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Travel Tips for Africa: How to Use a Squat Toilet

Squat toilets are found throughout Africa and are especially common in Muslim countries such as Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria. Essentially, they are holes in the ground equipped with a pan to stand on, rather than the seat and bowl of Western toilet systems. Squat toilets are particularly common at bus or train stations, as well as local restaurants and inexpensive hotels. Users must be adept at squatting and comfortable using water for cleaning rather than toilet paper. For newbies, squat baths can be a bit intimidating, but with practice, using them soon becomes second nature.


That is how:

  1. Enter the bathroom squatting and look for the available water supply. You should find a small faucet with a bucket or bowl underneath. If it is not yet full, fill the container before proceeding to the next step.
  2. Place your feet on the footrests – two corrugated or ribbed pieces on each side of the toilet. Look out of the hole (usually toward the door or entrance of the toilet).
  3. If you’re wearing a dress or skirt, the next part is easy, but if you have to remove your clothes, make sure they don’t lift off the floor. The floor of a squat toilet is usually damp (hopefully from the water used for washing, but sometimes because the previous user was an inexperienced expert). The safest thing is to completely remove your pants or shorts and hang them over the door (if there are any).
  1. Squat down and make sure your feet are flat on the ground. If you are alert, you are more likely to lean forward or backward. A flat-foot pose is also kinder to your thigh muscles, especially if you’re going to be in this position for a while. If you feel unsteady, spread your feet wider.
  2. Finish your business by aiming for the hole, adjusting your position slightly if you find that you are completely missing. This is the hard part, but don’t worry – practice makes perfect.
  1. When you’re done, use the bowl to pour water over your private parts while trying to avoid spilling anything on your clothes. If necessary, use your left hand to help rinse and clean.
  2. Use the water provided to flush the toilet. Pour it along the side of the pan, turning and cleaning the entire bowl before going down.
  3. If the bucket or bowl was full when you entered, be courteous to the next person and refill it before you leave.
  4. If soap is available, be sure to wash your hands well. Otherwise, be sure to do so before handling food or touching other people to avoid spreading germs.
  1. Be grateful that squat toilets exist, because although they are more difficult to use at first, they are more hygienic than Western toilets in areas with inadequate plumbing.


  1. If using water (and your left hand) to clean yourself is too much culture shock, consider keeping a supply of tissues, toilet paper, or wet wipes on your person at all times.
  2. However, don’t flush the paper because squat toilets have delicate or non-existent plumbing and the paper almost always causes a blockage. Instead, dispose of it in the nearest trash can.
  1. Keep a small bottle of antibacterial hand gel in your bag. Soap is a rare commodity in the squat toilet world, and most won’t have hot water or sinks. This is especially important if you plan to keep things traditional and use your hand!
  2. Be careful not to lose your wallet or any other items hidden in your back pocket while assuming the squat… because trust us, trying to get them back will not be fun.
  3. If there is a bathroom attendant, leave a big tip; after all, it is a horrible job.
  1. If using a squat toilet doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, try finding a fancy hotel or western-style restaurant. These will usually have toilets as well as or in place of the squat type.


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