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Using the loo on trains

Hello, I'm about to make my first trip to Europe. I'm traveling by myself and have a serious question.

I plan to travel quite a bit by train. I"m only taking one carry on size convertible bag and a daybag.

Some of the trips will be long enough where I will probably have to use the loo. What do solo travelers do with their stuff when nature calls? Do you take everything with you?

Posted by
16883 posts

You just ask a neighbor to watch your large bag and take anything really valuable with you. If you know the train's not going to stop very soon, then there's less chance of anybody grabbing and running with it.

Posted by
1835 posts

Its a good idea to use the toilet about fifteen to twentry minutes before getting off the train. Train toilets are free, train station toilets are usually not. We always take travel size toilet paper with us. You just never know. I can give you a few examples if you want.

Posted by
6513 posts

I would have given the same answer as Laura. I am a senior female who travels solo, a lot of my travel is on trains. If I need to use the toilet, I take my small bag with everything important with me and leave my large bag at my seat. If there's someone around I will ask them to watch it for me but if not I just leave it there. I make sure I go when the train is not scheduled to make any stops so nobody will grab it and leave the train. In years of travel on trains I have never had an issue.

Posted by
2776 posts

I was surprised recently on a Swiss train to discover that they used the old-fashioned hole to the tracks system in their loos. Thought for sure they would have holding tanks. Which means, of course, don't use the loo while the trains is in the station! And also think twice before walking on the tracks .....

Posted by
8889 posts

"And also think twice before walking on the tracks". I think a bit of s--t on your shoes is the least of the risks walking on the tracks.

All new trains have holding tanks, but some used on slower trains are many decades old.

Posted by
4637 posts

I agree with Chris F. Walking on the tracks is pulling devil on his tail. Anyway there are no visible traces of the s..t on the tracks because it was deposited in high speed.

Posted by
8293 posts

Remember that ditty we used to sing?

Passengers will please refrain
From flushing toilets while the train
Is standing in the station .... I love you.

Makes no sense but it did make us laugh.

Posted by
796 posts

I never travel solo (always have husband and kids and others) but many times we are chatting with those around us and a solo traveler will ask if we can watch his or her stuff. We are glad to do so. If you strike up a conversation with a likely looking person (perhaps another solo traveler or a family) they will be likely to agree. This is better than hauling everything to the loo. In our family, we use the loo when we get on and then before disembarking (good idea when you have kids).

Posted by
31524 posts

Buzzy,

I often travel solo and have the same problem. Typically my journeys are short (a few hours) so I can wait, but on longer trips I normally use a variation of the method suggested by Laura.

I typically wait until the train is in mid-journey with no stops coming up, as it's less likely the bag will disappear. I usually clip my large Backpack to the overhead rack (or lock it to the rack if I'm really worried), and then take my Daypack and Camera bag to the WC. If in a compartment and I'm "comfortable" with the other people there, I'll ask them to watch it (provided they speak English). If in an open car, I normally just clip it to the rack as the bag will be in plain view by lots of people.

I prefer to spend as little time as possible in train WC's, as some of them are quite "gross and disgusting".

Posted by
13026 posts

Hi,

I mostly travel solo, but this is one of the times when having to use the facilities a person to watch your stuff is a distinct advantage. On the train the luggage is above on the rack. I assume your most important "stuff" is on your person or in the day bag. Take that with you. Don't leave your jacket hanging on the window hook with your cell phone or passport inside as you take off to the WC....way too tempting of a target while you're away from the seat. I wouldn't take the chance.

Posted by
7 posts

Thanks everyone for your answers.

I'll be wearing a money belt and I'll have my other valuables, mostly electronics, in a day bag.

I'll have locks on the bag's zippers and I might take a small retractable cable lock to lock the bag to the luggage rack.

Posted by
4684 posts

British Rail were still buying new carriages with toilets flushing directly onto the track as late as the 1980s, astonishing as that might be. There's now a major trade union campaign to get the remaining carriages of that vintage refitted with retention tanks, since it makes working on the track unpleasant.

Posted by
86 posts

Using the washroom with my luggage pack is literally the worst part of travelling solo-for me. On a train I agree with all other posters. I used to be paranoid about it but not any more. In other public areas, like airport or train stations, I have had to negotiate some tight places with my pack and longed for a buddy to just watch my bag, because cramming into a stall with a pack is a fine art and a huge pain in the rear. Have a great trip. Travelling solo is the best way to go!

