Public Toilets in Russia and Eastern Europe

Russia, Moscow, sign for women's toilet
Russia, Moscow, sign for women's toilet. Demetrio Carrasco/Getty Images

Toilets in Russia and in some parts of Eastern Europe are a bit different from what you'd expect in the United States or Western Europe. While serviceable public toilets are becoming more easily found, especially in well-populated areas, you will still encounter some old-style public toilets in Russia and former Soviet countries. Don't be alarmed - the use of these toilets can be navigated, but be prepared.

Pay Toilets

Public toilets, such as those in train stations or large shopping centers, may require a small fee for their use. The fee is usually prominently displayed and will amount to a few cents' worth of the national currency. If you're out and about, it may be possible to avoid the use of pay toilets. However, sometimes you'll find yourself in a situation while traveling in Eastern Europe when a pay toilet is the only accessible restroom. Keep some change handy for these instances.

Carry Toilet Paper When Traveling

Public toilets often do not equip each toilet stall with toilet paper in Russia. Sometimes toilet paper is available outside the stalls. Sometimes there is none to be had. You can purchase small, travel-sized rolls from hygiene-product travel sections in supermarkets or convenience stores. Travel packages of tissues may substitute in a pinch as well.

The Dreaded Squat Toilets

No one likes to enter a stall only to met with the sight of a hole in the ground flanked with feet-shaped tread. Even more bizarre is the regular toilet that has been equipped with raised platforms so it is impossible to use the toilet in the normal way - one must squat over the bowl or teeter precariously in front of it. If you prefer your visit to the bathroom to be less adventurous there is usually a more serviceable toilet nearby.

Are Public Toilets Clean or Dirty?

In nicer Eastern European shopping centers, restaurants, and cafes, you'll be pleased to find some very clean, equipped toilets. In airports or train stations, and even in some universities, the state of disrepair and lack of maintenance of the toilets will leave you breathless - literally. These may be your only choice. Carry waterless hand sanitizer.

Toilet Paper

"Sandpaper"-like toilet paper is still in use in some toilets in Russia and Eastern Europe. Yes, the soft stuff is available for general purchase. The gray-to-brownish Soviet-issue toilet paper is as bad as the stereotype - to varying degrees. If you stay at a friend's house, and they are still using it, try introducing them to the cotton toilet paper. They will probably think you're funny for lavishing luxury on your posterior.

Toilets in Private Residences

Some toilets in Russia and Eastern Europe are given their own room, separate from the bathing/sink area. This will require you to exit the "toilet room" and enter the actual "bath" room to wash your hands. No one thinks this is weird.

Flushing Toilets

Some toilets in Eastern Europe will flush the way you're probably used to - there will be a lever on one side of the tank. Other Russian toilets will have a ball or a button on the of the tank. Pull or press to flush the toilet. Some toilets will not have enough power to flush toilet paper - there may be a sign over a trash basket asking that no toilet paper be flushed.