The 12 Weirdest Things about Peruvian Toilets

The most interesting observations about toilets in Peru

My husband is a bit of a toilet fanatic. I don’t know a nicer (or more normal) way to put it; he loves toilets. And every time we travel (Japan, USA, Taiwan, Peru) one of the first things he does is examines the differences between the bathrooms.

Every time. Ew.

[For more, check out: The 7 Weirdest Things about Taiwanese Toilets]

His passion has begun to rub off on me, so during our honeymoon in Peru, we had many a lively discussions about the toilets in Peru. These are the top 12 neat things we discovered about Peruvian toilets:

1. Most of the time, there is no toilet seat or seat cover – you have to sit on the cold, sketchy ceramic toilet bowl.

This was (not surprisingly) my least favorite part about Peruvian toilets. From day one, I wasn’t thrilled about sitting on the cold, ceramic toilet bowl. I thought it was a mistake the first time, but I gradually came to realize about half of the toilets did not have a seat cover.

toilet peru peruvian toilette cusco lima

2. When the toilet is flushed, it rarely flushes ALL the water. Instead, you are left with a half pee, half water solution.

It was impressive way to conserve water, that oddly enough didn’t freak me out too much. Some of the toilets had buttons, others had levers, and one had a knob so you could choose how much water the flush should use. As long as it was just “number 1,” a full flush was not needed.

toilet peru peruvian toilette cusco lima

I mean, you know, it would be NICE if every time I walked into the bathroom I didn’t come face-to-face with someone else’s urine, but I understand the need for water conservation. I think old American toilets are highly wasteful with their 5 – 7 gallon flush. Even their current 1.5 – 3 gallon flushes seem a bit wasteful. Peruvian toilets had, like, a .3 – 1 gallon flush.

And you didn’t have to worry about half dissolved toilet paper floating in the water because…

3. Toilet paper is not flushed down the toilet – instead it goes in a trash can beside the toilet.

toilet peru peruvian toilette cusco lima

Scroll back up and look at those three toilet pictures. Notice something interesting?

Every single toilet has a bucket next to it. Those buckets are supposed to be for toilet paper, sanitary napkins, and everything else. Of course Ryosuke and I didn’t figure this out until our second day in Peru, when we clogged our hostel toilet because we flushed too much paper down the toilet.

It was nasty.

Our poor hostel host came in with a plunger, fixed it, and told us in a mix of Spanish and English that the toilet paper was not supposed to go inside the toilet.

Oops. A couple of days later I found this sign at a Starbucks in Cusco and figured it out.

Starbucks was nice because it had *gasp* a toilet seat

Starbucks was nice because it had *gasp* a toilet seat

4. It is really easy to clog the toilet if you accidentally flush toilet paper down the toilet.

We clogged two toilets: one at a hostel in Lima and one in the hospital. For whatever reason we assumed the hospital would have stronger water pressure – especially since I was recovering from surgery and experience bowel problems (on my honeymoon too, what a treat).

toilet peru peruvian toilette cusco lima

We are probably horrible people.

And we clog toilets in developing countries.

5. Despite the fact that it is really easy to clog the toilets with paper, only the most high-end establishments have signs telling you to NOT flush toilet paper in the toilet.

You would think there would be more signs telling foreigners to NOT flush toilet paper down the toilet.

Not really.

We were in Peru for three weeks and saw, well, three signs: one at the Lima airport, one at a Starbucks in Cusco, and one in a nice restaurant in Pisac.

toilet peru peruvian toilette cusco lima don't throw toilet paper in toilette

The only common factor was each place was a highly tourist-y area.

6. About half the bathrooms do not have toilet paper inside the stall (you have to bring your own). Occasionally, toilet paper dispensers are outside the stalls, near the bathroom sinks.

One of the first things I learned travelling in developing is that you should always check for toilet paper before you sit down. Sometimes there is paper inside the stall; sometimes it is in a roll outside the stalls near the sink, sometimes you have to pay an attendant a couple of coins for a couple squares of paper; sometimes you have to bring your own.

Basically, cover your bases and keep a packet of pocket tissues with you at all times.

toilet peru peruvian toilette cusco lima

7. Even the most run-down restaurants hours outside the city have “real” ceramic toilets (instead of holes in the ground and/or squatty potties like most Asian countries).

While I see the appeal of squatty potty Asian styled toilets, I don’t like them very much. They hurt my knees. I was also weak after surgery – I can’t imagine trying to use an Asian styled toilet for the days following my hospital release.

Thankfully I never had to.

8. No matter how “run down” the establishment, they always have a separate bathroom for men and women.

toilet peru peruvian toilette cusco lima

9. The “men” and “women” bathroom signs are often adorable and themed.

Look how classy these signs are:

toilet peru peruvian toilette cusco lima

I loved them. This one even had dolls.

toilet peru peruvian toilette cusco lima cute toilet signs

And look at this. Llamas. What.

toilet peru peruvian toilette cusco lima cute toilet signs

10. You can buy entire toilets at some of the markets in Cusco. Why? I don’t know.

My husband was thrilled to find toilets for sale in the “smuggler’s market” in Cusco. I don’t know who was buying them, but he sure had fun looking (and playing) with them.

