Visitors are often shocked to find that flushing toilet paper in Greece is a big no-no! Here is some more insight about Greek toilets, the Greek plumbing system and what to do with used toilet paper in Greece.
Flushing toilet paper in Greece
If you are traveling to Greece for the first time, you may have heard that you shouldn’t throw bathroom tissue down the toilet! This is just one of the things you should know about Greece before you visit.
So, why can’t you flush toilet paper in Greece? Well, the country’s plumbing system is not designed to handle large amounts of paper.
The plumbing pipes in Greece are narrow. Paper or other waste materials would clog most Greek toilets, including those at rooms, hotels and restaurants.
And what are you supposed to do with soiled paper when you are staying in a Greek hotel room or apartment?
Toilets in Greece have a small trash can located next to the toilet. This is where you should place your used toilet tissue, wipes, sanitary products, and all other non-human-made waste.
I realize that your brain might be refusing to process or accept this fact. But read on, as it’s really important!
Greece’s plumbing system
There are many countries in the world where the plumbing system does not allow paper flushing. Greece is one of them. So, why is that?
Well, in a nutshell, it is due to the age and design of the Greek plumbing system. Many homes and hotels rely on sewage systems with narrow pipes, which are not capable of handling large amounts of waste material.
In addition, some areas use a type of sewage system called a septic tank. This basic sewage treatment method is gradually being replaced with more modern systems, but it takes time, not least because of construction difficulties.
In these cases, there will typically be a sign informing you that you shouldn’t throw paper in the toilet. Instead, you should use the small bin which is provided, and is lined with a plastic bag.
If you are already cringing at the trash can idea, don’t worry about the smell. These bins have a lid, to keep bad odors away. Your hotel staff will change the bin bags daily, so you won’t even know it’s there.
Honestly, it’s no big deal, and it shouldn’t put you off planning a Greek vacation – though, admittedly, if you are not used to it, it sounds shocking at first.
This is the case for most places in Greece. However, there are rooms and hotels in Greece where you CAN actually flush the paper down the toilet!
That’s right, sometimes you CAN flush toilet paper in Greece
While many toilets in Greece cannot handle toilet paper, there are some newer hotels and apartments where larger pipes were used at the time of construction, and more attention was paid to the design of the sewage system. I grew up in an apartment in Athens where it was perfectly ok to flush loo paper, so I know what I’m talking about 🙂
In such cases, you may even find a small sign near the toilet, indicating that it’s actually safe to flush tissue paper. How odd is that, eh.
So, if you are traveling to Greece, please check which toilets are suitable for flushing, and use accordingly. In case of doubt, always use the bin.
Fun trivia: The older plumbing pipes, which can easily get clogged, are usually 50 mm wide. The ones which allow toilet paper to be flushed are about 100 mm wide. This is the type of pipes used in much of the western world, such as the USA and the UK.
Toilet paper vs other waste
So, sometimes you might be able to flush toilet paper if you are on a holiday in Greece. But what about other waste materials?
The answer to this is a big NO. In fact, you shouldn’t flush other waste materials anywhere in the world!
Toilet paper is thin, so moderate amounts will eventually disintegrate. However, other products won’t. They will just absorb water, and put you in a serious risk of a clogged toilet. And if this is the first time you’ve heard of this, please Google it!
Here are some examples of things you should never flush down the toilet, no matter where you are in the world:
- paper kitchen towels
- paper napkins
- cotton pads
- cotton wool
- facial wipes
- baby wipes
- ear cotton swabs
- ladies sanitary towels / pads
- diapers / nappies
- plastic bags
- paper bills
- food waste
This list is by no means exhaustive. Ask any plumber, and they will tell you a few horror stories of stuff they’ve taken out of a clogged pipe. It’s an unpleasant experience – not to mention a very smelly, and often costly, one.
Public bathrooms in Greece
And now that we’ve solved the toilet paper mystery, let’s have a look at public restrooms in Greece.
The first thing you should know, is that public bathrooms in Greece are not really commonplace. Even in the bigger cities, like Athens and Thessaloniki, public facilities in the city itself are a rarity. I was quite surprised to find paid public toilets in many areas in Rhodes and a couple more of the Dodecanese islands.
You will usually find toilets in train stations, bus stations, gas stations, and even on the highways if you are driving in Greece. The state of these toilets will generally vary a lot, so don’t expect luxury or high cleaning standards.
If there is a cleaner outside, you could consider putting some money (a few euro cents) in the little metal plate in front of them, although this is not mandatory.
You will also find toilets on trains and ferries – where you’ll always have to use the bin. And if you are looking for ferry tickets, you can book them here: Ferryscanner.
Toilets inside the train in Greece
You should also know that toilet doors in Greece don’t always lock from the inside. I’m really not sure why this is the case! I can only assume that owners want to avoid people getting locked inside the bathroom? Greece doesn’t always make sense, even to Greeks!
