squat!

How to Use a Squat Toilet in 5 Easy Steps

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The squat toilet isn’t really a toilet, as we in the West understand the word. The “squat” portion of the name is accurate, but the “toilet” is really just a hole in the floor into which you poop, then pour in some water as a chaser. I believe they call it a toilet because “poop hole” was already trademarked. Drawing upon my experiences traveling through India, I’d like to share with you my hard-won tips and tricks for doing your business in the developing world.

Few people know this but the squat toilet was invented by an early side-branch of humans who had a third eye in their butt.

Now, few people know this but the squat toilet was invented by an early side-branch of humans who had a third eye in their butt. That’s the only explanation I can think of, at least. No amount of twisting and turning is going to give you an accurate idea of where things will end up and whether or not you’ll have to buy new shoes. Fancier toilets have small footpads that at least provide a starting point for a successful drop. These are designed with people of a smaller stature in mind and given the natural variance of leg lengths and body types (and factoring in the Doppler Effect), it’s pretty much a crap shoot. Yes, I went there.

But fear not! Follow these 5 easy steps and you’ll soon be pooping like a native.

Step 1: Steeling Yourself

If you’re like most Westerners, you’re feeling pretty apprehensive at this point and would rather just avoid the whole situation. If so, simply say this to yourself as many times as needed: “I’m thousands of miles from home and I’m about to shit my pants.” Now, say it one more time just to gain a sense of urgency. Console yourself with the fact that no one knows you here — if they do, they’re probably waiting for you to hurry up so they can have their turn.

Step 2: Getting in Position

With your toilet paper nearby (bring your own), drop your drawers, straddle the toilet, and assume a position as if you were about to launch yourself off a ski jump. I’ve found that making “vroom vroom” noises at this point tends to get things moving along, but maybe that’s just me. I’ve also found that reaching down with one hand and pulling your twisted pants and undies up and forward lessens the chances of “surprises”, as well as keeps them from touching the ground (which will be disgusting). The other arm should be kept free for wiping and for flailing about when you lose your balance.

Step 3: Praying

This part is easy: say a few words to the deity of your choice and let nature take it’s course.

Step 4: Wiping

Squat plumbing is generally gravity-fed and toilet paper tends to clog things up.

There is quite a bit of debate about what to do at this point. Squat plumbing is generally gravity-fed and toilet paper tends to clog things up. If you insist on depositing your paper in the toilet, the entire hotel staff will hate you and will certainly do ugly things to your food and drink. Hence the phrase “Never shit where you eat.”

Bonus Tip: Due to the fact that squats are gravity-fed, your poop will sometimes hang around for a bit. Please be considerate of your fellow travelers and avoid eating cork or balsa wood.

If you choose not to flush (ha!) your paper, deposit it in the trash can which is often nowhere to be found. If there is a trash can, it will most likely be placed behind you and well out of arm’s reach. Moving the trash can before you started would have been a great idea.

Step 5: All Over but the Crying

That’s it! You’re done. If everything went well, I recommend buttoning up, washing your hands until they bleed, and walking out with your head held high. If it didn’t go well, run straight to your room, take a shower, and change pants.

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

FC December 3, 2009 at 2:32 pm

First time I saw one of these we were in Australia. Having not yet enjoyed the benefit of your blog, let me just say… I pinched it off and waited till we got back to the hotel.

After being directed to the “bathroom”… I’m looking at this “hole in the ground” and thinking, “WTF am I supposed to do with THAT?”

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wes December 3, 2009 at 11:52 pm

wow. the google ads for this post are a little on the weird side…

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Neil December 4, 2009 at 12:21 am

It’s near impossible to not crap on your pants. My advice is to take them off before squatting.

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wes December 4, 2009 at 12:27 am

good call, Neil. I thought of mentioning that, but it struck me as an “advanced move”, so I deleted it. Maybe I’ll have to do to Part 2 post.

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Legal Nomads December 5, 2009 at 9:40 pm

Excellent squatting techniques, especially the crying part. I’ve found that the whole process takes a turn for the worse when there’s a pig (Peru), a goat (Mongolia) or 100 Chinese women (near Chengdu, China) staring at you during the squatational motions.

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wes December 5, 2009 at 9:43 pm

hahaha! yeah I could see that making things more difficult ;)

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Legal Nomads December 5, 2009 at 9:49 pm

Just slightly. The pig was the worst – he (she? I’m going with a he) kept trying to push me off the hole in the ground to get to what was in it. I mean, it is a pig and all, but have some patience? The women staring at me was hilarious, and solidly removed any hint of exhibitionist tendencies that I might have had.
.-= Legal Nomads´s last blog ..Featured Photos: Storm over Sydney =-.

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wes December 5, 2009 at 9:58 pm

“hey! do you mind? I’m trying to concentrate here!”

yeah, I’ve found the lack of personal space to be one of the toughest things to acclimate to. When 3 people stand around you and obviously talk about you between themselves — very hard to get a handle on that….

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Legal Nomads December 5, 2009 at 10:03 pm

I’ve yet to go to India (that’s on tap for the spring) but I’ve been told to take any personal space adjustments and then magnify the adjustment by 10x. Should be an adventure (hopefully not of the “getting sick on the road, redux” type).
.-= Legal Nomads´s last blog ..Featured Photos: Storm over Sydney =-.

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wes December 6, 2009 at 1:27 am

Yeah, you’ll adapt soon enough. I found India to be hard travel at times, but definitely worth it. It’s like stepping back in time 1,000 years in places. Amazing.

