By Lee-Shay Collison, Genevieve van Velzen and Mzolisi Witbooi

Public toilets in the centre of Cape Town are in need of major upgrading as thousands of visitors descend on the city for the festive season.

The Cape Argus visited several toilets in popular areas in the city on Monday and found that most of them were run down and dilapidated.

The worst, at the Station Deck, had wet floors, broken wall tiles, stained toilet bowls and no toilet seats. With the Station Deck taxi rank seeing more than 60 000 commuters daily, the seven toilets often have long queues outside.

Xolani Ntuli, a taxi driver, said people often relieved themselves outside as a result.

According to the City of Cape Town, toilets in the City Bowl were the busiest and were a challenge to maintain because of high usage.

"This frequency increases with the onset of the high season, school holidays and prominent events which hugely influence the influx into the city," said Gert Bam, city director of social development.

He said the cyclical patterns provided information in preparation for the 2010 World Cup and were a reflection on whether the systems were appropriate for users of the city's amenities.

Greenmarket Square, Grand Parade, the Cape Town station, Company's Garden, Riebeeck Square and Golden Acre toilets were reasonably clean as cleaners were at almost every toilet.

But many of the toilets were missing seats, sanitary bins and soap dispensers and had wet floors. There were also broken taps and locks. The air-conditioning was poor, resulting in an unpleasant smell.

A cleaner at Greenmarket Square said the toilets were cleaned every half-hour. She said the staff tried to keep the place clean, but the public littered the floors with toilet paper and other items.

At the Company's Garden, another tourist attraction, traces of faeces were found on one of the walls. No toilet paper was available and one of the three toilets could not be locked.

American tourist Denzel Doerge said: "Just when you think you're in one of the world's best tourist destinations, reality hits you when nature calls. Then you remember you're in a Third World country. Or is it a developing country?"

The men's toilets at Riebeeck Square smelt of urine and had wet floors.

Bam said the rate at which the city repaired toilets was outstripped by the rate of damage caused by the people.

Toilets at the Cape Town station are under renovation and closed to the public.

Metrorail spokesperson Riana Scott said there was a tender out for the upgrade of the Netreg, Newlands and Koeberg station toilets.

Work was expected to start in February.

The department of transport had set aside R80-million for Heideveld, Langa, Athlone and Netreg stations to be upgraded for 2010.