The Travelling Woman’s Search for Public Restrooms
Whether travelling on business or vacation, going out on the town, shopping or just running errands, women on the go need to pay special attention to the potential health risks of ignoring nature’s call.
Recent studies have shown that one out of every three will have at least one painful encounter with urinary tract infection (UTI) before the age of 24. Most commonly caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli), a bacterium found in the lower intestine – an onset of UTI can be triggered by activities such as sexual intercourse or diaphragm use, or by circumstances such as pregnancy, diabetes or urinary tract abnormalities.
In addition to these triggers, one other possible cause of a UTI is retaining urine for long periods of time. Medical experts urge women to keep their systems flushed of potentially threatening bacteria by staying hydrated and urinating when they first feel the need.
More than 70 percent (70.9 percent) of women recently reported that they have delayed urinating because they are either too busy, not near a bathroom or cannot find sanitary facilities. Contacting a healthcare professional is essential to receive proper diagnosis and treatment. The survey found that more than a third (34.9 percent) of women between the ages of 35 and 44 said they do make the decision to delay urinating at least once a day.
Of course, women who drink the doctor-recommended six to eight glasses of water a day need access to a readily available network of toilet facilities. Unfortunately, public restrooms – especially clean, safe and convenient ones – are a precious commodity in many cities, and they are practically non-existent in some of the more remote tourist destinations. Finding these is a challenge for even the most travel-savvy woman.
The best tools any woman can equip herself with when she is away from the home or office are preparation and information. The thing to remember about restrooms and travel is to ‘go’ before you go and know where to go, wherever it is you are going. If you cannot determine specific locations of public restrooms before your trip, at least familiarise yourself with the kind of places you can depend on to provide clean and safe facilities.
With just a little bit of research and preparation, women can avoid contracting a painful case of UTI when on the road. Getting to a reputable healthcare professional as soon as possible for diagnosis and treatment (often with an antibiotic) of the underlying infection, which causes the UTI, is essential. Depending on where you are in the world, this may take a little time to arrange.
Skip to the Loo Before You Leave
Take your mother’s advice and go to the bathroom before you leave, whether you are going on that dream vacation to Bali or just on a trip to the local market. You never know when your next opportunity will present itself. Even if you do not actually have to urinate at the moment, you may be surprised at the power of suggestion once you get to the restroom.
Commode on the Road
Extended periods of travel – whether by planes, trains or automobiles – can mean long, painful waits between trips to the ladies’ room. Travel-savvy women have their antennae tuned to every available opportunity to visit the bathroom while on the road.
At the airport, visit the toilet before setting off for what may be a very long walk down the concourse to your gate and an even longer wait once you arrive at the check-in counter. Know your aircraft – some smaller jets have only one restroom, meaning longer waits. If the restroom location is not obvious, ask a flight attendant before take-off.
It is OK to use the lavatory on airplanes immediately after boarding, as long as you are buckled in before take off. Stash your bags first, then head for the rear of the plane so you won’t be going against traffic in the aisle. After take-off, go as soon as the seatbelt light goes off, but move fast because you are likely to have competition. Another good time to use the restroom is the moment the pilot announces the plane’s descent. On arrival at the airport, use the first toilet you find; if that one is crowded, go to the next. If you wait until you get to baggage claim, you may have to stand in a line.
Although some subway systems take pride in providing clean restrooms, never assume you will find a public toilet at a subway station. Even if you wanted to go to the bathroom down there, the facilities at the few stations that have them may have been closed for years.
On trains, locate restrooms before you are seated. Trains are often more accommodating than airplanes or buses because most have facilities at both ends of each car. At the bus station, use the toilet before boarding. City buses don’t have bathrooms. Travel coaches usually have only one toilet for dozens of passengers, use the toilet near the check-in counter before getting behind the wheel. It may be a long wait until the next exit.
Be On The Lookout
Knowing where to look for public restrooms once you arrive can make any trip more enjoyable. Larger shops and departmental stores usually provide clean, even luxurious restrooms for their customers, and women can reliably expect these facilities to be clean and safe. Restaurants, cafes and even coffee shops also provide toilets for their patrons. Many hotels have restrooms in their lobby areas. Churches that are open to the public will not turn someone away in an emergency.
Just remember, seize the chance while you are a customer. No one owes you a free toilet, so if you duck in somewhere just to use the bathroom, be prepared to pay, buy something small – a pack of gum or a biscotti – or make a donation.
National parks and historic sites are safe bets for public toilets. Before embarking on a sightseeing tour, use the facilities at the tour company before you board the bus. If you are attending a concert or a show, use the restroom before leaving the auditorium or theatre. You never know how long it will take you to hail a cab and get back to your home or hotel.
While shopping or dining, use the restroom before setting off for your next destination. Stores often locate restrooms in such a way that women have to wend through the merchandise, so you may find something on your way in that you want to buy on your way out. Look for the directory at the elevators to locate the nearest ladies’ room so you won’t have to take the time to find a sales clerk.
Even though many flights and destinations are less crowded, security is tighter, lines are longer and opportunities for a quick or last-minute dash to the restroom are not as abundant.
If you have to check baggage, obtain a boarding pass or purchase tickets, go to the restroom before getting in line at the ticket counter. The same applies to clearing security. If there is no toilet near ticketing, it may be worth a quick trip to another area of the airport. Remember, if you are travelling alone, you cannot ask someone to watch your luggage for you once you are in line.
Some regulations require passengers to remain seated for the last 30 minutes of the flight. For short hops, that means no bathroom visits for the entire flight. Make sure to go at the gate or visit the lavatory before take-off. You also might want to reconsider having that soda when the beverage cart rolls by.
Security measures at museums, public buildings and some tourist attractions mean long lanes and long waits to enter before you can even ask where the restroom is. Treat these facilities as you would airports. Expect to have your purse or bag searched. Remove jewelry and take keys and change out of your pockets before going through metal detectors. Be prepared to be patted down.
Regardless of your destination or your mode of travel, the key to avoiding urinary tract infections while away from home is to make your visits to the bathroom frequent. Equally important is to make them safe, so always look for facilities that are well-lighted, frequented by others and away from less reputable parts of town.