Toilet Guide: Iceland – Road Tripping with Shewee & Peebol

Standard

“You are not bringing that bag of piss into the rental car”


Intro to Iceland:

Usually, when we announce our travel plans, people ask us the same two questions:

“Where is that?”

Closely followed by:

“Okay… but, uhh, why would you go there?”

People never ask you why you’re going to Spain or France though, and equally people never ask why you’re going to Iceland. Instead, they often comment:

“Oh cool! I went there last year!” or “Ohh I really wanna go there!”

So Iceland doesn’t really need an introduction. You know where it is and why people go there. Chances are, you’ll probably go there yourself some time, so let us prepare you for their toilet situation!


Survival guide:

  • Toilet facilities in towns are consistently excellent, whether you’re at a cafe, restaurant or tourist hot-spot. Nothing to worry about here.
  • Out in the countryside, standards vary more. Whilst on road trips, we found some of the world’s most expensive public toilets, with excellent facilities, and also some pretty basic toilet shacks without hand washing facilities.
  • When you’re driving around off the beaten track (or as far off it as you can get in Iceland), there will be times when a nature pee is called for. We explore this in more detail below, and we also review 2 outdoor peeing aids we brought with us for trial; Shewee and Peebol.

IcelandBlog_MountainsCar.png

Road tripping in Iceland

Iceland is made for road trips. The countryside is so downright stunning that they print advice cards in the rental cars, reminding you not to stop your car in the middle of the road to take photos, even if is really pretty. And yeah, we did see another car do just that next to a particularly jaw-dropping glacier. The 6 of us piled in our huge 4×4 rental car, blasted out Wheels by the Foo Fighters and asked our friend Eduardo to park up every 5 minutes so that we could stand up and simply gaze open-mouthed at the wild beauty surrounding us.

However, the middle of nowhere is notoriously lacking in toilets. Here’s how we managed the toilet situation on our various road-trips:


The Golden Circle

The golden circle is a popular day trip from Reykjavik, taking you past an exceptionally active geyser, a gigantic waterfall and a rift valley. This can be comfortably done in one day (the golden circle is not to be confused with the ring road which goes around the entire island and is definitely not a day trip). Our first stop was the rift valley, a stunning landscape featuring excellent public toilets, although they were ludicrously expensive at £1.50 a go. However, Iceland is firmly in the 21st century and you can pay on card if you lack the correct change.

IcelandBlog_ToiletCost.png

At least £1.50 buys you an excellent hand-washing view:

IcelandBlog_BathroomView

The next stop of Geysir had good quality, free toilet facilities connected to a nearby cafe and shop. For the price of walking through the gift shop, we found clean cubicles with locking doors, and toilet roll and soap were provided. The waterfall stop, Gullfoss, is only 10 minutes down the road from Geysir, so we had no need to seek out toilets there.


Northern Lights Hunting

To have any chance of seeing the northern lights in Iceland, you need to be in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night. One place you rarely find toilets is the middle of nowhere.

We fashioned our own northern lights hunting trip, using the Icelandic Met website to track gaps in the clouds as we sped through the foggy countryside, chasing the tail of the elusive aurora. As soon as we spied stars peeking out between the clouds, we pulled over and lay down in a field, huddling together for warmth as we stared hopefully at the sky. When the clouds started to roll in, we jumped back in the car and drove in search of the next gap, ever waiting, ever hopeful.

After a couple of hours of driving, we had a problem. I needed to pee, as did my friend Steff. Privacy & warmth were our primary concerns; there are few trees in Iceland, and the landscape in this particular areas was flat and uh, exposed. The only shelter we had was the huge rental car. Luckily, we’d taken a Shewee and some Peebols with us to Iceland, which were kindly sent to us by Shewee. I tried the Shewee “Extreme”:

IcelandBlog_Shewee2

The Shewee allowed me to have a pee while standing up, and without pulling down my trousers, which was a great advantage in the freezing Icelandic night. It also felt much more private, which is handy when there are 5 people within 5 metres of you.

That said, using a Shewee is a bit of an art-form; it feels very strange to be standing up and peeing, and I think it takes a few tries to be confident using it. You will probably choose to still use toilet roll after using a Shewee, and it pays to have it ready in your other hand before you pee. The Shewee “Extreme” comes with plastic carry case, so you don’t need to worry about putting it back in your bag if you’re not able to fully clean it after use. I would suggest putting your used toilet roll in this case or in a sealable plastic bag, rather than leaving it on the floor. Because nothing is more disgusting than going to behind a rock to pee and finding a pile of used toilet roll.

The problem was, Steff needed to pee too. And we only had one Shewee with us, which really did need a wash before anyone else could use it.

“I’ll use the Peebol!” Steff decided, with determination.

IcelandBlog_Peebol

Peebol is a small plastic bag, containing absorbent crystals which turn urine into an odourless gel. We explained this to Eduardo. He held zero faith in the absorbent crystals and even less confidence in the plastic bag.

“You are not bringing a bag of piss into the rental car” declared Eduardo, taking his role as the driver very seriously.

Nevertheless, Steff gave it a go. She soon realised that figuring out a Peebol for the first time in the pitch black Icelandic night is quite a feat. Steff’s main concern was accidentally getting the cardboard top-section wet, and while she’d discovered the zip lock seal, she hadn’t found the additional sticky seal. That said, she peed into it very successfully and was pleased to have somewhere to dispose of her used toilet roll too.

The only problem is, you do have to carry the bag with you afterwards.

“It’s not even pee anymore, it’s gel!” explained Steff. “But umm, it’s really dark and I’m not sure I sealed it properly…”

“You’re not bringing that bag of piss into the rental car” repeated Eduardo.

We popped the Peebol in a large crisp packet by way of compromise and were pleased to report absolutely no spills in the rental car.

icelandblog_northernlightsmaybe

We knew that our chances of seeing the aurora in this weather was very low, and indeed we didn’t manage to spot the elusive lights with our eyes… But, this photo Morgan captured (of some greenish shapes to the left) shows they might actually have been there all along, unfortunately just behind a lot of clouds!


The South Coast – On the road to Vik

Let’s get one thing straight: our South coast road trip crapped all over the golden circle. But being a less touristy route, there were fewer places to crap!
Toilet facilities at the key stopping points on this journey were free, but much more basic. Some stops lacked running water or toilet roll, as was the case at Seljalandsfoss, the first of two epic waterfalls on this route. So bring your own loo roll, and be prepared to queue if it’s busy – preferably before you gaze upon the mass of relentlessly flowing water.

IcelandBlog_Waterfall

When we reached the isolated volcanic beach at Vik, the usual suspects (Steff and I) needed to pee. This time we swapped: I tried using a Peebol and Steff had a go with the Shewee. I found squatting to floor level was the most comfortable way for me to use the Peebol, and the shape of the bag worked well to avoid splashing. Of course, it was broad daylight and I was comfortably concealed behind some beach boulders with Morgan as lookout, so circumstances were pretty favourable. Carrying it with me did feel a bit odd, but once again the seals held and I at no point felt there was any risk of it leaking. That didn’t stop Eduardo grumbling about the piss-bag in the car thing, though. Luckily, Steff was preparing an article for her own crisp-based blog, so we had plenty more crisp packets to stick our Peebols in.

icelandblog_usedpeebolbeach

Steff tried to use the Shewee at the beach but found she didn’t trust the shape enough to be able to go, so she ended up doing a traditional nature pee. Steff has used a disposable cardboard P-Mate in the past and reckoned their wider opening felt safer. Overall, Peebol was her first choice of peeing device, whereas I personally preferred the freedom of the Shewee.


