Surviving Toilets Abroad – a female perspective
Toilets abroad, depending upon where one travels can be a trauma – especially if you have a stomach bug and can’t wait. Hygiene is not a priority, floors are often flooded, toilets double up as showers, there is no toilet paper - douches in the form of hose pipes are provided, squat toilets are a logistical nightmare if you are wearing trousers and have luggage (especially if the floor is wet). Locks often don’t work and peepholes are common in mixed gender toilets. I was on a ferry once travelling from Lombok Island to Flores Island in Indonesia. There were two toilets on the deck at the back of the ship for the passengers. As usual there was a queue that turned into a scrum when one of the toilets became vacant. Shoving back the mass of people behind me I dashed for a door as it opened and secured a toilet. There was no lock, plenty of peep holes, no loo roll, I was wearing trousers, the floor was disgusting and it was a squat toilet. Using one hand to pull the door closed and the other to cover the peep holes I balanced precariously. Obviously frustrated by not being able to watch the men hanging around outside toilet wrenched the door open and had a good look before I managed to pull it shut again. It was obvious at this point I needed to develop a new strategy to deal with toileting needs abroad. Here is my guide:-
- Wear a skirt. It won’t get wet as you lift it away from water and dirt on the floor. It stays up of its own accord leaving both hands free. If travelling in remote places where there are no toilets squat like the local ladies and let your skirt fan out around you in order to preserve your modesty.
- The first words you should learn in any country you visit is “where is the toilet please”.
- Don’t wait till the last minute to go – often you will be in a place where there are no facilities. Take advantage of every toilet and toilet stop going.
- If you are on a bus when it stops for a break race out ahead of everyone else – they are all heading for the loo as well. Quell your desire to be polite and let people pass – they will not return the compliment. Even old ladies will knock you aside in a desperate attempt to avoid queuing.
- If you are like me and need to use toilet paper carry your own supply to the loo as well as a plastic bag for rubbish as there is often no waste disposal bin.
- Check for peepholes and use the toilet paper to bung them up.
- Wear waterproof shoes.
- Take a vial of nice smelling oil to smear under your nose in case of gut retching odours.
- Get a friend to mind your bag or wear a rucksack – again leaving both hands free.
- Carry hand sanitizer around with you as often there are no wash basins.
- Ask the most fearsome looking fellow traveller on your tour/bus/train to guard the toilet while you use it.
- Learn to pee like a man – it is possible I hear.
The answer to the old question ”what do women do in toilets?” can in some part be found in the first part of this blog. At home different reasons include, queueing (this takes up a substantial amount of time), talking to each other across cubicles or if one can’t bear to be parted from friends 3 – 4 in a cubicle having a communal wee, taking a phone call whilst on the loo, changing clothes, trying to toilet ones offspring, writing shopping lists, meditating or reading a magazine. All the later are reasons why there is a queue in the first place. The latest addition to my list is being so drunk that you can’t work out how to get the door open (it took her 15 minutes). As a person who is not keen on public toilets I tend to hang on for as long as possible, rush to a toilet only to find a queue and end up using the men’s facilities in desperation (unlike women they don’t get territorial about toilets and even sympathise). The only time I tend to hog toilets is when I get stuck in them due to a faulty lock and then generally I have the luck to be in an isolated loo with no one around.
So no matter how pissed off you are waiting in that interminable queue for the loo at home just bear in mind how much worse it could be if you were travelling.
I hope this helps ladies.