Public Restrooms Aren't Free
When was the last time you paid to use a restroom? The airplane on your overnight Transatlantic, expensive though it may be, doesn’t count. In Germany, public restrooms at train stations, rest stops along the Autobahn, and even some restaurants will have either a bowl with a stern attendant, or a machine with a coin slot that you need to feed 50 cent or 1 Euro coins in order to enter. Why?
The reason is really that it depends. It falls somewhere between places putting the money into the upkeep and cleaning of the restroom, paying a bit towards the utilities cost, and keeping out people who would make a mess or loiter in the bathrooms. In high traffic areas like rest stops, you’re more likely to run into a physical attendant, while in restaurants or fast food joints, there may be only a coin slot or just a sign saying “50 cents.”
If you’re in a restaurant in a high foot traffic area, there is more than likely a sign that says something to the effect of “50 cents unless you’re a guest,” meaning that if you’re already eating there, you don’t need to worry about paying extra. If there is a coin slot, ask the server for a token or whatever they use to allow customers to use the facilities without actually paying.
Regardless of where you are, it’s helpful to tuck a few coins into your wallet or bag where you wouldn’t ordinarily spend them, just in case. A family friend refers to their bag of coins as “pee money,” and as funny as it may sound now, you might just be happy you packed it in advance next time you’re out exploring a German city like a good tourist.