Posted by: baworldtraveler | April 2, 2011

Travel and Toilets…All You Wanted To Know About Squat Toilets But Were Afraid To Ask!

Public Squat Toilets Were Used By The Romans

Togas Provided Privacy While Using Public Squat Toilets

Did you know….
– Flush Toilets were not invented until 1596
– Toilet paper was not invented until 1900’s
– The Romans did not sit, but squatted, when using public toilets (see example to the left in photo above)
– Today, not everyone sits on “the throne” when nature calls
– Some of the best travel stories have to do with unfamiliar “plumbing” encounters

It is after traveling abroad, especially to the more remote places that adventure travelers seek, that most Americans begin their love affair with “American” plumbing, especially their toilets. They also develop such an appreciation for that common item, a roll of toilet paper, that it rises to the top of any future packing list and forever more becomes a “travel necessity”.

One of the first (and most important) phrases mastered when we travel to other countries is “where is the restroom/WC/lavatory/bathroom/ladies or men’s room”, but, what do you do when you open the bathroom door and, for the first time, find yourself face to face with a squat toilet? Most likely, your heart will beat a little faster as you realize, like Dorothy from Oz, that you “aren’t in Kansas any more”. You will draw from any previous camping experiences where you needed to squat, and you will pray you can maintain your balance (that is, if you haven’t already retreated in search of a “western toilet”). Practice makes perfect, so, after a few more encounters, you will take it all in stride, but most likely, you will be forever changed. As you wander through museums and explore historical sites you will begin to wonder how people at different points of history and plumbing evolution dealt with answering nature’s call.

Squat Toilets

Squat Toilets - A Surprise Encounter For Many Travelers

For those travelers who haven’t yet experienced a squat toilet, or for those of you who haven’t mastered this situation, help is but a click away as Frank Bures teaches you how to squat and how to wipe, previous taboo subjects, in his post Frank includes a few links to other books on the subject that might interest you.

Johnathan Isbits provides more information about squat toilets, their health benefits and toilets in antiquity in his post The Health Benefits of the Natural Squatting Position. The photos of the ancient and modern squat toilets in this post are from Johnathan’s site at

Lastly, you might want to check out Wikipedia’s Talk: Squat Toilets… to see some interesting discussion on the topic.

Please comment back if you have an interesting story about squat toilets or new encounters with unfamiliar plumbing!



  1. Wow – that really is all there is to know!

  2. This was quite the post to read on a Monday morning! Love it!

    • Glad you liked it …. It occured to me how often “plumbing” enters into our travel conversations or stories…Do you have a good story from your travel experiences? Post one as a comment here or on your blog!!! I would love to hear about it.

  3. This post made me laugh! I encountered one, believe it or not, in a restaurant in Paris several years ago. Took me a few minutes to figure out what was what.

  4. Interesting timing. I came across a Discovery Channel show last night about London in the 1400’s and how dreadful living conditions were due to rapid development and poor sanitary conditions. The show’s host recreated how Londoner’s at the time disposed of any and all waste matter. Not a lot of toilets back then. Yuck!

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