The Best And Worst Toilets In The World

Photo by Elsie esq.

“Of all the gastrointestinal hazards in faraway lands, a tough one to avoid is traveler’s diarrhea, which is caused not just by tainted food but by general changes in diet and climate.”

— Rolf Potts, Vagabonding

Let’s say you’ve spent a week or two in Thailand.

You eat Thai food regularly, exercise every day, and spend weekends drinking with your expat friends. At some point, your buddies might have a hard time ignoring the fact that you’re ducking away every ten minutes, coming up with a different excuse each time, returning to the table looking red and flustered…. our own Tim Patterson can tell you how it feels.

One should never be less than a hundred meters from a porcelain throne when TD hits. Though, depending on where you are in the world, there might not be a throne on which to sit. Or one made of porcelain. Even life-saving paper can be absent at the most critical of times.

What are some of the best and worst places to deposit your waste across the world?

Incredible India

“An Australian girl on our bus was unfortunate enough to have found herself with sporadically urgent stomach problems on a fourteen-hour journey. She, quite admirably, would get off at the various five-minute stops to settle whatever intestinal disagreement she had, in full view of the bus and anyone who cared, or dared, to be watching.

This went on throughout the night until we arrived at one of the customary twenty-minute service stops. Here, she proceeded to go through the usual, but desperate motions of finding a bush, manoeuvring herself into position and engaging in whatever comes next.

It was only then that she realized, not only was there a perfectly acceptable, and surprisingly clean toilet facility in the service station only ten metres away, but that she had just soiled the entrance to the only house within visible distance.”

-From the blog “Dirty India” by Matador member Swazi

Photo by Rheanna2

Squatters of Asia take some getting used to; public areas of Thailand, China, Laos, India, and Vietnam, among other countries, are rife with them. In Thailand many restrooms have a tollbooth. Even in some of the more touristy places of Beijing you’re probably better off holding it in until you return to your hostel.

Few travelers take bottom washing practices into consideration when researching customs, but toilet paper really hasn’t caught on in many parts of Thailand and India.

“I am honored to accept your waste.”

Photo by Yuya Tamai

Only in Japan will one find the most advanced butt-warming technology on the face of the planet. Toilet seats in this country allow the user to select the temperature of the seat (VERY handy in the cold weather of Hokkaido), and control how high and fast the rinsing and bidet water moves.

Some of these space-age crappers even have advanced features like a computerized voice, gentle massage, and self-lowering seats. Just be sure not to enter a suspicious looking lavatory that’s likely to be featured on Japanese prank shows.

The Deep, Deep South

McMurdo Station in Antarctica might have a few facilities that are comparable to any you’d see back home, but all bets are off when you’re walking out in the field – a bucket with a polystyrene lid and subzero temperatures. That’s right, you ARE freezing your ass off.

Wishing On A Crap

Photo 2001: A Space Odyssey

Grab some reading material and $20 million and you too can experience the joy of a zero gravity toilet in LEO (Low Earth Orbit).

Unlike nearly all ground toilets, this one uses absolutely no water, instead relying on vacuum energy to clean up the mess. It also happens to be very energy efficient: liquid waste is distilled to make water that is clean enough to drink.

The solid waste is expelled at regular intervals to burn in the upper atmosphere. So remember: when you wish upon a falling star, you might just be basing all your dreams on a flaming pile of… well, yeah.

Be careful if you’re a Russian citizen, though, as you might have to hold it until you return to Earth.

Incredible India Two: Slums Of Calcutta

“I’ll never forget this early trip [4:00 AM] to the latrines of the City of Joy. Access was already obstructed by a line of several dozen people.

The arrival of a sahib in jeans and basketball shoes provoked a lively upsurge of curiosity and amusement, and all the more so because, in my ignorance of the customs of the country, I had committed an unforgivable blunder: I had brought with me a few sheets of toilet paper.

Was it conceivable that anyone should want to preserve in paper a defilement expelled from the body? A young boy came up to me with a tin full of water.

‘Take this water, big brother, and wash your bottom with it,’ he urged gently.”

– Dominique Lapierre, I Should Have Stayed Home, “Enlightened Sahib”

You’re A-Peein’ Exhibitionist

Photo by Jose Luis Roldan

There’s really nothing wrong per se with public urinals in Amsterdam and around Europe, depending on your sense of modesty and whether you have a shy bladder. If so, you might want to cross the border and find a public restroom with walls… located a little distance from the sidewalk.

Worthy of Donald Trump’s Golden Poop

This is one of the few times when it may be excusable and not the least bit suspicious to take a camera into the bathroom. The Shoji Tabuchi theatre in Missouri is the essence of luxury: freshly-cut flowers, marble, gold, stained glass, even a fountain. Maybe they should invest in rich people toilet paper.

