Most tourists wake up on any given morning and ask themselves, what do I want to see today? Where do I want to go? But until the moment of truth comes, rarely do they think, where am I going to go if I really have to go?
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When it comes to public toilets, the standard options exist in Israel. You can try popping into a branch of a larger coffee chain or dipping into a hotel or shopping mall (although you might not make it in Tel Aviv's Dizengoff Center as you navigate the mall's labyrinth to the ground or top floor).
Some locals take matters into their own hands, making it not uncommon to see parents helping their kids pee on the street or at the side of the road – and even grown men have been witnessed taking care of business behind a tree, in an alleyway or on the beach (hence the potent urine stench detected in some parts of town).
Tel Aviv has a few public toilets strewn about that are hidden in underground passageways or located in futuristic-looking, silvery outhouses like one in Masaryk Square. Yet few locals are known to use them, unless they're truly desperate.
This past April, the city welcomed its first boutique public restroom, courtesy of 2theloo. The company opened its first branch in Amsterdam in 2011, and now boasts ten "restroom shops," as it calls them, mainly in Europe.
The Tel Aviv branch, located at 9 King George Street – a stone's throw from the Carmel Market, Nahalat Binyamin, Bezalel Market and not far from Dizengoff Center – is open from 10 A.M. to 8 P.M. daily (but is closed Shabbat). It costs NIS 3 (less than $1) to use the facilities, which include separate sections for men and women containing a total of seven toilets and two urinals. There is also a larger stall for handicapped visitors or mothers who need a changing table for their babies.
The restrooms at 2theloo are clean, smell fresh and are nicely decorated; there's ambient music that's pleasant but not too loud. The insides of the stalls are adorned with picturesque scenes of Tel Aviv, such as the beach or Azrieli Towers, or with nature shots like flowers in bloom, a swimming polar bear or a striking ape. As for the toilets, the flush is automatic so you don't have to touch anything.
The sinks at 2theloo are equipped with automatic soap dispensers, and each station has a large mirror and "work area"– which makes freshening up all that much easier. The boutique also sells a variety of merchandise, including hand sanitizer, women's sanitary products, tissues and more.
On a recent visit to the King George branch, an attendant said they welcome about 200 visitors per day, while 2theloo's website says there are plans to open another branch in Dizengoff Center (date TBA). Just the thought makes one flush with joy.