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How to use a public restroom in Colombia

My whole life, I lived between Colombia and Venezuela. I moved to the United States in 1999. After my son was born, I had the urge to visit Colombia. The first time I went back was in 2012; since then, I have gone back almost every year. 

Colombia VLOG - Public Restrooms in Colombia - The Experience

One of the things that I had forgotten about Colombia was how to use public restrooms. Don’t get me wrong, I know how to use the restroom, but there are a few things that you must keep in mind when you have to use a public restroom in Colombia.

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You have to pay to use some public restrooms.

Yes, you read that right. In Colombia, you have to pay to use some public restrooms. There are a couple of scenarios to keep in mind. For example, if you go out to eat and want to use the restroom at the restaurant you are dining at, you won’t have to pay to use that restroom. 

On the other hand, if you are at a festival in the Plaza Mayor of Villa de Leyva or just simply walking around the town and having to use a public restroom, be prepared to pay. This is one of those instances where it is vital to carry coins and small bills.

When you enter the restroom, there will most likely be an attendant there to greet you. Please don’t ignore them, as they will insist on talking to you before or after you use the potty. Why? You have to pay a fee to use the restroom.

Toilet paper in public restrooms in Colombia

As you talk to the attendant, they will also ask if you need toilet paper. Yes, I know you may be surprised, but the reality is that most public restrooms don’t have toilet paper, and you must buy the amount you need to use.

In some instances, the attendant may cleverly ask you whether you need enough toilet paper for number 1 or number 2. Again, don’t forget to pay the appropriate fee. 

Prices to use a public restroom in Colombia

Some public restrooms in Colombia will charge between $500 to $2500 COP (Colombian Pesos). I will say that if you look like a foreigner or if you don’t speak Spanish very well, they may try to charge you more. I had this experience once when I traveled with American friends.

We were in line to talk to the attendant. She charged me $800 COP to use the restroom. I lingered a bit to see how my friends would fare off. The attendant asked each of them for $3,000 COP. I quickly turned around and spoke to the attendant.

I told her there was no reason for them to pay such a high amount compared to what I paid. They each paid $800 COP after my conversation with the attendant. 

Don’t flush toilet paper in Colombia.

You should not flush toilet paper anywhere in Colombia. Regardless of whether it is a public restroom, a hotel, the airport, a friend’s house, or an Airbnb. Next to every toilet, you will find a waste basket. That basket is for you to dispose of any used toilet paper.

This is due to the pipes and septic tanks around the country. This may surprise you, and you may be uneasy about it at first, but you will quickly get used to it. Also, I promise you there is not a lot of odor in the bathrooms or restrooms. 

Recommendations to use public restrooms in Colombia

  • Always carry toilet paper with you. This is one of those things I learned to do while I lived in Colombia and now that I visit often. I always put enough toilet paper in my purse in case I need it. 
  • Carry hand sanitizer. This is a recommendation in case you go to a restroom that doesn’t have soap or are unable to wash your hands. 
  • Before using the restroom, try to see if a price is listed somewhere or, better yet, try to hear what they charge the person in front of you, so you don’t get overcharged.
  • Always carry coins and small bills in case you have to pay to use a public restroom.