International Travel Guides – very handy for planning a trip. There are often several to choose from. If you are uncertain which guide is best, I would suggest you flip to the index and scroll down to see if there is a section about Toilets. In my experience, the information contained in one short paragraph could turn out to be the best advice in the whole book.
Alas, most guides omit the topic completely. So here is a bit of practical information for after you arrive at your destination. The first challenge will be knowing what to call the facility you are looking for. You might try asking where the bathroom, restroom, WC, loo, lavatory, comfort station, toilet, or washroom is. If that is met with a shrug, you are on your own. A bit of wandering will usually take you to a location that seems familiar because you are offered a choice of two doors. These will be labelled in some manner that has to do with how the equipment inside is tailored for the sex you happen to be. If this label is hard to decipher, then just open one of the doors and decide if a room full of urinals is where you want to be.
Sometimes the facilities are unisex. In London I found a coin operated space age unit that could be mistaken for a bus stop. Upon exiting the facility, the entire inside of it went through a washing cycle – but not a drying cycle, which was why it was so damp inside when I first entered. In an airport in France the facilities weren’t quite unisex, but the women’s facilities were reached after passing by the men standing at the urinals.
In many countries, toilets are a source of income for someone. In India most public washrooms are manned by an attendant who insists on hard currency for the privilege of entering the facility. A small wad of toilet paper is included in the transaction. But in some countries it is best to carry a pocketful of kleenex, because paper is not deemed to be needed for a “clean-up in aisle four”.
In the Middle East I had my first ‘hole in the floor’ experience and came to the conclusion that I needed to have better thigh muscles. In general, expect the unexpected!
Once you have found the facility and completed your task, there is the challenge of Initiating a Flush. This means you have to find a knob, button, cord or lever that can be be pushed, pulled, or turned. Don’t assume this trigger is anywhere near where you would normally find it. If all else fails, quickly walk away to the hand sanitation station and pretend you had nothing to do with what happened in stall two.
While there is often a sink of some sort, and perhaps some water, and maybe even a bit of soap and a towel, the travellers best companion is the small bottle of hand sanitizer that keeps the kleenex company in your pocket.
My last bit of advice is this – when Choosing a Restaurant to eat in, check out their washroom before you order your meal. Washrooms are usually well lit, which not only lets you determine how clean the facility is, it also makes it much easier to read the menu…