A Woman’s Guide to Using Squat Toilets

by Brooke Schoenman on April 9, 2012 · 22 comments

squat toilet on Thai train

Squat toilet on Thai train (photo by villadavida)

I remember the first time I encountered a squat toilet on my travels.

It was in a small bar in Verona, Italy where I studied abroad, and the first thing I did was stand there in disbelief for about 5 minutes before I could get to the realization that I had to squat to pee in this Western country’s bathroom.

I was still new at this overseas travel thing, and thought that only the bidet was a unique toilet experience I would have to encounter in Italy.

I learned a lot that semester — especially about the art (or the tragedy) of using squat toilets, and that knowledge has grown through months of travel in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

In my Woman’s Guide to Using Squat Toilets, I lay out some of the facts, questions and tips I’ve acquired concerning squat toilets and the female traveler.

squat toilet middle east

Squat toilet in the Middle East (photo by goldberg)

Where Squat Toilets Exist

Squat toilets are actually quite prevalent around the world.

They may be rare in North America, but travel to Asia, the Middle East, Africa, South America and parts of Europe, and you will quickly be introduced to an experience or two using a squatter.

Popular tourist destinations will tend to cater to the Western traveler with hotels and expat locations installing the sitting style toilets.

Issues with Squat Toilets for Female Travelers

The main issue for females attempting to use squat toilets is the risk of getting urine on you and your clothing — especially a pant leg.

The risk is combined with the stress that comes from having to use new muscles in your legs just to use the restroom.

Unlike men, who only have to squat for half of their squat toilet encounters, women will have to squat for 100% of them.

It can make even the best of us shaky afterwards, and I’ve heard many a girl fear that they might fall over (or in!) a squat toilet because of it.

spare toilet roll

Spare toilet rolls always necessary (photo by jdm1979uk)

Before You Go

There are a few things I like to have with me before venturing into a squat toilet: toilet paper, a light backpack, hand sanitizer, and a Ziploc bag.

If you know you will be traveling in areas with squat toilets, it is best to have these items with you at all times.

1. Toilet Paper

Toilet paper is just not a necessity in some cultures. Instead, you might be given a hose or a bucket of water, or the toilet paper stock might not ever be… stocked. Toilet paper or a pack of tissues can save a girl a lot of trouble.

2. Backpack

A light backpack might seem like a bit much, but there are stuffable daypacks that can fit in your palm.

Throw one in your purse because when you get to a squat toilet with no coat hooks and a dirty floor, you’re going to want a place to hold the stuff on your body without getting in the way of “business”.

3. Hand Sanitizer

Hand sanitizer is kind of a no-brainer. This is always in my bag — even when I’m not traveling.

4. Ziploc Bag

A Ziploc bag is for the times there is no trash can in your toilet, and you’re in a country where you can’t flush paper.

If you are a paper-all-the-time kind of gal, then pop in the Ziploc bag until you can find a proper trash.

japanese style squat toilet

How to use a Japanese squat toilet (photo by tamaiyuya)

Best Methods for Using Squat Toilets

The basic rules for using squatters are as follows:

  • Roll your pant legs up to your knees to minimize risk of splashback hitting the bottoms.
  • Place your feet on the foot grooves on the side of the toilet hole.
  • Pull your pants down as far as you can comfortably go (preferably to the knees), but this will vary with the type of clothing you are wearing.
  • Squat to the point where you can’t squat no more. Just like the limbo, you’ll want to go as low as you can go in order to get your stream as close to the bowl as possible.
  • Shoot for the hole as hitting anywhere else on the bowl has a higher chance of causing splashback.
  • Wipe or rinse according to what’s on-hand.

Optional:

Many women claim that they can only get by in a squat toilet if they remove their bottom half of clothing completely.

Unlike men, it is harder to control the stream, so a woman might occasionally shoot sideways or just get splash from the toilet on their pant legs.

If you do remove your clothing, you will need to find a hook or place to hang it to keep them off the often questionable ground.

This is where a daypack can save the day — giving you a place to keep your belongings off the ground while also staying out-of-the-way unlike a side sling purse or bag.

Trust me — been there, done that!

Wipe and Flush

All squat toilets are created differently, so in one location, you might have an actual flush toilet, and in another you might have to scoop buckets of water into the bowl to clean it out for the next user.