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Stop Having a Boring Life Rob December 7, 2009 at 9:35 am

I don’t mind the hose but luckily have never had to be there, that said I’m sure it’s only a matter of time.
.-= Stop Having a Boring Life Rob´s last blog ..Chili Crab & The Singapore Sling =-.

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Melvin December 11, 2009 at 4:51 pm

Nice one! But I must say that I’ve seen “normal” toilets in India & since then I prefered the holes in the ground!!! :) They were really that dirty, it was unbelievable!
.-= Melvin´s last undefined ..If you register your site for free at =-.

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Earl December 11, 2009 at 6:39 pm

I always make sure I choose a squat toilet that has a water faucet coming out of the wall off to the side (luckily, many do). Without it, I’d have nothing to hold on to and would be at a severe risk of just falling in. Although one time I remember balancing myself by putting my left hand on the wall in front of me and my right hand on the wall behind me. It was not comfortable…but I managed to remain above the bowl and not in it!

Funny post Wes!
.-= Earl´s last blog ..From Worthless Bum to Long-Jump Champion =-.

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The Aussie Nomad December 12, 2009 at 1:25 am

The good old squat toilet. My first and only experience happened when I found myself in China for the day. You may call it an “advanced move” but no way in hell were my pants staying on. I was clearing the path for any outcome.

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wes December 12, 2009 at 11:43 am

Thanks for all the great comments!

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Aaron Schubert December 15, 2009 at 7:57 am

Got a laugh from me. I can’t say that I have ever used one of these, but I am sure I will have to one day. I will be sure to keep your tips in mind!

Aaron
.-= Aaron Schubert´s last blog ..WA Fishing =-.

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Mark H December 16, 2009 at 5:58 am

Just a wonderful description bringing me back to those terrifying first few times of negotiating sich a natural bodily function in foreign territory. Some of the squats in Africa and parts of Asia almost defy description and certianly would defy any health check.
.-= Mark H´s last blog ..Photo of the Week -Triberg Falls (Germany) =-.

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Poi - No Place To Be March 5, 2010 at 12:34 pm

I enjoyed reading that, lots of laughs but now I am also crapping myself? about crapping myself?

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Rachel Gill March 23, 2010 at 2:50 am

OMG No you didn’t…well, at least *you* can pee standing up !!

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AJ Alexy March 25, 2010 at 11:50 pm

Well I encountered one in Bosnia of all places a couple weeks ago and thanks to your advice, it was a complete success!

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wes April 14, 2010 at 12:19 pm

Woot! Glad to hear it was of some help!

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Dustin Main - Skinny Backpacker April 14, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Classic post Wes! I’ve “experienced” squat toilets in a few countries by now, and so far, no “accidents”

… yet
.-= Dustin Main – Skinny Backpacker´s last blog ..Photo of the Day – Flying Over Binalong Bay =-.

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wes April 14, 2010 at 1:14 pm

knock on wood!

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Shannon December 31, 2010 at 5:55 pm

somebody needs to make an animation on how to use one… I think that would be better ;)
Shannon recently posted..Disaster- Expensive WO-MANMy Profile

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wes January 1, 2011 at 10:19 am

I’m *not* volunteering for that ;)

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Who Invented The Toilet March 16, 2011 at 7:56 am

Well u know what people say…“How long a minute is depends on what side of the bathroom door you’re on”

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Faroutofoffice May 12, 2011 at 9:48 pm

Hilarious post! One of the best things about being an Asian traveller is the ability to give smug tips to fellow travellers on using the squat loo. I now have to amend my 3-step guide to using a squat loo:
(1) Asian squat (as demonstrated in http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gWTmg4dHiKg)
(2) Align output source with hole in the ground.
(3) Go.
(4) Follow Johnny Vagabond’s tips on wiping up.

P.S. I’ve included a link to your post in my latest post on the quirks of being an Asian/Singaporean/Chinese traveller: http://www.faroutofoffice.com/2011/05/12/the-thing-about-being-an-asiansingaporeanchinese-traveller-is/

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wes May 13, 2011 at 10:20 am

Glad you liked it! And thanks a bunch for the link :)

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Jannell May 15, 2011 at 1:57 pm

OMG!! I have tears streaming down my face from laughing so hard! I hope I find it just as funny when I have to experience it.

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Heba Mak October 24, 2012 at 5:34 am

Wes…. i really laughed so hard reading your post.
Im Egyptian… living in Egypt. And while we have the normal toilets everywhere…i have come across a squat toilet on my way to upper egypt…
And since the trip was around a 10 hour drive… we had to stop somewhere to do our stuff. When i saw the squat toilet in that gas station we stopped in i decided to hold it. (unfortunately for my diabetic aunt.. she HAD to use it!)

Anyway, i guess ill have to tell you that because i held it for all 10 hours… wheni finally got to a reliable, clean, normal toilet…. i couldnt stop holding it. And that was one of the most painful experiences in my life!

I guess sometimes we have to do things we dont wanna do… or we wont have a chance of doing it AT ALL!! :)

Thanks for the post!

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Philip June 20, 2014 at 9:34 pm

I highly recommend removing at least one leg of your pants and undies first.
Philip recently posted..An Angkor Wat Sunrise and So Much More–Part 2My Profile

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wes June 21, 2014 at 5:03 am

agreed.

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david June 21, 2014 at 9:45 pm

Don’t take your own paper learn to do it the civilized way.Fill the can that you will find somewhere near with water hold the can in the right hand and pour slowly onto the crack of your bum the water will run down to the anus where your left hand will be able to swish and scrape as required.
Now you know why the locals are disgusted when they see you using your left hand to eat with.

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