Using Public Restrooms in Mexico: A Guide to Differences and Hygiene

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By
Wesley
November 29, 2023
4 min read

Using Public Restrooms in Mexico: A Guide to Differences and Hygiene 

What to Expect in Public Restrooms in Mexico

When you pack your bag and get ready for that super awesome trip, does anyone ever think about using the bathroom? One aspect that can make or break your experience is the condition of public restrooms.

In Mexico, there are some differences compared to other countries that you should know before you go. It's important to be informed and prepared so that you can have a pleasant and comfortable experience during your travels.

A Brief Overview of Public Restrooms in Mexico

Public restrooms in Mexico can vary greatly depending on where you are. In tourist areas such as hotels or restaurants, the restrooms will likely be clean and well-maintained.

However, if you are traveling off the beaten path or exploring local neighborhoods, public restrooms may not be up to Western standards of cleanliness.

Do you have to pay to use the restroom in Mexico?

It's important to note that many public restrooms in Mexico charge a small fee for use, usually around 5-10 pesos (less than $1 USD). This fee is supposed to help pay for maintenance and upkeep of the facilities. But that’s not always the case. 

Learn more about the Mexican culture and how to navigate the differences here with our country guide.

Location and Availability

Restrooms in tourist areas vs. local neighborhoods

If you're traveling to Mexico, it's important to know that the availability and quality of public restrooms can vary greatly depending on where you are. In tourist areas, like Cancun or Playa del Carmen, you'll find clean and well-maintained restrooms in most restaurants, hotels, and attractions. 

However, if you venture into local neighborhoods or smaller towns, you may have trouble finding public restrooms at all. It's a good idea to plan ahead by researching restroom locations before heading out for the day.

You will also be able to find them at established Tianguis, the local flea markets, if you are out shopping.

Cost to use public restrooms in Mexico, 5 peso sign
Cost to use the public restrooms in Mexico

Paying for restroom use

In some places in Mexico, particularly at gas stations or on highways, there may be a small fee to use public restrooms. This is usually no more than a few pesos (less than $1 USD) but it's still important to carry small bills or coins with you just in case.

Additionally, some restaurants may only allow paying customers to use their restrooms. Don't be surprised if a waiter asks for your receipt before allowing you access. This is common among Starbucks in high tourist areas.

👉 Pro tip: Keep your Starbucks receipt. You may just need it to get into the restroom if you are going to be there a while.

Cleanliness and Hygiene

Common issues with cleanliness

When using public restrooms in Mexico, it is not uncommon to encounter unsanitary conditions so don’t be too surprised. One of the most common issues is lack of proper cleaning and the missing toilet seat!

Many public restrooms are not regularly cleaned, so you may find dirty floors, toilets and sinks. Additionally, the lack of adequate ventilation can cause the places to stink and lead to an uncomfortable experience.

It’s not like this at most places but just be aware that you could end up paying for a place that isn’t in the best condition.

Tips for avoiding unsanitary conditions

To avoid encountering unsanitary conditions in public restrooms in Mexico, there are a few tips that can help. First and foremost, try to use restrooms in cleaner areas such as malls or restaurants instead of those found on busy streets or markets.

Additionally, carry your own hand sanitizer or wet wipes to clean surfaces before use. It is also important to bring tissues as many restrooms do not supply toilet paper.

Be mindful of where you place your personal items such as bags or phones; it's best to avoid placing them on the floor which may be dirty. Taking these precautions will help ensure a more comfortable and hygienic experience when using public restrooms in Mexico.

Toilet Paper and Other Supplies

Possibility of no toilet paper or soap

Now, this may come as a shock to some but in many public restrooms in Mexico, you may not find toilet paper or soap. Yes, you read that right! It's not uncommon to find an empty toilet paper roll dispenser or no dispenser at all.

Normally when you pay at the stalls to use the restroom they will ask you if you want “papel” or toilet paper. You can accept it there at no extra charge.

And if you're lucky enough to find a soap dispenser installed, don't be surprised if it's empty or doesn't work. The other missing product is hand towels. So don’t be surprised if you leave the lavatory with wet hands. I carry a handkerchief in my pocket for this and other useful situations.

This can be quite alarming for first-time travelers to Mexico, but it's just a common reality.

👉 Pro tip: Always carry coins if you don't plan on packing tissues or wet wipes. You may have to pay for toilet paper and the machines only take exact change (usually 5-10 pesos).

My go to items when going to the restrooms

Bring your own supplies

I have found the best way to avoid being caught off-guard is by bringing your own supplies. I always pack some wet-wipes, a handkerchief (so useful!) and hand sanitizer will come in handy. I always carry these items with me in my backpack or pockets when traveling around Mexico.

You can also purchase small packets of tissues from convenience stores and supermarkets while on the go. It's always better to be safe than sorry!

Cultural Differences

Different bathroom etiquette compared to other countries

If you're used to public restrooms in the United States, you might be shocked by some of the differences you'll find in Mexico. I’ll say it again, many Mexican public restrooms won't have toilet seats or even toilet paper! Always double check.

It's also worth mentioning that in Mexico, flushing toilet paper is not always an option. Many plumbing systems in older buildings aren't equipped to handle it, so instead, used toilet paper is placed into a trash can next to the toilet.

Accessibility for People with Disabilities

Mexico has made progress in recent years when it comes to accessibility for people with disabilities. However, there is still a significant lack of accessible restrooms throughout the country. 

Many public facilities, including restaurants and tourist attractions, may not have an accessible restroom or may have one that is difficult to access. This makes traveling in Mexico challenging for people with mobility issues, and you may need to plan ahead and research accessible options before visiting certain areas.

Limited availability of accessible restrooms

It's important to note that even when public restrooms are labeled as accessible, they may not meet the necessary requirements. For example, the doorway or stall opening may be too small for a wheelchair to fit through comfortably.

Additionally, some facilities may claim to have an accessible restroom but it requires going up stairs or navigating other obstacles first. This can make it frustrating and time-consuming if you have a disability and need access to a restroom quickly.

Wrapping It Up

I hope this guide has helped you with what to expect when using public restrooms in Mexico, it's important to keep a few key takeaways in mind.

Firstly, always bring your own toilet paper (wet wipes for the win!) and other supplies, as they may not be provided in the restroom.

Additionally, be mindful of cleanliness and hygiene issues and try to avoid unsanitary conditions by choosing restrooms that appear well-maintained.

For those with disabilities, keep in mind that accessible restrooms may be limited and plan accordingly. 

With a little preparation and awareness, you can navigate these situations with ease.  You may also be interested in how to travel safely in Mexico, you can find that article here.

Sources:

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Written by:

Wesley
I consider myself a world-travelling nomad and a foodie at heart. Born in Germany and raised in East Tennessee, my passion for exploration has taken me all over the planet - exploring unfamiliar lands and cultures is what truly inspires my soul!
Sidra
I live outside of Doha and consider myself an inside expert on all things Qatar. I love exploring all the country has to offer and look forward to giving you valuable insights of where I call home!
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