the name, but I'm sure it will pop into the minds of several readers). Walked into restroom w/ my husband....men to the right (wall of urinals), with maybe a 3-4 foot high wall separating them from the long line of women waiting for the stalls. I thought my husband would die on the spot. As he tells the story, something about hearing the voices of and having eyes of 20 women watching him was.....well......a bit uncomfortable as he went about his business. Then for some unknown reason, the large (HUGE) attendant, who was most likely from Northern Africa (our RS guide told us) who was positioned in a enclosed glass booth about 20 feet away, came running out and started yelling (in French) at my husband, who was standing in his spot among maybe 15 other guys doing their business. The look on his face was priceless when he realized she was yelling at him!!! To this day, neither one of us can figure out what he did. He thinks maybe it was when he reached up to flush the urinal. We knew to tip the attendant, but found nothing in a guide book about flushing (or not flushing) a urinal. It made (and still makes) a funny story back home. We women could have "almost raised a family of four" in our huge private individual stalls, with large floor-to-almost-ceiling doors and our own little sinks, too....LOL.

Posted by
12 posts

So, on behalf of both my wife and me, what's the typical tip? Is it different for men and women? 1 eu seems the practical choice, but feels steep.

Posted by
8251 posts

We usually give "la dame pipi" or monsieur pipi 40-50 centimes.

Posted by
8064 posts

Curious about what they would do with centimes, since the euro is the currency of France?

Posted by
27402 posts

I was looking through my old coins the other day - found them in a drawer - and saw some centimes, and the big boy, a 2 Guilder coin. Generally my wife and I leave 20-40 cents each, no discrimination by sex.

Posted by
1928 posts

Re: amount of tips. We were advised that small pocket change (equivalent of 25-50 cents) is an ample restroom attendant tip. If you are at an extremely high-end restaurant/hotel facility and if the person really goes out of their way to assist you, then a euro (or more depending on the assistance) would be appropriate.

Posted by
8251 posts

@Jo, they are called centimes in French--evidently cents in English. I never thought about it because our family is bilingual and speaks French, at least when in France. Curious to know what they are called in the other EU languages?

Posted by
11 posts

We found the standard accepted and expected tip was 40 centines...including the pay toilets...however, some of the unmanned toilets in town, you know, the kind that are a freestanding stall, required 50 centines (sp?).

Posted by
8064 posts

You are probably right on that one Bets, since you are a French speaker. They call them cents in German, and I wrongly assumed they would call them cents in French too, and not the name of the former coins. Sorry about that.

Posted by
379 posts

I think, we in the States, are the exception rather than the norm in the world when it comes to separate sex bathrooms. We have so much more space to be able to build. In crowded cities, it is understandable to have the sexes "share". I have been to Japan and Italy where both sexes use the same facilities. By the way, they also have the hole in the ground. So did China. Paper towels are rare in other countries. Some don't even provide toilet paper! You have to carry your own. Restaurants in Hong Kong charge you for the paper napkin.
That's what great about traveling. New experiences.

Posted by
228 posts

40 centimes; actually many times we experienced if you give them too much (1 euro, 50 centimes) they'll give you back change... kinda icky to get handed change back though ;) But at Versailles we went in, bypassed the man jingling change in his hand as a loud non-verbal way of saying "Pay up now, gentleman", used the urinal and went to wash our hands... neither soap nor paper-towles/dryer... we walked right back passed him without paying as he didn't do anything to keep the 'basics' up.... just collecting $. So don't think it's an obligation, as some others will disagree with... oh well. If you do your job, you get paid right?

Posted by
228 posts

Oh, and one more thing. IN Paris we found that carying around a small bottle of Alcohol gel hand sanitizer was so invaluable! As frequently there was no soap in bathrooms... in fact in seemed that it was only about every other day that we hit a bathroom with both soap and paper towels/working dryer.

Posted by
2000 posts

I have been to Paris several times and generally have had good luck with the restrooms but last month I think I discovered the European country that has the best bathrooms, Ireland! Everywhere we went, every pub, remote village restaurant out on the farthest part of Dingle had wonderful restrooms.

Posted by
2349 posts

Yes, toilets are important. A recent studied showed that a full bladder is as distracting as being moderately intoxicated or sleep deprived. When you were at Versailles, I hope you did a Mel Brooks and called out, "Oh, Piss Boy!" It's good to be the king.

Posted by
12 posts

Wow - I asked about tip amounts and got useful answers. What a resource.
I guess I better carry change...

Posted by
2964 posts

I don't really think the tips are as "optional" as people seem to think here. I've traveled extensively in France and live in Germany and a) all the locals tip and b) the attendant will usually become visibly upset if you don't. I'm not saying you HAVE to if you don't want to, but if you want to minimize the chances of an awkward incident, it's better to just go ahead and throw them something, even if it's a 10 or 20 cent piece. But 50 is generally the standard. It seems more socially acceptable not to leave an (additional - it's often worked into the bill) tip at a restaurant than to not give madame pipi her due!

Posted by
408 posts

So if there are two of you using the bathroom (we are going with our kids) you need to tip for both? We last went to Paris 4 years ago and guess I have a really bad memory. I don't remember tipping in the bath room at all. Is this at most bathrooms? I hope we can find the non co-ed bathrooms. I think it would really freak out my 10 year old daughter to see men at urnials. I know very American of me, but it is what it is.

Posted by
27402 posts

So if there are two of you using the bathroom (we are going with our kids) you need to tip for both? Are both of you receiving a service?

Posted by
11 posts

You know, for a "funny thing to post about"...this sure has gotten alot of response hasn't it. I agree with Jean-Paul....I am happy to pay a tip if there is service, as in, is the bathroom clean and does it have the necessities......but if all the attendant does is sit there and collect...nope.

Posted by
2000 posts

Yes, but an attendant may have been cleaning a restroom, you just didn't see her do it. If it is clean, she probably did.
I'm sure there are times when she would be allowed to sit down once in a whlle.

Posted by
11450 posts

ok.. there are different circumstances here,, first,, some washrooms the "tip" is not really a tip but a fee. For instance, the bathroom on the GROUNDS at Versailles are actually a concession,, meaning someone or some company pays a fee to manage them, to clean them, and to staff them, the money is not optional,, BUT they generally will let a child go free if needed( Having been there with my 11 yr old I didn't have any change,, so the attendent just waived her in). This is the same at a few chateaus I have been to in Loire Valley, and this was explained to me by my father,, who is french. Now perhaps he is mistaken,, because although born and raised there, he has not actually lived there for many decades,, and things do change, but this is what he told me on one of our visits back. But at Versailles INSIDE the washroom tip would be just that a tip, as staff is at least paid by being employed directly at the Chateau. If washroom is clean and there is paper I really don't mind giving madame pee pee a coin,, I mean come on, that job has GOT TO SUCK,, so why do some many of us have no problem giving a waitress 2 or 3 bucks for bringing us a coffee and a sandwich( our tipping practices at home not in Europe I mean),, but begrudge a poor lady who has to clean unspeakable stuff all day,, and look at nothing but stalls and walls, yech.

Posted by
8251 posts

To add to Pat, I was told a long time ago that la dame pipi depends on the tips for her pay in some restrooms.

Posted by
3580 posts

Attendants in European toilets have almost disappeared, in my experience. However, there is often a fee of 50 cents or more at the entrance. Steps are often involved getting to the toilet level, which makes using pay toilets while hauling luggage a little work. I guess you could say it always pays to travel light. I often find a restaurant or cafe when in need of a toilet. They all have them back somewhere or down/up stairs. When I eat at a restaurant I make it a practice to avail myself of the facilities before leaving. At McD, you may need a code that is printed on your receipt. There are free-standing toilets on the streets. I've never used one, but understand they are ok and private. No fee, as far as I know. There is one near the St Paul Metro. Hotels often have a toilet near the breakfast area. I think you could just ask to use it if you are walking by.

Posted by
1837 posts

We always carry 3 denominations of coin: euros, eurettes, and urinettes.

Posted by
76 posts

I thought I had read that it was a common scam for someone to set up at a public restroom and claim it was a pay only facility. They get tourists to pay to use otherwise free restrooms. I know I refused to pay once in Amsterdam when a "gypsy" looking woman standing outside the mens room demanded money for the use. I know this is not always the case, and pay when appropriate. Just something to watch out for...

Posted by
27402 posts

So, you're you're doing your job, if you have one, and when pay day comes you are paid in pastry. How would that go over? Or you are waiting for your social security check. Half goes in your bank and for the rest a guy from Krispy Kreme shows up with a few boxes of donuts. Cool.