Skip to main content

Loo, loo, skip the the loo....

Why do I love Paris?
Well there are a number of reasons I love Paris, but let me tell you the fact that there are plenty of loos around is one of the reasons why I  adore the place. I know what you are thinking, but I’ve been to a lot of cities & have wasted a lot of my holiday looking for that mythical loo.
The “Tardis” 
For those of you that have seen Dr Who, will know what I am alluding to. The Sanisette or Automatic Toilet. There are over 400 of these grey beasts spread across the city.They are self cleaning , free to use , ecofriendly, disabled friendly & some are even open 24/7! Yes they do break down, no system is perfect, but at least they have them & more importantly we have listed nearby alternatives!
Is it easy to use?
Simple answer yes, like anything new you come across it can look a little daunting at first.To use, check the indicator located outside to see if the Sanisette is occupied. If not, press the button and the door will open automatically. The area will be somewhat damp because the toilet is automatically cleaned after use. You can wipe the seat over before you sit down if you like but at least you know it has been disinfected and that is important with public loos! Whatever you do, don’t just walk straight in after another person because the cleaning cycle needs to do its thing. The loo disappears into the wall and this could prove highly embarrassing, not to mention possibly painful, if you are enthroned upon it.
Sanisettes can be temperamental. Sometimes you have fifteen minutes and sometimes twenty minutes before the cleaning begins and the door automatically opens. The toilet is self-flushing and a wash basin and soap is provided. To exit, push the button and the door will open again. Be a kind stranger and remind anybody waiting for you that the loo needs to self-clean before they step inside. You would be amazed at the number of people who just bolt in only to deeply regret it moments later.
What if I get locked in? 
The nervous traveller need not be afraid of these automatic Tardis like structures. You cannot get locked in. There is an emergency door function inside and outside the sanisette. If you do freak out entirely and just can’t get the emergency door to work, the fire department can gain access in seconds. You can be heard if you call out from inside if something does go wrong. Children under ten should not enter without supervision.
Do they have regular  Public Toilets?
Sadly, the publicly run public toilet with the formidable Madame Pipi has been replace by the privately owned public toilet. What’s the difference? Not much except the price. What use to be say a free trip with small tip expected for Madame has turned into small grocery trip with the added insult of being charged E 1.00-E 2.00 to use the loo. These new loos are awash with add on products everything from loo paper, crisps (packet of chips) to bottled water. Many of these toilets have been completely renovated & not only offer all the mod cons they also have Baby Changing Facilities They have even included disabled facilities where possible. The biggest company is 2theloo, with the Toilets at Notre Dame Printemps & the Louvre just to name a few. The most high-end loo I found was Toilette de Luxe on the Champs-Elysées. These designer loos come from a French couple based in London & these stunning loos are marbled throughout, have a concierge to direct you to a loo & an assigned fragrance for men & women!  I know the mind boggles…

I could just pop into Starbucks,McDonalds or Burger King couldn’t I? 

Well you could but you may need to take a decontamination suit with you! Gone are the days when a traveller feeling a bit of culture shock could safely run into  something they knew from home , relax,  have something to eat, have a pee & then newly refreshed  go on there merry way . No, forget it, Fastfood joints are not a haven for a shell shocked traveller. I won’t talk about the food standards, because that is way off topic & I would be here all day railing about it…..but hygiene, well I don’t know where to start. Let me start by saying I have no intentions of getting into a political argument, but these are my observations. 1. There is more automation. 2. There is less staff. 3. There are designated no cleaners 4. There not paid well. 5.The customers are less respectful. 
What do I mean “less respectful’

Let me be blunt . If there is urine all over the floor, why should some poor kid be expected to mop that up! If you have allowed your kid or you have peed all over the seat aren’t you responsible? Now I won’t gross you out by going into detail, but while we all complain about them being dreadful, at some point we need to take personal responsibility for our own behaviour!
In saying this I am in no way letting these companies of the hook. The floor should be swept, toilet rolls changed, soap dispenser refilled you know the basics .These basics should be done. So should a broken door lock be replaced  as well as a non working loo etc …. Here endth the rant LOL
Needless to say, they aren’t what they used to be. Expect to find codes needed for entry, & jeton/token needed to be wrestled from a surly man child so you can access the loo. No lock , a broken lock & even a security guard checking receipts to allow access. All of the above is what you can now expect…as well as a dirty facility

