This odd-looking pod is a Sanisette or, what I affectionately call, a RoboLoo. They scare the hell out of me here in the states and they scared the hell out of me in Paris but they're awfully nice when you have to go NOW: anyone sightseeing a very small child knows exactly what I mean. They're also great for people who use wheelchairs or can't climb stairs as they're fully handicap accessible. Best of all? They're free and always clean. Yessiree. Just enter, do your business, wash, exit, and the thing locks down and cleans itself. There are about 400 of these autopotties around Paris and you can find their locations here:
And you can find a photo of the operating panel and a brief description on how they work here:
(Thanks to both resources I borrowed from!)
Be aware: these should never be used unassisted by children aged 10 or under, and most are not in service from around 10:00 PM (22:00) until early morning. They also automatically open after about 20 minutes so don't bring the newspaper for a nice long sit-down.
As many have reported, the French approach to toilets is, um, different. Not before time, there now are free toilets in some streets, but finding a public toilet often is not easy (eg the Halles shopping complex, you may well have to go to a different level): then expect to pay! (In all fairness, the 'pay' toilets were generally well kept). I was suitably astounded at Gare Montparnasse to find the cost of the public toilets 'Pourquoi êtes vous ici: pipi? C’est 0.40€'. Bloody hell, getting rid of a drink costs more than having it! So it is hardly surprising that from time to time, your nostrils will be assailed by the stench of rancid urine as you walk past doorways, laneways or whatever. As I said, accept it, that’s how it is!
(OOH sohng lay twa-LEHT?)
For the first-time traveler, restrooms in Europe can be interesting. Finding them can be an adventure. Using them can be an experience. We found the public potties in Paris to be no exception. The best of them are in museums and big hotels, and the most difficult to access are in cafes and restaurants; usually tucked away in the basement, down a steep flight of stairs. This is no problem for the sure-footed but a challenge for anyone unable to manage steps without assistance. Sometimes luxuries like seats, towels, soap, hot water and paper are optional.
Here are a few potty-planning tips to simplify the process:
• Always "go" before you leave the hotel
• Always tuck a pack of tissues and antibacterial wet-wipes in your bag
• Make a run for les toilette at every museum or cafe you visit - even if you don't think you need to
• By all means stop into a cafe to use their facilities - but expect to purchase something
• It's not unusual to find just one facility for use by both sexes
• Some are very tiny spaces: if you have more than one small child, you may have to take them in turns
• Many do not have baby-changing stations. Find a discrete bench, nice department store or hotel biffy somewhere for a lingerie swap
• Most are flushed not by a lever but by pressing a panel on the wall above
• You may run into the "hole in the floor" version but most likely only in men's facilities
• Some of them have attendants who keep them clean and stocked. In these cases, you'll be expected to fork over anywhere from 20 cents to a euro for the privilege; always have some change in your pocket.
And most importantly: do NOT wait until it's critical to find one - especially with recently trained small persons in tow!
See my next tip for another interesting option - especially if handicapped.
When I was in Paris, I usually had to pay a Euro if I wanted to use a public bathroom. This isn't the case with EVERY Parisian toilet, but usually in large shopping centres and some museums you need to deposit change in order to open the stall door to the toilet. Otherwise there'd be a lady sitting outside the washroom and I'd have to pay her cash so she would give me a key to open the stall. I'm not sure if it's like this in other parts of the world, but where I come from it certainly isn't the case. Make sure you have some change on you at all times incase you need to use the washroom ( you don't have to pay if you're just going in there to check your hair or change a baby.) Those things are free of charge.
If I remember correctly toilets were not free in Paris, as they are not free in any city in France, you are supposed to pay 40-50cents to automatic toilets or to the ones that are supervised.
There are now on the streets of Paris these automatic toilets that were transformed from "payant" (with a fee) to "non-payant" (free). Just check the availability and push the button to open.
Pay attention if you never used this automatic toilets! Don't enter the toilet immediately after another person, as after each use the door is closing and a washing cycle of up to one minute begins. So wait for the wash to finish then push the button to open the door for you.
Everyone who has travelled to Paris knows how difficault it is to find a nice toilet when you need one...well. look no futher than the nearest parking lot! Vinci, the company that runs the parking lots in Paris, has 131 underground parking lots all over the city. You will know they are there by the blue and white "P" sign.
Find the stairway that takes you down into the parking lot. DO NOT walk down the auto ramp...this is very dangerous since they are very narrow and curved so drivers can't see you. You will find toilets either on a stairwell landing or just off the stairwells in the parking area, usually on the -1 level. They are generally clean.
And as a bonus, you can enjoy the piped in music or sound of birds chirping and / or perfume of the parking structure!
It may be a vulgar topic but also a practical concern.
The solutions :
* PUBLIC LAVATORY : there is a sign (generally not free, some in the metro stations).
* TRAIN STATIONS (idem);
* MUSEUMS (but often after the entrance);
* DEPARTMENT STORES : at the ground floor ;
* PUBLIC PARKINGS : at the -1 floor (generally free). If you do not find them ask the cashier, he does not check your parking ticket
* SANISETTE (small booths on the footpaths as shown on the photograph. Now free in Paris -
See : http://www.atkielski.com/inlink.html?/PhotoGallery/Paris/General/SanisetteSmall. tml);
* FAST FOODS (if there is a code on the toilet lock, find a ticket from a customer : there is the code on it OR wait at the door),
* Enter in a crowdy COFFEE SHOP and go directly to the toilets.