Things we’d do differently:

In trying to pack fast and light, we broke 2 of our own key rules. We neglected to bring a head torch or antibacterial hand gel with us. Fools! Talk about not following your own advice. We had phones with torches on, but peeing outdoors is so, so much easier when you have both hands free. Antibacterial hand gel would have made us feel much cleaner, especially as some of the more basic toilets didn’t have hand washing facilities.

IcelandBlog_HandSanitiser


Which peeing device is for me?

Pros

Cons

Shewee “Extreme”

(Note: “Extreme” is the version we’ve got, which comes with a box and an extended tube – Both worthwhile features! But you can also get a simple Shewee without them, or a version with only the tube: the Shewee “SOS Plus”.)

– You don’t need to remove your clothing or squat down – you can pee standing up, which increases your privacy. It also means you don’t need to expose your bum to the cold Icelandic winter.

– The extended tube takes the urine away from you, reducing risk of splashing.

– Can be difficult to use if you’re not used to it, especially since plastic Shewees are a fixed shape. You need to trust that there won’t be any spills. (Worth practising in your own bathroom first)

– You need to carry it with you, although the plastic carry case keeps it well sealed and inconspicuous.

P-Mate (disposable)

– No need to remove clothing or squat down.

– Flexible width.

– Lighter to carry with you and folds flat to take up less space in your bag.

— Recyclable.

– One-time use only.

– Needs to be carried with you after use, until you find a bin. You can use the packet it comes in for a bit of protection against the wet cardboard.

– No extended tube, so the pee lands closer to your body.

Peebol

– Large opening, very easy to get the pee in the bag.

– You can also dispose of used toilet paper in it.

– Zero risk of splashing your feet whilst you pee.

– Recycleable parts (all except the gel).

– Sort of re-usable, holds up to 1 litre.

– You can pee in a moving car or bus, and other situations without toilets or where you can’t normally pee. Ladies might want to use Peebol with a Shewee for maximum privacy in those situations. 

– You need to carry it with you until you find a bin or a toilet you can empty it down.

– Though the risk is very low, there’s always a chance of leakage from the used bag if you seal/store it badly (eg upside down & under pressure). Putting it in a dry bag would virtually eliminate any risk, and the the Shewee “Out & About” Combo comes with one specially.

– In practice, it’s pretty much one-time use only.

Simple nature pee

– No fuss, no equipment needed

– Risk of splashing your feet or legs with your own pee

– There’s no way to avoid bearing your bum to the world.

– What do you do with used toilet roll? Leaving it behind is pretty gross, unless you can bury it. The environmentally-conscious method is to take it away with you in a sealed bag.


IcelandBlog_FlyingAway.png

Overall, Iceland has excellent toilet facilities, so relax and enjoy your trip! We would recommend bringing some toilet aids with you if you want to get out and explore nature, as well as the regular toilet trifecta of loo roll, hand gel and a head torch; don’t get complacent and make the same mistakes we did on our Icelandic adventure!

divider_looroll2_low

Note that the Amazon links above are affiliate links – Purchasing anything through these will help support the site.

And if you found this post at all enlightening or entertaining, don’t forget to follow us to get notified when the next one goes up! Just enter your email address in the box on the sidebar.

Advertisements

Toilet Guide: Myanmar (Burma)

Standard

Mingalaba!

First off, Myanmar is a magical country, and we highly recommend travelling there. Yes it’s safe, and yes it’s wonderful. Myanmar sings with mystery and grace, and the Myanmar people blew us away with their kindness and hospitality. At this point, some of you are probably wondering where in the world Myanmar is. It’s not a small or insignificant country, but the name still confuses people (and for good reason, to be fair). Let us explain!

myanmarguide_boattravel3

Before we travelled to Myanmar, we referred to this land as Burma. People knew what we meant when we said Burma. Then we started our travels, and we continued referring to Burma the country, to Burmese the language, and to Burmese food and culture. We were swiftly corrected, multiple times by multiple people.

You mean the Myanmar food. It’s Myanmar food, made by the Myanmar people”

Friendly locals eager to educate us explained that the word Burma refers to a specific ethnic group within Burma: the Burmese. As there are well over a hundred ethnic groups in Myanmar, many locals object to the adjective “Burmese” being used generally, preferring to include the full range of different local peoples and cultures in their language. We’d previously associated the name Myanmar with the widely criticised military government,  who abruptly changed the name of the county back in the 1980s, and had assumed Burma was the preferred name. But as we so have so often found in our travels, the story the local people had to tell us was very different from the story constructed in the media.

So now we’ve established the names, let’s think about the toilets!


Overview

  • Myanmar is a BYOTP country. Be sure to bring your own toilet paper, soap and antibacterial hand gel with you when you’re out and about.
  • Always dispose of used toilet paper in the bin rather than the toilet, when a bin is provided.
  • Locals tend to use squat toilets and wash afterwards, using either the bucket in a bucket or a bum gun. Toilet paper is not widely used.
  • All guest houses had western style good quality toilets, except in the small villages we trekked through. In the cities, you shouldn’t need to worry about guesthouse toilets.
  • We didn’t see any public toilets when out and about. Some cafes will have basic toilet facilities, which may be a squat toilet or western toilet depending on the target audience and price range of the cafe. Basic cafes and street food stalls will not have toilets available.

Out and About

Cities

Street food is wonderful in Myanmar. You can barely walk down the streets of Yangon for the sizzling woks and grills, spilling off the pavements right into the roads. Street food vendors do not, however, have toilets. They might have adorable tiny plastic tables and chairs, they might even have table service and a menu. But they will not have toilets. Make sure you go before you leave the guesthouse. And bring antibacterial gel with you, in case you want to freshen up before you eat.

Inle Lake

On Inle Lake, all buildings stand on stilts above the water, and the only mode of transport is by boat. Like so:

myanmarguide_lakestilts

One little restaurant we visited surprised us with a sit-down toilet in a tiny shack above the lake. As you can see, instead of toilet paper, they provided the bucket in a bucket system for cleaning yourself with water.
Fancy a guess at where the waste ends up?

myanmarguide_laketoilet

Ngapali Beach

Although we stuck to street-food, or very basic cafes in the cities, Ngapali beach was different. Instead of wandering down the street for dinner, we wandered along the beach, being seduced by the string of seafood restaurants along the sand. Despite the friendly competition between restaurants, when we enquired about the toilet facilities the waiter directed us to walk through several neighbouring restaurants to the shared squat toilet behind the kitchens. Top tip: don’t forget your flip-flops. Seriously, I forgot to bring my flip flops to the restaurant one evening and had to beg and borrow sandals from Morgan so I could use the toilet.


Transport

We used a mixture of boats, planes, minivans, motorbikes, taxis, electric scooters, hiking and hot air balloon to travel around Myanmar. Let’s consider how these modes of transport compare in terms of toilet access: 

myanmarguide_boattravel2

Boats

Floating down the Irrawaddy River is a genuinely great way to get between the city of Mandalay and the temples of Bagan. The journey takes about 7 hours by “fast boat”, and you’ll have a fine selection of wicker chairs on board and lunch provided. There is also a good condition sit-down toilet on the boat, so you have no worries on that front.