Toilet facilities in museums and ancient sites in Greece
Museums and similar tourist attractions, cinemas, theaters, and shopping malls always have functioning toilets. So do tavernas, restaurants, cafes and bars. As a rule, the toilets at local restaurants will usually be basic and small, but if you are going to an exclusive restaurant you can expect them to be sparkly and well-maintained.
On the contrary, take-away coffee places or bakeries rarely have toilets. The same applies for many beach bars and canteens, as the infrastructure doesn’t support it.
Finally, while most archaeological sites in Greece have toilet facilities, a few of them don’t. A good example in Athens is the Areopagus rock, and the same applies for the incredible Rotunda in Thessaloniki. Thankfully, there are several cafes nearby both these places – more about this, in a minute!
Quite often, the facilities might be outside the ancient site, as it was technically impossible to build it within the site itself! Two examples are Mystras in the Peloponnese and Lindos in Rhodes.
What to do if there’s no public bathroom
So, you are out and about during your Greek holiday. What should you do when nature calls and there is no public bathroom nearby?
Unlike in other European countries, there’s nothing wrong with asking a cafe or restaurant if you can use their toilet. As a token of appreciation, you can always buy a small bottle of water, take-away coffee or snack.
However, and I cannot stress this enough – please ask the staff if you can use their toilet, and don’t just barge in. And if it’s a particularly busy establishment, it might be best to look somewhere else.
If you are in a rural area, or enjoying an outdoors activity, you will sometimes find that nature provides the most easily accessible toilet. Please make sure to take with you any used tissue or toilet paper.
Carry your own tissue
Speaking of which, another thing you should know about bathrooms in Greece, is that sometimes there is no toilet paper. Maybe it ran out, maybe they never put it there in the first place, but for whatever reason, there may be no toilet roll in the bathroom.
My advice is to always carry a pack of tissues with you. They might come in handy in other circumstances, but they’ll be invaluable if you find yourself at a public restroom without any toilet paper.
At the same time, if you sitting somewhere for a coffee or meal and there’s no paper in the bathroom, you can ask the staff to provide some. Chances are that they haven’t been to the toilet recently, and they were unaware that the toilet paper has run out.
The Greek word for toilet paper is “hartí toualétas“. Here are a few more useful words and phrases in Greek.
Squat toilets in Greece
Squat toilets are not common any more in Greece. Yet, you might find them in some rural areas and Greek monasteries. As an example, if you are going to the amazing Meteora monasteries, you should know that all toilets inside the monasteries are of the squatting type!
This is what a squat toilet looks like. There’s no toilet seat, and no toilet bowl. Basically, it’s just a hole in the ground, with two areas on the floor where you are supposed to place your feet.
As a rule, men are better equipped to use these toilets, and they won’t need to squat. All they need to do is stand at a distance, and aim for the hole. It shouldn’t be so complicated, at least for number 1.
Like the word suggests, ladies actually need to squat if they want to use this toilet. My best advice is to place your feet as wide as possible on the floor, and squat as low as you can. Think of it as a workout!
A word of warning: These toilets may not be as clean as you’d like them. Watch your step, and avoid wearing sandals or flip-flops.
FAQ about the toilet situation in Greece
Here are a few questions about Greek toilets:
What should I do with used toilet paper in Greece?
If you are visiting Greece, you should put soiled toilet paper in the bin, which is right next to the toilet. There are exceptions to this, but if you aren’t sure, just use the bin!
What happens if you accidentally flush toilet paper in Greece?
Despite the various signs, you may accidentally forget that you shouldn’t throw paper in Greek toilets. If it happens once, things should be fine. A couple of sheets of toilet paper should not clog the toilet. However, if you throw a large quantity in the toilet, it might clog and overflow. As a rule, you will need to avoid it.
Can you brush your teeth with the water in Greece?
Brushing your teeth with tap water in Greece is fine. In many areas, however, tap water is not suitable to drink, and bottled water is used instead. On some of the Greek islands, there are designated water points where you can get your drinkable water supply at a very low or even zero cost.
Why do some toilets in Greece don’t have a seat?
Some public toilets in Greece might not have a seat. This is usually because a plastic seat is more difficult to clean than the toilet bowl, so the owners choose to remove it. Or maybe it was broken, and was never replaced.
Did the ancient Greeks have toilets?
Yes, the ancient Greeks had toilets, but no toilet paper. Instead, they used either pebbles or pieces of broken pottery to clean themselves. Toilet paper was first invented in 1857.
More Greece guides
I hope you enjoyed this article, and now you are an expert in why Greece is a non flushing country! Here are a few more guides that you should find useful if you are taking a trip to Greece:
- Greek swear words
- Greece travel tips
- Introduction to the Greek islands groups
- How many days do I need on Santorini
- Is Santorini safe and things to avoid
- How to avoid mosquitoes in Greece
Hi! I’m Vanessa from Athens. I know you must be shocked with all this info. From my perspective, I take for granted that TP should go in the trash bin, so when I travel abroad I’m confused when there is no bin! Follow me on FB and Instagram for more photos and tips about Greece!