Destinations > France > French Toilets
Toilets in France
No matter where you travel, it's inevitable that sooner or later you'll need to use the toilet. France has perhaps the most interesting and varied public toilets in Europe. Like everywhere else you can't find them when you really need them - unless you know where to look.
A lot of Americans don't understand the European concept of paying to use the toilet. However travel is all about understanding and accepting foreign cultures - and let's face it, there are times when you'll pay anything to use a toilet.
Pay toilets come in three basic varieties:
Café toilets which have a coin mechanism on the door
These generally cost €0.20, although this type of pay toilet is fairly rare since most toilets in cafés are free for customers.
Public toilets where you pay the attendant
These are very common in train and bus stations and autoroute service areas. This is just like a regular toilet except there is usually an old lady (it's always an old lady) sitting at a table to collect the money. There is usually a price list with prices for different bodily functions, ie. number ones, number twos, use of the shower, etc. Guys sometimes get to pay a different price depending whether they use the cabine or urinoir. Expect to pay around €0.60.
Automatic street toilets
These high-tech self cleaning toilets come complete with rocking toilet seats and muzak. When you put your money in the coin slot, the door automatically opens (just like on Star Trek) and you step on a wet, freshly sanitised floor. In fact the whole toilet is sprayed with disinfectant after each use, which means the seat will be wet. Once you've paid your money you have 15 minutes to do the business, so you'd better be quick otherwise the door will automatically open and expose you to passing pedestrians. A lot of travellers think they can use these toilets for free by sneaking in while someone else is leaving. DON'T DO THIS! These toilets are automatically cleaned after each use. If you don't pay, the toilet thinks it is empty and will clean itself while you are in there. Expect the toilet bowl to disappear into the wall while you are sprayed with disinfectant. This happened to my mother! Despite the warnings, these toilets are well worth a go. It's all part of the European experience.
If you're broke and need to go, don't worry. There are still plenty of places in France with free toilets.
You can find free toilets in the following locations:
Fast Food Restaurants
American culture is alive and well in France, and as far as you are concerned this means free toilets. Just pop into any McDonalds, Quick or Burger King for toilets (real sit-down ones).
What's the point of paying to use toilets at the train station, when the toilets are free on the trains. Although you're not supposed to use train toilets when the train is in the station, you should be able to sneak on and do this. Just check the departure time before you do this, otherwise you could end up in Orlèans.
Gare Routière Eurolines - Paris
The Eurolines bus terminal in the Paris suburb of Bagnolet has free toilets. If you arrive in Paris by bus, make sure you go before you head into town. The bus station is located at Gallini metro station at the end of line 3.
The Georges Pompidou Centre
The Pompidou Centre has free toilets at both the entrance level, and in the BIP library on the third floor. You don't need to pay to get into the Pompidou Centre since the toilets are located in the entrance area. These are nice sit-down ones.
The Carrousel du Louvre
The underground shopping mall below the Louvre pyramid is a great spot. It's got great air-conditioning, a Virgin Megastore, shops, food court and post office and free toilets. You can find them near the entrance to the metro station and also downstairs near the car park entrance. You don't need to pay to go the Louvre in order to use their loos. These are nice sit-down ones.
The American Express office
Amex not only have credit cards, travellers cheques and insurance. They also have excellent public toilets in their office at 11, rue Scribe, Paris. Near the Opera metro station and Auber RER station.
Every café has toilets and around 90% of the time these are free. Technically these toilets are for customers only so it is a courtesy to order a coffee afterwards. Paying a euro for your coffee means these toilets aren't really free, still the coffee is good and its all part of the French experience. About 80% of café toilets are 'squat' or 'Turkish' style which you may find unusual at first, although generally these are cleaner since there's no contact with the seat and it is said that they promote better posture. Still they do take a bit of getting used to. Be careful when you flush these toilets since they spray water all over the place. Most café toilets are downstairs with the telephones and free postcards. Sometimes there is a urinal in this open telephone area that you have to walk past to get to the cabines. Some guys may feel a bit uncomfortable with the lack of privacy, especially if there are a couple of people using the phones while you're trying to have a piss.