Remote Toilets: How Adventure Travelers Take a Break?

October 1, 2018

Have you ever seen beautiful photos of remote locations, whether on top of a mountain or deep in the jungle and thought to yourself “I wonder what the bathrooms are like there?”. Just us? Well, for those who are curious about what using the bathroom is like in some of the most remote areas of the world, read along to find out.

Mt. Kilimanjaro
There are a few options for toilets on Mt. Kilimanjaro depending on your personal preference. The first is to use the provided toilets at the campsites. These used to be old, very basic toilets which consisted of a hole in the ground with a basic wooden structure around it.

However, in recent times, these have been upgraded to full buildings which are regularly maintained and offer both Western-style toilets as well as the more traditional hole in the ground. The second option and this is common more for the hikes between campsites is the good old-fashioned take-a-squat-in-the-bushes technique.

There really is no other option when hiking in between campsites, and this is made even more common on Kilimanjaro given the amount of fluid most hikers should be taking in. If you need to use toilet paper during these potty breaks, you should pack it out with you in a plastic bag.

The final option and one growing more common with group trips and tours is to hire a private toilet carried up by the tour guide porters. The cost is around $130 per group for the trip and includes the porter setting up and maintaining the toilet. Regardless of what option you choose, make sure you still carry a couple rolls of toilet paper with you during the trip.

Mt. Everest
Toilet options on Mt. Everest also depend on what type of trip you are on, whether a luxury lodge trek or a more standard group trek. If you are on a lodge trek, there will be multiple lodges you will be able to stop at along the way, most of which offer relatively clean Asian-style toilets, though some provide Western-style toilets as well.

The unique aspect of the bathrooms at these lodges is that flushing is usually not possible during the night in the winter, as the water will freeze. In addition, most of these toilets do not stock toilet paper but do offer water buckets for cleaning oneself after. For this reason, everyone should be carrying toilet paper with them. Other options in towns include traditional hole-in-the-ground toilets with basic wooden outhouses built around them.

Last, for those trekking to base camp, there is usually a sherpa who will manage the toilet facilities by digging a hole and building a semi-private structure around it. These may or may not include toilet seats. For those curious what the bathroom situation is like for alpinists making the ascent to the summit of Everest, it is slightly more complicated. For liquid waste, flexible bottles are usually used for during the night and are then dumped outside of the tent in the mornings.

For solid waste, it is ideal that alpinists take down all waste with them, though some do not do this. Ideally, biodegradable bags are used to collect waste, which are then placed in Ziploc bags and are carried down the mountain. However, there is a growing issue on Everest of solid waste being left on the mountain, which is actually causing environmental shifts due to leaking into local water supplies. Ask any experienced high altitude guide that frequents these parts – this can get a bit messy!

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
Considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world, as we as being a UNESCO World Heritage site, Ha Long Bay is a must-see for those traveling to Southeast Asia. But before planning your excursion, be sure to think through the toilet options available. If you are taking a private or group tour on a boat, there is a high chance there will be a toilet on board. This is your best option and the higher quality boat, the nicer the bathroom will be.

For those who want to take the more local-friendly option, you can ride on a small fishing boat with locals around the bay, stopping into various caves or stopping off for a kayak or a swim. For those cases, there are sail-thru toilets located throughout the bay, which allow for small boats to sail up, dock and take a bathroom break. The toilets are in individual port-a-potty-like structures, but be sure to bring your own toilet paper.

Sahara Desert of Morocco
As stated above, this also really depends on where in the desert you are and if you are with a large tour group or a self-guided tour. In major cities like Marrakesh and Fez, there will be plenty of Western-style toilets available, as well as more traditional squat toilets. If you are traveling to more rural towns, you will find solely squat toilets. For those long drives between stops during guided tours, they often will stop at roadside toilets, small solo structures scattered throughout the roadways.

If you are traveling by train, there also will usually be toilets on board which are quite nice. The one challenging toilet encounters will be when doing multi-day camel treks. In this case, more often than not you will need to stop and find a friendly bush. In this case, be sure to bring your own toilet paper and have a plastic bag ready for the paper waste. Don’t worry, as there are usually always smalls trees or bushes for some privacy.

Inca Trail – Machu Picchu, Peru
Very similar to the toilet options for Mt. Kilimanjaro, the toilet options on the Inca Trail consist of sporadically-placed traditional-style toilets along the route, hiring a portable toilet with a tour group, or simply squatting in the bushes. The traditional-style toilets along the way are usually off the main trail and sometimes part of a local home. The rule in Peru is that no toilet paper can be flushed, so there are waste bins next to the toilets for paper disposal.

For this reason, prepare for a strong smell. These toilets also have a reputation for being of poor sanitary conditions, so be prepared. If you are with a group and can manage this, hiring a portable toilet is the best option. Also called toilet tents, it is worth the extra cost to have a clean toilet option just for your group. And for those times during a hike between stops, there is plenty of bushes to hide amongst. Just be sure to bring your own toilet paper and carry out any paper waste with you.

Have you ever wanted to go camping in Antarctica? Taking in the stunning glacier views, hanging out with local penguins and exploring one of the most remote areas on the planet? I’m sure you have, but have you ever thought about what the toilet situation is like there, for campers or environmental scientists? Well, it’s pretty basic actually.

It involves setting up a separate tent and the addition of a bucket with a toilet seat. That’s it. However, the tip is to try not to go too quickly, as there are likely to be accuracy issues which will make the cleanup much less enjoyable. If there was one good thing about using the toilet in freezing conditions, it is that solid waste usually freezes very quickly, which removes any smell.

On Safari in Africa
Going on safari in Africa is a bucket list item for most people. But have you stopped to think what going to the bathroom would be like during a safari trek? Well, here’s the answer: it involves stopping the car and running out behind a bush. While most safari guides will plan regular “comfort breaks” if you need to go and just can’t hold it any longer, just tell the driver and he will stop.

Just make sure you are carrying plenty of toilet paper and Ziploc bags for the paper waste. Oh, and be on the lookout for animals in the area as well as lizards and snakes on the ground. Just give the ground a good stomp, and you’ll be fine.

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Andi Perullo de Ledesma

I am Andi Perullo de Ledesma, a Chinese Medicine Doctor and Travel Photojournalist in Charlotte, NC. I am also wife to Lucas and mother to Joaquín. Follow us as we explore life and the world one beautiful adventure at a time.

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