I’ll never forget the look on my boyfriend’s daughters’ face when we walked into a public washroom in downtown Guayaquil. It was a massive, spotless concrete room, full of toilets without toilet seats. We also realized none of the stalls had toilet paper.
As our days in Ecuador progressed, we learned this was the norm for public washrooms in Ecuador; No toilet paper, possibly no toilet seat.
Public bathrooms might have a machine on the wall (think: Tampax dispenser), and for 5 cents, you can get about an arm’s length worth of toilet paper.
Just make sure you think of this before settling into your stall, as there will be no one to pass you a toilet paper under the door! It’s not like in North America, where you can call out to the person in English in either of the stalls next to you and ask them to please pass you a wad of toilet paper under the stall. In Ecuador, it’s every woman for herself.
Always be prepared with your own toilet paper. Toilet seats in public washrooms are a bonus, and toilet paper is a gift from God!
Needless to say, for the rest of our road trip, the napkins I picked up at every place we stopped become quite valuable!
Airports are the exception. In airports, there is toilet paper in each of the stalls. There’s even a sign in each stall, reminding you to put their toilet paper in the toilet as old habits run deep and there are no garbage cans inside the stalls.
The “Pee For a Fee” Washrooms
In some high-traffic public Ecuador washrooms, you may see a woman sitting outside charging for the use and cleaning of it. This is especially so at busy beaches and bus terminals throughout Ecuador. The fee to enter can vary – and with a bit of negotiation, it will probably end up costing you about a handful of pocket change.
You will be offered toilet paper, which you can also buy from her for about 10-15 cents. She’ll always have a variety of bathroom products (and often candy!) all lined up on the sink vanity waiting for purchase. These pay washrooms are often really nice inside, decorated with flowers, nicely folded extra thick paper towels, and pretty coordinating garbage cans. You’ll quickly see what your donation is being used for, as the bathroom is immaculate.
Men just using the urinal usually pay 5-10 cents. I can’t comment on the extras’ offered, as my boyfriend didn’t even notice if there was toilet paper!
The garbage can beside every toilet
In most bathrooms in Ecuador, including in people’s homes, the septic systems can’t handle toilet paper. So unless you are at the airport where there actually is a sign telling you to put the TP in the toilet, use the small garbage can that you will see in every bathroom to dispose of your TP.
Flushing anything down the toilet (besides’ what comes out of you naturally), is a no-no. You’ll find each bathroom (public or private) will have a garbage can right beside the toilet. This is where you’ll put your used toilet paper.
In Asia and parts of Europe and The Middle East this custom of using a garbage pail for used TP is more the norm. But for people from the U.S., Canada and the British Commonwealth, these new bathroom habits may be a little more challenging to adopt.
The Bidet – It’s not a foot cleaner
There’s a good chance of finding a bidet or something that works ‘like’ a bidet in any given bathroom. If you live in North America, chances are you don’t have one of these, or you maybe have never even seen one. They’re really common in Ecuador.
You may see instead of a freestanding bidet, a shower hose with a hot/cold knob attached to the wall, right next to the toilet. No, this hose isn’t conveniently there to wash your dog feet (this is what I thought it was for!), but it’s a hose to wash your ‘bits’, instead of sitting/squatting over the bidet.
If you’re not sure how a bidet works, this is a useful link. It pretty much explained everything I needed to know and was too scared to ask.