Every traveller has a foreign bathroom scary toilet story. For all activities in foreign countries that encite culture shock - nothing gets as personal or as shocking as visiting a strange bathroom.
So, here are TripAtlas.com's 5 Tips to Help You Pee All Over the World:
1. Always carry toilet paper, antibacterial hand sanitizer & menthol rub.
Triple layered toilet paper is a gift from the gods. Never assume that toilet paper is a given and that it will automatically be provided for you by restaurants, stores, and etc. Even if a bathroom does have toilet paper, it may remind you more of cardboard than toilet paper!
Hand sanitizer is great when you don't find water, sinks, or soap. Or (if you're a super germ-freak!) after you've finished washing your hands but had to touch the bathroom door handle to get out of the bathroom!
Dab or spread menthol rub, lip balm or lotion under your nose to keep you from gagging if you've found yourself in a smelly bathroom.
2. Get used to the Squat Toilet.
From Africa to Asia, to Europe and anywhere outside North America, squat toilets are standard and they are everywhere. So if you're planning on travelling, you might as well get used to them. There's no such thing as pride when it comes to relieving oneself!
They range from dirt holes in the ground with space for your feet; to holes in the ground with no space for your feet because someone peed all over the space; to ceramic holes in the ground with space for your feet - and a flushing system. Some may be stalls with doors, so may be open, indoors, and outdoors. Surprisingly, sometimes these may be much cleaner than typical flush toilets!
Once you master the squat toilet, you'll be ready to go anywhere. Bring shoes (not sandals) you don't mind sacrificing, as you're likely to find bleach or other matter on the floors. Hold on to the walls if you have weak quads - you don't want to fall in.
3. Bring coins/change with you to open the stalls or tip attendants
As shocking as it may be that you have to pay to use a washroom that's being "taken care of" by a crabby attendant, it's part the customs and it's got to be done - even if the bathroom looks filthy. Some places like Turkey have supervised bathrooms to make sure you don't splash - it's like you're toilet training all over again.
In Paris, London, and other tourist cities, even San Francisco, you'll find coin operated public cabins on the streets. Insert coins and the door opens automatically. You have 15 minutes to finish. Once you're done the cabin steam-cleans and disinfects itself for the next user. Spic and span!
4. Ah, the Elusive Flush.
Some flush, some don't. Some are levers, some are buttons, handles, pulled strings or chains. Some you pull, push, turn. Some have two buttons. Unfortunately, you'll have to trust your quick wit and intuition when it comes to flushing. If all else fails, it's alright to give up.
5. Museums, McDonalds, Starbucks and big hotel chains are your friends - if you find one of these, it's likely you'll find a great bathroom.
As long as you can get over the same disinfectant smell that seems to be the international bathroom cleaning detergent for all McDonald's restaurants.
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Gizelle Lau is a freelance writer & photographer in Toronto, Canada with a passion for food and travel.
Located: Toronto Canada
Likes: cities, culture, food/wine, paths-less-travelled, photography, wildlife