How to Master a Squat Toilet

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Embarrassing tan lines, losing your camera, delayed connections, running out of mosquito repellent… there are so many things to stress you out while traveling that going to the toilet really shouldn’t be one of them.

In a quick poll of my friends, using a squat toilet was one of the things they were most worried about before traveling but it needn’t be so.

I ain’t gonna lie ladies, many squat toilets you’ll find are gross but definitely not all of them. In fact, the majority of the ‘cons’ in the case against squats are mental and social. We might be put off by crouching awkwardly over a ceramic hole in the floor, but imagine the positions reversed – if it wasn’t completely ordinary to you, wouldn’t you be disgusted with the idea of going “cheek-to-cheek” with a total stranger in a public bathroom? We travel to experience different cultures in all their forms, so (if you’ll excuse the pun) there’s no need to get your knickers in a twist about this.

The Technique:

  • If you don’t have the hyper-flexible hamstrings that everyone in Asia seems to have (which allow you to go straight down into a flat-footed squat) practice the motion before you travel. Remember proximity to the ground is the most important thing to avoid splash-back; do what you need to do.
  • It doesn’t particularly matter which way you face: I heard some advice saying “don’t turn around” but I always faced whichever way that something to help me balance was in easy reach of.
  • Adopt a wide stance if you’re a novice.
  • Clothing wise, jumpsuits/playsuits are a BAD call especially if you’re in a squat with no doors. Skirts are obviously the most convenient but if you’re wearing pants, roll up the legs a bit and hold everything together around your knees for the greatest splash protection.
  • Don’t wear nice shoes. Tennis shoes or boots are the easiest to balance in and avoid splashing.

Practice strategic tunnel vision and breathing through your mouth. In China the plumbing wouldn’t support flushing toilet paper and sanitary towels were preferred to tampons, so wastepaper baskets got pretty grim pretty quickly. Which brings up our next point: Mind over matter. It’s not what you like, it’s not what you’re used to, but it needs to be done.

Other Things to Keep in Mind:


  • Not all squats toilets have doors. This can be a big barrier to overcome but, seriously, no-one’s watching you. Face away from where the door should be or keep your eyes down if you’re getting performance anxiety.
  • Floors will often be wet. This is from frequent sluicing with water by attendants to keep everything clean not some kind of horrendous overflow situation.
  • Bring your own toilet paper or save tissues and paper napkins from meals.
  • Antibacterial hand gel is a must.
…and if you really can’t face it? Head to your nearest Western fast food outlet or shopping mall as they’re the most likely to have familiar Western style toilets.

Squat toilets are something all travelers will have to face eventually. How do you manage? Do you have any tips to share?

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About Author

England is a very small country, and Clare's got some big ideas and even bigger plans for her twenties (aka the "Decade of Adventures"). So far she's volunteered in a South African township, got her degree, interrailed around Europe, done a triathlon, taken the Trans-Mongolian Express and lived in China... but that's just the start. Right now she's working in a chocolatier, having UK based shenanigans and planning her biggest adventure yet. Mount Everest and Australia had better watch out! Check out her blog at http://blue-dress-and-backpack.blogspot.com

13 Comments

  1. oh my gosh…this post is so awesome.

    Just as an FYI, it is best to face the dome part of the toilet or you risk peeing all over the floor if you’ve got a lot stored up. 🙂

    also, yes, asians do have this innate ability to squat well. my mom used to tell me that it’s the rice paddy stance. 🙂

    • Thanks, I’m so glad you enjoyed it 🙂 It’s true about the “rice paddy stance” (LOVELY phrase btw 🙂 )… I must have the most Caucasian hamstrings on the planet though! Thanks for the catch on the dome point, missed that one.

  2. I second Jen’s comment about this post being awesome. I’m always freaked out traveling because of my IBS-like tendencies. It holds me back from going to more exotic places. However, if I’m prepared and know what to expect, it helps. You answered questions I’ve always had (because I’ve heard of these types of toilets) and am SO thankful! FANTASTIC POST!

    • Thanks, I’m glad to help! Something else that might be useful for you to know; I found in China (maybe someone can help me out if this is true all over Asia?) is that there are loads of public loos, even if you have to psych yourself up to use them.

  3. Funny subject, but yes, it needs to be addressed. Having traveled in the Middle East and living in Turkey, I’m an old hand at squad loos. That’s why toilet paper is an as integral part of my purse as lemon cologne and lip gloss.

  4. Thanks for this blog post. We have a few of these in Korea and I never knew how to properly use them. So I never bothered. I still don’t know if I would try it though.lol.

  5. Pingback: How to master a squat toilet « bluedressandbackpack

  6. Great post for those who have yet to use a squat toilet. You do learn techniques to better position your stance/squat or to aim. Sometimes, I found it is better to face the wall or as Jenjenk said, face the dome, and you get less splash back due to direction. If travelling with a girlfriend, get your girlfriend to be your door if there is no door otherwise you may encounter the embarrassing situation of a stranger (seeing you in an awkward position)!

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