Finding the nearest bathroom or toilet no matter
where you are with IBS, is stressful.
This post will reduce that ‘what if?’ stress and make sure your biggest travel worry is only ever; ‘where’s the Spa?!’
What’s the one thing that scares you when travelling with IBS-D (and C)?
- Feeling hot and flustered, whilst explaining to the hot waiter/ess that the food they cook is great, but please can they just make you plain rice please no garlic?
- Or maybe it’s that lovely ‘F*CKKKKKKK’ feeling when you gotta go, like, NOW? But you can’t find a toilet in time or even worse that there isn’t one on the bus you’re stuck on.
Today people, we will be focusing on B. How to navigate toilets around the world, plot out your travels so you’re never too far from the nearest loo and how to make bad situations not so horrific with the right prep skills.
Not knowing where a toilet is, is a very rational fear when you have IBS.
I’ve felt the fear and had the worstttttttt time’s whilst on non stop bus journeys through rural Vietnam, and even more recently, whilst on the bus from London to Newcastle (luckily I had prepped for this!)
It’s not being on transport that’s scary either. It’s whilst you’re out sightseeing, or at lunch at the local beach bar or even half way up a mountain.
I’ve gone through pretty embarrassing / character building ( however you want to look at it) scenarios. Which means I’ve found a few tools that help prevent cringe experiences and manage them, like if you do unfortunately s*it your pants. (Guys you’ll fit right in if you’re in any developing Asian country ( they just drop their pants and go wherever there’s a bush!)
In all seriousness though, there’s really nothing to worry about ‘cos I’m going to tell you how to prep, plan and have a strategy for finding the nearest toilet fast.
First things first.
There are a few things you need to prep and pack before you go anywhere ( this could even be whilst pottering in your home town if your IBS-D is flared)
S**ting your pants prevention stage 1: Prep
- Download an app: I’ve used multiple apps for trying to locate toilets whilst travelling. They’re literally amazing. I’ve included them in a free downloadable for you instead, because they will take up half the post!
- Packing your handbag/hand luggage right: We’ve touched on this before, but having a few essential items in your hand luggage are key for preventing embarrassing situations, or at least managing them if the worst does happen.
Pop these in your bag for prevention, treatment and management of situations when your bowels are just like: ‘no soz, gotta move!’.
- Immodium: to help treat your IBS-D (or any other anti-diarrhea remedy you rely on)
- Peppermint capsules: to calm down tummy cramps and spasms
- Wet wipes: Available everywhere
- Scented Nappy Bags: because you need something to pop anything that’s soiled in.
- New knickers/ briefs: A change of underwear or two will make you feel so much more comfier if you are feeling unwell and have had an accident, instead of going commando.
- Vipoo: This pre-poo toilet spray will take away any smells, if you do have to go in a public place or friends house/hotel room.
- Squat potty: I discovered these recently thanks to a recommendation in a Facebook group and they’re GENIUS. This one’s foldable & transportable too.
- Spare Change: Convert some into local currency at the airport/transport hub
- Toilet roll & tissues: (En mass!)
S**ting your pants prevention stage 2: What to expect
Making tour operators or tour guides aware of your IBS and the need to make more toilets stops than usual, will help you feel a bit more at ease.
Asking the following questions also help me personally to relax more and look forward to my trip:
- Is there a toilet on the bus/boat/train?
- How many toilet stops do you make? Can we stop more?
- Will I need to pay or to buy toilet paper at certain stops on the journey?
- Can I have an aisles seat nearest to the toilet and special assistance if needed when the seat belt sign is on.
- Will food be provided and can I request something else?
Tip: Also learn the local lingo for ‘Where is the toilet please?’ Or at least have it written down somewhere!
Types of toilets you will find around the world
- Conventional Seated Toilets : Available worldwide in most Western, South American, African and European countries. Aka the one’s you have in your house. If you’re lucky and travelling in Korea, Singapore, Japan or China ( and even higher end places in Vietnam and Thailand) you will find a hose, a seat warmer and dryer. ‘Cos ya know, your bum needs love too.
- Squat Toilets: These toilets are basically holes with places to put your feet. They will have a hose, or at the worst, a bucket with water and a pan ( you can guess what that’s for). No matter how long I lived in Asia, I never quite mastered the skill of aiming. These toilets are pretty common when you’re travelling, especially in Asia though and just accepting that you will probably have to deal with them at some point, will help. Wet wipes, hand sanitiser and practising your squatting will help these situations. They’re actually more hygienic and you get used to them.
- Actual hole in the ground or a bush: If you see no toilets in sight, then there’s absolutely no shame in squatting behind a bush/ in a stream. I mean, runners do it on a regular basis!
I have a few tips for when you gotta go, out in the country below, so keep reading.
S**ting your pants prevention stage 3: Transport (Buses/Car)
If you’re travelling, the one thing you DO NOT want to skimp on is transport.
Not only does paying a bit more for transport, keep you safe, it also means you are less likely to be without human necessities like…a toilet! When travelling in Asia, I’ve had a few really good and a handful of bad experiences.
