Besides having spent years in India and Pakistan, I speak from the perspective of someone who never had the money to stay at the Marriot, the Hilton, close to the American embassy or monetary success. If you happen to be staying at the Marriot, in Lahore, I already hate you. With that being said and my first world privileges in check, let’s get to it.
1. Actual toilets are a blessing. You have no idea how many times you’ll stop to relieve yourself and the so-called toilet is a hole in the ground. Or it’ll be a squat toilet that has never even heard of Bleach. If you don’t know what a squat toilet looks like, you are not missing much my friend. It’s how human beings supposedly went before we started sitting. I’m not saying I believe that, but I’m also saying you really learn to love the porcelain pony when you’re squatting over one of those bad boys and your urine seems to have evaporated from the sheer terror of being in a cubicle that reeks of fear and desperation.
2. You have to pay to pee. Toilets in Indian and Pakistan’s major cities always come with a fee. You have to pay to use these public toilets and they are not clean. Your best bet is to find a restaurant, order something delicious and then linger in the better-kept bathroom there. If you find yourself in a local bazaar – not a mall or a shopping center – then be wary of public toilets. They are not up to your first world standards and they are not free. Don’t just walk in and create a scene… Don’t speak the local language and start asking the man how much the fee is in your polished English? He’ll double that fee.
3.Keep your eyes open. Toilet is a very easy word to throw around… I use the term “toilet” loosely. Sometimes these bazaars actually boast a hole in the ground and a bucket. Sometimes you stumble on a well-kept, Western style sit toilet and you come back and buy insane amounts of naan bread and tip the waiter excessively because you need to justify your constant presence in the toilet. It’s all about luck, my friend.
4. Know when to risk it and when to run. Is it really going to make your bladder explode? Can you hold onto that Coco-Cola or that mango lassi for another half hour until you find a bathroom you’re comfortable in? If so, please do. Trust me.
5.Be ready for intimidation. The public toilets, especially the fee toilets, will 99.9% of the time be run by/surrounded by/in the middle of a crowd of men. Women often do use these bathrooms but they have to go through a crowd of men who will stare at them and make you even more embarrassed to go. Again, hold it if you can.
6. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Sometimes you just have to go. Walk through that crowd of men, avoid eye contact, squat/hover and do your business. Pay the man, pull out that hand sanitizer – oh did I not mention the glaring absence of sinks/soap in these toilets? – and put it behind you. Everyone goes, it’s not that big of a deal.