There is a smartphone app called ‘Flush’ that is free and shows most public toilets.
If you have some kind of disability, you can apply for a RADAR key and also a (paper) guide. (I think there may be an app too but you would need to Google that.) RADAR keys are for the national network of disabled toilets. Lots of disabilities are covered by this scheme, not just wheelchair users – Crohn’s/ulcerative colitus sufferers (who may not get much warning before needing to ‘go’), for example; also diabetics (for a safe place to inject insulin).
If you have a small child, most pubs and restaurants etc would be sympathetic to allowing them to use their facilities as long as you ask politely.
All major towns and cities have public toilets, but they are generally not that easy to find (ask at the tourist information if you can find that) or pleasant to use.
Free public toilets tend to attract vagrants and drug takers (this is my experience having lived in the UK all my life)
A better solution is to go into a fast food restaurant and use their toilet – even small towns have one of these. Although this is probably against their rules (facilities are for customers only) this happens all the time and staff turn a blind eye to this.
In you want to indulge in some British culture, you can pop inside a Pub (which you will find even in the smallest of villages), where if you purchase a drink (alcoholic or not) you can use the toilet. You won’t get arrested* for using the toilet without purchasing anything in a pub, but in a small pub this might be greeted with some hostility by the patrons or landlord, so is best avoided.
.* I’m not a lawyer so don’t blame me if you do!
Some places have closed their council managed toilets at the same time as arranging that a nearby shop or pub or restaurant provides the same facility but without requiring any purchase (This is called the Community Toilet Scheme and most borough councils who use this scheme maintain their own list that you can find online). In some cases this change leads to the facilities being cleaner and tidier than the council ones they may have replaced.
Toilets can often be found in shopping centres (malls), the larger supermarkets and the larger department stores.
For all of these it may be better to ask a local rather than relying on signposting.
Toilets are important, but not something to worry about. You don’t need to make it this complicated.
British people really don’t mind when foreigners ask where is the nearest public toilet? We don’t judge you for your unfortunate need. Go in any public place and ask. It requires no technology, and rather than planning your day around where the convenient lavatories are, you can actually enjoy your stay.
There is a website that I was hitherto completely unaware of that aims to cater for this need.
For tourists with smart phones it would be useful as it geolocates the nearest ones in their database (or allows manual search) and provides a facility to add crowd sourced toilet locations along with pertinent details.
These details can be used as search criteria via the preferences menu
Ones lacking crucial features will come up red.
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