The worst was travelling between HCMC and Dalat on a sleeper bus with no toilets, overnight and stopping at mosquito infested service stations every 8 hours. Yes, it was hell. The best has been in Chile, when we paid maybe, around $20 for a ten-hour bus journey. We received snacks, water, air-con, a blanket and pillow and most importantly, a bloody clean ( and constantly cleaned ) toilet, with regular stops.
This transport toilet guide is going to be a work in progress starting with buses and car tips, but here are a few companies that you can rely on to keep your basic human comforts in mind. They have clean-ish toilets, or regular toilet stops.
I’ve only included a few different countries, please leave a comment with your own experiences and companies you’ve used in the past.
Best Buses for IBS Travel
South East Asia
Finding buses in the less developed countries of Asia, with toilets is pretty difficult, but I have found a few (and if they don’t, they stop lot’s.)
These buses run all of Vietnam and to Cambodia.
- Sinh Travel. One I personally used and was very good. It had AC, a toilet and regular refreshment breaks. They’re very professional and understand a decent amount of English too.
- Futa Bus: I used their sleeper bus to travel up North Vietnam a few times. They’re very professional but don’t have toilets. They do however, stop several times at service stations for up to half an hour or to pick stuff up randomly, so I used to quickly hop off and squat at the side of the road with my wet wipes. Some of their day buses do have toilets on them ( you pay extra and it’s worth it).
When travelling by bus in Thailand go for VIP or VIP24 class buses.
- Green Bus Company: I’ve used these guys and they’re almost luxury buses with clean toilets!
I was recently recommended this company in Japan to book Buses with, anyone tried them?
USA & Canada
Chile (South America )
National express is your best bet. They have clean toilets and regular stops.
All of Europe
Until I can get a big database together, ( ‘cos Europe’s a big place) I recommend using GoEuro to search multiple, VIP bus companies thorough the whole of Europe. I’ve used it before to find names of bus providers for the routes I need, then checked them out from there.
Car Toilet Tips for IBS
- Service Stations in most countries including; UK/Asia/South America/USA/Canada/NZ/Oz have a toilet ( try plan to stop at the bigger ones for better facilities and have change for the toilets).
- Our good old, reliable friend, the bush.
S**ting yor pants prevention stage 4: Sightseeing
This used to be when my biggest toilet concerns started.
How the hell do I find a toilet when in a:
- National Park/ The Countryside/ Instagramming Temples/Sipping cocktails on a beach
- Out in the Wild/ Jungling around with snakes and bugs
- In the middle of a city or town ( sounds boring now compared to the above haha!)
Let’s take them all separately so your brain doesn’t melt.
Finding a toilet in a National park or in the countryside.
Depending on which country you’re in, how you deal with this situation differs a lot.
In the Western hemisphere you can rely on your app, or the place you’re visiting to have a usually, paid for toilet. They’re actually pretty decent and can be located at the entrances of the park, near refreshment stalls or on the route of walks or tours.
If you’re in less developing countries then you MIGHT be lucky to find
- A squat toilet
- A hole.
Worst case scenarios guys and gals, you always have your wet wipes and hand sanitiser. Just don’t touch anything else.
Out in the wild
If you really are out in the country, or jungle maybe walking in the mountains, up a volcano, or on a massive wild trek, then there will be times you need to just go with it. It is a s*it situation (soz). But, just find a decent bush, squat and think of your happy place. This happened on a car journey in Europe, turns out the bush I chose, was frequently used as a ‘poo stop’. See, don’t worry about it, everybody’s doing it. Just use your disposable bags, wet wipes, hand sanitiser and think of it as a life skill.
In the middle of a city or town
The BEST case scenario is being in a city or town.
If you need to go within the next minute, you have copious places to run to; cafe’s, bars, restaurants, supermarkets.
Don’t even explain yourself, leave that for afterwards, almost everybody will be understanding, you’re human, we all gotta go!
S**ting your pants prevention stage 5: Emergency toilet locations
Here are a few of the best toilets I have found to be a reliable emergency toilet option around the world:
- Starbucks/Costa/Nero/Pret: Good toilets (debatable coffee) and air con!! Nobody will even notice you running in to these chain coffee places. Even bloody Ubud in Bali has one. You can plan your emergency toilet stops before you travel, online by googling their locations before you go or using your app download.
- Macdonalds/ Burger King/other fast food restaurants: As much as it pains me to write those words, they have toilets and are too busy to notice you ducking in.
- Tim Hortons in Canada ( as recommended by my Canadian Facebook group member).
- Public toilets in train stations/bus stations/centre of town (if you have time): In a lot of developed countries, you will find decent public toilets. The sign for them in nearly every country I have visited, is always WC or a toilet icon. Just make sure to have some change and toilet paper handy as I mentioned before.
If you have any more country specific suggestions, add them below and I will update the post.
See, when you think it through, it’s all pretty easy isn’t it? It’s just really overwhelming if you’ve visiting somewhere new and not sure of the toilet situation. But literally, the same rules apply in most countries.
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