Okay, I promise that I won't gross you all out by providing detailed descriptions and earthy tales of having to use public facilities while traveling abroad. Although, I do love this quote from HoboTraveler.com.
"A traveler can hit the hole of a squat toilet. A tourist does not know what a squat toilet is."
For some of us, this experience will be quite adventurous. Remember to keep an open mind and consider this a part of your travel experience!
Public facilities (more commonly referred to as Toilette or WC – Wash Closet) are not what we may be used to in our own lives. Not only do they lack in abundance, but there will also be various styles and conditions of public restrooms available throughout Europe and different customs on how these facilities are managed.
In countries like Italy and France there may be an attendant who supervises the facilities, so don't count on any sound privacy! 😀 Just keeping it real people. Some of them are free and some require a small fee to use. For the facilities that are free, it is customary to tip at least around 50 Euro cents or more for the attendant who keeps it clean for you. And by the way, don't be surprised if you see a male attendant as I found here in this train station facility in Austria.
I'm sure that most people have several amusing tales of their encounters using public facilities while traveling. I'll share one of my favorite most embarrassing moments which involves the photo above. I usually travel solo and as such I have to drag my luggage everywhere I go including public restrooms. This WC had a male attendant. The room was divided into two sections. The right was for women and the left was for men. I pay my little fee and the male attendant unlocks the door to my stall. It was larger than most and I managed to squeeze myself and my luggage in there with me.
As I was ready to leave, I open the stall door and turn around to grab my luggage. As I prepare to exit, I heard this click. Now, I can understand locking people from going in (for obvious reasons), but I have never heard of a stall door locking someone in! Needless to say I was completely embarrassed. I had no choice, but to alert the "male" attendant to my situation. I call out to him but he doesn't respond. It occurred to me that he might not be coming, because he may not understand English. I need to find my translation book to find the words for "Can you open the door" or "help". Unfortunately, my translation book is buried deep, deep at the bottom of my luggage and is not accessible to me at this very awkward moment. I then call out again . . . Sir? Help? Excuse me? After another few seconds, he comes to the door and unlocks it. I am dripping in sweat because it started to get hot (the heaters were on) and also from my panic mode. The attendant was laughing so hard.
He had a lit cigarette in his mouth and when he laughed it made the ashes fling all over the place. I was laughing too. I'm sure that this has probably never happened to this guy before and I'm almost sure it made dinner topic conversation with his wife and friends. Hey, today this poor American Tourist locked herself in the WC! It's all good. Can't say that I don't spread cheer around whenever I travel. Ha, ha… Before I left, I just had to snap a photo for memory sake! 😀
– For me, the best offense is a good defense. Most restaurants and museums have free public facilities for their customers. When you are there, whether you really want to or not, take advantage and stop in to use the facilities before you leave. They are free and are reasonably clean. Here's a delightful door decoration on the ladies WC in the Municipal House Restaurant in Prague.
– Make sure to have a few coins in Euros (or the denomination of money for the country you are visiting). This will come in handy if you have to either pay to use the facility or leave a tip for the attendant. BTW, I found that most places where there is an attendant have been reasonably to very clean and I think we should always tip for that service whether it is required or not.
– If you use trains to get around for long journeys, there are restrooms on them. I will use them if I need to but I usually try to go before my trips.
– Always, Always, and did I say Always, carry a small emergency supply of Toilet Paper (TP) or Tissues and antibacterial wipes or a small bottle of liquid soap with you at all times. It just might save the day!
Rick Steve's Travel Tips on Health