Going to Asia for the very first time can be a daunting experience. But it’s going in Asia that is the subject of today’s article. Welcome to the land of Squat toilets.
Everyone needs to “go” at some point during the day. In Asia you may even find that the change in cuisine can make this matter a bit more urgent (if you know what I mean). We’ve all heard of the dreaded Bali Belly or Delhi Belly striking and there is not always the chance to make it back to your cozy hotel with its comfortable western toilet.
In fact you don’t even have to be sick to need to go to the bathroom and then well, News Flash: if you’re travelling in Asia you may have to use a local Asian toilet, i.e The Squat Toilet. In Asia you will encounter a variety, so here’s the low down and tips for the best ways to use them.
What are squat toilets?
A squat toilet is a toilet that has been installed at ground level, so rather than sitting, like with western toilets, you have to squat or hover over it.
Why do they have Squat toilets in Asia?
These toilets have been used for thousands of years in Asia and many doctors actually promote this as a more “healthy” way to “do your daily”. I’m not going to get into those details, if you want to read more you can follow this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_defecation_postures
What do they look like?
Squat toilets can range from a self cleaning flushing unit to a couple of planks over a pit. Some places in China have a communal trough system which is just hosed out occasionally – And we mean occasionally. There are a variety that you will encounter and trust us, not all of these encounters will be pleasant.
Here’s a couple of examples for the good and the bad:
Ok, I have to go BAD, what do I need to know?
1. Be prepared for wet floors
Squat toilets often are cleaned by simply hosing out the area, so floors of squat toilets will almost always be wet and possibly muddy. Before you enter it’s best to roll up your pants or, once inside the cubicle, delicately remove them entirely to avoid them getting dirty. This will protect your pants/underwear from the floor and potential misfires!
2. Empty your pockets!
It’s also advisable, before entering the toilet, to make sure there is nothing in your pockets that can fall out. Failing to do this can end with an awkward and super gross situation very quickly. Leave your wallet, phone etc. with a friend if you can. If not remember to always travel with insurance incase anything needs to be replaced – if you know what I mean. We recommend World Nomads as they’ve always had our back
3. What do I do now?
Position yourself with one leg either side of the toilet (on the ridged part). Squat toilets are generally used facing the door, BUT there might not always be a door, so for modesty sake it’s up to you which way you face. If there isn’t a door an umbrella can be a handy item to use to have some privacy.
4. Aim is Everything
This is especially true if you have chosen to face away from the door (As this isn’t really the correct way to face). Girls this is important, as aim is not something we are accustomed to.
Helpful Hint: the farther back you are on the ridged area the more actual toilet you have to work with.
Trust me it takes some practice and sorry to say it, you will pee on your own feet more than once….gross.
5. Always assume there is no toilet paper
Most Asian countries tend to use a “bum gun”, which is a hose found next to the toilet that is used to flush away…stuff. The power of the jet is often surprisingly strong and yes, it is always cold water, so if you want to do more for the environment and save paper then this is what you’re in for with a bum gun.
In some toilets you will only be supplied with a bucket of water and a pail to clean up with.
As a girl who travels often, I prefer to always carry a small pack of tissues in my bag, just to be on the safe side.
6. Not all toilets flush
Yep, that’s right, you have to do this yourself. Most of the time there will be a bucket full of water and a ladle beside the toilet that you can flush with. Be careful with splash back!
In some countries this pail of water is a luxury item. There are so many toilets we encountered, outside of the big cities, that were just a deep hole with 2 flimsy planks over the top for you to balance on. There is certainly no flushing going on here, and you need to watch your step because one wrong move can end pretty shitty!
7. Don’t flush your toilet paper.
Most sewerage systems in Asia are ancient and they just cannot cope with toilet paper. As i said earlier, most Asians use the bum gun, so toilet paper is not a common thing to flush. Bins will normally be provided (however not always emptied regularly) and even western toilets will often block if you try to flush paper.
Many hostels and restaurants will have signs to advise you not to flush, please follow them. But, in any case, if there is a bin right next to the toilet in Asia then that is where the paper goes, not in the bowl.
Always carry a small bottle of sanitiser to clean your hands with. Maybe have it handy to bathe your entire body in after your squat toilet experience, some can be pretty gross.
9. Not all toilets are free.
If you are at a market or even just a place that has an attendant (now that’s a shitty job! hehe I made a funny) you will have to pay to use the toilet, regardless of how horrible they are. Usually it doesn’t cost very much.
10. The smell can be what nightmares are made of.
The stench of a squat toilet, especially a pit toilet, is one that can haunt you in your sleep. It’s often recommended to carry some tiger balm or similar that’s strong in scent to place under your nose. This means you only smell the balm and not, well… you know.
So that’s the basic rundown of how to use a squat toilet.
Trust me, you do get used to it and there have only been a small handful that I have refused to use. If you really have a hard time adapting, most foreign hotels or fancy restaurants will let you use their toilet or if there is a KFC these are usually well maintained (but generally still squat, especially in China).
All I can say is: Good Luck and Aim Well!
Have you used a squat toilet? Do you have any tips to add?
Leave us a comment below.