One location might use toilet paper and expect you to place the paper in the trash bin, while another might cause you to rely on a water hose to wash your backside down after use.

Just remember to do what you do in accordance to the local criteria.

asian squat

Other cultures are more accustomed to this position. Practice before you travel. (photo by gregwalters)

Extra Tips

  • Practice a squat before you travel to destinations where squat toilets reign supreme.
  • Do squat exercises to build up the leg muscles that will be in use.
  • A disposable female urine funnel can be very helpful for the traveler that just can’t seem to master squat toilets on a her own. These are fairly inexpensive and can be tossed in the bin after use.

Further Reading

About the Author:

is the author of 40 posts on Go Backpacking.

Brooke lives a thrifty lifestyle so that she can travel the world at every possible opportunity. She shares her travel tales, including everything from sleeping in a yurt in Kyrgyzstan to becoming an expat in Australia, on her personal travel blog, Brooke vs. the World. Female travelers might enjoy the stories and tips of her monthly Female Travel Underground newsletter. Join her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter and Google+.

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22 Comments

Kine April 9, 2012 at 10:21 am

Great article! I’ve been to these toilets way too many times during my travels! I’m just one of them who can’t get the hang of them, so I use, as you’ve mentioned, a urine funnel! The difference is that this one is made of antibacterial rubber, so I’ve actually been using it for two years when i go abroad. The only thing I need to do is wash it after use and put it in a zip lock bag:) It has saved me countless times:) it is called whiz freedom, and you can get it online.

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Brooke Schoenman May 1, 2012 at 2:46 pm

Hi Kine,

I’ve heard of these things, and pondered buying some myself for camping and squat toilet situations. Thanks for sharing!

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Christine April 9, 2012 at 11:50 am

Nice piece! I was super worried about them in Asia, but quickly got used to it–as soon as I realized that just because it was a squat toilet didn’t mean it was a porta-potty or going to be dirty. I used so many in people’s homes or small restaurants, and they were incredibly clean (and fresh smelling!)–that really helped me get over the initial “holy shit it’s a squat toilet” shock.

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Dave April 9, 2012 at 9:25 pm

Surprisingly, I got use to them as I was traveling Asia too. In the same way I got use to having to take bucket showers with cold water. Not that I ever enjoyed either!

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RenegadePilgrim April 9, 2012 at 9:43 pm

I found that if you just pull your pants all the way down, then squat all the way down and then kind of pull your pants away from your body, all while trying to balance yourself, it minimizes the possibility of splashing…I had a whole conversation in Chiang Mai with some travelers about the health benefits of squat toilets. Countries with squat toilets have a lower incidence of colon cancer….

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Brooke Schoenman May 1, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Yes, they are also supposed to help avoid getting haemorrhoids!

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Jonathan November 8, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Haemorrhoids are the least of it. The benefits of squatting are huge and varied as you can read at this site: http://www.naturesplatform.com/health_benefits.html

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Prime April 10, 2012 at 4:19 am

I’m Asian, I grew up in Asia, I traveled here but I really really hate squat toilets. (I don’t know in other countries but in Manila, we use western-style toilet). This post though is esp helpful to those like me who have no choice but to deal with it.

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Christine | GrrrlTraveler April 14, 2012 at 12:45 am

Very useful guide, Brooke! As much as I’ve been getting used to the squat, it’s still never fun. Except when I have to #2. For some reason, squatting when you have to #2 feels like the easiest, most efficient and clean. Let gravity do it’s thing and you need less tissues!
Thanks for the inclusion!

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DEAN April 15, 2012 at 7:20 am

I have family in india and in their old apartment they had these type toilets, hole in the floor, it took time getting used to but was ok after a few visits. I suppose you do what you have to when you have to if there is no other choice. I hear the person talking about the balancing act as that is probably the most difficult part.

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Dave April 15, 2012 at 10:44 am

“you do what you have to when….there is no other choice” — exactly. And what surprised me was how use to it I got after awhile. I can even see how others might view the Western toilets as less sanitary by comparison.

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Lissie April 16, 2012 at 1:17 am

They are one of the reasons I often wear a skirt when travelling. I’m OK with most of them – but using them on trains is bloody challenging I’ve got to say!

