Using the bathroom in most Latin American countries may be different than what you are used to in the United States. I’m going to save you the trouble of having to learn the hard way (like I did) with a few helpful tips.
Note that bathroom facilities are going to vary greatly between countries and within countries. Some of these tips are more true in some places than others.
- In most Latin American countries, you cannot flush paper down the toilet. This is why you will typically find a small trash bin in every stall in a public bathroom. Put your used toilet paper there. If you try to flush toilet paper down the toilet, you may get away with it if it’s a small amount. But eventually, you will seriously clog up the plumbing. And for God’s sake, do not try and flush “flushable” wet wipes or tampons. Why is Latin American plumbing unable to handle toilet paper while U.S. plumbing can? If you have a good answer, leave it in the comments. But unless you are affirmatively told that it is safe to flush toilet paper in a particular building, don’t do it.
- Some public restrooms will not have toilet paper at all. And some will have a single toilet paper dispenser near the entrance of the bathroom. If you don’t grab some on the way to the toilet, you may be in for a messy surprise. If you want to be extra safe, I recommend keeping a small amount of toilet paper in your purse or pocket when you leave the house.
- Some public restrooms will have toilets with no toilet seats. I’m not sure why this is. Is the toilet seat too expensive? Do they get stolen? If you know, leave a comment. But in any event, it is not uncommon to be faced with just a cold ceramic rim.
- Pay toilets are very common in Latin America. Depending on the country, the cost will be about a quarter. An attendant will typically give you a small amount of toilet paper to use when you enter. Although you may be peeved at paying to use the bathroom, it’s actually a blessing a lot of time. Because these pay toilets are money making operations, they are more common and there will be prominent signs directing you to them in a lot of urban areas and they are often cleaner.
- I’ve found that it’s far more common in Latin America for the bathroom to be out of hand soap. In these situations, you can either satisfy yourself with a water-only rinse, or carry around a small container of hand soap or sanitizer, depending on your personal hygiene standards and level of germophobia.
- I have yet to find in a Latin American bathroom those paper toilet seat covers that you sometimes find dispensed in the United States. I always thought these were a little silly and never used them, but if you like them, be warned that they are a rarity at best in Latin America.