It’s the moment we all dread in the Netherlands: needing 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 to go to the bathroom in the Netherlands?
Picture this: you’re relaxing with your friends in the city, wandering from shop to shop after a stop at a Dutch café for delicious coffee and apple cake — when suddenly you feel it.
Your friends notice the flicker of fear in your eyes, and they ask what’s wrong. Taking a deep breath, and wishing that you’d actually had something stronger with your cake, you reply: I need the loo.
In any other country, this would be no cause for concern — from Ireland to New Zealand, public toilets are commonplace, free, and relatively clean (mostly).
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 lose all these. 😩
Why are Dutch toilets so expensive?
As anyone who has lived here for a while can tell you, Dutch toilets (WC = water closet) are not free of charge. Another major fail, if you ask me. Fees range from 25 cents to a whole euro, depending on city and location.
Train stations, cafés, and restaurants will all charge you to use their facilities. 😠
You might be wondering what all this money goes towards. Well, keep wondering, because we have geen idee (no idea). According to the Dutch Toilet Organisation, only one in four toilets in the Netherlands is actually clean!
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! Actually, less than 16% of toilets in public areas like train stations pass the Dutch Toilet Organisation’s fit-for-purpose test.
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).
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Sneaking into café toilets is an option
Officially, most cafés will ask you for 50 cents if you use their toilets without buying something. But 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. 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, for example), 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 house, reports NOS. How awful!
There’s no denying that the public toilet situation in the Netherlands is, well, 💩. But if you are out, about, and desperate, there are some apps out there that help you find public toilets! These apps are available in many countries including the Netherlands.
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!
Feature Image: shisuka/Depositphotos
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in September 2019 and was fully updated in September 2021 for your reading pleasure.