“Where do you go to the bathroom when you’re traveling?” I sometimes get asked.
When you spend days on end cycling from one location to the next, it can often times be difficult to find a place to do your business. And even if you do find a place, you may have to pay an entrance fee (as is often the case in Europe) or you may be utterly disgusted by what you find inside the shitter (as is often the case when using a public outhouse).
For nearly a decade now I’ve had to search out public restrooms on my travels and it’s something we all must do when we set out on the road.
After thinking about the various toilets I’ve used on my travels over the years, I put together the following list that, in my opinion at least, lists the type of restroom facilities one might find while traveling… and I’ve listed them below in order from best to worse.
Private Hotel Or Apartment Bathroom
When renting a hotel or staying in a private apartment, you typically have a bathroom all to yourself. In such accomodations you can take your time and do as you please. Make noise, stink up the place, do whatever you want. You’ve got the place all to yourself. Enjoy it!
Public Toilet With Good Locking Doors
There are many public restrooms with excellent toilet facilities. As long as they are well-equipped with plenty of toilet paper, hand soap and doors that lock, you’re living in luxury. If you make a scene inside the stall, don’t worry… you’re traveling. You’ll never see those people ever again.
I put the hostel toilet underneath the public toilet only because hostel restrooms are often times shared between guests. In a public restroom you can make a mess or smell up the place and get the heck out of there. But in a hostel you are stuck there with the people who might frequent the restroom after you’ve done your business… and that could be embarassing.
Couch Surfing Or Warm Showers Toilets
Along the same lines, staying with a stranger from CouchSurfing.com or WarmShowers.org might be a great way to spend the evening, but using the toilet in cramped quarters with people you hardly know can be a bit awkward at times. You want to leave a good impression with your hosts… and a stinky restroom is not the type of impression most bicycle travelers want to leave.
Public Toilet With No Locks And/Or Doors
If you can’t find peace and quiet in a hotel or hostel, public restrooms are great. But just because there are public restrooms available doesn’t mean the facility will be well equipped. Many public toilets have no doors, locks or toilet paper. Enter at your own risk and cross your fingers you don’t have any visitors.
Outside (And Under Cover)
Many times you will find yourself in a situation where there are no toilets around, but there’s plenty of cover to do your business outside. Run into the trees or hide in the bushes and do your good work while enjoying the outdoors. This is probably easier for the guys than the gals, but either way, just be sure you don’t position yourself near poison ivy.
Sometimes you gotta go really bad and the only option left is to pay for bathroom facilities. This is one of the biggest things I hate about traveling – actually being forced to pay to pee. One trip to the John might cost anywhere from $0.25 to $1.50 depending on where you are in the world. Now I don’t know about you, but $1.50 to go to the restroom seems mighty steep. At that price, it seems like such a waste to flush it all away after you’re finished.
Asian Spray Toilets
I’ve never been to Asia, but I have plenty of friends who have… and they tell me the Asian spray toilets take some getting used to. Rather than using toilet paper, you are simply given a hose, which you then aim and fire after doing your business.
Outside (With No Cover)
Finally, you may find yourself in a situation where there isn’t a toilet around for miles and there are so many people around that you simply can’t find a good place to go. If you find yourself in this predicament, try hiding behind your bicycle or make it look as though you are emptying your water bottle. Maybe you can have your riding partner or significant other cause a diversion? Whatever the case, don’t get caught! It’s scary, but you can do it! (I once saw a 50 year old woman peeing in a public trash can along a bike route in Germany. Yuck!)
Well, I hope this didn’t gross you out, but it’s a real part of life on the road. In addition to finding places to sleep, eat, and explore… you’ve also gotta find places to squat and do your business.
What do you think of the list above? Have I missed any important toilet types? If I have, let me know what they are and where you think they should be listed in regards to their order on the list above.
(I can’t believe I just wrote an article about this.)