Going in Ghana

“I tried not to step in the stream that came running out of the hut. Inside, I was alone. There were several stalls, separated only by short concrete walls. Each stall had a couple of bricks for the feet on either side of a small pit that was shallow enough to be superfluous.

There were lumps everywhere, filling the holes to an uncomfortable height, over which one would not want to squat, for fear of contact. They were strewn all about the holes as well, even on the brick footstools. I must digress, but not without mentioning that the West African diet must be as varied and unpredictable as any on the planet.”

Gone to Ghana: The Worst Toilet(s) I Ever Saw

The Big Loo

The public toilets present in parks and major urban areas of New Zealand are nothing special, but I appreciated them because they had automated doors that locked, opened, and told you if anyone was inside. The ones at Auckland International Airport even spoke in computerized voices.

Other than that, you might try taking a dump in the southern hemisphere just to watch the water spin the other way.

Want more? Check out the Golden Plunger awards.

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  • marina villatoro

    i had a terrible experience in Guatemala. i was just mugged and spent half the day at the police station for no reason at all. before getting back on the bus to get the hell out of that place, i had to peeeeeeeeeeeeeee. so there was a paid toilet in the disgusting bus terminal. i paid and entered a stinky smelly room. looking around for the bathroom. there was no tiolet. i ran out asking what the hell is going on, and i had to stand with my legs apart a teeny tiny hole overflowing with s**t. that’s the toilet, and I HAD TO PAY FOR THAT!
    The Travel Expert(a) and an Expat with a Twist

  • Kate

    My vote for one of the best toilets in the world goes to the urinals of the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, California. They are so good that the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce considers them a tourist attraction and they have their own website.

  • Hal

    I’m comfortable at either extreme–give me a relatively clean toilet, or a hole in the ground. Anything in between is more likely to be nasty.

  • Carlo

    Haha…you’re-a-peein’ – clever ;)

    I’ve seen my fair share of disgusting loos around China and Mongolia. The best outhouse ever is on the Great Ocean Walk at the Devil’s Kitchen campsite. Check out the view:

  • Tim Patterson

    I love those stories from India. Makes me feel better about vomiting out of a rickshaw a few weeks ago.

  • J

    You forgot to mention the different styles of wiping clean around the world. Some places use pebbles, rope and leaves to clean.

    The dirtiest toilet i ever visited was in a Melbourne city library, because women don’t know what to do with their expelled fluids when toilet bins aren’t cleared.

  • John Wasko

    Don’t forget Europe.

    The Italian bombsight is my favorite. A couple of handles on the wall, two foot like impressions on the floor and the hole.

    Fire when ready!


  • Justruss

    When judging facilities, please remember that only 25% of the people in the world have an actual toilet.

  • tom gates

    I just used one of the ones in india… that an overshare?

  • tharp42

    I am convinced that the worst toilets in the world are ALL in China. I spent a month travelling there last summer and was subjected to some of the most nauseating shit troughs I’ve yet encountered in my world travels.

  • MT

    Chinese Trains are the worst. It is amazing how long you can hold on if you really need to.

    The Devils Kitchen loo on the Great Ocean Walk is a pretty famous loo these days. Just down the road from here.

  • Gillian Bullion

    Travelling on that bordoirish overnight bus with the pinky coloured curtains was pelasant enough until we encountered a ‘toilet stop’ approximately halfway between Chaing Mei and Bangkok I’ve travelled by every form of transport all over the world and have stopped off at hundreds of dreaded ‘toilet stops’ but this one far surpassed any in ‘best filthy toilet’ category. I found a concrete cubicle with a hole in the middle somewhere, surrounded by bits of brownish/yellow paper and body waste (it did at least have a partial beaten up wooden door). Travellers including the few English queued outside on a floor saturated with water and puddles (who knows where from) and I think we all knew what we were about to be confronted with. As I entered I looked at it and had to smile to myself because it was such a horror that screaming would get me nowhere as I was ‘dyeing to go’. I pndered on going in the bushes along the road but the thought of snakes and spiders made me realise that I had no choice. Thoughts rushed through my mind on how I would organise myself enough so as to ‘touch nothing’ except myself whilst performing the most normal body function. I was amazed at how far two tissues could go as a wiper and a third to wrap the other two in as there were no bins and two steps to the right of the ‘toilet stop facility’ was a counter serving refreshments and rice dishes. All were open air facilities but this was in the middle of the night and I’m only grateful that I didn’t see it in daylight. My motto is never wear your glasses when you use a public toilet.

  • sid

    Yes, the Madonna Inn. As I stood at the urinal doing my thing, the door swung open and several men and women tourists walked by as if on a tour. I just finished up and shared my experience with my girlfriend.

  • gavin

    awesome article! Here’s a cool link associated: