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How to use the Indian squat toilet

Tourists coming to India will have their first culture shock when they come out of the airport. First thing they will notice that India is one crowded country, too many people walking around, people wanting to talk to you or staring at you, some even offering you to take you to hotels and so on.

"Indian toilet"The second shock comes in quite unexpected. As soon as you walk in a public toilet you will notice that toilets are different to what they are used to. You may not notice this at the hotel as most hotels will have western style toilets. Depending what part of the world you are coming from, you will notice that the Indian toilets are like a hole in the ground. It’s not exactly the same as the pit latrines or the makeshift squat-holes you will find in sub-Saharan Africa but close. But there you have it, these are the traditional latrines used in all over India. You will find these types of squat toilets in many places in India including trains. Unless you are travelling on the Maharaja express you are bound to encounter squat toilets.

You will be forgiven to think, how on earth people take their dump. First things first, don’t panic, it’s quite simple. Also known as the squat toilets, they are pretty simple to use. It’s used in many countries around the world including Japan.

How to use the Indian toilet

All you need to do is take your pants down, yes take them all down including your undergarments and hang them on the hook on the toilet door. Make sure they are hung properly otherwise they might drop and get wet or dirty. You can always pull them half down to the knees but there is a remote possibility of getting them wet even soiled if you haven’t done this before.

Then sit down on the ceramic commode in a squat position. This goes for both men and women. You will require the extensive use of muscles, hamstrings, tendons and ligaments. They will include hip flexors and extensors, knee flexors and extensors, lateral and medial hip rotators. It’s a good exercise, wouldn’t you say. It sure will make you fit in no time. Think of it like the gym lifting Olympic weights sitting across your shoulders in a squat position. Those are half squats, now just be brave and get down to your knees and perform the full squat. So you see, there are natural benefits of squatting as well. It might be uncomfortable in the beginning but believe me, it’s not that bad, and you might even like it. It’s all about practice. Anyway, take a dump. Try to aim in the hole.

"Half Squat"

Remember the half squat at the gym

Oh by the way, make sure before you couch down that there is a bucket of water in the bathroom otherwise you are out of luck. Indians like to use water rather than toilet paper and it is unlikely that you will find a bidet in a public location. Anyway, fill the mug of water and wash your backside with your left hand with multiple washes and make sure it’s thoroughly washed. It may seem strange at first washing your own backside with your hand, but that’s the way majority of the Indians do it. If this is your first time, you might even like it and discover something you never knew about yourself.

As a matter of fact, squatting is a good you. It has been suggested that those using the squat toilets are less likely to suffer from colon cancer. The rationale behind is that squatting empties the bowels completely while in the western styles, some crap remains in the colon and over a period of time it stiffens leading to cancer of the bowel (sorry no references).

Now get up, pull the flush chain, and wash your hands in the sink. It might be a little difficult to stand up from the squat or crouch. Often you might not find soap as health and hygienic education is poor in India. You should have checked this before you couched down. This is what I call tough luck.

If you did find soap or you’ve got your own, wash your hands thoroughly. You might need to wash several times to wash the faecal matter off your hands. Now you’re done. Put your pants back on and walk out and enjoy the rest of the day.

Don’t let cultural factors ruin your latrine use. I would like to hear about your experiences of your stay in India and your use of Indian toilets.

How to use a squat or the Indian toilet

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29 Responses to “How to use the Indian squat toilet”

  1. Thank you for the instructions Shalu and I think most people who travel have seen this kind of toilet before :) Anyway, it’s fun to see the confused face of someone who hasn’t seen those before.
    Mariella Lombardi recently posted..I Am Dying For A Brownie – Can I Have Sugar When Trying to Lose Weight?My Profile

  2. Shalu says:

    You are welcome Mariella. Its one of those essential things that has to be mentioned. Thanks for your comment.
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  3. Ehsan says:

    Interesting article Shalu:P

    I think most travelers faces these type of problems. I would love to travel to India ones.:D
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  4. Sally K Witt says:

    Shalu. I have never seen a blog post like this before. I am sure that it has helped many tourists!

    What do people do who have physical disabilities? I don’t think that I could squat like that anymore!

    Good post.
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  5. Dennis says:

    We used to have many of these back in my previous university. Many people in Africa grow up using this but tourists might easily confuse them for a urinal
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  6. postringan yang bagus tentang”How to use the Indian squat toilet”

  7. Susan Connor says:

    Never though of this. Now I understand why the university near me has ‘do not squat’ pictures on the toilet walls. Next to these are visual instructions on how to utilise the western style toilet facilities.
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  8. MarieMcC says:

    This is the first article I’ve seen which suggests that you take your clothes completely off to use a squat toilet. I could never do that, as I’d feel too vulnerable. Maybe the lock on the door doesn’t work right, and someone may walk in on you…eek!