Buses & Minivans

There is a fairly well-established tourist route through Myanmar, taking in the temples of Bagan, the bustling streets of Yangon and the quiet beauty of Inle Lake. A reasonable network of buses and minivans connects the main traveller destinations, and in our experience these vehicles do stop at places with toilets at appropriate intervals. Some of these toilets have a box allowing you to tip the cleaning staff, and more often than not are accompanied by amusing signs:

We never needed to ask the driver to stop for a toilet break, but the Myanmar people were so unfailingly polite, kind and helpful, we have no doubt they would have stopped and found a toilet if needed. And if they didn’t understand the request in English, they would have found someone to translate. And if there wasn’t a public toilet, they would have found a private toilet for us. We were constantly humbled by how friendly and kind the Myanmar people were.


Aeroplanes

Planes on domestic flights have toilets on board. Also a lovely poster about the work some domestic airlines are doing to gain international aviation safety accreditation. So… no worries on that front.

The internal airport we visited was also quite fascinating. It was small and only made incredibly laid back attempts at “security”. They had a metal detector and an x-ray machine for bags, and only after we cleared security did we realise the one toilet in the building was back on the “non-secure” side. The security guys apparently saw no issues with us running back and forth through the security gates to use the toilets by the entrance of the airport, and just shrugged and waved us through each time the metal detectors beeped at us again.


Trekking

Some of Myanmar’s more interesting toilets can be found along the delightful 60km trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake. Heading east out of Kalaw, the entire 3-day hike is spent cutting through woodland, hills, farmland and villages. Hundreds of bright red chillies sat drying amongst the fields, and crowds of children came to greet us as we passed through, shouting “Mingalaba!” (Hello!) with beaming smiles.

The accommodation along this route is basic. Wonderful, but basic. Both nights we stayed in wooden farmhouses, 6 of us huddling together in a single room with thin mattresses on the floor. There was no glass in the windows, so after sunset we pulled the wooden shutters closed, shutting out the cold mountain air and lighting candles in our wooden house.

The toilet was a simple squatter, in a roughly constructed wooden shack. It was also really, really far away, across the fields and out of sight of the main building. Getting there involved traversing a field of cabbages, walking away from the lights until even the sounds of the talking and laughter had faded away. The next part was tricky; the battery on my head torch was running low, and finding a dark shack in a dark field proved difficult. First time around, I failed at finding the fabled shack and went back to get Morgan.

I need directions to the shack… again.”

Well, Morgan mused. “It’s not that far… Did you walk diagonally through the cabbage patch?”

Yes!”

Did you turn sharp right after the big tree?”

Yes!”

Did you scramble through the ditch behind the tree before you turned left?”

Ah-ha! I had at no point gone into a ditch on my explorations.

We set off again, together this time, our twin beams of light bouncing off the white cabbages. By 9pm, all the lights were out in the village. The night was silent, the darkness absolute.

myanmarguide_cabbagepatch3

I didn’t see the shack until right before I walked into it. Stopping abruptly, I shined my torch through the gaps in the walls. A basic hole had been dug into the soft ground. A bucket of water sat to the right of the hole, filled with fresh water for cleaning yourself. On the left, a small bin had been half filled with used toilet paper, relics of the backpackers that trod this route every day.

I jiggled the wooden door, lifting it over the threshold when it refused to open smoothly. Once inside, I lifted the door inwards again, scrapping it over the threshold to close it. A gaping hole remained where the thin wood had warped. Thankful for the cover of darkness, and that I had a head torch which allowed me to keep both hands free, I squatted down with my roll of toilet paper, arranging my clothing so nothing touched the dirt floor. I felt rather than heard the insects buzzing around my head, attracted by the feeble light of my torch.

Heading back to the main building, Morgan and I heard a rustling in the cabbage patch.

Is that an animal?!” I whispered, alarmed.

I don’t think so…” Morgan replied.

Suddenly, a crouched figure stood up.

Oh… hi guys”

It was a fellow trekker, making use of the facilities. They had also gotten lost trying to find the toilet shack, and rather than venture out alone, they had found a corner of the cabbage field to make use of. When I woke at 3am with a full bladder, I very rapidly came round to their way of thinking, squatting at the edge of the field under the cover of night. I’m pretty sure everyone used the cabbage field at some point that night, rather than brave the darkness.

The next day we spotted this incredibly neatly-stacked cabbage truck, and couldn’t help but wonder if the poor vegetables smelt like wee.

myanmarguide_cabbages


So overall, Myanmar’s toilet rating is quite high but planning ahead is required when exploring. And if you’re planning on going trekking, you should be prepared for some fairly basic toilet facilities. 

Myanmar is a truly wonderful place, made extremely special by the people who live there. We also need to give a shout-out to the city of Mandalay, which is often left off of people’s itineraries but has the most downright friendly atmosphere of any city we’ve ever visited. In Mandalay, strangers will treat you like a long-lost friend, going literally miles out of their way to help you out.


For our own trip, we made extensive use of the Rough Guide to Myanmar and we’d highly recommend it! We always carry a guidebook with us on trips – We find it much nicer and more dependable than using your phone while abroad. This book was revised in 2015 and was super accurate as of our trip in November the same year. You can follow the link above to buy it on Amazon.co.uk. 

And if you found this post at all enlightening, don’t forget to follow us to get notified when the next one goes up! Just enter your email address in the box on the sidebar.

divider_looroll2_low

Toilet Guide: Morocco + Trekking in the Sahara

Standard

Friend of the blog Mark recently returned from a month-long road trip through Morocco, and naturally the first thing we asked him was “how were the toilets??”

Being a normal person, Mark answered in one sentence and then tried to tell us about some of the other things he’d done in Morocco. We then asked him 50 follow-up questions about toilets, until he thought we were super weird. As it turned out, he’d already prepared us an excellent step-by-step photo-guide on “How to Poop in the Sahara”, which was basically the best thing ever! He also provided all the rest of the photos you see in this article, and you can check out more of his amazing work here:  http://www.mdleaver.com

moroccoguide_bluetown

I also visited Marrakesh myself in 2012, and am pleased to report I only encountered good quality, Western-style toilets there. Marrakesh is extremely well set up for short city breaks, and the facilities are excellent.

Quick guide

  • Towns on the main tourist trail including Fez and Marrakesh have Western-style toilets readily available.
  • Locals often use squat-toilets, particularly in rural areas.
  • Homestays will probably have squat-toilets.
  • If you’re staying in towns and cities, you will likely have good access to toilets at your accommodation and restaurants.
  • When travelling between towns, coaches will generally make stops at places with toilets. You’ll be pleased to hear trains have western-style toilets on board.

Accommodation

In the main traveller destinations such as Essaouira, Marrakesh, Rabat and Fez, your guesthouse or hotel will generally have a Western- style sit-down toilet. It’ll probably provide toilet paper too, but it’s always smart to bring your own.

When you get out into more rural areas, you’re likely to encounter some squat-toilets. Locals use a water based cleaning system, the sort that involves a bucket of water next to the toilet rather than a bum-gun. Curiously, they do not always have the bucket-in-a-bucket system that many places adopt; it’s often just one bucket filled with water. If you’re not happy using this, you’ll want to bring your own toilet paper with you. Everywhere. And be sure to pour some of this water down the toilet to flush it.


