Today is World Toilet Day (yes really!), as designated by the United Nations General Assembly, in 2013. Originally established in 2001, the campaign was created to highlight the sanitation issues experienced in many parts of the globe. Read more information at the official website.
To mark the occasion I thought it time to share my top toilet tips for travellers. Prepare yourself… there’s no holding back on the graphic details today!
1. Learn the language
Not literally, but as well as learning how to say ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’, as I always recommend when visiting a country, find out how to say, ‘where is the toilet/bathroom?’ by the time you arrive.
2. Use the facilities
Even if you don’t REALLY need to go, it might be a while before you find another proper toilet, and you just don’t know when that might be. So use the facilities when you can and take advantage of visits to restaurants and cafes where they are free. You may need to plan or prepare when in rural areas, third world countries and even in cities, such as London, where you often have to spend far more than a penny* these days.
3. Carry tissue
This is probably a good idea when travelling generally, not just for toilet visits. It’s more of an issue in Asian countries where they do not usually supply toilet paper. Even if you’re a bum gun convert like me (see my post ‘Bum guns on my travels‘), be prepared and carry tissue paper when visiting public toilets. Also consider carrying antibacterial wipes/hand sanitiser, especially for the really unpleasant toilet visits.
4. Small change
Whether at home or abroad, it’s very common in public places to have to pay to use a toilet. Small change to hand will make things easier, although be careful not to leave change in pockets when visiting a squat toilet; more on that below.
5. Strengthen you thigh muscles
Ladies will probably already have been well practiced at squatting (!). Often in public toilets this is necessary, especially when there is no seat, wherever you are in the world.
When travelling to Middle Eastern and Asian countries in particular, male or female, be prepared to squat. Strong leg/thigh muscles are a must for this and there are some exercises you might want to consider doing before this experience, to prepare yourself.
6. Leave your dignity behind
When trekking, walking, camping and similar, where there are just not going be any facilities, you may be faced with having to be ‘seen’ with your pants around your ankles (bonus tip: try to keep pants around knees in practice).
On my travels, I’ve found the PUBLIC part of public toilets to be some of the worst for lack of privacy. My personal experience to date includes highlights in both China and Vietnam.
7. What to wear
When you know you are going to be subjected to squat toilets, dress accordingly, or ensure you roll up trouser legs and tread carefully. There’s nothing worse than finding an unidentified damp patch has made its way onto your clothing from the floor, or worse, your feet!
My favourite footwear, my beloved Crocs, are ideal for visiting toilets as they are much better at keeping your feet dry and better still can be washed off easily when needed. Do read about the other reasons why I always travel with these trusty shoes, despite the lack of fashionability.
8. Master the squat toilet
All first timers will go through the fear of falling over (or in). In fact as a well practiced user of squat toilets around the world, I still feel the fear every once in a while. The worst moments being on trains or where the squat toilet pertrude’s somewhat upwards. The flat on the ground types are much easier to navigate!
If you haven’t experienced a squat toilet then I suggest take note of tips 5 and 7 above, ahead of a potential first meeting with a squat. Then on arrival, just use the foot panels as best you can, get as low as you can, and watch out for your feet. Note: I don’t recommend this on raised squats, particularly on a moving train – just master the ‘hover’ style squatting technique and try not to touch anything!
Simples. Well with a bit of practice you should be facing your fears in no time.
Got any toilet tips to share, I’d love to hear them?
Otherwise, have a Happy World Toilet Day!