Toilet Paper in Costa Rica

I am writing this blog for myself and the many friends I have that work in the hotel industry. This rangers from cleaning staff, owners, and anyone that has been called to do the dirty work. Owning an ecolodge in Costa Rica just know that it’s not always “living the dream” like everyone says. Here is the reason why?

When visiting another country, you always want to be attuned to their sanitary protocols. One particular topic that is quickly drawn to attention in Costa Rica is, why don’t they have toilet paper?

Well, technically, they do have toilet paper. The only thing is it never actually makes it to the toilet. As a result, a more appropriate name would be “Trash Bin Paper”.

In Costa Rica, almost everywhere you go, you will see a small sign in the bathroom. This sign is asking you to please put your used toilet paper and any other toiletry towels that might be needed. The reason for this is because of the outdated and overused septic system. This is something the local Costa Rican’s have grown up with. It’s second nature but it’s not as easy for visitors to get used to. Even after you get past the fact that it’s just a little strange and somewhat gross. You have a trash bin filled with the last couple of people’s waste papers that have used the toilet. When you toss your paper in, you can’t help get a glimpse of the used papers. If you are anything like me, even after 20 years of being in Costa Rica, it just doesn’t feel right.

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Why Tourist Struggle?

The real difficulty comes with habit. Tourists clog toilets like they take pictures in Costa Rica (those two events should never be combined). If someone ever did a study with hotel staff on what percentage left the toilet clogged, I think it would be astonishingly high. If there is a sign in each room, you have to ask yourself how come people forget or just can’t do it.

  • Don’t be a Sea-Turtle

This is where I like to bring the famous sea-turtles of Costa Rica that every so eloquently come onto the beaches of Costa Rica and lay their eggs. This natural phenomenon’s magic is filled with astonishing facts and characteristics of returning to the same beach and many more things.

The one feature I want to focus on is the trance each sea-turtle enters when laying the eggs. They are tripped out in a different dimension, doing what nature needs them to do with no distraction. Without getting into too much detail, I think we can all relate to the similarities to using the bathroom and even more so on vacation and even more so after a few rice and beans plates.

Suppose you are still reading this blog entry, congrats, and stick with me. The habit of going to the bathroom for most humans is something we have done every day for our entire life.

Like the turtles, most of us just want to relax and shut off for a few seconds or minutes. The relaxation and the motions are all set in place after thousands of times, and it is a routine that is hard to break. I honestly believe most tourists just forget the rules. Or perhaps them remember when it is too late. Nobody can be asked to fish the paper out after it has been tossed. 

Be the Responsible Tourist

So my goal for anyone who reads this blog would be to make a real conscious effort to find a way to remember. Because your muscle memory will lead you to what you are used to. Don’t fall into the sea-turtle trance. Try to arrive in Costa Rica with a real plan; tell your travel partner to remind you. Your small effort to remember will go along way in the day of a hotel employee.

If you forget and clog the toilet, it’s not the end of the world. The next easiest way to make things right is to leave a more than average tip for the cleaning staff. I hope this helps and enjoy your stay in Costa Rica.