The woman replied, “You want to take a bath?” No, I need to hit the head, and fast. If I didn’t find a bathroom soon, this pristine floor of hers was about to turn a pale shade of yellow.
Travelers on vacation run into all sorts of issues from language barriers and cultural differences to needing a bathroom at the height of tourist season when every establishment along the main drag in town says, “Bathrooms for customers only.”
All of my travels abroad have turned me into a bathroom savant. It’s not about knowing the exact bathrooms, as George Costanza does in the Seinfeld episode below. It’s knowing which types of establishments have clean bathrooms that are not flogged by tourists, and how to go about asking for it.
First off, in most countries, you’ll need to ask for the ‘toilet’. In Europe, a bathroom is for bathing, whereas a toilet is for ‘doing your business’. Unless you are dining at a restaurant, I would avoid wasting your time asking. Most restaurants are tired of catering to non-customers. As such, they’ll turn you away with a harsh tone. The same goes for low- to mid-range hotels. However, I’ve found that high-end hotels are more than happy to accommodate your needs. So, don’t be bashful when it’s time to go. Go in luxury and “enjoy the go” … thanks Charmin Ultra Soft.
When approaching a high-end hotel, I’ve found it’s best to feign some sort of issue with your hands. Often, I’ll point to one of my hands, as if it needs some sort of attention in the bathroom (i.e. washing). I’ve even wrapped a finger with a spare Band-aid, indicating that it needs to be changed. Why do this? It focuses the clerk’s attention on your hand, and not on the ‘business’ you are about to perpetrate on their porcelain facilities. If you look presentable, no clerk at a high-end hotel is going to turn you away, especially if they suspect that something may be wrong, injured, or needs attention.
The second hidden bathroom-gem along the tourist trail is a bank. Financial institutions abroad are much more relaxed than in the U.S. about letting people behind the magic curtain. Banks don’t get a lot of tourists asking to use their facilities. So, they are not in the habit of turning people away. I’ve found that they are actually overly accommodating in these matters, and their bathrooms are typically cleaner and nicer than what you’ll find in most restaurants.
So, when you are on the go and need to go, check out high-end hotels and banks.