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A Woman’s Guide to Using Squat Toilets

squat toilet on Thai train
Squat toilet on Thai train (photo: 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 five 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 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 female travelers.

squat toilet middle east
Squat toilet in the Middle East (photo: goldberg)

Where Squat Toilets Exist

Squat toilets are 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 of using a squatter.

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

Issues with Squat Toilets for Female Travelers

The main problem for women 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 resulting from having to use new muscles in your legs 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 afterward, 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 are always necessary (photo: 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 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 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 can.

Related: 10 Secret Items to Pack as a Woman on Your Next Trip

japanese style squat toilet
How to use a Japanese squat toilet (photo: 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 the 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 squat no more.

Just like the limbo, you'll want to go as low as you can go 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 completely take off the bottom half of their clothing.

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

If you 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 actual flushing toilets, 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 following the local criteria.

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

Extra Tips

Practice a squat before you go 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 help the traveler that can't seem to master squat toilets on her own.

These are relatively inexpensive and can be tossed in the bin after use.

Further Reading

Planning a trip? Go Backpacking recommends:

Chris Sullivan

Friday 23rd of September 2016

Western toilets are one the main culprits for back and knee pain, joint immobility and a host of other unpleasant knock on effects that are common in westerners. I think they should introduce Asian toilets in the UK. It would mean that everyone would have to learn to squat properly, that would save the NHS an absolute fortune!

WCamber

Monday 25th of July 2016

Water and Clothing: pull your pants up to your knees and bunch your pants tightly around your spread knees not ankles. A deep squat is needed and your feet need to be wide spread. Its tough to balance on your tip toes and things will be much better when you can truly deep squat on flat feet, so practice. Women can spread their labia slightly so that no pee will get on them and their stream wont find its way to a leg. To use the water: scoop some with your right hand and pour a little on one finger of your left hand. Dab the pee spot. Rinse your finger. You will stay completely dry. To use the water after defecating put about a shot glass full in the ladle and pour a little on one left hand finger. Stay deep squatting and pour the tiny amount of water between your butt cheeks where it will run down to the right spot and rub with your wet finger. Use the rest of your dry left hand to pat yourself dry. The truly non-squeamish will just wipe with a wet finger and then... wash your hands. Experiment when you are in the bathroom and ready to take a shower just in case...

Sara Kok

Wednesday 4th of May 2016

You don't have to remove your pant or skirt completely. Just use pull the pant down, squat and hold your pant using your knee. Hope this help :)

Megan

Tuesday 20th of October 2015

I may be visiting South America and heard that they have squat toilets in that region, so this information if very timely.

I've always been the grin-and-bear-it type when traveling, thus I'm used to crossed legs and/or a tight tushy. If it can wait, I'll hold it in until I get back to my hotel room for cleanliness and privacy reasons. This is especially true for a #2 as I hate needing to take care of a bowel movement in a public restroom.

Again, thank you for the article as your tips may come in handy.

Danzig

Tuesday 3rd of November 2015

I would be surprised to find a squat toilet in south america. Not common at all. It is a western society, and western traditions are common, even among poor population. I have traveled all over SA and have never found one, you will be fine. (Born and raised there in case you need source)

Kramium

Thursday 17th of September 2015

Always make sure you don't drop your mobile phone or wallet in the squat toilet!

Diarrhoea is another nasty challenge bec it can explode and not get contained unlike in a sit-on. Here is where you really need thick hand wipes to wipe your shoes.

A silicone or rubber pee cone is a must for females who may need to pee standing against a wall.

Comments are closed.