Posted by
3936 posts

I haven't travelled solo, but let me say - (not that the train floors are any cleaner, mind you)...some of the train bathrooms I have been in are filthy - I wouldn't want to take my bag in with me...I think maybe some people are trying to go and the train shakes and it doesn't all make it into the bowl...

Posted by
11613 posts

I almost always travel solo, and prefer to pay the price to use the clean and well-stocked toilet at the train station. However, on the train, my carryon is usually at the middle or end of the carriage with the other luggage, and I leave my Civita bag (if I'm using it) on the overhead rack. I do take my messenger bag with me, however.

Every bathroom I've seen on a train has a hook where you can hang a purse or daypack.

Posted by
6513 posts

Regarding cable locks for luggage on trains. After reading recommendations on this forum and because I was going to travel on trains a lot I took one with me. I never felt the need to use it so it stayed in my bag with a couple of other things that were supposed to be 'must haves' that I never used (and won't be bringing with me next time). In my opinion the only time it would be of help is on an overnight train so you could maybe feel more free to sleep without worrying about it. On day trains, forget it.

Posted by
28145 posts

As far as walking on the tracks, there are a number of places on numerous Swiss scenic trains, especially around the Engadin, where after both trains have crossed and left, the best (only) way to cross from one side to the other is across the tracks.

Just because you can't see (or don't look) what you are walking on and in doesn't mean it isn't there.

It is particularly unpleasant (and unhealthy) for workers working on the track or maintaining it. They get sprayed as the train passes, and when they have to maintain the track it is like working in a sewer. And track workers don't get full body suits.

Trains with no holding tanks are not nice anywhere; and that is the case with many older trains throughout Europe.

I am active in the campaign to either retrofit tanks or replace trains in the UK.

Posted by
4741 posts

Trains ran with direct discharge toilets for over a hundred years without any thought given to them but it doesn't mean that you can't do better. In the UK all rolling stock built in the last 23 years has retention tanks and a proportion of those built ten years before that. What is left is about 15% and in long distance trains this is mainly the nearly 40 year old HSTs.

When they get full the better ones just shut the toilet down. The not so good ones overflow ...

Posted by
6513 posts

Eeeew, isn't this getting a bit off track (pun intended). The poor OP just wanted to know how to handle his luggage if he needed to use the loo.☺

Posted by
31524 posts

In this day and age, there's simply no excuse for not having holding tanks on ALL trains. The executives in charge of railways need to "do the right thing" and get cracking on this!

Posted by
2330 posts

I leave my carry-on (locked) stowed in the upper area and take my purse, of course, and my best bit of advice is before you lower your pants, roll or fold up the legs because the longer the journey the worse for wear the floor gets!

Posted by
2776 posts

To turn away for a second from the situation on the tracks, my experiences with French and Swiss trains was that the lavs were more than clean enough. You wouldn't want to have guests over, but they were better than many restaurants.

Posted by
12040 posts

Baggage theft on high speed trains- a theoretical crime that rarely happens in actuality.

Think about the logistics of this- what do travelers carry of real value that when considering the cost/benefits of theft would make snatching a bag a worthwhile risk? Pretty much one thing only- money... and maybe a passport. And where do they keep these things usually? On their person, not in a bag. Virtually nothing in your bag has any potential street resale value... not your expensive digital camera (virtually worthless on the street- anyone who recognizes the value in a good camera is probably not in the market for one obtained through dubious means), not your smart phone (a dime a dozen), definately not your used clothing and Rick Steves guidebooks. If they really wanted the data stored on your phone, there's easier ways to get it. Now add this factor- high speed trains are not particularly cheap to ride and they don't stop very often. A potential thief needs to balance the cost of the ticket and the risk of getting caught against the potential that your luggage just might contain something that someone is willing to pay a susbstantial amount of money for. And because the trains stop infrequently, the only way to pull off the heist is to grab your bag right before the train pulls into the station... which pretty limits the booty to a single piece of luggage. A professional thief who consistently took this risk probably would need to change jobs pretty quickly.

So basically... unless you plan to travel with the Hope Diamond or a Picasso AND you announce this to the world, your luggage is almost certainly safe with all the other hundreds of defenseless bags on the train while you use the potty.

Posted by
6513 posts

Thank you Tom for the voice of reason, excellent post.

