I saw Long road trips in Iceland - where to relieve ourselves? and it reminded me of my first trip overseas.

I'm American, the 'paying for restroom' principle is foreign to me. When I was in Rome I found many of the restrooms had someone outside collecting a fee. But, there wasn't any signage or a physical barrier to entry like you might find at a train station.

Some attendants could be observed doing cleaning or some sort of chore, but others did not seem to be doing much other than yelling at tourists about the fee.

In mainland EU (or anywhere else), how does one verify that the individual(s) collecting fees outside restrooms are "authorized" to do so?

  • 2
    In my experience with paying restrooms, the attendant, usually a woman, will be dressed for the job, looking like a cleaning lady.
    – Max
    Commented Apr 12, 2016 at 19:38
  • You've apparently never been to San Francisco. Commented Apr 12, 2016 at 20:49
  • @MichaelHampton nope, not for leisure. I've run into places in NYC that don't allow use, but then again I speak the local language. Commented Apr 13, 2016 at 11:12

1 Answer 1


In countries where paying for toilets is common, if you see a plate with a sign for an amount near the toilet, or a box with a slot for coins in the top, you pay. You can check the owner/management of the place or ask a regular customer, but basically tourists almost never do.

There might be some scammers, but they will be few and far between. The regulars of the place will ask the management if there are now paid toilets where there never used to be, in which case the management will take action.
As a tourist and one time visitor you just pay, or do not use the toilet.

In some countries you will see a sign that reads (often only in the local language) "free for customers, others pay €0.50" or 'ask for the code at the till'.
Staff in those places are used to foreign visitors who do not understand, they are used to being asked about it, and again, if you do not want to pay for the service, you are free not to use it.

In some countries, under which the Netherlands, all places where you can sit to eat or drink have to have a toilet and usually those are free for customers. But some companies, including McDonalds, have people working the system, asking all people to pay even when they are eating in the restaurant. Not sure whether it is within the law, but those are the places that have to be very careful to collect the money as the highest percentage of people will try to get out of it.

I am Dutch, I travel often in Europe and I am often already happy to see a toilet you have to pay for, as free ones on the streets for women are very rare where I live and travel.

  • Thinking of McDonalds, in France they usually give the pin for the toilet on the receipt, but it is relatively common for people to ask customers for the pin.
    – Vince
    Commented Apr 12, 2016 at 20:42
  • I have to admit that the McD info might be out of date, have not been to their place for a few years now.
    – Willeke
    Commented Apr 12, 2016 at 20:43
  • I've also seen a system where you get a little receipt from the toilet that is a discount coupon. Those are common in gas stations. I've seen them in Netherlands, France and Germany. But those do have a gate.
    – Belle
    Commented Apr 12, 2016 at 23:24
  • Excellent, thanks. Yeah I managed to find a Burger King that didn't have a lock on their restroom, which I used a few times. Mostly I was confused at the ones I saw under bridges and whatnot where it seems it might be public because there's no real business owner. Attire and the fact that scammers are few and far between are good enough indicators for me. Thanks! Commented Apr 13, 2016 at 11:10

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