>> Tuesday, August 26, 2014
For Top-Tips - including safety - when with Guiding groups in London go HERE)
You can spend a fair amount of time hunting down loos in London. As family, I generally don't mind paying but as a group of Brownies or Rangers that suddenly makes a wee rather expensive so we are usually hunting down the legitimate group stops and the rather cheekies.
I would like this to be a growing page of entries and updates from all so just let me know your experiences and I will add them in.
A uniform is no guarantee of a free wee but a polite chat with an attendant about the Guiding charitable status and the number of girls you have with you may get the barrier opened. Also offer to pay for the adults and see if they will let the children through for free.
Carry change with you just in case and perhaps consider asking parents to make sure the children have 2 few 20ps and 50ps in case of emergency loo stops.
Think about the difference between going into somewhere with a large number of Brownies/Guides or just travelling as a group or 10 or so Rangers. A small group of Rangers will easily slip into a department store, especially if they split up, you could even include it as part of your itinerary. Some stores (definitely Harrods) have a policy of not allowing groups in and backpacks can also be an issue.
For accessible toilets the Changes Places website has a search function for finding toilets that are publicly accessible with enough space and the right equipment, including a height adjustable changing bench and a hoist.
The Loo List
The City of London have a Community Toilet Scheme where in exchange for providing members of the public with free access to clean safe toilets the City pays a contribution to participating businesses. This map shows the businesses involved. There is an app you can download that will locate nearby toilets for you in the scheme.
Covent Garden - This was free the last time I was there but busy, dirty and take your own loo roll and handwash. The Guider word on the street is that they are now 50p (in corner next to the Church). Generally I would say avoid if you can.
The Royal Opera House shows as having publicly available toilets until 3:30pm on the Great British Toilet map
Leicester Square - Public 50p loos, my experience in August 2014 with Rangers was that they were rather smelly and generally had no seats but in an emergency they will help you in that area. They aren't far from the fountain/M&M world.
M&M world (***)
Westminster - (I haven't tried these yet - I will check them out or let me know if you have) The Methodist Central Hall toilets open during cafe opening hours.
Trafalgar Square - the loos under the stairs are no longer free (20p as at July 2015), and the National Gallery were not very accommodating to a brownie group "we were met with some resistance by the security lady on the main door. I begged and pleaded desperation and she eventually, reluctantly, let us in ( we were a group of 4 adults, 2 YL and 15 Brownies). Its not an " easy" free loo stop." I think I would be inclined to try St Martins in the fields if desperate, they do have loos, if you do let me know. A suggestion from a Guider is for the theme of your trip lookup a painting that fits the theme and take your group to see it, you have a perfectly legitimate reason for a loo stop then. I love the National gallery so I would be very happy to walk groups through there any trip to look at it briefly.
The London Eye - work your way past the ticket queues and head down stairs these are legitimate free toilets run by the council, clean, and I've never faced massive queues. I've been in these with Brownie groups many times. There is a playground near here too and seats. We have stopped here for our packup. (March 2017 update I need to confirm these are still there and free)
Royal Festival Hall, South Bank - recommended by another Guider, the website shows there are many sets of toilets here and describes them as free public, family friendly toilets. I will check them out the next time I am there and update.
Hamley's, Regent Street- visted with Rangers August 2014, they are rather small and right on the very top floor. Only consider going here if your itinerary includes a Hamley's visit.
John Lewis is closer to Oxford Circus and Regent Street and far easier to find than the crowded, dirty Hamley's loos.(***)
Selfridges, Oxford Street - Visited with Rangers August 2014, went in through small side entrance on corner of Duke Street. Loos well sign posted on ground floor. Clean and free.
Foyles Book Store, Charing Cross Road (Tottenham Court Road tube) - large store with toilets by the cafe, if you are doing a book challenge or Harry Potter hunt then this may work for you.
The Museum of London - another freebie, you would have to be up there for a particular reason but this is a fantastic museum to go to with children.
Icando (HQ) is in Buckingham palace road (follow signs to the Mews from the front of Buckingham Palace, it is opposite) when open they will allow Guiding groups to use the loos there.(***)
Kensington Palace Gardens Diana Memorial children's playground - attended free loos. Perfect for a few hours including your picnic stop. No adults without children are allowed in this enclosed playground after 10am. It's a great stop.
Victoria and Albert, South Kensington - always less manic than the Science or Natural History museums. Toilets on the ground floor and easy to get to side entrance from South Kensington tube station through the tunnel - hey, if the weather is nice you could make the central coffee area your ice-cream stop.
Coram Fields has toilets, basic, but cleaned regularly - plenty of cubicles. Remember you must be accompanied by an under-16 to enter Coram's (***)
Stations and Tubes
Westminster Tube Station - 50p a wee but they are clean. You could try top tip 1.
Green Park Tube Station - 50p a wee, if top tip 1 fails go to St James' park.
Waterloo Station - 30p a wee but reported to be clean, try top tip 1.
St James Park has a set of kiddy loos near a play area and coffee stand. If you are off to see Buckingham Palace with a Brownie Unit this is the one to do. It is attended and clean. Allow a good 30 mins for this loo break and allow the girls to play on the enclosed park. It is really close to Buckingham Palace.
St Pancras International - 2 sets of good clean loos, there are always queues so allow time but always good for a group stop if you are this way. The ones near Hamley's/The pianos/glass lift generally have shorter queues.
Cannon Street Station - free loos inside overground station. Another Guider has recommended these to me and says they are not too bad and clean.
Victoria Train stations toilets are now free - there are two sets of them (***) - Personally I also recommend the McDonalds on Victoria Street for weekend trips, it has a big seating area downstairs and is less used than many I have been to. Good for after a Buckingham Palace visit,
And do you know, if you have one little Brownie literally weeing her pants then rush her in through a family meal type looking pub, with your uniform on full show, going 'so sorry, ab-so-lute emergency' in your best Joyce Grenfell accent and I firmly believe that 99 times out of 100 they really aren't going to mind. Most people recognise Guiders as the upstanding citizens we are and not as the penny pinching budgeteers we know we have to be on London trips to keep the costs sane.
Also, always remember McDonalds - bless their public service socks. But also be aware not all McDonalds are equal. I'll take Victoria over Kings Cross every Guiding trip!
(*** Information received from other Guiders)