Posted by
8997 posts

I seem to recall a couple years back someone posting they had their bag with their glaucoma medication in it stolen on an intercity train from Antwerp to Bruges. Given the choice of blindness or securing my bag with $10 retractable lock, I'll go with the lock every time;) Not all trains are reservation only high-speed.

Posted by
8293 posts

Yes, Nancy, a scarcely existent problem has been debunked.

Posted by
6513 posts

Sorry Michael but if I had medication that I couldn't get by without, that would be on my person at all times, not in my suitcase. Or was it a backpack or daybag that was stolen?

Posted by
8997 posts

I prefer to keep everything except my cash/cards/passport in one place. Less things to keep track of. Locking my one bag simplifies things for me. YMMV.

Posted by
31524 posts

While baggage theft on trains may be a rare occurrence, I've seen it happen. On one of the my trips through G/A/S, (can't remember which two countries I was travelling through at the time a young couple left their large bag in the "A" space between the seats while they went to the dining car. When they returned, it was gone! The Police from the first country boarded and they walked the train from one end to the other. When the train crossed the border, the Police from the second country did the same thing, but they never found it. Although I was seated in the same car, I didn't notice the bag being removed (I may have been sitting with my back towards it or may have been dozing). While there may not have been anything except clothing in the bag, I'm sure the loss would have affected their holiday to some extent.

Posted by
13026 posts

Re: " ...medication that I could not get by without, it would be on my person at all times." Exactly. That's what I do, or if it's in a piece of "carry on" luggage, that piece of luggage stays within sight.

Posted by
21871 posts

I think the greater possibility is another passenger grabbing the wrong bag. That is the major problem with unsecured luggage areas at airport. And it certainly would be very easy to do on a train given the low light and rush to get on and off. And for Tom, remember emotion trumps logic. If luggage theft was big problem the local would be carrying their bags to their seats since the majority riding trains are locals.

Posted by
7719 posts

Another anecdotal example: I had a friend traveling back from Frankfurt to Paris for a work trip a couple of years ago -- her suitcase was definitely stolen from the train, with all her work clothes and whatever (cosmetic) jewellery and whatever else was in there. . .the possibility of luggage theft didn't feel very nonexistent to her after that, I assure you!

And yes sometimes we locals ARE lugging lots of . . . ahem, crap . . .we're on our way back from our in-laws' in Turin with lots of Italian goodies stashed away in our suitcases (while traveling with our cat!), or traveling for a two-week work assignment to Cannes with work and off-duty clothes stuffing our case to the gills . . . or on our way back from London with the clothes and shoes acquisitions that we can't find as well for our size in Paris . . . etc etc.

Posted by
4684 posts

It does happen in the UK as well - a work colleague and his wife had their luggage stolen from a train between London and Cornwall last summer.

Posted by
5793 posts

...particularly unpleasant (and unhealthy) for workers working on the track....

Worst for workers UNDER the tracks:

http://www.plymouthherald.co.uk/Bridge-workers-risk-showered-toilet-waste-passing/story-16002388-detail/story.html

http://www.constructionenquirer.com/2012/05/04/train-toilet-flushing-hits-brunel-bridge-workers/

http://www.nytimes.com/1990/04/02/us/amtrak-fighting-battle-over-wastes.html

It was a good day for bass fishing on the St. Johns River. The Florida
skies were sunny and clear, and so William and Mary Trammell were
amazed when a sudden downpour doused them as they were fishing under
the Buffalo Bluff Bridge.

It was not rain. An Amtrak train had crossed the bridge and sprayed
them with liquefied human waste from its holding tanks.

Posted by
8187 posts

Sometimes it is simply an honest mistake with the luggage. Some friends were traveling from Paris to Frankfurt and when they got to their hotel, found that the daughter had taken the wrong bag! Back to the station they went, to return the bag and find out where their own bag was. The bag took a trip to Cologne and was sent back later that evening.

I almost got off of a train once with a wrong bag. It looked just like mine. I was standing at the door waiting for the train to stop when I noticed it. Lesson learned? Mark my bags with something distinct and really check if they are the right ones.

Posted by
498 posts

In all my life I know personally only a single instance of stolen luggage - a colleague of main had his bag stolen from a bus baggage trunk while waiting from the bus to leave in Santiago, Chile. He still wonders what a Chilean thief (likely an heavy and short person) is going to do with the clothes of a tall and thin European. In the very same trip we were warned that luggage stealing was a possibility in Buenos Aires but everything went for the better.

On the other hand, I have lost count of friends losing luggage when flying.