Out and about: self-drive

Morocco has public toilets! Even in very remote places, you’ll come across handy little roadside buildings like these:

moroccosaharaguide_pulictoiletmoroccoguide_publictoilet

Which is great news if you’re road tripping. Although of course, if you have your own vehicle you actually have quite a lot of control over your toilet stops, compared to being on public transport. When driving, you can stop whenever you need and find a private bush. Even up in the Atlas mountains you’ll find some public toilets, although they become further and further apart as you travel to move remote places.

Out and about: public transport

Trains do have Western-style sit-down toilets on board, which is excellent. Although like train toilets in most of the world, they can get pretty dirty pretty quickly, and the toilets may well be overflowing by the time your train pulls into its final destination. Best to go at the beginning of the journey if you’re concerned about the cleanliness factor.

Although buses tend not to have toilets on board, if you’re going on a longer journey the coaches will make regular toilet stops. These coaches are pretty comfortable, and yes, they generally stop at places which have toilets. Morocco isn’t a huge country and the main cities are connected by a good road network, so you’re not likely to do any really long bus journeys. 

moroccoguide_camelroar


Hammams

Hammams are the Moroccan equivalent of spas. At a hammam, you can get scrubbed, steamed and scraped until you’re pretty sure you no longer have any skin left. Then they scrub you again, and massage you in that special, “I don’t know whether this is really great or really painful!” kind of way. Whatever your take on a hammam, there’s no denying it’s a traditional Moroccan experience, and you’ll feel super clean afterwards.

Hammams tend to have the bucket-in-a-bucket system in their toilets, which is probably a good indication of what city-dwelling locals use.


How to Poop in the Sahara

Multi-day camel treks across the desert will present some toilet challenges. Depending on which trip you book, you may or may not have toilet access at your camp for the evening. This is definitely something to clarify before you start your Lawrence of Arabia reenactment. There’s a full range of tours available and I’m sure some of the more upmarket tours set up camp at places with excellent toilet facilities. On the other end of the spectrum, you may end up sleeping out under the stars with no toilet facilities whatsoever, which I did in India.

Many Sahara tours stop at homestays and nomadic houses. These do often have western style toilets, with the only catch being there’s no plumbing. Rather, you’ll find toilet bowls placed over deep pits which collect the waste. This makes no difference from a functional point of view. You can use a pit toilet just as you would use a plumbed toilet (although someone will need to fill in the pit when it gets full, dig a new pit nearby and move the toilet accordingly. But that someone is very unlikely to be you!)

But what if you need to go during the day, when you’re out in the middle of the desert? In the middle of the desert, however fancy your tour is, you will not find a sit-down toilet. In fact, you might be greeted with a vista like this:

moroccosaharaguide_emptydesert

This is not a good place to go to the toilet.

Don’t panic; the Sahara is not a homogeneous landscape. Sooner or later you’ll find a scene more like this:

moroccosaharaguide_shadyspot

This is a much better spot. Shade, privacy and a nice gradient too.

Well, maybe not total privacy…

moroccosaharaguide_camel

Once any curious camels have moved on, you’ll want to prepare your toilet roll.

moroccosaharaguide_holdinglooroll

Sticks can provide a convenient toilet roll holder. Sand is pretty useful too, as it makes it easier to dig yourself a hollow in preparation.

moroccosaharaguide_looroll

You’ll want to face uphill, so your waste travels away from you. When you’re done, the ideal thing is to burn your used toilet paper. If this isn’t possible, you’ll want to bury it fairly deep so no one else finds it. This is quite easy with soft sand, especially if you already did some digging in preparation. You can also buy small folding spades to help you dig your wilderness hole, there are plenty of good options available on Amazon*. Although in the desert, you can easily dig enough of a hole by scrapping sand aside with your shoe. 

moroccosaharaguide_done

You might even have one of these little guys to help with the clean up…

moroccosaharaguide_dungbeetle



Morocco is a fascinatingly exotic land, just a stone’s throw from Europe. Whether you’re trekking through the Sahara, exploring the markets or relaxing at a hammam, be reassured that the toilets shouldn’t cause you any problems. Enjoy your adventure!

moroccoguide_stars

All photos in this article were provided by Mark Leaver and if you haven’t already, you should definitely go check out more of his excellent work (including more lovely Morocco pics) at www.mdleaver.com!



*This is an affiliate link. If you buy anything on Amazon after following this link, we’ll receive a small commission at no extra cost to yourself. Thank you for supporting the blog!

Toilet guide: Latin America

Standard

If you’ve travelled through Asia or Africa, you’ll most likely be pleasantly surprised by the toilet quality in Latin America. Western style sit-down toilets are most definitely the norm in this part of the world, unless you get properly off the beaten track. I travelled across 10 countries in Latin America, and along the way I encountered exactly 1 squat toilet, compared to hundreds of white throne toilets.

Quick guide:

  • Western style, flushing sit down toilets are very common pretty much everywhere.
  • Few of these toilets can flush toilet paper – you’ll need to throw used toilet paper in the bin.
  • You’ll also need to provide your own toilet paper basically everywhere; have a roll in your day pack.
  • Buses in South America have toilets on board. Wonderful, sit down flushing toilets.
  • Buses in Central America do not have toilets, but they’re super interesting.
  • Minivans link common traveller destinations in Central America and they make regular toilet stops.

Accommodation

Honestly, you don’t have a lot to worry about here. If you plan to stay in budget places, you’ll need to bring your own toilet paper and soap, but all the guest houses and hostels I stayed at had respectable western style toilet facilities (except for one homestay – more on that later!) Whether I was in a village in the Andes or a lodge in the middle of the Amazon rainforest, the toilets were honestly fine. Okay, I did find a bat in the shower of my rainforest bathroom, but he was totally friendly. The more you pay, the better the facilities will be.


On the road – South America

southamericaguide_deathroad

I found western toilets to be very common whilst out and about whilst in Peru, Chile, Argentina and Brazil.  They might not always be clean, but good toilet facilities can be found pretty much everywhere in urban cities and in the main travel destinations. I would definitely consider Chile, Argentina and Brazil to be first world, developed countries, and their toilet facilities as good as anything in Europe. Even in the less-developed countries of Peru and Bolivia I found sit down toilets pretty much everywhere (okay, the toilet at a local school I volunteered at had a shower curtain instead of door, but it was still a sit-down toilet!)

Passenger trains aren’t really a thing in Latin America, which means unless you have the money and the inclination to fly, you’ll be spending a lot of time on buses. South America in particular is a big continent, and when you’re backpacking in Argentina and Brazil it can feel like everywhere is a 20-hour bus ride from everywhere else.

Despite the distances, South American buses are amongst the most comfortable in the world. There are usually different price options, but if you go for the slightly more expensive coaches the facilities are excellent, much better than on many buses I’ve taken in Europe and North America. Reclining seats are standard, as are comfy headrests and supportive foot and leg rests. One overnight bus in Chile even had a conductor who gave every passenger a juice box and a biscuit in the morning.

The best thing is, all coaches have toilets on board! Now some of these toilets do have signs on them advising you not to poop on the bus; liquids only. But you do get a flushing toilet and sink which you can access whenever you need during the journey.


