It may seem to be a trivial issue, but peeing can quickly become a matter of pressing importance as you wander about Amsterdam’s Red Light District, especially if you are determined to cover the entire area, with its many side streets and alleys.
Unlike other cities, it is not really possible to slip into an Amsterdam pub or cafe and use their facilities for free. Amsterdam business owners are not exactly famed for their generous attitude towards their fellow man and it is normal practice to charge between 50c and €1 for toilet use, often even when you are already are a paying customer.
In the Red Light District they are particularly money-minded. You also do not get the usual big fast food joints or department stores, where it is easier to slip in unnoticed, it is mostly small shops, cafes and bars. With thousands of tourists wandering around for hours, getting a free gawp at hookers in windows, the business owners feel justified in charging obscene prices for pretty much everything (be sure to read our article “How to Eat Cheaply in the Amsterdam Red Light District”) and they sure as Hell won’t let you use their toilets for free.
Expect to at least pay the €1 rate but don’t be surprised if you are bluntly told, no, customers only - they can make a lot more than €1 if you buy their overpriced food and drinks. That sucks because, of course, if you do eat and drink every time you pee, you will just need to pee again in half an hour.
Getting to the toilets can also be a hassle - most of the buildings in the Red Light District date back to the 17th Century and you often have to clamber up narrow, steep stairs to find the small, cramped toilet.
Now, the reason why this becomes more than just a matter of discomfit is that you may, quite possibly, want to do more than simply look at the women in the windows (female readers should probably skip this paragraph, as it involves some male minutia that probably won’t make much sense to anyone who not actually possess a cock). One of the problems in availing yourself of the services of the Red Light District is that your enjoyment of said services depends not only up her performance but, just as much, upon yours and, let’s face it, suddenly realising that you need to urinate is going to really spoil the moment.
The frustration is that you might have spent ages walking around, not seeing anyone you feel comfortable with or attracted to, or being specifically interested in one who never seems to be available, whose curtain seems to be eternally closed - this is not at all uncommon for the hottest women or the ones with the best reputations. You might very well find that, when you least expect it, you happen to pass by and, hallelujah, she is available, but you suddenly realise that you need to pee and you know that if you do run off to find a toilet, some other horny bastard will almost certainly have gone in there by the time you get back.
Even worse, you might only realise once you are already in the room - asking to use her toilet is hardly going to get you off on the right foot and will probably make her even more rushed than usual once you actually get down to it. You can’t win - it is enough to make a sane man rip out his own bladder.
Luckily, however, there is no need to rip out your internal organs: the city of Amsterdam provides a quick and easy solution in the form of outdoor urinals. If you have not already come across the concept, perhaps in the form of the pissoirs of Paris, it may initially seem pretty disgusting: outdoor street furniture that men walk into and pee down a hole, with no real privacy and no hand-washing. When you need one, however, they are a convenience you will be glad of and, if you find yourself worrying that people will be watching you, just remember that there are far more interesting things to look at in Amsterdam’s Red Light District … such as hundreds of half-naked women in windows. I don’t care how interesting you think you are, you simply can’t compete with that.
Some brick urinals are centuries old, some ornate metal ones painted dark green date back to 1880 and are fondly named “De Krul” (meaning “The Curl”), some modern plastic ones that can accommodate up to 4 pissers, one on each side with their backs to the crowd, came into use about a decade ago and the very latest ones are high-tech metallic wonders that can descend into the ground by day - when the robots finally take over, you can expect these bastards to be at the forefront of the battle, furiously reeking revenge for all the times we humans humiliated them with our pee.
Like policemen, there is never an outdoor urinal around when you need one and the number is decreasing, so, we recommend printing out our handy [Amsterdam Red Light District Maps], which clearly indicate all 3 of the outdoor urinals scattered around [the main Red Light District], the one urinal in [the Singelgebied Red Light District] and the one urinal in [De Pijip Red Light District].
Talking of policemen, be careful not to take the outdoor urinal concept to its next logical conclusion and risk simply peeing somewhere discreet. The fine if you are caught will be at least EUR 50 but, more importantly, you really do want to avoid any interaction with the Amsterdam police if at all possible - most are fine but some are real assholes and you really do not want to be a situation where some emotionally-stunted authoritarian has power over you. I have seen some pretty bad police brutality here in Amsterdam, be particularly sure to read our special article “Can I Get into Trouble for Visiting a Prostitute in Amsterdam?”.
How about women, are there any public toilets that they can use?
No … but, human ingenuity knowing no bounds, it is possible to buy a pack of small disposable cardboard tubes in many Amsterdam pharmacies, designed expressly to allow women to pee standing up, using the same outdoor urinals as men or, really, anywhere you want and, let’s face it, that is by far the best thing about being a man, you’d be amazed at the places I have peed, including when I worked in a restaurant.
Obviously, I have never used one of these cardboard tubes but I can imagine that, if you got the hang of using them, they would be a godsend for women at festivals or anywhere else with long queues for extremely filthy toilets. In the case of Amsterdam, it is only fair that women should at least have the option to avoid having to pay a Euro each and every time they need to pee.
How about your experience of peeing in the Amsterdam Red Light District? Don’t be shy, whip out your story and share any tips you might have.