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Toilets in Thailand: Squat, Flush & Bum Gun

*Seen above is a common Thai restroom welcome sign with traditional figurine.

In Thailand, there are basically three kinds of toilets: the traditional Thai toilet, the Western flush toilet, and a combination of the two. The traditional Thai toilet is what is known as a squat toilet. These are still found everywhere in Thailand, including rest stops at gas stations, so knowing how to use a squat toilet is essential travel knowledge.

 

Traditional Thai Toilet
Traditional squat toilets in public restrooms in Thailand are usually kept very clean.

How to Use a Squat Toilet in Thailand

1. Prepare:

Before entering the toilet, you might want to bring some toilet paper with you, as usually there is none available in the stall.

2. Footwear:

If you are wearing sandals, you may want to take them off first. It’s easier and more comfortable to balance yourself on a squat toilet barefoot, and it’ll keep your shoes clean in case you make some weird mistake while doing your business.

3. Position Yourself:

Stand facing the toilet stall door, with your feet on either side of the ceramic or porcelain depression. Your heels should be at the back, and your toes at the front.

4. Adjust Clothing:

Drop your pants, shorts, or skirt and then pull the clothing up over your thighs. Some people prefer to completely remove their lower garments, and hang them over the side of the stall, or sometimes there is a hook inside the stall to hang your garment.

5. Squat:

Begin to squat down slowly while keeping your balance. Make sure to keep your weight over your heels and not lean forward too much.

6. Aim:

Aim your business into the hole. Be as accurate as possible to prevent making a mess.

7. Clean:

Most squat toilets in Thailand are equipped with either a bucket of water or a tiled enclosure fill with water. If these are empty, there is always a spigot which is used to fill them back up.

There is a plastic container used to scoop the water from the main receptacle. Use your right hand to pour water gently down your bum and cleanse yourself, then use your left hand for cleaning.

Some people prefer holding the container between their legs (below their bum) and the scooping water up with their left hand to clean. This is all very awkward the first time you do it, so best to fully remove your pants or skirt the first time using a squat toilet to make things easier.

8. Flush:

Pour water from the plastic container or bucket into the bowl to flush a squat toilet. Do this several times until the waste is gone. If you used toilet paper, do not flush it down the toilet as it can clog the plumbing. Instead, there is usually a bin provided in the restroom for disposing used toilet paper. Place it in the bin.

When people see toilet signs in Thailand saying that they should place toilet paper in a bin rather than flush it, it sounds rather disgusting. But keep in mind that Thais and Asian tourists never use toilet paper to do their primary cleaning. They use only a few pieces to basically dry off, so the paper is never covered in waste.

9. Wash Hands:

Of course, after using a Thai squat toilet, you should thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water. However, sometimes (especially in rural areas), there is no soap. So, you may wish to carry hand sanitizer or a small bar of soap in your purse or travel bag.

Important Note: In some Thai restrooms with squat toilets, there will be one special Western style flush toilet for people who are handicapped, pregnant, or elderly.

At gas stations, you’ll see this toilet in front of the male/female sides of the restroom areas. At temples, this toilet is sometimes found at the end of one side of a row of squat toilets (so be sure to check).

No one is going to look at you cross-eyed if you decide to use that upgraded toilet instead of the squat toilet. If you are feeling self-conscious, you could always walk into the toilet with a limp. 😄

 

Modern Western Thai Toilet
Modern toilet in Thailand with a bum gun attached to the wall.

Western Flush Toilets with a Bum Gun

Western flush toilets are increasingly available in Thailand. The only difference is that they often are not equipped with toilet paper dispensers but bum guns. What is a bum gun? This is a hand-held bidet. It is like the water sprayer in a kitchen sink that is used to clean off dishes, except that it is attached to the wall next to the toilet.

In the Thai language, a bum gun is referred to as: săai chèet cham-rá (สายฉีดชำระ), hŭa-chèet (หัวฉีด), or thêe chèet dtòot (ที่ฉีดตูด) — the Thai word “chèet” means spray and the word “dtòot” means buttocks.

Occasionally, a traditional Thai toilet (aka squat toilet) will have a bum gun. But usually it is most often seen next to Western style toilets.

