Toilet Humour

In certain shopping malls in Surabaya, like Tunjungan Plaza and Surabaya Delta Plaza, every time you have the urge, you have to pay Rp 1,000 (around USD 0.10) per person to enter the toilet. This weird policy has been applied for years without protests from the visitors or the council.

When I was studying architecture, we were taught several rules we have to apply when designing toilets, i.e. the ratio between visitors and the number of cubicles, the appropriate or suitable materials used, access, lighting, power, plumbing, air conditioning, and so on. The standard designs vary between hospitals, commercial buildings like shopping malls, offices, schools, residential buildings, or special buildings like nuclear station. We also were taught that toilet is a part of public amenities and the standard design is supervised by the council. I have found the Government Regulation (Peraturan Menteri Pekerjaan Umum no.30/PRT/M/2006: Pedoman Teknis Fasilitas dan Aksesbilitas Pada Bangunan Gedung dan Lingkungan) that clearly states that everybody, including private sectors, must follow the regulation and standard application, where it also gives a guideline of the design for the handicapped people.

Aside from the fact that I rarely see shopping malls provide access for the handicapped people, I couldn’t find the regulation that governs whether charging the visitors are allowed or not. And Tunjungan Plaza or Surabaya Delta Plaza are not the only place in the world which charge their visitors. Edinburgh Waverley Train Station‘s toilet, for instance, charges £0.20 (or around USD 0.50) for each entry.

But there are the differences between what the shopping malls in Surabaya and the train station in Edinburgh provide:

  • With Rp 1,000 you could buy a bottle of Teh Sosro or water. With £0.20 you could buy hmmm…. nothing, because you have to fork £1.00 out of your pocket for a bottle of water. So how come we pay more than Scottish people, while our GDP per capita is USD 3,700, ten times (!!) lower compares to Scotland’s USD 33,700? Something is wrong with the calculation of toilet retribution here.
  • By paying Rp 1,000 you would get 2 pieces of thin toilet paper. Or the single roller is put on the lobby and you could get as many as you want. No standard practice, it’s up to the mall management. Imagine if you are in a hurry and just enter the cubicle to realize that there is no paper provided inside! With £0.20 you don’t have to be worry that your comfort is in jeopardy. The toilet roll will be there for you.
  • By paying Rp 1,000 you would get marble floors dim lights to set your mood up (wtf ?). With £0.20 in train station, it’s standard (or cheap) ceramic tiles and bright lights.
  • By paying Rp 1,000, you must juggle to work your brain out, how you hang your fancy bag and shopping bags because there is no hook provided. The only option is to put them on the marble floors (aaah, now that’s why they choose to install USD 100/sqm marble rather than USD 10/piece hook!).
  • By paying Rp 1,000 you would get a nice surprise to feel that the hand soap is pink but has been mixed with water, so you basically get colored water. Imagine if you’ve done number 2…

Worse, there is a mall that has grades for its toilet. There is one with Rp 1,000 cover charge and you would get a fancy cubicle, there is one with Rp 500 and you only get squat closets and dirty and wet floors, and the free one, well, you can imagine what’s in there.

So this is a way the shopping malls say, that if you have no money, think again to come to our building, because you will be charged for everything. We wouldn’t let you out without spending money, so don’t think you could go for sightseeing only. No matter what, we will get the money out of your pocket.

Now how can I wash my stinky hands?



  1. Anita, sounds like you did a random toilet inspection…LOL! I never go anywhere without 500 Rupiah coin or 1000 Rupiah in my wallet even though some malls like Kelapa Gading Mall, Artha Gading Mall or ITC Cempaka Mas never charges the customer for using their public loos. But some places like Makro or Gambir station do charge the customer 1000 Rupiah per visit and they have a smelly business toilet!

    Just to add your current listings, I remembered on my first trip to UK back in 1997, Harrod’s Knightsbridge in London charged 1 Pound for using their bathroom. Isn’t that crazy?? I didn’t go to Harrods to buy luxury items but merely wanted to know this famous landmark. I was so excited stepping my feet on that store, but surprised when I had to pay 1 Pound to use the facility. Had I known that, I would control my liquid intake and relieved myself at the train station loo. Great post!

  2. Hi Elyani, I was right then, those big malls are so greedy they wouldn’t let us out without paying.

    But actually I don’t mind paying (although 1 pound sounds crazy), but I hoped to get what I had paid for. 2 pieces of toilet paper and soggy-watery hand soap are not what I expected. There’s a serious hygiene issue here and I wish the government will step in. How can we welcome tourists for Visit Indonesia 2008 if we have stinky hands?

  3. What about the staffs of the shops in the mall? Do they have to pay for toilet entry too?

  4. In Manila I saw certain malls, perhaps the less glamour ones, charged toilet visitors for maintenance I guess.

  5. The Paris Metro toilets used to have old women who would wander around the men standing at the pissiors, demanding money. I always managed to splash my trouser leg and dry up in embarrassment.

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