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Toilets in China
The public toilets in China are not that pleasant and are normally of the squatting type. You can find public toilets in the airports, railway stations, hotels, big restaurants such as KFC, big shopping centers, subway stations and most of the tourist attractions, etc. The toilets in the airports, hotels, big restaurants and major tourist attractions tend to be clean as well as most hotels also have toilet paper in their cubicles. However the public toilets on the streets and in normal living quarters are often very smelly and dirty and normally have no toilet paper available. As such, we strongly suggest that you bring toilet paper and liquid soap along with you before you leave the hotel for sightseeing.
Go to a Chinese toilet may probably be a headache for any new comer to China because the notorious hygienic condition. You will find dirty squat toilets, which are the worst aspect in the country. In remote, rural areas you might be forced to relieve yourself above a long trough – privacy, if any, made by low, fragile walls – maintained with regular flushes of water from a source at one end. However, there are some pristine Western ceramic bowls made fresh with the addition of rose petals in the water in China's big cities.
Before you leaving the hotel, make sure you have portable toilet paper, wet wipes and hand sanitizer with you. Most public restrooms do not provide paper and soap with the exception to those in McDonald's and KFC outlets, international hotels, upscale restaurants or shopping malls in big cities.
Remember a simple but very useful Chinese sentence when you are searching a comfort station: "请问, 厕所在哪儿?" (Qĭng wèn, cèsuŏ zài năr?) = Excuse me, where is the toilet?
Although most toilets in China are free of charge, have a few coins (1 or 2 RMB) with you for use in some public restrooms in some large cities, Shanghai, for example, is really useful.
Going toilet in your hotel before you go is a good way to avoid being caught in a place that will not have a nice toilet.
Pay attention to the Male or Female sign or picture at the toilet door, please recognize the Chinese characters "男" and "女", which mean Male and Female, or Gentlemen and Ladies respectively. Also "厕" means toilet, so that "男厕" is restroom for male and "女厕" is for female.
Hand any unnecessary bags to a friend while you use the washroom if you can. Toilets are generally no hooks and you may need your hands to balance, to dig around your purse for tissue papers and to hold on to the door if the lock is broken.
If you find yourself outside the comfort of your hotel, don't be panic, it won't be unbearable. However, queuing in China does not work the same way as it does in the US. Women generally line up in front of a particular stall rather than hang back as one opens. This creates a chaotic situation so it is best to stick to one door and keep your eye on it. If it happens not to be a Western toilet, better to get in there than re-queue. Many times, doors have signs indicating Western or squat toilets. To check the lock, if it is red, then it is occupied and green means free but always knock.
In squat toilet, it is truly not that bad and many argue it is actually healthier to go this way than sitting down. Whatever, if you are not used to it, squatting can be quite difficult. Face forward and try to let your pants down while ensuring that the ends are up and not touching the floor. There are grooved, anti-slip surfaces for your feet on either side of the toilet. Try to get somewhere in the middle, feet flat on the floor and aim for the potty.
Chinese plumbing system in public toilets generally does not handle paper. You have to put paper in the basket besides the squat potty. Try hard not to look at the basket; it is usually open and teeming with things on which you would rather not lay eyes.