How Do Your Use a Thai Bum Gun?

1. Test the Water Pressure

Before sitting down on the toilet, take the bum gun (aka hand held bidet) off the wall, point the gun down toward the toilet bowl, and spray a short blast. This is to test the water pressure before you spray your bum later. Occasionally the water pressure is very strong, so you may want to adjust how firmly you press down the spray nozzle.

2. Clean Your Bum

After you have finished your business, take the bum gun off the wall, lift the side of your bum which is next to the gun slightly off the toilet seat, place the nozzle below your bum and direct the flow of water to the appropriate area.

Some Thai women will part their legs and go under with the bum gun directly from the front. But this is a trickier move, and one that is almost impossible for men to do, so we wouldn’t recommend that strategy.

3. Dry Off

If there is toilet paper handy, you can dry off with a few squares, or you can shimmy yourself for 30 seconds to dry off. Do note that toilet paper is sometimes available in the main restroom area outside the stalls and not in each stall. As with squat toilets, toss the paper into a bin (if one has been supplied) rather than flushing the paper down the toilet.

If you have never used a bum gun before, we couldn’t recommend it more highly! You’ll never have felt cleaner after leaving a toilet in your life. Frankly, it’s one of the secrets to why Thailand is the Land of Smiles, and why Westerners so often have frowns on their faces (as the Beat writer Jack Kerouac said, “Everyone is walking around with dirty a–holes”). 😄

 

Don't Squat on Toilet Sign
After upgrading to modern toilets in Thailand, a warning sign is sometimes needed.

The Combination Thai Toilet

The combination Thai toilet is a Western style toilet (aka sit down toilet), but without a flush mechanism. In this situation, you flush the toilet like you do a squat toilet: by pouring water into the bowl from a bucket or plastic container until the waste is gone.

With a combination toilet, it is hit or miss if it will be equipped with a bum gun, or if you will have to clean yourself off with your hand, toilet paper, or a combination of the two.

Are Toilets Free to Use in Thailand?

Toilets at large supermarkets, malls, restaurants, temples, and gas stations are free to use in Thailand. However, toilets at many bus stations, outside food markets, beaches, and other venues sometimes cost a small fee, usually 5 baht for a #1 and 10 baht for a #2.

At some restrooms it goes by the honor system, and you are expected to drop your coin into a basket at the entrance to the restroom area.

 

Modern toilet at Thai gas station
An example of a single modern Thai toilet in front of the restrooms at a gas station in Sakon Nakhon.

What are toilets and restrooms called in Thailand?

The name for a toilet or restroom is hông náhm (ห้องน้ำ) which literally means “room water” (as the adjective comes after the noun in the Thai language). If you are worried that you might not know which side (Male/Female) of a Thai restroom to go to, don’t be. There is almost always an icon of a man and woman, making it clear which side to enter.

How to ask where is the bathroom in Thai? Asking where the bathroom is in Thai is pretty easy to remember. The sentence is: Hông náhm yòo năi? (ห้องน้ำอยู่ไหน)

Thai Toilet Slang

If you are out drinking with Thai friends the two most common slang expressions you will hear (or overhear) related to using a toilet are: bpùat khêe (ปวดขี้) and bpùat chèe (ปวดฉี่). The first means that you really have to take a poo, while the second means you have to pee like a racehorse. Literally, the Thai word bpùat (ปวด) means painful. Note that some Thais would consider this coarse language, so best not to ever use these expressions yourself, unless you have first heard them used by the people you are with.

The more polite equivalents to these two slang expressions are: Chăn dtông bpai èu (ฉันต้องไปอึ) and Chăn dtông bpai chíng-chòng (ฉันขอไปชิ้งฉ่อง), which means I must go poo and must go pee, respectively. Of course, the most polite thing to say when you have to go to the bathroom in Thailand is not to be so specific, and just say that have to use the bathroom: Chăn dtông bpai hông náhm (ฉันต้องไปห้องน้ำ).

There are some humorous slang expressions taught Thai language books regarding toilet usage, but most of these are pretty rare, and you are more likely to get a confused look rather than a laugh. So, we wouldn’t recommend trying them out.