The point of Bathrooms Travellers can Expect is to help travelers feel a bit more comfortable with what to expect when traveling to places with different realities. A weird topic, I know and I will try to say something interesting.
In developing countries without solid infrastructure, there are constant power outages and water doesn’t get the proper treatment, so I avoid drinking tap water. Seems logic.
If I can’t drink the water, I also don’t brush my teeth with it. The solution is to use bottled water. I’m serious. The same way I always have a bottle of water on me when exploring a place, I always buy one for the bathroom. It’s one of the first things I do.
This is one of my tips for avoiding diarrheas, mentioned in Avoiding Traveler’s Sickness.
More than often you will find a shower that drops water directly on the bathroom floor. With no separation from the toilet, when you shower, water goes everywhere.
But even in less developed countries, I found the showers to be not that bad, so nothing really to worry about here.
When you opt for a shared bathroom saving a little money on the price of your stay, try to check out or read about the hygiene conditions before making your decision. In general, there is no problem to ask to see a room and check the bathrooms before you book it.
Bathrooms Travellers Can Expect: 4 essential items I always have
When staying at places with shared bathrooms, I always have the following items to minimize hygiene problems:
- Towel: I take a microfiber towel that is extremely efficient;
- Flip flops: you don’t want to walk or shower barefoot;
- Shampoo and Soap: I always take my own;
- Toilet paper: don’t expect to always have toilet paper available. Crappy tip, but crucial;
This is actually an important topic, I think. Most of the times you will find western style toilets and that’s, of course fine. You will find squat toilets in many countries and they’re supposed to be healthier. I lived in a monastery in Nepal for two weeks and happily used a squat toilet every day.
The only time I really hated squat toilets was in Tibet. I’m sad to say they probably have the worst toilets in the world…
I was on a wild camping trip in Botswana at the Okavango Delta. The toilet doesn’t get more basic: it was a simple picnic type stool with a hole in the middle that covered another hole on the ground. A shovel was your flushing mechanism. If the shovel was available on your way to the toilet, it meant the toilet seat was free.
Back to Tibet. Squatting wasn’t necessarily the issue. The real problem was privacy. Imagine 3 or 4 guys squatting side by side without any privacy. Wait! Don’t imagine that! But it did happen. I think it was the only time people heard me complain about adjusting to local habits. The squat toilets available at the dorm we stayed for our Everest Basecamp trip were incredibly bad! Not only was there no privacy, the smell and view were almost unbearable! It was so bad that two travel buddies and I took turns. While one did his thing, the others would stand guard, so we could have some privacy and deal with all the “shit” the best we could. Enough of that…
Cultural Toilet Habits
In India, you have the left-hand issue. The left hand is used to clean yourself after you do your stuff. Although from my experience they don’t seem to take it so seriously nowadays. There is no toilet paper involved making this technique healthier. Normally there’s a water tap so you can clean your private parts. Healthier at least for your butt, not so sure about your left hand, though. While in India, avoid touching any important things with your left hand when facing other people. Even if you don’t do it like the locals.
Even if you think this type of stuff seems archaic, you should respect the local culture and try to adjust to it as much as you can. When your return home, you can go back to your own toilet.