For a while now, I have been working on a list of tips and observations about living and traveling in Mexico, and it occurred to me that a number of them were related to using the restroom. Since this is such an important (and sometimes delicate) topic in itself, I decided to give you a heads-up about some concerns regarding toilet use in Mexico.
- If you go on a road trip, take a good amount of loose change with you. Many rest stops charge a fee for using the restroom. There will often be a person seated just outside of the restroom doors to take your change. Don’t expect anyone to break a bill of 200 pesos just so that you can go to the restroom. Nobody likes doing that. Sometimes there is no person at the entrance; instead, at the doorway there will be a revolving door of metal bars that only unlocks when you insert the appropriate change into a slot. Gas stations with restrooms are not as common as they are in the U.S., so don’t hold out for the next place, thinking you will find a free restroom anytime soon. Just be prepared… which goes along with the next thought:
- If you go on a road trip, take some rolls of toilet paper with you. Some public restrooms along the highways do not offer toilet paper. Others will have it, but they charge a fee for using the toilet paper. This has been the case during our travel throughout Nuevo León, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz. If you are not traveling the east coast, it is still better to be safe than soiled.
- If you go on a road trip, or if you are visiting folks in the country, take some extra bottled water with you. Aside from what you will want to take along to drink, take more just in case you find yourself at a location without sinks to wash your hands, or with plumbing that is not working properly.
- Don’t expect all public or private toilets to have seats! I remember accompanying Aron and his mom to the medical clinic (one of the times Aron got injured during my initial stay in Mexico) and being weirded out that the toilets were just the bare-bones. I ended up not using the toilet that day because it seemed a bit shady. Are they afraid people will steal or vandalize them (that is not sarcasm — that is a real question)? Is it a financial worry — do they simply refuse to splurge on the unnecessary cost of seats? I suppose it doesn’t make much of a difference, since you don’t want to touch them anyway, but it was something odd that I found to be very common where I went.
- Don’t expect changing tables, ever. If you are traveling with a young’un, plan to change diapers on a changing mat on the comfortable seat of your vehicle.
- While many homes have toilet fixtures, it is still common to have running water only outdoors, or only in the shower. In this kind of situation, the toilet handle is useless. There will generally be a bucket handy in the bathroom so that you can fill up from another water source and pour it directly into the toilet bowl. The water being poured from the bucket will force the dirty water down the drain, leaving the toilet ready for the next person to use.
- Unless otherwise instructed, don’t flush your toilet paper down the drain in any public or private restroom. Though I had become used to the idea at my now-husband’s home, I was surprised to see notes on the restroom stalls at my exchange university, requesting for us not to flush toilet paper; I had figured that a campus of its prestige would not have toilet problems, but it is important to follow the rule regardless. It has less to do with the power of the flush than what happens once the product gets into the pipes. Place the paper — regardless of how nasty it is (I would advise rolling it up in extra toilet paper as an additional courtesy measure) in the wastebasket. It seems primitive and gross, and it is a tough habit to get into! However, refraining from flushing the paper may prevent a huge headache and financial obligation in the future. Read more about it here: http://www.yucatanliving.com/yucatan-survivor/mexican-fosa-septica.htm — and take some time to read the comments, too!
If you have any questions, or if you have more to add to the toilet list, please feel free to share!