Bathroom, restroom, toilet,  los servicios, the loo, outhouse, the lavatory, or the washroom usually not a topic covered in blogs or even in many travel books.  Since some of my friends have not yet traveled outside the US, I thought I would share some knowledge about bathrooms in other countries.  And then during the Olympics, some of the photos and comments by the reporters made me wonder if some of them had ever traveled outside the US.

In most Asian countries,  squat toilets are standard and not the seated toilets like we have in the US.   Also, the shower may be in the same room as the toilet and is not encased in a curtain or glass.   It may also be in a separate location or in some villages, some people wash at the village water spout.

Squat Toilet vs Seated Toilet. 

On the trail we talked a bit about the advantages and disadvantage of squat toilets. In many of the larger guesthouses, seated toilets have been installed to accommodate the habits of  many of the trekkers.   There appears to be a new market for “squat” toilets based on research into the advantages. Both NPR and Slate magazine wrote articles about this.

Here are some general tips based on my experience in South America, Europe and now Nepal.

Bathroom Tips: 

  • Know the local word for toilet and bathroom. In the US we use the term “bathroom” to describe several different options that can include a mix of  toilet, sink(s), shower and bathtub.  In most other countries, there are different words for “toilet” and “bathroom”. The first being the “toilet’ and  the second  is used for baths and showers.
  • Bring your own toilet paper. Many places will not supply toilet paper or you may be charged for it.   You may also find that you have a preference for type of paper.  One of the rolls that I bought in Nepal was more like streamer paper than toilet paper.
  • Don’t throw toilet paper in toilet, place it in trashcan.  In many countries, the plumbing systems are not in place to handle toilet paper.   There is usually a bin near the toilet for throwing away used toilet paper.  
  • Burn paper or pack it out.  While on the trail, if there is no danger of forest fire, you may burn the toilet paper. Or even better, bring a small ziploc and store it until you get somewhere you can throw away. Just don’t leave it on the ground.
  • If there is no running water, “flush” with a bucket of water. The toilet may be  a seated toilet but the water is actually not turned on or a squat toilet.  If there is bucket, fill it with water and dump it in the toilet. This will “flush” the toilet.
  • Bring shoes that can handle water or mud.  In many of the toilets, the water splashed around or even froze and put that with the dirt or misdirects, and the floor can be wet and messy. My Tom’s didn’t handle this so well. I wish I had brought my crocs or slide flip flops.
  • Bring lots of hand sanitizer or small hand soap.  There may be a bucket, a tap or maybe a sink for you to wash your hands and then again there may not be.  Non-alcohol hand sanitizer is a great option as it doesn’t dry your hands out.
  • Practice squatting before you travel.  Build up your leg muscles and open your hips before you go so that you can squat easily.

I probably missed a few good ideas, so please share any tips that you have.


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