Finding a toilet while travelling can be an interesting experience. This one is at Mystery Island, Vanuatu.
Finding a toilet while travelling can be an interesting experience. This one is at Mystery Island, Vanuatu.

Seinfeld solved my worst travel problem

Jerry: Anywhere in the city?

George: Anywhere in the city - I'll tell you the best public toilet.

When I laughed at The Busboy episode of Seinfeld as George started naming public toilets around New York I recognised a kindred spirit. In Sydney I always knew where my closest clean option was, but things are decidedly different when I'm in a strange land.

There have been times on my travels when I've been at the point of distraction, walking for blocks in strange cities looking for an option, pacing shopping malls trying to spot those familiar male and female figures with an arrow towards sweet relief.

Then I discovered the Toilet Finder app and the game changed.

As the name suggests, this free app helps you find the closest public toilet and I've used it in cities, towns, even in parks. When the call of nature called in Sanssouci Park, Potsdam and I hoped there was a closer option than the long walk back to the palace I wondered how well the app knew German gardens.

It turns out pretty well and I discovered there was a loo just out of sight behind some greenery.

The app has more than 150,000 toilets already listed, and also lets you know if they are free and wheelchair accessible.

While most public toilets sadly don't live up to George Costanza's "magnificent facilities" rating, the app does let you review the loo and even upload photos so that those who follow you know what to expect.

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Here in Australia we can usually find a free bathroom in a train station, shopping mall or department store, but in some other countries you'll find the old "spend a penny" concept still stands. Although the price has gone up.

The British euphemism for going to the bathroom has its roots in the coin operated public toilets in the UK that used to cost a penny. Well, for women. Men's urinals were free.

Coin-op toilets on the street can now be found in lots of cities including London, Paris, Amsterdam, and here at home in some Australian cities and towns, where you can buy some private time with muzak.

But it's not just the stand-alone toilets you'll need to save coins for when you're travelling through Europe. You may need to pay to use bathrooms in all sorts of public spaces, or tip the bathroom attendant in the restaurant or bar you're in, so I make sure to always save some coins from my change so I'm not caught short.

The Toilet Finder app is a travel essential.
The Toilet Finder app is a travel essential.

 

It's also a good idea to have a small packet of tissues on you at all times, as sometimes you'll need to pay for the luxury of toilet tissue. This is also a good rule here at home. I've lost count of the number of times I've seen women queued up waiting for the next cubicle with toilet paper to become available while those of us who BYO can walk right into the paperless spare loos.

Cafes and pubs are the other popular spots to pop into when you're out and about, though it is a good idea to buy a little something if you do, especially if it's a smaller establishment. While consuming drinks for the chance to use the bathroom may keep the whole cycle going, at least you're staying hydrated.

And the simplest rule of all when travelling is to always nip to the loo just before you leave your hotel, cafe, or restaurant. Take advantage of every clean bathroom opportunity along the way, and when you find a good one, don't forget to share it with the Toilet App so it can welcome more visitors from around the globe.

If only all public toilets looked as good as this recently opened roadside facility at Bohkegeargi in Norway. Picture: Hugo Fagermo / NPRA
If only all public toilets looked as good as this recently opened roadside facility at Bohkegeargi in Norway. Picture: Hugo Fagermo / NPRA

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