Know Before You Go: International Bathroom Etiquette

When you've got to go, you've got to go. Trust us: You don't want to wait until that exact moment while traveling abroad to try and figure out what the local etiquette and standards are for bathrooms. We've broken it down so when the time comes, you will be ready.

You may be flying by the seat of your pants on an international trip of a lifetime, but doing your research on loos around the world is imperative. You need to be aware that bathrooms may be called something different in other counties. For example, they may encounter water closets in many European countries abbreviated as "WC" in addition to "dunny" in Australia and "ben-jo" in Japan. Luckily, the man/woman images are a pretty universal indicator and widely used around the world so even if you aren't sure, you can still get a pretty good idea of what's up. Some public restrooms in Europe are gender neutral, so even better!

As absurd as it may seem, keep in mind that some bathrooms require you to pay a small fee before using them, so you never want to be caught short on cash or coin at any point—this is common in large cities in Europe: London, Paris, Amsterdam, et cetera. If there's a bathroom attendant, you should be sure to tip them—just as you would in the United States.

Unless you have been rustic camping, chances are you are not accustomed to carrying around your own toilet paper. However, there are countries that require it and you don't want to end up out of luck. Examples include parts of Thailand, Korea and China.

To flush or not to flush—that is the question you should also keep front of mind. Because not all plumbing systems are built to handle toilet paper, you may need to dispose of your toilet paper in a small trashcan nearby (which often serves as a clue to not flush, to begin with.) You may come across this in countries like Turkey, Mexico, Egypt, Ukraine and Greece. On the other hand, not flushing in some countries could leave you facing fines, like Singapore.

Certain countries like France, Italy, Japan and parts of the Middle East prefer to avoid paper products altogether, looking to bidets for personal hygiene.  In Asia you will likely run into bathrooms that require squatting over an in-ground toilet rather than sitting on the traditional porcelain toilet you are used to.

I hope these tips prove helpful during your international travels. 

Written by Sarah Suydam, Staff Writer for Groups Today.

Like these tips?  Contact Colesville Travel for more tips or to book your next vacation.

Travel AdviceCynthia Amin