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Toilet Paper, Piss And Sh%#

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“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.

Hostel Toilet

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.

Pay Toilets

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.

If you are wanna learn more about poop and farts, head over to www.smellypoop.com. Hilarious!

(I can’t believe I just wrote an article about this.)

About Darren Alff

Darren Alff is a world-renowned authority on bicycle touring and is the founder of BicycleTouringPro.com - the world's most popular bicycle touring website and how-to information source. He is the developer of "The Ultimate Bike Tour Training Course," and the author of four additional cycling books: The Bicycle Touring Blueprint, The Essential Guide to Touring Bicycles, Winter Cycling and Stretching for Cyclists. Darren has dedicated his life to helping others conduct the bicycle tour of their dreams. His websites, books, email newsletter, products and public appearances now inspire and assist hundreds of thousands of people from all around the world.

7 Comments

  1. Andy Solaini

    June 2, 2009 at 8:09 am

    You missed campsite toilets. I would say if they are good ones they would be the same as Public Toilet With Good Locking Doors.

  2. Derek Gytenbeek

    June 3, 2009 at 6:49 am

    HA!

    Yeah, I was just thinking that I needed to find a shitter soon…

    I use gas stations most of the time. Wal-Mart is a good choice if available. The common grocery store almost always has a restroom but they’re often hidden. They don’t advertise them ’cause they don’t want to clean em’. But if you do some detective work you can usually find them back in the stock area. And of course libraries. I find these places to be generally clean… sometimes the gas stations are a bit iffy though.

  3. Chig

    June 11, 2009 at 7:46 am

    Here in Australia while on the road your best choices are often petrol(Gas) stations, though you will find the quality to vary significantly, while others, usually in the cities will not have any public toilets at all.

    I’ve been a scout of sorts for nearly 15 years now, and was introduced early to the idea of the “Bush poo”, which is the same as above, Outside with cover.

    Public toilets in Australia are *usually* reasonably quality, but i’d say maybe 25% of them have dodgy locks on the doors, and about the same may not have any toilet paper.

    The important thing to remember is that if there are people around, there will be *some* kind of facilities in the area, and if there aren’t people around, then it doesn’t really matter :)

  4. Lira

    June 20, 2009 at 5:15 am

    Thanks for the info. I’ll be going on my first tour this summer. It’ll definitely help in my pooing hunt to know there are others in my disposition : )

  5. Vel

    June 27, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    LOL, now if it would have been a 20 year old German woman peeing in the trash can it would’ve been HOT!

  6. Rob

    August 16, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    If they charge me $1.50, I’m taking a dump right on the floor to get my money’s worth. That’s why I save those little cocktail umbrellas to top it off with a touch of class.

  7. Walter Strong

    March 2, 2014 at 10:52 am

    I’ll be starting a cross country ride next year and I’ve put some thought into this issue. My biggest worry is being on a well travelled road out in the middle of nowhere and suddenly getting the urge to drop a load. My plan is to have a large poncho that’ll cover the deed and a plastic bag to hold the output until I get to a trash can. Alternatively, I’d use a trowel to dig a small hole and just cover it up when I’m done. That plan might not be the best if the fuzz happens by.

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