On the road – Central America

southamericaguide_streetwires

Bus journeys are also long in Central America, even though the actual distances are much shorter. Most places are linked by narrow windy roads, precariously clinging to the side of mountains. I was there during “landslide season” in Guatemala, and boulders in the road were a common sight. Overtaking on blind bends half way up a mountain was standard driving practice. So, it makes sense that night buses aren’t really a thing in Central America.

I didn’t find any good quality coaches in Central America. The locals tended to take chicken buses, which are old American school buses shipped down through Mexico into Guatemala, where they’re painted bright colours and used as public transport:

southamericaguide_chickenbus

Backpacker minivans are also common. Organised through travel agents, these minivans run between big traveller destinations in Central America. Neither option had a toilet on board, but the backpacker minivans made regular toilet breaks, and they actually stopped at toilets.


Toilets on the death road, Bolivia

SouthAmericaGuide_DeathRoadBikes2.png

Bolivia is one of the least developed countries in South America, and contains some of the more sketchy toilets the continent has to offer. Due to poor planning, I only spent a few days in Bolivia so I can’t claim to be an expert on their toilets (although it’s somewhere I’d love to go back to!) In those few days, I did find a public toilet with no doors. It was a row of standard looking toilet cubicles, all containing sit down flushing toilets. There were walls between the toilets… but no doors! I was on a tour, cycling down death road at the time, and compared to what we were doing, using a toilet without a door didn’t seem like that big a deal. Frankly, I was pleasantly surprised we could be in the middle of nowhere in Bolivia and could still access sit-down toilets every few hours. So all the women on the tour used the cubicles, politely averting our gazes before heading back out on the road.

As to why the toilets had no doors, I still have no idea. Maybe they ran out of money? Or maybe, like my own trip to Bolivia, they were just poorly planned. It remains a delightful mystery.


The first time I ever encountered a squat toilet; Peru

southamericaguide_laketiticaca

The first time I ever came face to face with a squat toilet was on an island in the middle of Lake Titicaca, Peru, 3800 metres above sea level. This was problematic for several reasons.

  1. We were on a small, very rural island. On an island, you can’t just go in search of another toilet like you could in a town.
  2. We were staying there for 24 hours. A lot of toilet needs can arise in 24 hours.

The island itself was stunning. The toilet was was, as far as I could tell, absent. Instead, there was a hole in the ground, covered by a small congregated iron shack. A bucket of water for flushing sat nearby. The shack was a good few metres from the main house, which was enough of a challenge in the pitch black night. As night fell, I gathered around this hut with 2 fellow backpackers, and we stared in dismay at the so-called facilities.

My fellow travellers were seriously debating whether they should take their Imodium instants to block themselves up, thus guaranteeing they would not have to go number 2 in the hole. (Side note – this is a terrible idea. Don’t take Imodium unless you have diarrhoea, or it could be LONG time before things get moving again.) I was just as intimidated by the hole as they were, but I’d gone just before we left the mainland, so was in a prime position to wait until we returned to “civilisation” the following morning.

When it came to doing a wee, I was very glad to have a head torch with me. This gave me both hands free as I squatted with my roll of toilet paper in one hand, and afterwards when I poured water down the hole to flush the toilet.

In hindsight, the main reason we found this squat toilet so intimidating was because it was literally the only one we’d seen. Toilets are so good in Latin America, we hadn’t had any practice with using squat toilets. Check out our guide to using a squat toilet, have a head torch, toilet paper, and antibacterial hand gel with you and you’ll be ready for anything.

southamericaguide_llamas

India: How to survive 17 hour bus journeys with a micro bladder

Standard

This article deals with the issue of toilets specifically while travelling by bus; also check out our general guide to toilets in India here.



I’m going to preface this with a warning; some of what I’m about to describe might sound frickin’ terrible. Long distance buses in India are probably the single biggest toilet challenge I’ve come up against in all my years of travel. The places I travelled to by bus were definitely worth the visit, but reaching them could have been way easier. I hope that by sharing my experiences, including some advice I sorely wish I’d heard before I travelled to India, future travellers can avoid repeating some of my worst travel toilet experiences!



To start, because I’m an optimist, here are some good things about long distance buses in India:

  • You can buy tickets last minute, which you can’t always do on trains.
  • Some overnight buses have beds instead of seats! You lie down (providing your own blanket and pillow), draw the curtain around you, and sleep horizontally!

indiabusblog_dharaflags

Now here are some of the not so good things about long distance buses in India:

  • They drive around corners very fast. You’re not strapped in if you went for the bed option, so you fly back and forth, scrabbling for purchase.
  • Some of the beds are designed for 2 people. You could end up next to someone, sliding back and forth and banging into each other in a small space for 10 hours. I think cultural considerations would not allow a strange man and woman to be partnered like this, but the bus company had no problem pairing me with another female backpacker I’d only just met. It was an awkward 10 hours.
  • Many buses play very loud bollywood music and movies All. Night. Long.
  • Temperature control is limited; it may be freezing in winter and boiling in summer. I was so cold on one bus I took all my clothes out my bag and attempted to put them all on at once, like a sleep-deprived hippy scarecrow.
  • They do not have toilets on board.
  • Even if the journey is 17 hours long, you may not stop at any toilets.
  • That’s right, you might have to go 17 hours without access to a toilet.


The way this works is, the bus driver stops with no warning when he needs a toilet break or a cigarette. He happily pisses by the side of the road. Other men get off the bus and piss on the road. The women cross their legs and stay put. Except for me and my micro bladder, who can be found frantically squashing my feet into my hiking boots, jumping out my bed and asking random people:

Toilet? Is there a toilet?”

Only to have people shrug at me, probably thinking:

Yeah now you mention it there isn’t a toilet, huh as someone who can happily pee whilst standing up I’d never noticed”

So things like this would happen:

  • I find a low wall a short distance away, and squat behind it. Remember I mentioned it’s freezing? So I’m also fumbling with the layers of leggings and hippy trousers I’m wearing without taking off my yak wool gloves if at all possible, whilst I convince myself this low wall provides total privacy.
  • I find a ditch by the side of the road and squat into it so I’m hidden. Kinda. Somehow, when it’s 3am, dark and everyone is either asleep or also peeing in public it doesn’t seem as bad as it sounds. On one middle of the night bus stop there really was nothing to offer privacy, so a system of women round one side of the bus and men round the other side was hastily developed. The few Indian woman who got off the bus to pee solemnly squatted in the road, their saris preserving their modesty. It was too surreal to be embarrassing.
  • Other times I’ve talked my way into a toilet at bus stops by asking absolutely everyone where the toilet is, until finally someone takes me to one. This only works if you stop in a busy place, and I would then have to run flat out back to the bus in total fear that they’ve left without me.

Some long distance buses don’t even call at bus stations, so you have to stand on a random street corner whilst waiting for the bus, which may arrive anytime between right now and in 3 hours time. There is no toilet to use whilst you wait, although sometimes they have the sort of street urinals that don’t have drains so all the piss runs right down the street. I was once in this situation for such a long time that I gave up and squatted to pee in a doorway whilst waiting for my night bus. It was dark and I was entirely alone, which was a fairly nerve-racking situation right up until I needed to pee, when suddenly it seemed way convenient. There was no way I was getting onto a night bus already needing to pee, and sure enough when this bus did turn up it was hours and hours before we made a middle of night stop (and of course it didn’t stop by a toilet.)