How about I just pop into a Café or restaurant?
Well, there is nothing to stop you, just an eagle eyed owner at the bar or a waiter/ress hovering around the front. We have included places that are normally busy & therefore allow easy dare I say, access to the loos. Remember, you do not have any right to use these facilities & many have placed a jeton/ token lock on the door to stop the intrepid local & tourist. If you do get caught, the best thing to do is to look at them as if they are crazy, & just order a coffee & sit down. They will still be cranky, but confused thinking you just wanted to wash up before ordering.  
Hotel toilets are always clean, so I can just pop in can’t I ?
Let me first start by saying in theory yes, the larger the better, but ever since the terrorist attack, security has been beefed up in all hotels. This doesn’t mean you can’t skulk in & use there normally excellent facilities, it just means schlepping in with your “ I am a tourist t-shirt, shorts & backpack, will see you ejected & humiliated with out mercy. Use your discretion & dress appropriately 
Can I just go into the townhall or library & use their loo?
Well in theory yes. I have sat through interminable arguments with relatives & friends who debate endlessly about, well everything, but access to public areas is always at the top of the list. At the end of the day, it is a public space,& therefore should be available to the public.Now whether you can make it past the librarian to get to access the loo, well that’s up to you to debate them about public space LOL  I hope this answer satisfies family & friends
Do they have shopping galleries & stores with a loo?

 Happily or sadly which ever way you want to look at it, the shopping gallery that you see at home will look suspiciously just like the ones in Paris. Same confusing lay out over many levels , the only difference being that you will have to pay to use the toilet.The cost is roughly E 1.00 and they do normally have disabled & baby changing facilities. The local dept store of course have toilets some like Printemps that have outsourced to 2thelooo will charge you any where from E 1.00 to E 2.00. Why the price difference  ? One is a regular loo, the other a Japanesse style…whatever!
Happily Galleries Layfette still have free facilities at there main store in the 9arr. They may not be perfect, but there free & pretty much can be found on most levels
We are going on a picnic this weekend, what are the loos like in parks?
Pretty much hit & miss.Like most things in this world there are no guarantees. Some are part of a kiosk/toilet cabine.While others will be in a free standing fixture. These free standing fixtures used to be attended, but alas no more. Remember bring your own supplies!

I always have trouble finding toilets in a train station, have you given directions? 

Of course we have,! Who wants to wander around a train station with all your luggage looking for a toilet. In the gare de Lyon for example we have photos so you can easily follow the directions to the loo. Let me tell you it was not easy.Remember, in the larger stations they are free standing privately run toilets. While in most of the metro stations they are automatic toilets ie similar to the sanisettes.
Are they all really horrible in museums & galleries?

Too easy, YES. If the toilet is near the entrance or the café , make the assumption that every person who has entered into the building has used these! Also at the end of the day, it is always worse. I still remember in horror at the Musee d’Orsy loos in the afternoon. All bets were off. It took me a while to figure out which were mens & which were womens & then trying to figure which one was the cleanest. Oh the horror! ☹ Best advice I can give you.Go to the ones furthest from the entrance or off the tourist track
You only mention some parking stations, why?

I  or someone I know has used them. I don’t really want to direct you to some other really dodgy looking toilet in a garage.The only other area we have included parking stations has been Monaco.
Any improvement with disabled toilets or baby changing ?

For the disabled traveller the answer is a definite yes. All sanisettes are disabled friendly & all the new privately run public toilets where possible also have disabled facilities.This is also the case with museums & galleries As usual we have include all places that we are aware that have disabled facilities.
Baby Changing is altogether another issue.The privately run public toilets all have baby changing facilities as do most Costa Coffee cafes. If your are in the 9 arr head over to Galleries Lafayette for access to their free nursery area. These places do exist, just look for the purple elephant symbol on the map