Everyone uses the restroom, the loo, the commode, the toilet. So what do you do when you are out in a foreign country our city, and you need to answer nature's call? In most places around the world, the public facilities are free of charge, but there are a few places that take advantage of the fact that everyone is going to need a restroom at some point, and charges for that privilege.
The pay toilet has actually been around since ancient Roman times, when people would pay a coin or two to access a (very) public toilet. Thankfully, the style of the facility has changed and been updated to fit the modern world. But the fact that you need to pay to access the facility has not changed.
From stand alone units on the side of the street in London and Paris to full service restroom facilities in places like India and Mexico, you will be surprised at what the world of pay toilets has to offer.
So, take a look at this list of places where you will be required to pay to use the washroom (or whatever you want to call it), and be prepared when you are in these places with a few extra coins of the local currency to pay the fee to get into the public restroom.
In France, you can expect to pay to use the toilet on the streets. Specifically, in Paris, the capital city, there are coin operated toilet stalls all over the city. These are pretty simple to operate: you put in a coin or two, usually amounting to a Euro or less, and then you are granted access to the small stall on the inside where you can take care of your business. Not a very high tech or fancy design, but it does serve the purpose well. This is the system that is common throughout much of Europe, however it is in contention about whether it should still be in use.
Also, in the United Kingdom, mostly London, and not so much outside of England, proper, you can expect to pay a few pence to use the toilet. Although, this seems to be over and done with, and is not as common as it once was or as it is on the Continent, that is, the rest of Western Europe. Yet, the fact that even the British have been subjected to paying to use the loo, even if it is less than a pound, is interesting, even as the practice begins to go the way of the Empire. The system will probably become less in use as the UK continues to move further from the rest of Europe politically and ideologically.
In Amsterdam, there are still plenty of places where you are given the opportunity to pay to use the toilet. These places are all over the streets of this city, and are used by locals and tourists, alike, whenever nature calls. These toilets operate similar to other systems throughout Europe and the world, and allow for a more clean experience, and less of a wait to get in and out. They may not look like much, but they serve their purpose well. However, like much of the rest of Europe, the pay washroom system is slowly being abolished in Amsterdam.
17 New York City
A while ago, there was a bit of an experiment in New York City where you could pay $8 a day to have access to a guaranteed clean toilet. This may seem like a lot, but $8 to a New Yorker who is fed up with dirty public toilets is not all that much money. In a world where many places will let you use the toilet if you buy something, paying $8 for an entire day of access to a clean potty is not so bad. Whether the practice continues or not is still kind of up for debate, but it is unlikely that it will really catch on.
Moscow, Russia may seem a world away to some people, but they are still part of a Eurasian country that looks to tie itself to Europe as much as possible. One way they do this (possibly) is by maintaining the practice of paid public toilets on the streets. Like their counterparts in cities across the rest of Europe, Muscovites would rather pay a few coins to have access to a clean toilet than have to worry about dirty public toilets. Moscow is not a particularly dirty city, but it is still suffering from some of the problems of Soviet rule, so a clean toilet is a must.
Germany may be the economic center of the European Union, but you still have to pay to use the toilet in many larger cities. Take Berlin, for example. In the capital of Germany, people, both natives and tourists, pay half a Euro or so to get into the washroom in public places like train stations and airports. The money goes to keeping the place clean, which is a relief from some other public restrooms in Germany that are just as dirty and gross as the rest of the world. The pay washrooms in Germany are actually quite nice to use.
In Mexico, the pay toilets have a turnstile and often an attendant. You are really paying to get the toilet paper, and maybe a towel for drying your hands, which the attendant will give you once you have paid the small fee in coins to get through the turnstile. It is interesting that here, you actually see the person that your money is going to, as opposed to the faceless box that you enter in some other countries and cities. Mexico may not be revolutionizing the way that pay washrooms are operated, as this concept borrows from several other systems, but they do the job well.
India is another place where you are paying an attendant to get into the washroom. Note, this is not a tip that you would leave in a fancy club, this is a fee to get in and use the facilities. As in other places, the fee goes to help keep the public commode clean, as well as paying the "salary" of the guy (or gal) standing at the door as you walk in. They may look like ramshackle rundown buildings, but these public toilets are actually better than the alternative in many places in India, and that is a welcome thing.
The people of Singapore would like to do away with the pay washrooms of their country, but that is not likely to happen anytime soon. The cost? About 10-20 cents (in local currency). Usually this is paid to an attendant, but in some places there are now turnstiles that let you into the washroom. Not unlike just about every other off the street option for a public toilet, the pay toilets in Singapore are generally just a standard public restroom that you need to pay to keep up the maintenance on. A cheap way to make sure the restroom you use is enjoyable to use.
