To pee or not to pee? That is the question for travelers, who all too often find themselves in a foreign place with no relief in sight. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and stumble upon a hotel with luxurious and (more importantly) squeaky-clean public bathrooms. But when the porcelain gods aren’t smiling … well, let’s just say you’ll discover a whole new meaning for the term “squatter’s rights.”
Our well-traveled readers have seen their share of toilets, and they’re the real authorities on which ones are the world’s best … and worst. So pull up a seat — a toilet seat, that is — and check out their true tales from the road.
THE BEST OF THE BEST…
“I was in the bar at the Burj Al Arab in Dubai (the one in the top wing). This hotel is over the top and it claims to be the only seven-star hotel in the world. Well, the toilet was spotless. Once I had been to the toilet a guy went in to make sure that it was as spotless as it was before I went in there … and when I washed my hands a guy was ready to hand me a real towel so that I could wipe my hands.” — gardkarlsen
“My wife won’t stop talking about ‘how cool’ the bathrooms are at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Fine Art. The whole space has that cool industrial aesthetic and I’ll admit, the bathrooms had a true factory feel. She’s into minimalism and modernism, so that works. Plus, they were clean. Very, very clean.” — TinFins
A Feast for the Senses
“In a hotel in Hamasaka, Japan, there was an electronic toilet seat that automatically started a fan to remove smells when you sat, and there was a built-in bidet, butt heater and sounds to cover bodily functions.” — hamsterwheel
“I was at the swanky Rittenhouse Hotel in Philadelphia, and the bathroom in the lobby was absolutely palatial. (I am not a luxury traveler at all, so it was an eye opener for me.) It had a little lounge sort of area with potted plants and sofas/chairs before you got to the actual toilet area. Those were pristine, of course, and the whole place smelled like flowers and other good things.” — soliteyah
What’s Under the Lid?
“I had lunch at a restaurant called Trader Jack’s in Rarotonga, and there’s something hanging outside of the bathroom there that you simply can’t miss. It’s a toilet seat mounted on the wall that says ‘Ass of the Week’ on it. When you lift the lid, there’s a mirror. What fun! The restrooms at Bloody Mary’s restaurant and bar in Bora Bora are very cool too. They are alfresco; outdoors but obviously with bamboo and foliage for privacy. Waterfall sinks, phallic toilet flushers, super fun.” — travelmel
How to Find a Lovely Loo
“I can’t recall a specific, great, public toilet, but in general I follow the advice of my friend’s mother, who always searches out a major hotel chain (Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton) to use when traveling. They almost always have toilets open to the public off the lobby, which are usually spotless.” — GregW
…AND THE WORST OF THE WORST
Okay, Where’s the Real Bathroom?
“In Beijing we went to a restaurant and I had to go to the loo but there was not a toilet in the place. So this one guy took me out of the restaurant and into the street and all of a sudden he points into a narrow and dark hallway … there was just one light bulb hanging from the ceiling in there. When I walked in, it looked like they had just used a sledgehammer to make a hole in the floor.” — gardkarlsen
“The worst bathroom of all time was here in the U.S. — a port-a-potty at a PGA golf event in New Jersey. It was so hot and there were simply not enough potties for the crowds. I waited until I could wait no more and finally went in. I promptly threw up on the floor because it was so disgusting. I have never been so grossed out in my life. I really dislike when I am in another country and the toilet is a hole in the ground. But nothing can be worse than that port-a-potty.” — GenevieveS
I’ll Just Be in the Bushes…
“The toilets on Mt. Kilimanjaro were awful, small outhouses with squat toilets, and it looked like most people didn’t even bother trying to hit the hole. Most of the people in my group gave up using them, and just took a shovel behind a bush and buried it there.” — GregW
“My worst was in Indonesia on a ferry from Bali/Paddang Bai to Lombok. There was just a very dirty hole in the floor — with naturally no toilet paper, no water to clean yourself like they do in Indonesia, and no water to wash your hands.” — hamsterwheel
Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures
“There were so many little train station bathrooms in Europe that never failed to be out of toilet paper, soap, paper towels, etc. — I took to carrying those little travel packs of tissues so that I’d have toilet paper. But on one occasion I was out of tissues and napkins, so I had to use a city map I had folded up in my pocket.” — soliteyah
Down in the Dumps
“The worst bathroom experience I’ve had was in Mumbai (Bombay). It wasn’t a bathroom per se, it was more an alley, where a nice Indian gentleman dropped trou and promptly dropped something else. At first, I was too shocked to feel any revulsion. But after a moment of befuddlement, it began to sink in what I had just seen.” — WackyHeathen
And for the Exhibitionists Among Us…
“I was totally freaked out by the public urinals in Amsterdam. If you haven’t seen them, go Google ‘Amsterdam public urinals’ and look for the results with photos. Ingenious design or tool for public humiliation?” — TinFins
“My worst was New York’s Penn Station. I had always thought it was a bad bathroom experience and swore to never use it again under any circumstances, but when ya gotta go, ya gotta go. So, before work one day, I ran in there quickly — well, hoping to run in and out quickly — but there was a line out the door. I waited for a good five minutes in the worst-smelling bathroom I had ever been in. Then, when I finally reached an open stall, the person next to me was singing at the top of their lungs AND making the entire bathroom smell even worse than it already had. And when I was almost finished, she grabbed my leg under the stall…” — tinkerbell
Uh, Nice to Meet You Too…
“I walked into a four-person squat toilet room in Beijing, with no privacy screens or anything between the holes in the floor. I walked in and there was a gentleman squatting on the toilet. He was fine with it, but I was quite embarrassed by the whole thing.” — GregW
Bring Your Own Paper (and Galoshes)
“On Rarotonga, in the Cook Islands, a lot of public restrooms don’t carry toilet paper. That’s not such a tragedy, of course, as I usually carry something in my purse when I travel. It was the nasty standing water that I had to wade through to get to the toilet that ruined the experience for me. Yuck. (But at least there was a toilet. I’m shocked by some of the stories I’ve read here!)” — travelmel
If you enjoyed these, don’t miss Toilet Tales: The Sequel.