When travelling, answering nature’s call can be a dreaded affair. Being unfamiliar with the area and speaking a different language from the locals may prove to be a stressful experience, especially when facing internal pressure.
Thankfully, we live in an age where technology can help us answer nature's call within the first few rings.
From finding the nearest bidet-fitted restroom to ranking wheelchair accessibility, here are some restroom apps serving popular tourist destinations in their own unique ways.
PHILIPPINES - SAN BIDET
Here’s one for those seeking a little luxury during an emergency. The Manila-based San Bidet app doesn’t just focus on public restrooms in the vicinity, it also tells users where to find restrooms with bidet fixtures.
"While you are exploring the Philippines, feeling the urge to poop may give you a sense of dread. Traffic congestion, along with Metro Manila's maze-like urban sprawl, will leave you desperate to find a clean restroom and most important of all, the rare bidet," reads the app’s description in the App Store.
To help its users, the app crowdsources the bulk of its data. Users can send a Facebook message or a tweet to alert the developer of new restrooms and inaccurate locations, or simply suggest improvements for the app.
Lawrence Velasco, the app's developer, said its origins are rather personal. "I was in a situation where I was in a public place and I had the urge to poop. I knew that there were popular Instagram accounts (@ShittableBa, @MeronBangBidet) and quickly scanned their profiles for the best areas to poop near me. But I had a hard time since they have so many posts and I just wanted the nearest toilet with a bidet. So at that point I got the idea to make an app version of that concept," he told Rappler.
As of January this year, the app is still very much a one-man effort, with Velasco manually adding new restrooms to the app based on tip-offs from users.
HONG KONG - TOILET RUSH
Finding a public restroom in crowded Hong Kong can be a nightmare. Toilet Rush offers a wide scope of restroom facilities, such as informing you whether toilet paper is provided (shockingly, not a given in public restrooms). Apart from sharing the exact location and photos, users can also rate the toilets on ventilation, cleanliness and other aspects.
It appears the app has contributed significantly to the community there, as Toilet Rush sits among a handful of apps listed on the official website of the Hong Kong Public Information Sector alongside Hong Kong-based weather and traffic apps.
The app only shows locations within Hong Kong. It works offline but requires an Internet connection when launched for the first time.
JAPAN - CHECK A TOILET
Launched in 2010, Check A Toilet offers a level of detail that’s just so, well, Japanese. The wheelchair-friendly app features information on the gender specificity of the restroom available, door sizes, rough space and even the number of handrails. The app is also available in English.
“Check A Toilet is a multi-functional toilet (wheelchair-compatible toilet, diaper change pad, pictures in the toilet, etc.) and nursing room information app, here to help a society of elderly people, disabled people and parenting dads. Currently, you can search about 71,000 multi-functional toilets nationwide,” reads the app description on the App Store.
Check A Toilet requires an active Internet connection, so a Japanese SIM card is essential.
AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL PUBLIC TOILET MAP
Only a government initiative would give itself a name this official-sounding. The National Public Toilet Map by the Australian Government Department of Health shows the location of more than 18,000 publicly available toilets in Australia and includes details of accessibility, opening hours and other features, such as sharps disposal and diaper changing facilities.
Besides the usual GPS capabilities, the app allows search filters to be toggled to show ambulant toilets, accessible parking nearby, and right or left hand transfer information for wheelchair users.
“The National Public Toilet Map is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health as part of the National Continence Program to assist the estimated 4.8 million Australians affected by continence issues,” reads the app’s description. Good on them.
NEW YORK CITY - ROCKALOO
If there’s one city that can commodify even your most private time, it’s New York City. Rockaloo lets you book a private restroom at a scheduled time for a fee, much like an Airbnb.
“Rockaloo is the only app in NYC that gets you the right to go to the restroom of a restaurant, a cafe or a spa. Just open the app and the map will display the nearest bathroom. You just have to pay a tiny fee; part of that fee will help a charity of your choice,” reads the app description.
Each hour-long pass costs between US$0.99 (S$1.34) and US$8.99 (S$12.17), and some 130 different locations are up for selection across Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.
The app’s founders say their goal is to "improve access to restrooms across the city". Businesses on the app receive some of the revenue, while a portion of each purchase also goes to charity. With the all-access concept in mind, they call it “the most unexpected VIP e-Ticket in town.”
Some apps are as universal as our need for the restroom. For everywhere else, there’s Flush, SitOrSquat and Toilet Finder, all available on the App Store and on Google Play.
With a simple toilet roll icon, Flush considers itself a posh guide to public restrooms worldwide. The app does not require an Internet connection to run and lists over 190,000 locations around the world.
If you’re looking for a bit of entertainment as you answer nature’s call, SitOrSquat uses the adorable mascots Pappa Bear, a Momma Bear and a Baby Bear throughout its interface. Find directions to more than 100,000 locations and rate good toilets with “SIT” and bad ones with “SQUAT”.
Toilet Finder lists over 150,000 locations worldwide and appears to be rather popular in North America. The app lists addresses of public restrooms, but does not offer directions based on GPS.