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Dave April 16, 2012 at 7:47 pm

Thankfully I managed to make it through 7 weeks of riding trains in India without the need to use one of their squat toilets.

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Lissie April 16, 2012 at 8:19 pm

The one on the Aswan “Express” made the Indian ones look good …

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Brooke Schoenman May 1, 2012 at 2:50 pm

I usually hover over toilets on trains anyway — they’re always so gross! So, maybe I’d do alright on a train squat toilet, but I’m not running to find out :)

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Pam August 27, 2012 at 6:45 am

The washing and drying is the problem. HOW do they do? How can you wash the right parts with those buckets????? and HOW do they dry???

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Luci September 5, 2012 at 10:24 pm

Squat toilet is the easiest to use and I find cleanest because there’s no skin contact with the seat. Do you guys know how toilet cleaners clean up the toilet seat (sitting type)? They do it with a mop which they use to clean the toilet bowl first and the floor. If you go to any toilet, find the cleaner and most probably you will find her with just that one all-in-one tool – the mop!

PART 1: Using the squat toilet is easy. You squat fully like those guys in the picture. Use toilet paper to line the flat area of the bowl towards. Aim your crap so that it falls right on the toilet paper (so you wont leave skid marks). If you look down you’ll see your pile of shit, but it’s OK. Once you’re done, wipe yourself with toilet paper till you’re sure you’re clean (no marks on the toilet paper). Get up, flush the toilet. Your crap would be gone by now.

PART 2:

Squat again, find the pipe hose, use a toilet paper to hold the hose neck, clean the nozzle first by running the water for a bit. Now *point* the hose to your lady part making sure the water also can travel to the back area. Don’t let the nozzle touch your nether region though. Run it for awhile. Then use the other hand to wash your front part and move to back part. Once you’re thoroughly clean, stop the water and place the hose on the side or at the placeholder. Drop the toilet paper into the toilet bowl till you cant see them. Swish yourself up and down 2 or 3 times to rid of the water droplets. Use just a little bit of toilet paper (you can also use those paper towel for hand because those are thicker) to wipe yourself from front to back. Get up, get ready to go out and wash your hand with soap making sure you clean your nails thoroughly. If you don’t like to use water, you can stop at part 1 above.

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Jane September 14, 2012 at 9:41 pm

I find I can evacuate more on squat toilet.Urination can be a problem. Mine plashed a bit

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Elise Collins November 27, 2012 at 1:19 pm

Thanks Brooke for the informative article! In India, there tends to be several variations of toilets, each corresponding with some of the particular techniques that you have mentioned. I’ve only once been really thanking the gods for having brought paper with me, in the “mound” on the highway with no water or bucket available! Toilet styles found in India & associated tips:http://mumbaiontheslowlocal.blogspot.in/2012/11/talking-crap-indian-toiletsvariations.html

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ourjourneytothesea December 6, 2012 at 1:42 am

Whilst traveling through Asia I was told the trick to squat toilets is to stand on them backwards and then squat. I tried it and it works a lot better re: splash back lol.
Also, I don’t recommend holding out to find a western toilet. I did this on a bus ride in Thailand and almost burst my bladder.

Perhaps purchasing a she-wee is another solution.

Men have it so easy!

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Annabelle January 22, 2013 at 7:20 pm

Oh goodness, if only I had read this before my short trip to China with my family. I was in tears because I felt so dirty near the toilets, and I didn’t even experience splash-back. I completely removed my bottom clothing while I was in the stall because I knew my day would be completely ruined if I got any urine on my clothing. So I took off my panties and pants (and I had to cautiously slip off my sandals in the process because I didn’t want my dirty sandal bottoms to have any chance of touching my pants). Then, holding my panties and pants in my hands, I went into a squat and peed. I then realized they didn’t stock toilet paper in the stall, so I had to have a women outside of the stall slip me some of her toilet paper. Ugh, I used that type of toilet once at that bus stop there, and then held in my urine for a Western-style toilet every other time.

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Kevin June 30, 2013 at 8:35 am

I guess I never really thought about using squat toilets from a woman’s perspective. As a male traveler, it’s much easier for me to deal with these things. You dames just have it rough.

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