Everybody poops right? But bathroom equipment is not always the same. Most travelers from the US and Europe are familiar with the sit down toilet which is often called a “Western” toilet in Asia. However, around Asia, and much of the world actually, there are some important differences travelers should know about.
- Always carry a little tissue pack with you. Almost no public restrooms have any toilet paper. Get in the habit of carrying tissues all the time. I once saw someone’s sock in the waste basket which was funny. Don’t be that guy.
- Know when you can or cannot flush the toilet paper. Usually you cannot but many hotels and nicer places it’s fine. Be aware and and look out for a waste basket next to the toilet for a clue.
- Learn how to do the “Asian squat” or have a plan for when the only choice is a squatty potty.
- Be prepared for some lack of privacy. Often you’ll find no doors on stalls, people waiting in line, and female attendants in the men’s room.
An important rule for most toilets in Asia is Do Not put your paper into the toilet. Be very careful about how much you use too. Many toilets cannot handle the paper and will clog up or not flush it down at all. Seriously, spare yourself the embarrassment and be very aware of when you can or cannot flush the paper. If there is a little trashcan next to the toilet with other people’s tissues then use it.
However, in the cities and almost all good hotels you usually can flush the paper down the toilet. Not always, but most hotels and places in the city should be fine. I live in Shanghai and even though it’s a top tier city most public restrooms cannot handle paper down the pipes.
Another good rule is before you use the bathroom do a test flush. I cannot remember all the times I’ve gone into the stall and found the toilet would not flush or had a very weak flush. So, it’s best to always start with a test flush just to be safe.
Squat Bathroom Toilet
The squat toilet is found almost everywhere in Asia. For these, you never put paper into them. If you do, then better hope no one is waiting because you might find yourself a bit embarrassed.
Another key thing with these is you must be able to squat comfortably. It is very common for visitors to have some trouble getting and staying down in a squat.
To use, put your feet on the pads/sides and squat. Simple, but it’s the squatting that seems to put people off. Check out this Youtube video on the subject.
Sometimes you’ll go into a public toilet and find guys squatting, smoking, and messing on their phones. All so casual and unconcerned with privacy. Takes some getting used to.
The Bidet and the “Butt Gun”
Sometimes you might find a bidet. It’s not common but I’ve seen them a few times. Bidet is fairly simple to use. You use the toilet first then move over to the bidet and wash off. Wikihow has a more comprehensive explanation for how to use a bidet if you’re interested.
The “butt gun” is a water hose and nozzle next to the toilet. I’ve seen these in South Asia and Sri Lanka. I was hesitant at first but after some practice I think this method cleans your butt very well.
Using the butt gun takes some practice. First thing you want to do is test the water hose so you’ll know what to expect. Sometimes the pressure is pretty strong or the sprayer shoots a wide cone.
First thing after doing your business is flush the toilet. In the next step you do not want the water hose splashing poop water; Yuck.
You also do not want to squirt water all over your butt. It’s best to remain seated, lean forward a bit then shoot a jet of water right onto your sink star. That’s the best way I think and you don’t have to get all messy wet.
That’s all there is to it. Then dry off with a little tissue paper and enjoy the fresh feeling.
Japanese Toilets Are Great!
The toilet shown here is a typical one found in Japanese hotels, restaurants, malls, etc. It’s not uncommon to find an automatic toilet in the cities.
These things are amazing. The seats are heated which is so comfortable especially on cold days. Many have sensors that start a fan to draw away foul air as soon as you sit down. When you get up it’ll close the lid and flushes automatically.
If you look at the photo here, there is a command and control panel on the side. Deploy a butt sprayer, adjust the spray area, pressure, temperature and enjoy. This feature is so nice for that fresh clean feeling.
Although a little complicated, the Japanese toilet is simple to operate as all the button icons are rather obvious.