    As for self cleaning with water vs. toilet paper, I wouldn’t ever want my bare fingers to come into contact with fecal matter. Most of the people (Americans) I’ve ever talked to about using a latrine or a squat toilet are already grimacing at the thought of it. The thought of not having toilet paper would make them lose their minds! :-)

    I used a squat toilet on my trip to India last year and observed that it takes a little more accuracy than a latrine. And I always brought my own tp. :-)
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  9. John Ernest says:

    In any travel that you do, you should always pack a your hygienic resources because you can’t be too sure of the ones provided in your area. You should also have the knowledge of the hygiene and health issues in the said place so you would know where to have your hygienic rituals.

  10. Latha says:

    This is so helpful Shalu. Those were excellent and much needed tips. I cannot believe how you laid it down so plain and simple.
    When I was healthy, it was okay for me. Now that I am partially handicapped, suddenly I have realized how basic toilets are hard to use.
    It is sad that the toilets in India are not friendly for handicapped or differently abled people.

    I do not agree with the remove all your clothes bit. You can use it without removing the undergarments entirely.

    Once when I traveled to a place to watch elephants, this government funded place had a public toilet, but first I couldn’t climb the step – hello, have you heard of a slope for people who cannot life their leg and second – they only had an India style version – what about me, I cannot squat…

    Anyways, things need to change and for the better. I am hopeful.
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  11. Violeta says:

    This is an awesome guide on using the squat toilets! We also have them in Romania, but the difference is that we use toilet paper, so there won’t be any water bucket nearby. In poor areas of the country the toilet paper will most probably be missing, so you need to have the toilet paper with you, otherwise you’re in trouble :)
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  12. Micamyx says:

    Hi Shalu! Saw your blog via Flipnomad. This article is indeed helpful :D
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  13. Farida says:

    Good info for new travellers to India. I have seen the confusion before ;)
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  14. Tamal says:

    Hello Shalu, this is very informative article, thank you!

    Here in my country we have these toilets like in India and we use water. For foreigners traveling, you should always be conscious to learn where you are going and if there is a western (high) toilet available.

    Purchase yourself a pocket tissue paper and there is a pocket soap/paper soap you can keep with you everytime.

    I hope this will save you in tough situations!
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  15. For the advanced course, you can teach how to use a squat toilet in a moving train when the water has stopped running and it hasn’t been flushed in 10 hours…
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  16. Ysar Mo says:

    Dear Shalu,

    We recently visited India and found the conditions of toilets generally very bad throughout India (Mumbai, Goa, Chennai, Munnar, Kochi). This was due not only to the squat toilets but also, to the use of water in the normal toilets. Very often the water is lying all over the floor and this makes it very unpleasant as one does not know if it is water or urine lying all over.

    We experienced this not only at airports, but also at some 5 star resorts and hotels. With all due respect to cultural traditions and age old toilet habits, I think it is time that squat toilets as well as the use of water should be done away with in public places in India. Water can be replaced by wet toilet paper which would serve the same purpose and is more hygienic. Just make sure that the toilets are adapted to flush the wet toilet paper down.

    • Shalu Sharma says:

      Hello Ysar
      I know exactly what you mean about the wetness of the floor in the toilets and bathrooms. As far as the wet floors is concerned, this could be due to the fact that Indians use water to wash their backside. In addition, there are taps that you can use to draw water in buckets. Hence some of them them might be spilling on the floor. Indians will not be able to adopt to western style toilets. Hence it will remain a fact of life for tourists visiting India.
      I am amazed and surprised by the conditions of the 5 star hotels. Which ones did you stay in?
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  17. Jack says:

    So scratch India off my bucket list then and never shake hands with Indians.. gotcha and thank you.

    • Justin says:

      @Jack So what makes you think that the hand that wiped the arse with toilet paper is cleaner? At least these wet washers use soap afterwards, but the TP wipers will just pull up the pants and walk away.

      FYI, in some areas in India, tribals are known to half-squat on the ground, and when the matter that be has been ejected, they wipe their arse with leaves from the shrubs around ;)

      Sorry Shalu to have reacted strongly.

    • Shalu Sharma says:

      Jack, do you use your left hand for shaking hands? Typical coming from an Australian.
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  18. Lionel says:

    Hi
    When Chatsworth in South Africa was built ,these toilets were called low pan.I a ready for travel ,i used this toilet before

  19. plockjung says:

    This is really a great article. you have posted all the links which are really great to read and i really like the way you have posted here.

    Thank you

  20. Crawford Mechanical Services says:

    But, people from other countries are aware of the Indian toilets. They have done their research before coming here. But a good attempt of explaining things. Thanks

  21. Same with most of the toilets in China. Had traveled to China for most part of 2003-2008 and this is the toilet situation at that time, not so much with big hotels though.

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