Also, when you finally do arrive at your destination, there probably won’t be a toilet available to use straight away. You generally have to wait until you check into your accommodation. I took the bus to Jaipur, and this only stopped once in the whole 17 hour journey. Seriously, once. I spent the whole morning desperately trying to think of anything except my full bladder, as we slowly drove through the city traffic. Then the hostel I wanted to stay at was all booked up, so I had to travel EVEN FURTHER before I could pee. I think you could just ask the bus driver to stop if you were really desperate; the only problem is, there probably wouldn’t be a toilet where you stopped because of the dire lack of public toilets in India. Lack of access to toilet facilities can be a huge issue for women in Indian society, affecting their independence and education.



So how can female backpackers prepare for this?

Firstly, remember that traveling India wouldn’t be nearly so enriching if it was easy!

indiabusblog_hardwork

Secondly, follow this practical advice:

  • Consider bringing a She Wee (or similar) with you, so you can pee standing up without too much clothing rearrangement. I didn’t bring one to India, but think it would have been super helpful. You can buy reusable ones, or disposables. Reusable ones obviously need washing, but some come with a carry case for hygiene. And, if there’s no toilet, you can pretty much guarantee there’s no bin, so you’d have to carry the used product with you anyway.
  • Another idea is to wear a long skirt/ sarong which you can pee under. Local women would squat down and pee under the privacy of their saris – the trick is to hike it up enough that the material doesn’t get covered in pee, but not so much that anything is on display.
  • Have loo roll available in your pockets, for easy access. Finding loo roll buried in the bottom of your bag whilst hovering in a small, dark and dirty toilet is difficult.
  • Always have antibacterial hand gel handy.
  • It’s not smart to dehydrate yourself, but if you know that certain drinks made you pee more (such as tea/coffee/alcohol), avoid these during and prior to a long bus journey.
  • Have small change available for toilet fees; if you do manage to stop somewhere with an actual toilet, or you start your journey at a bus station with a toilet, you will have to pay for entry.
  • If you’re really desperate to go, please do ask the driver to stop. You might sit suffering for hours otherwise.


The bus from Lumbini to Varanasi

indiabusblog_varariver

One of my more questionable travel decisions was to travel overland from Kathmandu, Nepal to Varanasi, India. You can read about the much more pleasant Nepalese section of this journey here!  In fact, if you haven’t read it yet, I suggest you do so now, so you get the full effect of the contrast between the two sections of this journey.

Done? Alright, you can continue:


After a flying visit to Lumbini, I crossed the border out of Nepal around 7am, and I instantly knew I was back in India. As I walked under a brick archway painted green, white and orange, I felt like everything had shifted around me. The energy was different. The streets looked different. India swallowed me up and drew me in so completely that even 100 metres down the road from the Nepalese border, I felt a million miles from Nepal.

I was going to be on the local bus for the next 14 hours, winding my way to Varanasi. No buses in India have toilets on board, but at least the bigger coaches have luggage storage. This bus had no storage space, so I had to hang onto my big backpack the whole journey, keeping it squashed in front of me. Fortunately I had nabbed the front seat, which had a little more leg room. This bus would make two poorly spaced-out toilet stops during the day, leaving everyone with hours and hours to think about their full bladders. Both stops did have public pay-to-use squat toilets though, and even food stalls. At the first stop I ate some samosas being sold outside the toilet. They were delicious. I threw them up as soon as I arrived in Varanasi, which taught me not to eat food that’s being sold right outside a toilet, even if I’m super hungry. Also, the lack of toilet access becomes even more of a pressing issue when you’ve got a bad stomach.

So I was feeling pretty queasy and also needing to pee (again) by mid-afternoon. The bus was designed so 3 seats were squashed into a space that would normally fit 2 adults, and I was in the middle. With this set-up, there physically wasn’t enough room for all 3 of us to lean back at once, so we had an unspoken rotation system going on. How it worked was, the 2 people on the edges would lean back whilst I would lean forwards, then after half an hour or so we’d all change positions so I could enjoy the backrest for a brief interval. Repeat for 14 hours. 

I got on the bus with another backpacker who I’d only just met, and we sat next to each other.

What I was thinking:

Cool! Someone to talk to and share this experience with! I’m going to ask lots of questions so we can have a great conversation and forget about how squashed and uncomfortable we are!”

What he was thinking:

No fucking small talk.”

So I gave up with making conversation and we sat in silence for 13 hours. Which was kind of hilarious when the local guy sitting next to us asked if we were married. And it did mean we could watch each other’s bags whilst the other one went out to use the toilet, instead of dragging ALL our luggage with us because there was nothing to stop someone picking it up and wandering off with it.

Side note:
Bringing your big pack into a squat toilet is massive pain. You don’t want to put your stuff on the floor of a public toilet, but holding it whilst squatting is quite a feat. Generally I would recommend keeping the backpack on your back whilst you use a squat toilet; it shouldn’t get in the way as long as there’s some space behind you.

In hour 14, out the blue, the other backpacker started talking to me. Then he asked where was good to stay in Varanasi and did we want to share a rickshaw? So we did, which was fine except there was only one good room available at my chosen guesthouse, which he happily took for himself, smiling like “well your problem for being way too polite all the time, you can have the expensive room with the mice problem kay thanks bye.”

So I checked into my worse quality, more expensive room, and spent a while throwing up my ill-judged samosas next to the mice. But once I’d got over all that, I realised I was in Varanasi, one of the most ancient and spiritual places on the entire planet. I spent four days just watching everything that goes on; watching bodies being cremated then scattered in the holy Ganges river, whilst pilgrims bathed among the fresh ashes. Watching shirtless men wash their herds of buffaloes in the murky river, and watching people do their laundry just downstream from the burning ghats, painstakingly laying crisp white sheets out to dry in the hot sun. Hindus believe that washing or being cremated in these sacred waters will help cleanse your spirit of any sins committed in previous lives, and people travel remarkably far for the experience. The buffaloes weren’t being cleansed of their sins, however. That’s just classic India; a mashup of holy ritual and pragmatic everyday chores. I was so totally enthralled by the delightful chaos of Varanasi, I forgot all about my terrible journey.

indiabusblog_varawashing

indiabusblog_varaswimming



Here’s the thing: long bus journeys in India might be generally awful, but the country has an excellent rail network. And domestic flights are always an option too, if you have a slightly bigger budget. It is totally feasible to travel India without getting a long distance bus, and for a budget backpacker, I would definitely recommend the train over the bus for long journeys. Trains are more comfortable, you have toilets and running water on board, people sell food and drinks, and you can stretch your legs. You can read more about travelling by train in India here.

Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to avoid bus travel.

Whilst in Varanasi, I learned the Dalai Lama was going to be teaching in Dharamsala in 3 days time, a town over a thousand kilometres away. I knew I had to to be there no matter what. The problem was, Dharamsala is deep in the Himalayas, inaccessible by train.

So I started planning my next bus journey, ready to do it all over again. More on that another time!

indiabusblog_dharamonks

Dharamsala, adopted home of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in Exile.

Toilet Guide: India

Standard

So, India is quite probably the most incredible country on our entire planet. Let’s hold that thought in our heads going forwards.