The free toilets can be dirty and the paying ones are sometimes not clean.
The staff (in French : Dame Pipi) is often rude.
I advice you, as an example, to try the managing director of the toilets which are at the bottom of Sacre Coeur, on the right. You would be lucky if you don't understand French.
Public toilets are non existent. Make sure you use them when available like at museums, hotels and restaurants. I was eating at one restaurant and went to use the bathroom but couldn't figure out how to work the door. You needed a token which a sympathetic waiter handed me without my asking. The only problem. There were three: one said "water closet" the other said something like "toilette" and I can't remeber what the third said. I didn't know what to pick and ended up trying the one that said "toilette". I opened the door and saw a hole in the floor and that was it. I didn't even try. I think I was supposed to use the one that said "water closet".
Thanks to: http://www.travellady.com/Issues/June05/1520atoilettimidtourists.htm for the following paragraph:
The coin operated automatic street toilets are tremendous. My first experience with such a high-tech self cleaning toilet (complete with rocking toilet seats and music) was in Paris.
At this juncture I feel compelled to issue a couple of warning.
After you’ve fed it the required coinage, the door opens automatically and you walk into a newly disinfected wet floored toilet. Actually, the whole toilet is decontaminated and dosed with disinfectant following each use, leaving a wet seat. You have fifteen minutes to go, so there can be no hanging about as the door automatically open, exposing you to the world.
My teenage son thought he could save a few coins by ducking in whilst someone was exiting. No doubt he had forgotten my warnings of earlier and was promptly sanitised -- the toilet received no payment so thought it was empty and retracted the toilet bowl into the wall (with him still on it), then sprayed him with sterilizer.
This person's teenage son had the same "experience" as I did. Last year, my friend Robbie and I were on a school trip to Paris (we're both Americans born in 1992; last year was 2007).
We were walking together when nature called. Robbie had to urinate while I had to do "both." (We described our actions more "vulgarly," but I'll keep it clean for this forum).
Robbie went in first to urinate. He came out and held the door open for me. I went in and, within no more than 20 seconds after I pulled down my pants and sat on the toilet, I felt the toilet pull back from my bare butt. I didn't know what the heck was going on! The bathroom then began to "self-sanitize." I got a little wet, but I was more shocked than anything. Robbie heard the unusual noise and was banging on the door to see if I was all right. I tried to open the door but it wouldn't open until the sanitizing was finished.
After that, I opened the door (my pants were pulled up, but I was at that point about to mess myself) and fumbled for change. Luckily, Robbie had the correct change. He put the change in the slot. After I shut the door, the toilet then folded out like a sofa couch. I was then able to pull down my pants and sit on the toilet. The room actually smelled pretty nice after the sanitation, but any pleasant smell was soon overcome by my "duty." I had to go a lot and I was in there for nearly 15 minutes. There was just enough time for me to wipe (yes, there was toilet paper in there) and wash my hands. Just as I finished, the door automatically opened.
I later found out that these toilets are on a 15 minute timer. The bathroom sinks weren't that thorough, so luckily I had some Purell (an alcohol hand cleaning gel) which I rubbed on my hand and between my fingers.
Nick and I had a good laugh about this afterwards. We warned other classmates (especially the girls, since they have to sit regardless) not to sneak in for free after somebody else has used one of those sidewalk toilettes.
Le Bon Marche (on the Left Bank) is a snooty department store where you can drop 200+ Euros on a bra and 5000+ Euros on an haute couture little number. Interestingly enough, however, Le Bon Marche may be one of the only locales in Paris where you can use very clean bathrooms for FREE (that is, if you don't get kicked out for playing with the wigs in the accessories dept. downstairs). Just don't be surprised if the lady in the stall next to you comes out with her poodle, too. It is Paris, after all.
There are lots of self-cleaning toilets (known as sanisettes) on boulevards and in parks throughout the city.
After each use the toilet is automatically cleaned and disinfected by a motorized mechanism, and a green light signals that the lavatory is ready for the next user.
They come in several styles, but all have the same basic design.
You should know:
Sanisettes are normally open from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m.
And the door opens automatically after 15 minutes.
Check the control panel to see if the sanisette is occupied.
Press the button to open the door (in some cases you will need to insert two 20-cent coins).
There's no need to flush - the sanisette will do that for you.
Toilets - You will find public toilets all over Paris which look like a big phone box. You have to pay 2 FF to use them but you are almost guaranteed a clean toilet every time. This is because after they are used, the entire inside of the toilet is automatically sprayed with water - the floor and walls included. When you enter the toilet you may find the seat to be wet but don't worry it is clean water. Just use some toilet paper to wipe it over! More than one person can use the toilet for each 2 FF as long as you hold the door open for them. Don't worry about being sprayed though - the floor has pressure sensors!!
A guide that lets you quickly spot on a map the location of the nearest sanisette (free public toilet). And so you don't have to rush in a café and spend your money !(drinks are especially expensive in tourist areas)
To obtain this Ebook, simply download it !