Taiwan has a nifty twist on the pay toilet - depending on how you look at it. Usually found on the subways, the pay "toilet" in Taiwan is free to use. But if you need paper, you are going to need to pay for that privilege. Kind of a twisted way of getting their money to help keep the place stocked with paper and keep things clean, but it seems to be an effective system that works for the people of Taiwan. This concept has come under attack in recent years, though, so it may be going away. Whether a pay system remains in Taiwan for public restrooms remains to be seen.
The turnstile operated public toilets of Turkey are most common in places like bus stations and some underground shopping centers. The cost is about a lire or less, which is not much to have access to the restroom, especially if you are out on the bus and really need a break. The folks in Turkey keep their public toilets quite clean, considering their use, so you know your money is being well spent and put to good use to help make going to the bathroom an enjoyable experience for everyone. A mix of West and East in Turkey makes for an interesting public pay toilet system.
9 Eastern Europe (former USSR)
In Eastern Europe, specifically those countries that used to be a part of the USSR, the toilets are open to get into, but you will need to pay an attendant to get in. A couple of coins ensures that they are making the money that makes it worth their while to be there and keep the place clean. This is not the same concept as having to pay to get into the restroom, as in Western Europe. They are not necessarily there to help you with service, but rather to keep the place clean for the next guy to come in.
8 San Francisco
On the West Coast of the United States, you may find the occasional pay toilet in places like San Francisco, California. In an effort to help keep public buildings open to people not just needing a toilet, San Francisco has installed a number of pay public toilets. These are similar to the ones found in Europe, and operate on a coin to let people in to do what they need to do, all without the need for people to go into restaurants or bars looking for a toilet. A good idea, if it catches on. However, it may not spread past California, as public pay toilets have been banned in many U.S. states.
Another location on the West Coast of the United States that is still experimenting with the idea of the pay public toilet is Portland, Oregon. The city has spent some money in recent years to revive the concept as a European style public restroom that people pay to get into. The idea was met with mixed reviews, and may be discontinued. People in the U.S. are just not used to the idea of having to pay to use the restroom. However, the idea of the use of pay toilets and restrooms in the U.S. is growing in popularity among eco-friendly cities across the country.
6 San Antonio
San Antonio, Texas is not a likely place to find pay toilets, but it seems that you can find them there. Much to the chagrin of the locals. The city keeps installing the things, which cost about $100,000 a piece, without really telling anyone about them. But, these European style pay toilets are freeing up businesses to keep to doing business, rather than dealing with people just looking for a restroom. Also, the San Antonio pay toilets demonstrate that it is not just the eco-conscious states in the U.S. that are installing them. Whatever the motivation, it is still a little strange to the citizens of San Antonio.
In Toronto, Canada, the city is starting to roll out the use of pay public toilets. It seems that city officials and business operators are looking for ways to keep people from just wandering into a business to use the restroom. The idea is the same as all over much of Western Europe, with a simple structure on the street that you pay to get into for your private use. It is still a relatively new concept in Canada, though, and the use of the pay toilet in Toronto is still in an experimental phase. Despite that, it may catch on and become as ubiquitous as it is in Europe.
Finland is another European country which offers paid toilet services for those out and about on the town. For about one Euro, it is possible to get into these clean, user friendly facilities that are located throughout cities around the country. Other than the fact that they are in Finland, these pay toilets are pretty much the same as in the rest of Western Europe, although many people believe that the pay facilities in Finland are more expensive than they are in other countries. Despite the cost, if you want to use a public restroom, you are likely going to have to pay for it in Finland.
While not as common as in other parts of Europe, there are pay toilets in Ireland, mainly in the capital city of Dublin. Many people will look for alternatives to paying to use the public toilets in Ireland, though, and there are a variety of "hacks" that you can use to get around paying a few coins to use the restroom. For example, if you wanted to you can just go into a bar or pub to use their restroom. However, it is a part of traveling in Europe, so maybe you should use it as a part of the experience.
2theloo is a company that is looking to revolutionize the pay toilet system in Poland. Rather than just charging people to get in and use the facility, they are making an entire experience out of it. Yes, that is right, you can now shop in the restroom at the 2theloo facilities in Warsaw, Poland (with more locations coming soon!). This elevates the experience, but you are still paying to use the restroom, it is just a more pleasant experience for doing what we all need to do. Imagine, doing a little shopping before and after you use the washroom - all from the washroom.
1 South Africa
In South Africa, it is not the public toilets that you will be paying to use. It is not against the law for private businesses to charge people to use their facilities. Which makes sense - if you own the toilet and you are paying for the water and maintenance, you should be able to charge people to use it. So, if you are in South Africa, and you need to use a restroom, look for a free public facility or be prepared to pay for a private one. Actually, the practice of making customers pay for a toilet is catching on around the world.