Architecture Bathroom

How to use restroom in China?

Traveling to China offers a rich tapestry of cultural experiences, historical landmarks, and culinary delights. However, for many travelers, the experience of using public restrooms in China can be a bit daunting due to cultural differences and varying facilities. This guide aims to provide comprehensive insights and practical tips on how to use restrooms in China, ensuring a comfortable and stress-free experience.

Understanding the Types of Restrooms in China

Squat Toilets

Squat toilets are the most common type of restroom facilities in China, particularly in public areas, older buildings, and rural regions. These toilets require users to squat over a porcelain basin set into the floor. While they may seem unfamiliar to Western travelers, squat toilets are widely used and are considered more hygienic by many locals.

Western-Style Toilets

Western-style sit-down toilets are becoming increasingly common, especially in modern buildings, hotels, and international establishments in larger cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. These toilets are similar to those found in Western countries and are often preferred by international travelers.

Public Restrooms

Public restrooms in China can vary greatly in terms of cleanliness and amenities. They can be found in places like train stations, parks, tourist attractions, shopping malls, and restaurants. It is common for public restrooms to lack toilet paper, soap, and paper towels, so travelers should be prepared.

Tips for Using Squat Toilets

Proper Positioning

To use a squat toilet, position your feet on either side of the basin and squat down. Ensure that your weight is evenly distributed to maintain balance. Squatting fully rather than half-squatting can help reduce strain and improve stability.

Handling Personal Items

It is advisable to hang or hold your personal items, such as bags or coats, to avoid placing them on potentially dirty surfaces. Many restrooms have hooks or shelves for this purpose.

Disposal of Toilet Paper

In many Chinese restrooms, toilet paper should not be flushed down the toilet as the plumbing systems are not designed to handle it. Instead, used toilet paper is often disposed of in a waste bin provided next to the toilet.

Essential Items to Carry

Toilet Paper

It is common for public restrooms in China to not provide toilet paper. Always carry a small packet of tissues or a roll of toilet paper with you.

Hand Sanitizer

Since soap and handwashing facilities might not always be available, carrying a small bottle of hand sanitizer is a good practice to maintain hygiene.

Wet Wipes

Wet wipes can be useful for a quick clean-up or if you encounter particularly dirty facilities.

Etiquette and Cultural Considerations


In busy areas, it is common to find queues for restrooms. Always respect the queue and wait your turn. Chinese people typically queue in an orderly manner, and cutting in line is considered rude.


Chinese restrooms might not always have the level of privacy that some Western travelers are used to. Some public restrooms have open or partially open doors, and in some older facilities, partitions may be low or absent. Be prepared for these differences and try to adapt.

Finding Restrooms in China

Signs and Symbols

Restroom signs in China are usually easy to identify. Look for the standard male and female icons or Chinese characters: 男 (nán) for men and 女 (nǚ) for women. In tourist areas, signs are often bilingual, including English.

Asking for Directions

If you need to ask for directions to a restroom, you can use the following phrases:

  • “卫生间在哪里?” (Wèishēngjiān zài nǎlǐ?) – “Where is the restroom?”
  • “厕所” (Cèsuǒ) – “Toilet” or “Restroom”

Most locals will understand these terms and be able to point you in the right direction.

Special Considerations for Travelers

Children and Elderly

If you are traveling with children or elderly individuals, be mindful that squat toilets may be challenging for them to use. Look for facilities with Western-style toilets, which are more accessible.

Accessible Toilets

While accessibility standards are improving in China, not all public restrooms are equipped with facilities for people with disabilities. Major cities and newer buildings are more likely to have accessible restrooms, but it is still advisable to plan ahead and identify suitable facilities.

Adapting to Different Standards of Cleanliness

Managing Expectations

Public restrooms in China can vary widely in terms of cleanliness. While facilities in hotels, restaurants, and malls are generally clean, restrooms in more rural or high-traffic areas might not be as well-maintained. Being mentally prepared for this variation can help you manage your expectations and reduce discomfort.

Using Alternatives

If you find a public restroom that is too unclean to use, consider using restrooms in larger, well-maintained establishments such as hotels, cafes, or department stores. These facilities are usually cleaner and better equipped.


Using restrooms in China can be a different experience for international travelers, but with a little preparation and understanding, it can be managed smoothly. The key points to remember include:

  • Familiarize yourself with the common types of restrooms, including squat and Western-style toilets.
  • Always carry essential items like toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and wet wipes.
  • Be aware of cultural norms and etiquette, such as queueing and privacy standards.
  • Use the appropriate signs and phrases to locate restrooms.
  • Prepare for varying standards of cleanliness and adapt accordingly.

You may also like...