French Friday – Restrooms on the road


Last week I talked about public restrooms in Paris, particularly the glamorous Le Point WC. I mentioned that I had another tip for bathroom usage, and here it is.

When my husband and I moved to France and started road-tripping on the weekends, I learned very fast the best places to go to the restroom. I am not a prude, but I have no desire to use the bathroom in the great outdoors, so finding a place to use the restroom can be a challenge. I have one more criteria, it needs to be somewhat clean. I say somewhat, because sometimes when you got to go, you got to go!

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So here is my guide for using the restroom while traveling by car in France.

France has a system of roads like most modern countries. It is made up of Autoroutes (Freeways),  indicated with an “A” and a number; National roads, indicated with an “N” and a number; Departmental (County) roads, indicated by a “D” and a number; and then city streets, avenues, boulevards, etc.

This will be easy to remember. Unless it has an A in it, you are pretty much out of luck for a public restroom. There are some rare exceptions on some N's. So if you are perusing your map to plan your trip for the day, make sure you think about your liquid consumption as well or you may be sorry!

Turkish toilet

The Autoroutes are closed environments with tolls. You must get a ticket to enter and pay a toll at various points along the way or as you exit the autoroute completely. Along the autoroute are rest stops called  “Aire.”

There are two kinds of aires. Ones with public toilets and very nice picnic grounds. But more often then not you are going to come across a Turkish toilet which are usually not clean and so difficult for women to use (and 9 times out of 10 there is no toilet paper).

By the way, there are still restaurants and cafes in Paris that have Turkish toilets, so don't be surprised if you run into one!

The second type of aire is a full-service stop. There is a gas station and a little shop to purchase food and drinks. There are larger aires with one or more restaurants or buffet-style cafeterias. And always a restroom with sit-down style toilets. Some of these restrooms do still offer Turkish toilets along with the sit-down style. And some also have sit-down toilets without a toilet seat, look before you sit. They are all generally clean as there is staff to manage it etc. You may have to wait in line if a tour bus comes through, but that is probably the worst thing that can happen to you.

So while traveling by car, remember to either stick to the “A's” or plan well for your restroom breaks. Always have a packet of travel tissues, anti-bacterial lotions, and a few wet wipes can't hurt either. Now you are all set for the road!

I promise that is the end of my toilet series!

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  1. That Turkish toilet looks wonderful compared to toilets in Russia! I was there in 2005 and carried zip lock bags with toilet paper every day… so at least that part was easy to deal with.
    Toilets around the world.. actually a topic with potential!

    1. @Laura Oh, I could tell stories…..it is kind of a strange topic I know so I probably won’t pursue more, but…I could!

  2. I have never seen a Turkish bath before! Thankfully, while I was in France, all the restrooms I visited had sit down toilets.

    But I do have to state, that I am not one to look down on going on the side of the road.

    When you gotta go, you gotta go!

  3. I have mastered a whole assortment of techniques that get me in and out of a Turkish toilet safe and dry. In a weird way, I think they are more hygienic (no physical contact), but I am not a fan!

  4. I don’t know if I’ll ever find myself in need of a toilet in France any time soon, but this was quite a helpful article!!! France was the 1st country I’ve ever had to pay to use the bathroom. 🙂

  5. Thanks, Andi! This is helpful advice, indeed! I appreciate all the (ahem) research you have done for us!

    What a great blog! So glad I found you!

    1. @Joan – Thanks, sometimes that is research I could do without, but you can see the dedication I put into it for my readers…of course I am just kidding! But a little of this information would have been beneficial to me when I first moved to France!

  6. Good to know. Yet ANOTHER country I won’t be visiting. Between weird food and yucky toilets, I have ruled out about 90% of the world. I think I’m still on for Canada and possibly Australia. Denmark looks good, especially after that Oprah special about it.

  7. Hehe, nice toilet series 🙂 It does bring back horrible memories though of me as a child when driving through France with my parents and having to use the Turkish toilets on the aires de repos. Between the difficulties of using them when wearing trousers, the lack of paper and the flush which inundated the whole cubicle, you have all the necessary elements for a sanitary nightmare.

  8. WERE can I buy a turquish toilette in USA?

  9. In reality, on account of their portability, macerating toilets are frequently used on ships and RVs in addition to in homes. Deciding upon the ideal macerating toilet can be difficult but with the correct knowledge and tools behind you the decision ought to be easier!