Traveling is an exciting and enriching experience, but it also comes with its challenges. One of those challenges is navigating the unfamiliar bathrooms and toilets in different countries. In this article, we will discuss some essential tips and tricks for staying healthy and comfortable while using European bathrooms and toilets.
Understanding European Bathroom Designs
Firstly, it’s important to recognize that European bathrooms can be quite different from what you’re used to at home. They can be smaller, with limited counter space and tight showers. You might also come across unusual fixtures like bidets or squat toilets in some places. Keep an open mind and remember that adapting to these differences is all part of the adventure.
When it comes to toilets in Europe, you may encounter various flushing mechanisms. Older bathrooms might have a pull string instead of a handle, while modern ones might have two buttons on top of the tank for different flush strengths. In Great Britain, you might come across a pump toilet with a handle that requires just the right amount of pressure. The key is to be patient and figure out the system in each bathroom you encounter.
Toilet Paper and Plumbing
While Europeans do use toilet paper, the supply may not always be well-stocked. It’s a good idea to carry pocket-sized tissue packs with you for emergencies. In some countries with fragile plumbing systems, like Greece and Turkey, you might find a wastebasket for used toilet paper instead of flushing it down. In such cases, follow the local custom to prevent any plumbing issues.
Paid Toilets and Attendants
It’s common to pay for using public toilets in Europe, so make sure you carry some change with you. You might come across coin-operated toilets, attendants selling sheets of toilet paper, or tip dishes by the entry. Even if you find it unusual or irritating, remember that keeping public restrooms clean and maintained costs money, so it’s worth the small expense.
Gender-Neutral Bathrooms and Female Attendants
In some European countries, you might find shared hand-washing facilities in gender-neutral bathrooms, or female attendants cleaning and restocking supplies in men’s restrooms. While it might feel awkward at first, try to adapt and remember that it’s a cultural norm in those places.
Finding Public Restrooms
Locating a clean and comfortable public restroom can be challenging at times, but there are various options to explore:
Coin-operated Toilets on the Street
Cities like Paris, London, and Amsterdam have coin-operated, telephone booth-type toilets on street corners. They offer privacy, cleanliness, and a time limit for use.
Restaurants, Cafes, and Public Buildings
You can usually find restrooms in any establishment that serves food or drinks (including American fast-food chains). Public buildings like train stations, libraries, and department stores often have restrooms as well. Museums typically provide clean and free restrooms, so make sure to take advantage of these during your visits.
Staying Healthy: Preventative Measures and Potential Illnesses
Besides navigating different bathroom designs and customs, it’s essential to prioritize your health and hygiene during your travels. Here are some useful tips:
- Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after using the toilet. Hand sanitizer is also a good option if hand-washing facilities aren’t available.
- Carry tissues or toilet paper with you, as mentioned earlier, in case the restroom you visit doesn’t have any.
- Stay hydrated, but avoid drinking tap water in countries where it’s not safe. Opt for bottled or purified water instead.
Common Illnesses and How to Prevent Them
Traveler’s diarrhea is one of the most common illnesses travelers might encounter. To minimize your risk, be cautious about the food and water you consume. Stick to well-cooked meals, avoid raw fruits and vegetables that you can’t peel, and drink only bottled or purified water.
Another condition to be aware of is urinary tract infections (UTIs). To help prevent UTIs, make sure to stay hydrated and use the restroom regularly, rather than holding it in for long periods. If you do develop any symptoms, such as a persistent urge to urinate, painful urination, or lower abdominal pain, consult a healthcare professional for treatment.
Lastly, remember that being prepared and informed about the local customs and bathroom facilities can make your European adventure more enjoyable and healthy. Embrace the differences, stay vigilant about hygiene, and focus on the incredible experiences awaiting you in each new destination.