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 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.
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 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 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 that comes 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.
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.
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.
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.
Many women claim that they can only get by in a squat toilet if they take off the bottom half of their clothing completely.
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 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 with the local criteria.
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 be very helpful for 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.