5 star toilets on your travels

A suitable throneFinding a loo/toilet/restroom/baño when you need one is a constant challenge for many a traveller. In many cities they can be readily found, but require you to spend a lot more than a penny. In others, they are in such an appalling state that even in a state of desperation you are reluctant to use them. So how can you relax in the finest surroundings while answering nature’s call?

It’s remarkably easy to do if you are in a major tourist city. Simply walk into any five star hotel with an air of confidence and a sense of purpose (not so difficult if you really need to go). Give the doorman a polite nod as you walk in and head straight on through the lobby. There are so many things going on in a typical hotel lobby that no-one is likely to pay attention to someone who looks like a guest coming back from a sightseeing tour. I’m assuming here that you are not one of the scruffy unwashed travellers; if so, don’t even try this as you won’t get past the doorman.

As you’re walking you’re likely to find the appropriate signs and can just head straight in. Clean toilets are guaranteed, with soothing piped music adding to the ambiance of calm and relaxation. When you’re done, hand moisturiser, eau de cologne and anything else you’ve never needed are at your disposal. One piece of advice – as you are an uninvited guest, do make sure you tidy up and leave the place exactly as you found it. It’s only fair…

Smile on the way out and re-enter the normal world again, feeling refreshed, relieved and perhaps even boasting a shining glow thanks to your recently re-hydrated skin.

If you feel a bit uncomfortable about this, you might want to check the local laws about cafes and the use of their toilets. On a recent trip to Austria for example, I learned that an establishment with outdoor seating has a legal requirement to allow both customers and non-customers to use their toilets. Other countries may have the same law; I’ve yet to find out but any examples are welcome.

There is always McDonald’s of course, but if you’re going to take advantage of a free toilet surely you owe it to yourself to aim a little higher than a McLoo?

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Freelance travel writer

17 Responses to “5 star toilets on your travels”

  1. Andy, happy to see you talking about this topic, very close to my heart. Not being able to find decent toilets can mar a trip. I’m an expert at wandering into hotels to use their facilities, they don’t have even have to be 5 star. I have only been challenged once, at a small hotel in Coupar Angus in Perthshire, Scotland, where the reception desk was right by the entrance.

    May 27, 2011 at 12:16 pm
  2. Thanks Karen – glad to see it touched a sensitive spot. Like you say, we’ll normally get away with it, providing we can pass off as likely guests ourselves.

    May 27, 2011 at 1:45 pm
  3. Tania #

    Andy, your article is just perfect, reminds me of the trip in Holland. I lived there for 3 months, so I made a use of time to discover the country. First at Amsterdam, I coudnt find any walking-distance public toilets. For a moment I thought te Dutch don’t need to pee! I had to run for few blocks to find a loo and it was €50c at a Turkish restaurant! Next visit I found this 2theloo there, brilliant idea by a man inspired by his 2yo daughter who needed to pee when they strolled down the alley in Amsterdam. Finally there’s a public toilet!! Still they need to be more friendly for people with bladder issue like me! :-) good business thou!

    May 27, 2011 at 2:43 pm
  4. It might be the camper in me, but I’m totally cool with peeing in the bushes haha. Too much information?

    May 27, 2011 at 7:29 pm
  5. I usually just hit up fast food chains because they are less likely to stop you. The nice hotel idea is much better!

    May 27, 2011 at 9:19 pm
  6. I regularly make use of restrooms in hotels on my travels. The one at the Peninsula in Hong Kong is one of the best I’ve been to recently. They’ve got an attendant in the bathroom who turns on the tap for you when you’re ready to wash your hands and waits with a towel for you to finish!

    May 28, 2011 at 6:51 am
  7. Great advice! I never thought about using hotels but of course you’re right. The doorman has no idea why you’re walking in, you might be checking if they have any rooms or checking in or whatever.
    Very cool info, thanks!

    May 28, 2011 at 8:13 am
  8. Thanks for all the comments. I’m glad I’m not alone in this regular quest. Let’s hope the hotel doormen of this world are not reading this post ;-)

    May 29, 2011 at 8:19 am
  9. Hey Andy – A very important topic, for sure. I’ve been using chic hotel loos for a very long time. If I’m exhausted from my wanderings, especially if I’m in a large, noisy city, I also find it lovely to stop and take a seat in their lobby, do a bit of people watching while I rest my weary bones. Did that recently in Seville in a very swank place. Nobody was in the least concerned. Mind you, it’s likely one of the advantages of a few wrinkles and many gray hairs: staff assume you have a right to be there!

    You know that I’m a huge fan of all things Portuguese. One of the things I like about that country is how readily available public washrooms are – and how incredibly clean they always are.

    Still and all, there is something about the rarified air of a 5-star abode that soothes better than anything else!

    May 29, 2011 at 12:27 pm
  10. I’m pretty sure bathrooms account for about 95% of the times we’ve gone into McDonald’s… We figure that it’s only right to buy an ice cream to make it up to them… ;)

    May 30, 2011 at 10:37 pm
  11. Gwen, I agree that being a little older helps us to get certain privileges – as it should ;-)

    Ian and Wendy, likewise on the McD’s toilets – you’re very kind to them with the ice cream as well (or to yourselves!). It’s interesting how some McDonalds have started using door codes for their toilets to prevents the likes of us taking advantage of their facilities. Shame on them :-)

    May 31, 2011 at 9:48 am
  12. Andy,
    Why stop at Hotels? I have availed myself of the facilities in Bars, Restaurants, Sports Centres, Universities and Large Multinational Corporation Receptions (highly recommended) and I cannot remember being challenged. It takes a pretty tough jobsworth to turn down a human being in need of relief.
    I agree that you need to have an air of confidence and my advice is not to be afraid to ask where the toilets are. After all, a guest would not know either.
    Congrats on 2 years at the top…

    May 31, 2011 at 8:48 pm
  13. It’s all about the confidence! Great tips for scoring a nice restroom while traveling.

    May 31, 2011 at 9:35 pm
  14. I like your advice! :) Though I never tried it yet. I’m very particular in using public toilet. I don’t want to pee if the toilet is not clean and don’t have tissue. Most of the time I use coffee shop’s comfort rooms like Starbucks. Next time, I know now where to go.

    June 2, 2011 at 3:18 pm
  15. When I worked in San Francisco and needed to “powder my nose” in between appointments or during lunch time, I only frequented the best powder rooms, especially on Union Square.

    Now that I live in Lausanne I find myself frequenting the 19th century Belle Epoque palace hotels for such activities.

    You’re right about the attitude and the clothes. Even then security is getting very tight in hotels around the world. I also carry business cards in my pocket and tell them I’m meeting someone in the lobby.

    Best to you,

    June 5, 2011 at 6:10 pm
  16. Nice post! As an addition, here’s an item I did a short while back on the five best restrooms in New York’s Times Square, an area that’s dense with hotels but not with lobby restrooms you’d necessarily want to use. These, however, are quite nice.


    June 15, 2011 at 3:01 am
  17. Thanks for the extra tips to all – and Terry, I’ll keep your list for my next NYC trip!

    June 15, 2011 at 6:25 pm