Free toilet


David Whitley takes a look at the options for when desperation strikes and keeping the bladder happy is the most important thing in life

Needing to go to the loo is an unavoidable part of life. And that’s fine when you’re at home, or at school, or in an office – you just go and do what needs to be done. When you’re travelling, however, it all gets a bit trickier. If you’re wandering around on your own, you don’t necessarily know where the toilets are. If you’re lucky, you might find a public WC, but there are often charges attached. Just how much are you prepared to pay for a leak?

Finding a free toilet is something of an art. You have to know where to look, and how to behave once there. Of course, the mature way is to just walk in somewhere and ask if you can use the toilet – they’ll rarely say no, even if signs say the restrooms are for customers only. But they might, and asking can be a bit embarrassing. So most of us will buy something we don’t want in order to feel justified going in.

But what about when you don’t want to have to spend a penny to spend a penny? Well, there are few places to look out for.

The first is fast food joints. They’ll usually have a toilet, and they’ll usually be busy enough for you to sneak through to the loo without them noticing you. But many fast food places have rumbled the free poo brigade, and lock the toilet doors. That involves buying something and making a humiliating request for a key.

Department stores are excellent – they’re usually a sure fire bet for having a loo. You may have to ride a few escalators to find it, but it’ll be there and no-one’s going to get officious about you using it. Shopping malls are a fairly safe bet too. But what about when the shops close?

Pubs, bars and restaurants are next on the list. Restaurants are bad, as there’s usually someone at the entrance wanting to show you to your seat. If the only seat you’re interested in is made of porcelain, then this is a conversation you really don’t want.Some bars and pubs are better than others to. A quiet one where you have to walk past the barman to get to the toilet is bad news, but if it’s busy you’re likely to be in luck. The secret is to walk stridently to the back of the pub, and look around as if you’re trying to find where your friends are sitting. This should buy you enough time to clock where the toilets are and slink into them.

The same approach applies to using the loo in a hotel you’re not staying at. First, you need to pick the right one. A small place with just one reception desk by the entrance is a no-no. You’ve got very little chance of getting past without conversation. Bizarrely, the bigger and posher the hotel, the better it is for a scruffy oik just walking in off the street. They tend to have bigger lobbies you see.

It’s crucial, however, to look like you’re meant to be there. Walk in, stop and look around as though you’re lost, and someone will pounce on you. Stroll in purposefully, nod to the doorman and walk to the back, and you’re rocking. If you go too far, make it look like you’re looking at a picture on the wall or a tour leaflet. Freestyle it, then you should be able to buy yourself enough time to see where the toilets are and use them as if you’ve always been entitled to do so. If you’re lucky, they may have marble clad walls and scented individual hand towels too. Because you’re worth it.


It’s all gone highbrow – share your free poo strategies by leaving a comment below:


How to tackle a tropical city round the world



There’s an argument for Kuala Lumpur being rather underrated. It has a surprising amount to do – Bird Park, caves, big towers to clamber up – as well as a big shopping scene and no shortage of good food. It may not be the sexiest place in South-East Asia, but it’s an enjoyable place to spend a few days, and far less draining than some of its counterparts in the region.

But Kuala Lumpur is, undeniably, hot and sweaty. Being so near the equator guarantees that. And this means you can’t really tackle it with the full-on whirlwind force you might apply to New York, Melbourne or Paris.

So, bearing that in mind, how DO you best go at a tropical city? Well, here are a few rules that generally work out for the best…


Do stuff early

The heat and sweatiness generally snowballs throughout the day, so if there are any activities you can tackle first thing in the morning – particularly anything that involves a fair bit of walking – do it then. It’ll still be fairly sticky going, but there will be at least a few wafts of freshness to stop it being too unpleasant.


Relish air-conditioning

Even if you’re not particularly into shopping malls, in tropical cities they’re often more relaxing and refreshing than the nice park you might otherwise head to. The remarkable cooling powers of air conditioning can really change your mood after you’ve been slogging away outside for a while. This also applies to museums as well as malls – save them for a bit later in the day when the aircon will suddenly make the exhibits much more interesting.


Take a nap

When the rain comes, it usually comes heavily, and you almost certainly don’t want to get caught in it. Luckily, it’s usually pretty predictable in when it arrives – and can be expected around 3pm after a day spent building up. This is a very good time to be back at the hotel, and to take a nap for a couple of hours. By then, there’s a strong chance you’ll be tired anyway. Just give into it.


Change clothes in the evening

If you’re trying to ration the amount of clothing you wear, the tropics can be a nightmare. Ideally, you want at least two sets of clothing per day. But if you can’t do that, then the time to change is before going out in the evening. The clothes you wear then will probably get a little sweaty, but will be just about passable for the next day. Do it the other way round and change in the mornings hoping to wear them all day, and you are in trouble, my friend.



Just pay for a damn taxi

Walking a mile to that restaurant is probably going to be highly unpleasant, and the taxi will cost the equivalent of a couple of quid. Don’t be so tight.


Pick a hotel with a pool

Hotels in South-East Asia are usually relatively cheap (although Singapore is an exception here), so you can aim for higher standards than normal. Get a hotel with a pool, and you can happily spend the afternoon half naked, reading and having an occasional splash. Scrimp elsewhere when you’re more bothered about exploring the city.