Public toilets: the most expensive places to use the loo

Caught short out and about? We look at the most expensive places to use a public toilet, as well as how to go for free!

I was at Brighton station recently where I found the price of a toilet trip costs 20p. My daughter and I both needed to go (ahead of a two-hour journey home), so that meant 40p to get through the barrier. I had plenty of change on me but not any 20p coins.%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%
The attendant refused to give change or accept my overpayment when I offered to hand over 50p. In fact the best he could come up with was the suggestion to "crawl under the barrier"! Naturally I gave that a miss; thankfully a kind fellow passenger came to the rescue supplying us with the right change.

In the old days, the price of using a public loo was a penny, or even 2p in some cases. But the closure of over 600 public toilets within 18 months, according to figures from the British Toilet Association, means that in most cases you need to pay to get through the door.

Most expensive toilets
These days 20p a time isn't uncommon although the most expensive one I've come across is the community-run loo at Kinlochleven in the Scottish Highlands, which according to the British Toilet Association costs £1.

Within London you can expect to pay up to 50p at some of the City of London's 90 public loos or within some tube stations. A tidy profit considering Water UK (which represents the major water suppliers) says it costs just 2p per flush.

Other pricey public toilets include those opposite Westminster Abbey, which charge 50p a time. Westminster City Council says this is because they're managed and cleaned by a separate company.
Pop to the loo at a station and you'll pay 30p a visit at most mainline stations including Euston, Waterloo, Birmingham New Street, Manchester Piccadilly, Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverley. These are among seventeen stations run by Network Rail which says all toilets are staffed and have change machines for both notes and coins if you're caught short on the cash front. Other station toilets are usually run by the local rail franchise company.

Other 'higher than average' charges I've come across include 40p in Scarborough and York, 30p in Southport and 30p for the public loos run by Perth and Kinross Council.

Have you got the right change?
As I found in Brighton, you often need the right change. Popping to a shop for change may seem the obvious answer, but most shops won't 'give' change and even if you buy something, there's no guarantee you'll get the exact coinage you need.

Plus from a financial perspective if you've had a buy a paper or bar of chocolate this puts up the price of your visit!

Why not nip into a coffee shop?
Cafes and coffee shops like Costa and Starbucks often flag up the fact that toilets are for 'customer use' only.

I recently spotted one Costa branch printing the entry code for its toilet door on till receipts. It says around a dozen of its busiest stores operate this system to ensure genuine customers get to use the facilities.

Of course you could just pop in and wait for someone to come out and hold the door for you, but otherwise it could cost you around £2 a time if you buy a coffee to gain entry.
If you're in a department store like John Lewis, BHS, Marks & Spencer or even a supermarket you'll usually find free customer toilets. And even at Harrods the facilities are free, but if you're in a small high street popping into a big store may not be an option.

Community toilet schemes
There's lots of these across the country including schemes in Cardiff, Chester, Gloucester, London, Northampton, Stockport and Sheffield.

Local businesses, including pubs, cafes and fast food outlets (which normally have toilets for customers' use only), display specially-designed logos advertising membership of the scheme. This means anyone can pop in and use the facilities without the fear of being turned out or asked to buy something.

Within London, Richmond was the first borough to introduce this and there's now over 100 local businesses including KFC and Wimpy offering free toilet facilities. Outlets are paid a small amount by the local council to help maintain toilets.

Leaflets with details of community schemes in your area are available from local councils, libraries and tourist information offices.

Radar scheme
Disabled toilets are kept locked in some places so users should apply for a 'Radar' key which unlocks around 9,000 toilets across the country. It was the bright idea of the Royal Association of Disability and Rehabilitation (Radar), which is now part of Disability Rights UK and sells keys for £4. You don't have to be physically disabled to get a key; people with conditions like diabetes, which means they may need to go frequently, can also apply.

Some local authorities also provide these keys. You can download a smartphone app for £4.99 from the app store to find your nearest disabled toilet.

