It’s the moment we all dread in the Netherlands: having to use the loo when you’re out and about. There’s just one problem: where the heck are the public toilets around here? And why do you have to pay?
Picture this: you’re relaxing with your friends in the city, wandering from shop to shop — when suddenly you feel it. Your friends notice the flicker of fear in your eyes: you need the loo.
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In any other country, this would be no cause for concern — from Ireland to New Zealand, public toilets are commonplace, free, and relatively clean (most of the time).
But in the Netherlands, things are very different. If you need to go while you’re out of the house, you’re going to have to part with one of three things: your money, your dignity, or your comfort. Actually, you’ll probably have to part with them all. 😩
Why are Dutch toilets so expensive?
As anyone who has lived here for a while can tell you, Dutch toilets are not free of charge. Fees range from 25 cents to a whole euro, depending on city and location.
You might be wondering what all this money goes towards. Well, keep wondering because we have geen idee (no idea). Perhaps it’s just another Dutch quirk, lord knows they have a strange toilet culture in this country.
Presumably, some of the money pays the wages of the omnipresent toiletjuffrouw — the lady who takes your money when you’re entering the toilet (good for her, though. Respect the hustle).
Other than that, nobody seems to have a good answer as to why train stations, cafés, and restaurants all charge you for using their facilities.
But they’re clean, though, right?
You would think that by paying to use the toilet in the Netherlands, you would be paying for impeccably clean bathrooms, right? Nope!
According to the Dutch Toilet Organisation (yep, it’s a thing), only one in four toilets in the Netherlands is actually clean!
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In fact (it’s about to get worse), less than 16% of toilets in public areas, like train stations, pass the Dutch Toilet Organisation’s fit-for-purpose test.
Sneaking into café toilets is an option
Officially, most cafés will ask you for 50 cents if you use their toilets without buying something. However, you can decide to risk your dignity and sneak past the wait staff to the toilet in the back.
Legally, they can’t make you pay, though it is considered pretty rude. But hey, the Dutch are known for their directness — so there’s a limit to how offended they can get.
And nonetheless, in an emergency when you have no change in your pockets, it’s an option — if not the best option. 🤷
Toilets are actually pretty important
For most of us, the worst-case scenario is being uncomfortable for an hour or so until we get home to enjoy the luxury of a free, clean, private toilet.
But for people who have incontinence problems, have a health issue that affects their digestive system (like Crohn’s disease), or are pregnant, the lack of accessible public toilets in the Netherlands is a real problem.
As a result, some people don’t even leave their houses, the NOS once reported. How awful!
There’s no denying that the public toilet situation in the Netherlands is, well, 💩. But if you’re out, about, and desperate, there are some apps out there that help you find public toilets, such as HogeNood!
It won’t fix the lack of toilet paper or the horrifying inspection shelf — but at least you’ll be able to uncross your legs for a couple of minutes. 😅
Have you had any horrifying experiences with public toilets in the Netherlands? Let us know in the comments below!
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in September 2019 and was fully updated in August 2023 for your reading pleasure.