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Monday, June 3, 2013

My rating system for Chinese bathrooms

Hey, guess what? I'm late on writing a real post for today. Again. BLAME THE BABY IT WASN'T MY FAULT.

So instead, I will give you this rundown on what to expect if you ever decide to travel in China. I studied abroad in Hong Kong my third year of college and traveled to mainland China quite frequently. And I have seen and peed in bathrooms of every category on this list. You won't find this in your Lonely Planet guidebook.


A five-star Chinese bathroom has a number of impressive features. These include:
- a Western-style toilet. As in, one that you actually sit on to pee
- toilet paper
- walls/door
- nobody else's urine/fecal matter already present

I know what you're thinking -- that sounds luxurious! And you're right -- it is pure luxury to find such a toilet! They are rare gems indeed. Here are the locations where you can mainly expect to find such opulence in mainland China:
- your hotel room
- ........
- maybe a really expensive restaurant catering almost exclusively to foreigners?

If you find yourself near a five-star bathroom, USE IT. It doesn't matter if you actually have to pee or not. You may not be reunited with this bit of heaven until you get back to your hotel in the evening. Also, make sure you only poop in the morning or evening. Just find a way to make that happen for yourself.


Four-star bathrooms are just like five-star bathrooms except that they will be missing one of the things on the list.

For example, maybe it's a lovely, clean, toilet-paper stocked bathroom stall, but instead of a Western-style toilet, there's a squatter toilet. Or maybe it's a lovely, clean, private Western toilet but there's no TP. Don't complain. This is four-star quality you've got here. Trust me, it gets a lot worse. Also, you should be carrying your own TP anyway. What are you, new here?

Where these will be found:
- fancy restaurants
- upscale malls

Yeah, these are almost as rare as the fabled Five Star Potty. Take advantage when you can.


The three-star bathroom is by far the most common one that you'll find on your travels, assuming you don't travel to really weird and gross places (which we'll get to farther down the list). A three-star bathroom follows the same rules as a four-star -- but it'll be missing two of the amenities on the list. Also, at this point you can pretty much forget about finding Western toilets.

Popular variants include:
- squatter toilet with no TP
- squatter toilet with doors and TP but ewwwwww it's gross
- squatter toilet with TP but there's no door on the stall. Yeah, they don't put doors on the stalls a lot of the time. I don't really know why this is the case. It's especially fun when you are a white person (or really, just a non-Chinese person), because the ladies in the bathroom will straight-up stare at you. As you pee in a squatter toilet. Hey, at least there's toilet paper so you can save your personal stash for later, when you encounter a ...


Ah, the two-star. This is the Super Eight Motel of bathrooms, where you bring your own sleeping bag and some thick boots for crushing cockroaches.

The two-star will be missing three of the amenities from the list above, which you may recognize as "nearly all of the amenities from the list above."

This means that it will definitely be a squatter toilet, it definitely will not have TP, and if you were hoping to pee without any Chinese ladies watching you, then you must have been hitting the crack pipe a little too hard. Doors and walls? Bitch, please. This ain't the Ritz-f**king-Carlton.

Two-star bathrooms are pretty common in places where there are large crowds of non-tourists. They also often cost money to use, because f**k you, that's why. If this is making you rethink ever traveling to China, don't! It's really not that bad. If some Chinese lady wants to watch me pee, oh well. Not like I'm ever going to see her again, right? Sometimes it's fun to make eye contact. Maybe even say "hello." Make a friend.


Does it get worse?? Of course it does!!!!! A one-star bathroom is just outside. Peeing next to a bush or around the corner of a building or perhaps next to a dumpster.

My most famous experience with a one-star bathroom was on an overnight bus ride. China is so awesome that they build these buses with sleeper-berths in them but then don't install a bathroom on the bus because, as I mentioned, f**k you. Instead, the bus just stops every few hours at a gas station or something and everyone gets out to pee. Well, I was riding one of these buses one night and slept through one of the pee stops. What an idiot, amirite? So I wake up at some point in the middle of the night and I have to pee BAD. Like, this is an emergency and something must be done. So I slip out of my bunk and crawl up to the front of the bus in my socks. I get the driver's attention, and ask him how long until we get to the next bathroom stop. You guys, don't ever travel in China without at least one person along who speaks decent Chinese. I can't imagine how this situation would have gone if I didn't speak Chinese. Like, holy shit. This would be the story of the time I pissed myself on a bus in China.

But it isn't that story. I asked the driver how long til the next bathroom, and he told me it would be another hour. AN HOUR. A F**KING HOUR. There was no way. So I squealed back "but I can't wait that long!!!" and the driver grumbled, and then suddenly and without warning, pulled over to the side of the highway and opened the door of the bus, grunting and gesturing towards it.

And so I, in my socks, hopped down off the bus and pissed in some grass, then did the patented double-bounce of "I got no TP", pulled my pants back up, thanked the driver profusely, and returned to my bunk.

I gotta tell you, though -- at that moment in time, that was the nicest bathroom I'd ever seen in my life. I'd take that patch of grass over peeing in my sleeping berth any day of the week.

Of course, that was infinitely better than what I experienced later that same night when we arrived at the bus station in Guangzhou. This is where I got my first taste (okay, bad choice of words) of a ...


The true low point in any trip to China, a zero star bathroom is actually WORSE than just peeing in the grass next to a highway.

A zero-star bathroom has:
- a squatter toilet
- no toilet paper
- no door
- someone else's giant stinky poo already sitting in the squatter toilet, which of course does not flush so you just have to pee on top of it. If you're lucky, there will be ONE stall with a toilet that doesn't already have a poop in it, but there will be a long line for it. Just choose the least-offensive poop and go for it. And hold your breath. And say "hello" to all the ladies who want to watch you pee on someone else's poop.

In addition to the bus station, there was also a zero-star toilet at the Great Wall of China. Which I had to pay to use.

Yeah, you know what, China? F**k you too.

F**k you right in your butt.

Happy travels, friends!


  1. Seksy. I took an 8 hour overnight bus ride in Bolivia with no toilet. AND NO STOPS. like WTF. Obviously, I didn't know this was hte case, so I strolled up to the bus after having myself a lovely big dinner with half a jug of wine. Turns out, eating your way through a foreign market during the day and then having a big meal with alcohol is a BAD lead up to such an overnight bus trip. I'll just stop that story here.
    I once saw, but never had to use, a squatter toilet row that was just next to some train station... I think in Hungary or Croatia or somewhere 'round those parts. It was like there had been a building and someone got rid of the building and left a concrete slab with a few squatters in a row. Not gorgeous.

    1. I mean WHO DESIGNS THESE BUSES??!?!?!?! ANDROIDS?!?!?!????

      The thing about the squatters is that once you get used to them, they're actually really convenient. You don't have to touch anything, so no matter how nasty they really are, your shoes will be the only thing touching any part of it. Still not very nice to hover over someone else's giant deuce, though.