How to ask where is the bathroom in French: An important guide

It might sound like a funny topic, but it’s very serious business. Because knowing how to say “Where is the toilet?” in French can be a life saver!

Ok, I could be exaggerating a little, but if you’re a frequent traveler — who likes to try exotic food — you know exactly what I mean. It might even be more important than learning to say hello or sorry.

So keep reading to learn the proper way to ask “Where is the bathroom?” in French and other useful vocab around toilet in French. You’ll be prepared when you really, really, really need it!

Bathroom and toilet in French: How to say it

First of all, you should know that in French, we don’t really ask “Where is the bathroom” but rather “Where is the toilet”. Indeed, if you literally translate “bathroom” with “salle de bain”, your hosts or the restaurant might think you want to take a shower! So stick to “S’ìl vous plaît, où sont les toilettes” or the alternatives below, and you’ll be just fine.

Useful: In restaurants or public places, you might see signs with “toilettes” or “WC”.

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Where is the bathroom in French

I understand you might need this urgently, so let’s get to it!

Family search for the bathroom in French.

English French IPA Context
Where is the bathroom? Où sont les WC ? u sõle wk ?
Can I go to the bathroom? Puis-je aller aux toilettes ? pɥi-ʒ ale o twalɛtə ?
Where is the toilet? Où sont les toilettes ? u sõle twalɛtə ?
Please, can I use the toilet? Puis-je utiliser les toilettes, s’il vous plaît ? pɥi-ʒ ytilizele twalɛtə, sil vu ple ? Polite/formal form to ask in a restaurant or at someone’s house
Excuse me, where is the toilet? Excusez-moi, où sont les toilettes ? ɛkskyze-mwa, u sõle twalɛtə ? Polite/formal form to ask in a restaurant or at someone’s house
Where can I wash my hands? Où puis-je me laver les mains ? u pɥi-ʒə mə lavele mɛ̃ ? Practical if you don’t want to mention what you’re really gonna do in there
Can I go to the little corner? Puis-je aller au petit coin ? pɥi-ʒ ale o pəti kwɛ̃ ? Informal, usually used with kids or by people who are really embarrassed to use the word toilet
Can I go to the cabinets? Puis-je aller aux cabinets ? pɥi-ʒ ale o kabine ? Old fashioned

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Toilet paper and more handy bathroom words in French

Did you ever wonder how to say “flush the toilet” in French? Well, you should, that might come in handy!

English French (Singular) IPA
Toilet paper Papier toilette papje twalɛtə
Flush the toilet Tirer la chasse tiɾe la ʃasə
Faucet Robinet ɾɔbine
Men’s toilet Toilettes pour hommes twalɛtə puɾ ɔmə
Women’s toilet Toilettes pour femmes twalɛtə puɾ fɛmə
Unisex toilet Toilettes unisexes twalɛtəz‿ ynizəgzə
Dressing room Vestiaire vɛstjɛɾə
Locker room Vestiaire vɛstjɛɾə
Public restroom Toilettes publiques twalɛtə pyblikə
Hole in the ground loo Toilettes à la turque twalɛtəz‿ a la tyɾkə
Toilet brush Balai de toilettes balε də twalɛtə
There is no more paper Il n’y a plus de papier il ni a ply də papje
The toilet is clogged Les toilettes sont bouchées le twalɛtə sõ buʃeə
There is a leak Il y a une fuite il i a ynə fɥitə
Soap Savon savõ
Hand sanitizer Désinfectant/gel pour les mains dezɛ̃fɛktɑ̃t/ʒɛl puɾle mɛ̃
Paper towels Serviettes en papier sɛɾvjɛtəz‿ɑ̃ papje
Hand dryer Sèche-mains sɛʃə-mɛ̃
Sanitary pad Serviette hygiénique sɛɾvjɛtə iʒjenikə
Tampon Tampon tɑ̃põ
Changing table Table à langer tabl a lɑ̃ʒe

Bathroom and toilet etiquette in France

A taboo topic

Old-school French people are quite discreet when going to the toilet. They usually say “Excusez-moi” — see more ways to apologize in French — and get up. Moreover, try to schedule your toilet trip at the beginning or at the end of a meal, not in between.

However, don’t worry too much about it if you can’t respect these rules and remember: we all need to go!

Going to the toilet in a café or restaurant

If you’re visiting a large city, you can easily walk into any busy café or restaurant and discretely go to the bathroom.

If it’s a smaller establishment, feel free to ask if you can use the toilets: “S’il vous plaît, puis-je utiliser les toilettes ?” In touristy locations, they might be for clients only, so you can always order a café or something else, for example. Bring some tissues and hand sanitizer, since most restaurants and cafés will be out of toilet paper, soap, or both.

Useful: Toilets are often one floor up or down.

Public restroom in France

You might see “self clean” toilets in large French cities. These are paid, and there is no way to sneak in your friend or other half for free after you’re finished. If you try, they’ll get a free shower as these toilets get cleaned automatically after each use! Oh, and some of these are “toilettes à la turque”, which consists of a hole in the ground. So, ladies, get ready to work these inner thighs…

Another option is the “dame pipi”, literally “lady pee”. A bit odd for a country whose inhabitants are reluctant to say they’re going to the toilet, right? These “dames pipi”, which by the way can be male or female nowadays, are in charge of collecting a fee to use the restroom, which might be fixed, or at your discretion.

Needless to say, always be polite: “Bonjour Madame, au revoir Madame”.

Toilets in France: 4 Fun facts

Fun facts about toilets in France.

1. The infamous bidet

Bidets still exist in France, usually in older houses or elegant hotels which have enough space in the bathroom for it. If you’re not willing to try to experience it, you can always use it to wash your feet after a long day sightseeing in Paris or a beach afternoon on the French Riviera!

2. The toilet museum

The village of Labastide-en-Val, in the South of France, transformed its old public toilets into a micro museum. With one square meter on the ground, it’s one of the smallest museums in the world, and probably one of the most unusual!

3. The Québécois way

My absolute favorite Québécoise expression is Ça me bouillonne dans le fond de la flûte”. Literally, it means “It bubbles up in the bottom of my flute”. But it means… “I have to go to the bathroom”! In my opinion, this is too good to be used only in Québec!

4. Al fresco toilets

While it’s illegal in America, going to the bathroom “al fresco” is common in France, and in Europe in general. Of course, gentlemen have it easier than women! That being said, I’d recommend you to save it for a nature walk in the middle of nowhere. For cities, try the “café” tip!

Next time you need to ask “Can I go to the bathroom” in French, I hope you’ll remember this article fondly! And here is a conversation starter if you have to wait in line.

One last very important piece of information: “Eau de toilette” does not mean toilet water.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a little flute situation. À bientôt !

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