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Public toilets: the most expensive places to use the loo

Using a mobile phone to make and receive calls, send texts and browse the web while abroad can be extremely costly – especially if you are travelling outside the European Union (EU), where calls can cost up to 10 times as much as at home.

To avoid high charges, Carphone Warehouse suggests tourists ensure a data cap is in place, use applications to check data usage, turn off 'data roaming', avoid data-intensive applications such as Google Maps and YouTube and use wi-fi spots to update social networking sites.

Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) is supposed to help people to continue meeting their loan, mortgage or credit card repayments if they fall ill or lose their jobs. However, policies are often over-priced, riddled with exclusions and sold to people who could not make a claim if they needed to.

At one point, sale of this cover - which was often included automatically in loan repayments - was estimated to boost the banks' profits by up to £5 billion a year.
Now, though, consumers who were mis-sold PPI can fight back by complaining to the bank or lender concerned and taking their case to the Financial Ombudsman Service (08000 234567) should the response prove unsatisfactory.

It could be you, but let's face it, it probably won't be. In fact, buying a ticket for the Lotto only gives you a 1 in 13.9 million chance of winning the jackpot.

With odds like that, you would almost certainly be better off hanging on to your cash and saving it in a high-interest account.

No-frills airlines such as EasyJet may promote rock-bottom prices on their websites. But the overall fare you pay can be surprisingly high once extras such as luggage and credit card payment fees have been added - a process known as drip pricing.

Taking one piece of hold baggage on a return EasyJet flight, for example, adds close to £20 to the cost of your flight, while paying by credit card increases the price by a further £10.
It may therefore be worth comparing the total cost with that of a flight with a standard airline such as British Airways.

Cash advances, which include cash withdrawals, are generally charged at a much higher rate of interest than standard purchases.

While the average credit card interest rate is around 17%, a typical cash withdrawal of £500, for example, is charged at more than 26%.
What's more, as the interest accrues from the date of the transaction, rather than the next payment date, costs will mount up even if you clear your balance in full with your next payment.

Supermarkets such as Tesco and Asda often run promotions under which you can, for example, get three products for the price of two.

However, it is only worth taking advantage of these deals if you will actually use the products. Otherwise, you are simply buying for the sake of it, which is a waste of your hard-earned cash.
To avoid paying over the odds, it is also worth checking the price per kilo to ensure that larger 'economy' packs really are cheaper than the smaller versions.

Buy a train ticket at the station on the day of travel and the price is likely to give you a shock - especially if you are travelling a long distance at a busy time of day.

However, you can cut the cost of train travel by 50% or more by going online and making the purchase beforehand - especially if you book 12 weeks in advance, which is when the cheapest tickets are on sale.
Other ways to reduce the price you pay include avoiding peak times and taking advantage of so-called carnet tickets, which allow you to buy, for example, 12 journeys for the price of 10.

Most High Street banks offer packaged accounts that come with monthly fees ranging from £6.50 up to as much as £40, with a typical account charging about £15 per month.

Various benefits, such as travel insurance and mobile phone insurance, are offered in return for this fee. But whether or not it is worth paying for them depends on your individual circumstances.
Before signing up, it is therefore essential to check that you will make use of enough of the benefits, and that you cannot get them for less elsewhere.

Overseas money transfers or travel money purchases attract the same high rate of interest as credit card cash withdrawals.

Worse still, most credit cards – and debit cards – also charge you a foreign loading fee if you use them to make purchases while abroad.
You can, however, avoid these charges by using a Saga Platinum or Nationwide Building Society credit card.

Numbers starting 0871 cost 10p or more from a landline, while those starting 09 can cost more than £1 a minute from a mobile phone.

And the operators of these high-cost phone lines, some of which are banks, often get a cut of the call charges.
Most 09 numbers are linked to scams and should therefore be avoided at all costs, while 0871 numbers can often be bypassed by searching for an alternative local rate numbers on the saynoto0870.com.
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