Like many other travelers, I turn to travel reviews when researching a destination. I search several websites to get as much information as possible about the location. The “official” websites always give glowing reviews – even if they are “embellished” or slightly exaggerated. Reviews by other travelers can be a better source of information and it’s nice to hear about their personal experiences – both good and bad. At the end of the day you need to have your own experience to draw your own conclusions. Reviews are written about hotels, since we all need to sleep; restaurants, since we all need to eat and activities, since we all seek adventure and entertainment. However, there is another human need that is seldom, if ever, addressed. Where are the restroom reviews? Public restrooms vary greatly from country to country and region to region. Here are a few that I have encountered during my world travels.
USA – Generally speaking, in the United States we do a pretty good job of providing public restroom facilities. They can usually be found in hotels, restaurants, libraries, stores, malls, amusement parks, fast food joints and even roadside rest areas. They can be scarce in big cities, but are quite plentiful in suburban areas.
CHINA – During a recent trip to China I visited Beijing, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Shanghai and my, what an experience. The majority of toilets are squatters, so flexibility and good balance are necessary skills to have.
For Chinese locals who have been trained to use them from an early age, it’s no big deal. But for westerners, it can be a really big deal; particularly since there are no handles or rails to hold onto.
The good news is that if there is a stall for the disabled, it will have a western-style commode. So if there’s no one disabled who restroom, it can be an alternative to the squatter. But wait, there’s more. Very few – like almost none – of them have paper towels or toilet paper. It’s called BYOP (bring your own paper). So each day before we left the hotel I stuffed my pockets and purse. Yep, I felt like a Charmin pack mule but hey, you gotta do what you gotta do.
EUROPE – In European cities like Rome, Venice, and Barcelona, finding public facilities can be a real challenge. These cities are centuries old, so public facilities were not part of the original city plan. However, restaurants and cafes will allow you to use their facilities if you make a purchase. On a hot, sultry day it’s nice to duck into a cool café for a beverage, and a restroom break. However, once you guzzle that beverage, you need to visit the restroom again. You leave just like you came so it’s a vicious circle.
AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam offers a unique solution with their outdoor standing toilets. Obviously they are more suited to males than females, but they definitely serve the purpose.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – It was easy to find pubic restrooms in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. They were plentiful and quite clean. I found this interesting (and educational) sign outside a restroom at the Mall of the Emirates
EPHESUS – Obviously the need to provide facilities is as old as humankind. When I toured the ancient city of Ephesus I discovered that they had public latrines. Apparently a trip to the restroom could also be an opportunity to socialize.
While public restrooms are not normally the subject of travel reviews, I hope that I’ve shed some light on this delicate subject. After all, when you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go. As Buckaroo Banzi said, “No matter where you go, there you are.”