India is also quite an undertaking. India is huge. India is frustrating. India is modern and ancient, holy and profound, exhilarating and infuriating. And that’s all before you attempt the considerable feat of using the toilets there.

indiaguide_1_bin

In case there weren’t already enough conflicting messages in India… even the bins are holy!

Writing a guide to toilets in India is a bit like writing a guide to “toilets of the world”. It feels about as ambitious. You will likely experience the full range of toilets the world has to offer in India. You could be using an impossibly posh throne of a toilet one minute, then pooping in the gutter the next. Cos, you know, it’s India. You have to go a lot.

I think of India as a micro-world; every state is like a new country. You can travel a few hundred miles in India and find that the food, culture, people, laws and of course toilets are all suddenly completely different. And everywhere you go, you’ll encounter the same tangle of impenetrable paradoxes – a sea of totally contradictory ideas which are all equally true and important and somehow all work together.

indiaguide_2_cow2

Quick guide:

  • 70% of households in India have no access to toilets. Defecating in the open is still fairly common in many parts of India, although as a traveller you will not necessarily see any of this. The towns on the “tourist trail” all have toilet facilities. 
  • But, these toilets vary hugely in quality. You will find very basic squat toilets and very fancy squat toilets. You will find buckets in buckets and also bum guns. Ideally, read up on all of these before you go.
  • Toilet paper will rarely be provided for free unless you’re staying somewhere upmarket. So bring your own toilet paper with you. Everywhere. You’ll find it for sale in many shops and some guesthouses, but it definitely pays to pack it before you go, in case of emergency. 
  • Some public toilets give you a wodge of toilet paper when you enter. You will be charged for entry to these toilets, so have small coins handy.
  • Accommodation aimed at a western audience will likely offer sit-down toilets, unless its super cheap. Hostels that charged £3 a night tended to have sit-down toilets. Hostels that charged £1 a night usually had squat toilets. Yes India is VERY cheap.
  • Not all cafes/ restaurants have toilets. There are a lot of great places to eat hovering in the space in between “street food” and “actual café”. These set-ups generally do not have toilet facilities.
  • Public toilet facilities in most towns range from limited to non-existent. In larger towns, shopping malls will likely have toilets you can use. 
  • You can’t flush your toilet paper down the toilets in India. Use the poopy paper bin. OR learn to use the bum gun and then you will only have to use toilet paper for drying your already clean bum.


Accommodation

Toilet facilities in your accommodation will be directly linked to how expensive and fancy your guesthouse is. If you pay more for a nicer place you will very likely find only great toilets in your hotels. I paid an average of £3 a night in India, which bought me a private room with shared toilet. In this price range I often found guest houses had both squat toilets and sit-down toilets available, so you could take your pick.



Toilets on transport

India is big. If you are overland travelling in India, you will likely be in for some long journeys, either by bus or train. Domestic flights are the only way to maintain guaranteed good quality toilet access.

Travelling by train

indiaguide_4_train

The train network is wonderful, expansive and just as delightfully mystifying as the rest of India.

Trains in India have toilets on board. This is very welcome news, especially if you’re planning on doing some serious train trips. I spent an enjoyable 40 hours on the train from Goa to Delhi, sipping cup after cup of chai safe in the knowledge I could pee whenever I wanted. The toilets are generally squat toilets, although you find some sit-down toilets on trains as well. That said, by the end of the journey the toilets are usually so gross you don’t want to touch anything with any part of your body or clothing. In those situations, I honestly find it easier to use the squat toilets than the sit-down toilets. Because seriously, what’s the point of a sit-down toilet if you can’t actually sit on it?

A word on balance. Trains in India are bumpy, so one issue with squatting to use the toilet is trying to not fall head over heels every time the train goes over a bump. I generally find a rail to hold onto with one hand, for balance. Like you do on the tube/ subway.

There are always sinks with running water on trains, so as long as you have a bar of soap handy you can have a proper hand wash afterwards.

Something else to note is traditionally, train tracks are a popular toilet spot in India. By squatting on the rails, you ensure a nice gap between your bum and the ground, a fact which has not gone unnoted by the Indian population…

indiaguide_3_traintracks

Buses

Buses do not have toilets on board. Nor do they make toilet stops. This is information I sorely wish I knew before I boarded the 17-hour bus to Jaipur. Lack of toilet access during bus journeys is such an important topic we have a whole post on it here!



Further considerations:

Toilets in Amritsar

indiaguide_5_goldentemple

You can stay at Sikhism’s most holy place, The Golden Temple, for free. Free bed, free meals, free toilet and shower facilities. This is incredible and humbling, especially considering at night hundreds of pilgrims spread out blankets to sleep on the floor, and they still give up beds for western, non-Sikh travellers.

indiaguide_7_sleeping

The toilets are cleaned everyday by volunteers so they stay in excellent condition. Inexplicably, all the toilets have holes in the doors, just at a height where someone could comfortably stand and stare at you whilst you squat to use them. Which is just what happened to my friend Nick. So, that’s a thing.


Toilets during the monsoon

indiaguide_8_monsoon

During the monsoon, everything floods. See that street above? That was bone dry literally 20 minutes before I took that photo. I spent time in a rural village in India during the monsoon, and the infrastructure really struggled to cope with the rains. The toilets didn’t flush because the land was so waterlogged, which got really gross really quickly. Also, immediately prior to the monsoon, during the hottest and driest time of year, the wells dry up and the toilets stop flushing. So, if you will be spending time in rural areas do consider the weather. You might face a considerable period of time with a deceptively non-flushing toilet, panicking as the toilet bowl fills higher and higher instead of flushing


That’s one reason why travellers are usually advised to avoid the monsoon season!



Toilets in private houses

If you’re lucky enough to get invited for dinner at someone’s home, you might be surprised by the toilets you find. I was invited to a wonderful Diwali dinner with a local family in Southern India, and they had a very clean and lovely squat toilet in their huge house. This was a pretty well off family; they simply preferred their squat toilet to a sit-down toilet. It can be surprising for Western travellers to learn that many Indian people use squat toilets by choice, because they genuinely find them better than sit-down toilets. We also ate dinner on the floor; not because the family didn’t have a table, but because sitting on the floor is during meals is an important part of this  family’s culture. India is good at challenging your assumptions!



And lastly, don’t forget your toilet kit!

We would recommend you carry toilet paper and antibacterial hand gel with you at all times, unless you’re happy to use the bucket in a bucket to clean yourself and adopt the “left hand for cleaning, right hand for eating” system the locals use.

We also recommend bringing your own bar of soap in a soap box on your trip to India, because sometimes you just need a proper hand wash and there’s no guarantee anywhere will provide soap.

general_toiletkit



So,  got all that? With a bit of planning and preparation, you can face the toilets in India with absolute confidence. Just remember, no matter how many plans you have for India, India will always surprise you with the unexpected. Which is why so many travellers fall completely in love with this amazing country  🙂

Toilet Guide: Nepal

Standard

We love Nepal. We know, we say that about every country, but the people in Nepal are seriously amazing. Every person we had the privilege of speaking to in Nepal was incredibly kind and welcoming, and just unbelievably generous. But enough about the people, let’s talk about the toilets.

