Any traveler from a pedestal-toilet culture who’s walked into a Turkish or Japanese public restroom with the Old School porcelain hole in the floor for the first time, knows: there’s a world of difference in the way some cultures, er, take care of business. Here’s what to expect from restrooms and toilets in Bangkok and much of Thailand.
It’s all pretty standard, really. Toilets are Western-style but often offer little trigger-handled bidet hoses. Men will have urinals; the fancier ones will pre-flush right as you step up to them.
Public restrooms are easy to come by in commercial areas of Bangkok. Malls are good; McDonalds and Starbucks and other omnipresent franchises are safe bets. Considering how dirty the big city can be, many of the restrooms are surprisingly well taken care of. Gas stations around town will have them but these tend to be the least maintained and in some cases might be a bit awkwardly exposed for the gentlemen. (I’ve stood at a urinal at a bus station and I was more or less face to face with kitchen staff over a window sill at chin level, but here’s the most public toilet in Bangkok.) In some cases of public restrooms there is an attendant by the door charging 3-5 baht cover charge, like a nightclub without the drink minimum. Inside MBK shopping complex this is the case. Others may charge only for toilet paper.
Most temples have basic facilities… somewhere. Golden Mount has a notably nice loo in a small café near the top of the climb.
Men, if you walk into the restroom and find a woman in there you may still be in the right place: cleaning staff in most malls and many office buildings and restaurants are in there constantly. This is a good thing, though it may give some gents a case of stage fright. Use a stall… and expect the mop to be reaching under the door as well.
Toilet paper is likely stocked in downtown malls and restaurants. The less fancy the place, however, the more likely you may have to bring it along with you. Outside the city, I’d highly recommend your own supply.
Soap often runs out at the sink. Pack a bottle of anti-bacterial hand wash. (You should have this with you anyway. How many people touched that door handle today in a city of over 10 million? You don’t need to be Howard Hughes about this, but… why chance it?)
In some cases you will be in a neighborhood that does not have any obvious latrines. Try to refrain from outdoor urination. Some locals do it, but it’s still frowned upon. Ducking into a small local restaurant is typically OK, though some may expect you to at least buy a drink or something.
One of the coolest restrooms in Bangkok. At Hundred Children, a great place for tea and coffee.
Looking for the bathroom? Restroom? Little boys’/girls’ room? If you want to ask in Thai, say “Hong nahm yoo tee nai?” If that gets you nowhere because of the tricky tonal language, you might try “toilet” or “WC” as well as “restroom” or “bathroom.”
One word of caution: you may see public toilets, standing alone like a phone booth under a Skytrain station in the street or the like. Just don’t.
Venturing out of Bangkok or even on to Chiang Mai? Check our Chiang Mai blog for more potty training.