Quick guide:

  • Pretty much all guesthouses in Nepal aimed at a western audience will have clean sit-down toilets, as will more upmarket cafes and restaurants.
  • Squat toilets are commonly used by most locals, particularly in rural areas. This means you’re very likely to encounter a squat toilet during your stay. If you’re not sure how to use a squat toilet, check out our comprehensive guide.
  • Bring your own toilet paper with you everywhere, unless you’re cool with using the bucket in a bucket cleaning method.
  • Plumbing in Nepal cannot handle toilet paper being flushed down the toilet. This means you need to put all used toilet paper in the bins provided. Yes we know this seems gross.

Toilets in guest houses

We found that budget guest houses in Nepal have pretty reasonable toilet facilities. Aside from the cheapest of the cheap guest houses, western sit down toilets were very common, especially in any place marketed towards a western backpacker audience. You could pay a little more for a private ensuite bathroom, or opt for a shared bathroom if your budget was a bit tighter. We stayed in a lovely guest house in Pokhara, for £3 each per night, which had a very clean ensuite toilet and shower with hot water. The sit down toilet was accompanied by a bum-gun, which seems quite typical for urban dwellings in Nepal. This price also seemed pretty typical, with many backpackers actually commenting that it was a little expensive. Nepal is a very cheap country to travel in!
Note: We were there just prior to to the devastating 2015 earthquake, but we know plenty of people who have visited post-earthquake and they assure us Nepal is still awesome.


Toilets out and about

nepalblog_durbarsq

When out and about exploring Nepal, you can’t guarantee where your next toilet is coming from. We didn’t encounter a single public toilet in Nepal. Nor can you expect that restaurants and cafes will have toilets, especially if you plan to try the street food. That said, any slightly more upmarket place, or anywhere aimed at backpackers will likely have a sit-down toilet. If you’re very lucky, they might also have the fanciest tap you ever saw:

nepalblog_fancytap

So, you might only have great toilet experiences, but we do recommend you practice your squatting! It’s easy to get caught short in Nepal, and you may well have to duck into the nearest cafe to use their facilities. We found everyone was happy for us to use their toilets though, so don’t be afraid to ask.


On the road

nepalblog_bus

Travel days generally pose the most challenges for toilet access. A “travel day” is when you’ve checked out of your accommodation and are moving to the next town with all your luggage in tow. These days are when you have the least control over your access to toilets.

In our experience, overland buses in Nepal are generally great. With one notable exception (more on this later!) We found tourist buses on the main tourist routes, such as from Kathmandu to Pokhara or to Chitwan national park, to be comfortable and reliable. Tourist buses are slightly more expensive than local buses, don’t really stop to pick up passengers (except the driver’s friends!) and have larger, more comfortable seats. None of the buses we took in Nepal had toilets on board. However, these buses did tend to stop every 3 hours or so, to give you time to use the toilet and buy snacks/ drinks.

The toilets at rest stops were always basic squat toilets, but they were free, and they were private. There tended to be a few toilets available, so queuing wasn’t too bad. Running water was generally available for hand washing, but no soap or toilet roll was provided, so make sure you have your own supply readily available.

nepalblog_squatter_nick

Provided by Nick Rogen, author of the excellent travel blog A Life Unfiltered.

Some toilet stops were yet more basic; we distinctly remember one wooden shack perched precariously on the side of a cliff on the road between Kathmandu and Pokhara. These more basic toilets were again, squat toilets, and they generally didn’t have running water available for hand washing. But they did tend to have bins for used toilet paper, which avoids that sticky situation of “I used this piece of toilet paper before I realised there is NOWHERE to put it…”


Go Go Guano top tips for overland travel in Nepal:

As when travelling in any developing country, we would always recommend you carry toilet paper and antibacterial hand gel with you at all times. That is, unless you’re happy to use the bucket in a bucket to clean yourself and adopt the “left hand for cleaning, right hand for eating” system the locals use. 

We also recommend bringing your own bar of soap in a soap box on your trip to Nepal, because sometimes you just need a proper hand wash and there’s no guarantee anywhere will provide soap. 

general_toiletkit


And finally…

Here’s a story about an interesting toilet and bus related experience Rosie had in Nepal. It explains the exception to the “buses are generally great” rule mentioned earlier… 

After Morgan went home to England, I decided to travel overland from Kathmandu to Varanasi, India by myself. This was, quite frankly a terrible idea. This 340-mile journey involved over 20 hours on buses with extremely limited toilet facilities. To put this in perspective, you could feasibly travel 340 miles in about 5 hours on good roads. It was slow going. Without Morgan to tell me what a terrible idea this was, I went into massive optimist mode, thinking things along the lines of:

Overland travel is such an enriching experience! I love overland travel. It’s so cheap and you meet fascinating people…”

So off I went.

Phase 1 of this 340-mile road trip took me to Lumbini, the fabled birthplace of Buddha in the deep South of Nepal:

nepalblog_monks

It sounded like an incredible place. But first I had to get there.

I could tell I was in for interesting journey as soon as I arrived at the bus station. As a testament to this wonderful country, my rickshaw driver helped me sort my ticket out, insisted on carrying my backpack and personally walked me to the right bus, without even expecting a tip.

The bus looked fine from the outside, but on closer inspection several things started to worry me. The seats were much smaller than an average size adult human. There was no luggage storage, so a “pile” system was created whereby everyone chucked their luggage haphazardly in the region of the gear stick. And, the journey took far longer than expected. But despite all this, I loved this bus ride for one simple reason; the people. My fellow passengers looked after me, as the only backpacker on the bus, far more than I deserved. They insisted I move seat twice, to make sure I was in the most comfortable seat on the bus. At one of the comfort breaks, I tried to buy some chai, only to find I had no change. This being Nepal, of course the vendor didn’t have change for a big note, so I smiled and said no thank you; I would get by without my chai fix. A few minutes later a local woman approached me carrying 2 steaming cups of sweet, spicy, chai. She didn’t speak English, but smiling broadly she indicated she had seen my earlier exchange and bought me a drink. We didn’t share any of the same language, but we sat and enjoyed our chai together smiling and gesturing to communicate. Nepal humbled me.

The downside of drinking chai in the middle of an all day bus ride? You need to pee.

A few hours later, my bladder painfully full, the bus pulled over for a break. But there were no toilets in sight this time. I felt fairly let down. One thing I had to learn to love about Nepal was the comfortable rest stops every few hours, with access to drinks, snacks, and squat toilets, and this more basic, local bus was not delivering.

I asked the driver, and he looked genuinely sad to tell me there were no toilets here; we had only stopped as some people needed to change bus. The bus driver took me under his wing, talked to some people, and within a few minutes, I was being shepherded into what I now realise was someone’s house, to use their toilet. I walked through their living room and kitchen, said a brief, confused hello to the family, promptly disappeared out through their back door, and into their back garden. From there I was ushered over to the family outhouse. I found a lovely clean squat toilet, and after thanking the family profusely I got back on the bus. That was it. No one asked for money. No scary situations arose involving a solo female traveller following a stranger into his house. It was just a great experience, which taught me that if in doubt, just ask for help. If you’re in Nepal, you can pretty much guarantee people will help you out.

nepalblog_streets

Unfortunately, things weren’t so fluffy and nice on Phase 2 of this trip. My final destination was Varanasi, India, and this required yet another long bus journey. Go ahead and read all about my comparatively horrifying experience here.


Planning on going trekking in Nepal?
Check back soon for our guide to using toilets while trekking!
Or, follow our blog to be notified as soon as new posts are up.