Just look at how happy he was.

toilet market peru smugglers market

11. Unless you are in a nice establishment, don’t expect to find hot water or soap to wash your hands.

And I think that’s ok. Always carry hand sanitizer with you, and you shouldn’t have any problems.

12. The only automatic flush toilets I found in the entire country were in the airport.

And when the power went out in part of the airport, the automatic toilets stopped flushing and backed up. It was horribly nasty.

I’m not joking, when we were at the Lima airport waiting for our flight, part of the power was out in the international terminal. Unfortunately that also meant that none of the automatic toilets could flush. Everything was backed up and nasty – and there was nothing anyone could do about it.

toilet peru peruvian toilette cusco lima

Manual toilet flushes are the way to go in countries that occasional lose power.

 

 

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Add me on Google Plus: +Grace Buchele

About Grace Buchele Mineta

I got into the writing business by accident. Now I live in the countryside near Tokyo with my husband, Ryosuke, where I draw comics, blog, and make videos about our daily life. Contact: Website | More Posts

29 Comments on The 12 Weirdest Things about Peruvian Toilets

  1. Anonymous // 27 May, 2016 at 1:04 am //

    TPs these days are better engineered to disintegrate and recycle. I was in Peru recently and flushed my way across from Iquitos to Puno without an incident. You might need to force-flush with some of the rickety ones. I was amused to see that sign even around power flush mechanisms.

  2. We have a share of those seat-less toilets in China, but for us, we’re not meant to sit on them but rather just kinda squat in mid-air.

  3. Read your blog after I blocked our toilet in Arequipa. I thought big cities in Peru were ok with toilet paper but obviously not. Not happy Jan…

  4. As a Peruvian, I have to say that those situations are found when you go backpacking and use very low budget hostels and restaurants. Good hotels, restaurants, malls and cinemas (and houses) all have complete, full flushing toilets that don’t clog with toilet paper (unless you use half a roll in one sitting, and that’s not the toilet’s fault).
    The toilet paper going to the trash bin can be explained by the same reason, Public places host all kind of people, including those who clog toilets with tons of paper, so better go to the safe side (I personally can’t stand the idea and drop the paper in the toilet).
    Other reason is that some places (specially in provinces) don’t have a proper sewage system and use septic silos. “High traffic” establishments try to avoid that those silos fill up too fast and toilet paper would do just that.
    About not being toilet paper inside the stall… again, try better establishments, although in provinces you may find that more often.
    About the signs and finding toilets in a flea market… yeah well… we are that colorful. And toilets is the least strange thing you may find there.
    Btw, don’t stress yourself with the “third world country” issue. You will always find people “offended” by what you say. No matter how PC you try to be.

    • Thanks! That’s really interesting.

      I’ve been to a couple other countries that also do the toilet paper in a bin not the toilet (most notable was Taiwan, I guess). I was talking to my husband about it and he loves the system, so you can recycle the waste easier. So I was actually really ok with that.

      I guess the only time I got really sad about it was when I clogged the toilet in the hospital after surgery (I got my appendix removed right before we tried to climb Machu Picchu). Over the 6 days, I clogged it twice (for those times I just couldn’t make it to the trash can).

      I LOVED the flea markets in Peru. It was such a fun counrty!

  5. HA! I was once HORRIFIED when a restaurant toilet in Pimentel (in the north) didn’t flush at all!!!! It had no incoming water! Fortunately, it was a #1 – and my new husband’s aunt was the next in line, so the embarrassment factor was somewhat abated. I learned that the big bucket of water with the smaller bucket inside next to the loo was how you flush. Even worse, later on when we lived there for a year and a half, was having to accompany my 4 year old into the stall every time we used a public loo just so she wouldn’t fall in. TP, sanitizer, and sometimes a portable kid’s toilet seat – always in the car.

    • Thankfully we never had to worry about the portable kid’s toilet seat (since we were all above the age of 7 when we moved to Ghana) – but to this day, I always check for toilet paper before I sit down on a toilet ANYWHERE (even at super-fancy department stores in Japan or at a friend’s house). I’ve had too many unfortunate encounters to NOT check. Old habbits die hard, I guess.

      I’m glad you figured out the buckets, though! That took me FOREVER to figure out…

  6. Hummm… Yeah. If you travel like a backpacker, maybe. Thats what you get. Please dont generalize about my country cause I could do the same with the US but it wouldnt be fair. And stop using the phrase “third world country”. It has been replaced by “developing country”. A little bit of research (both in toilets and correct use of phrases) would do good to this blog.

    • I usually see the term “Third World Country” used in other travel blogs, so I went ahead and used it. I’ve changed it to “developing country.” Is that better?

    • What you have to understand about this blog is that Grace is only writing about what she has experienced. She is a travel blogger, not an academic. She is not writing a well-sourced, well-researched essay about the different toilets in Peru. So maybe not ALL of the toilets in the country are as she described. In fact, I’m sure they’re not, especially if you live there and say so. But the ones that she experienced were. And writing about personal experiences is what being a travel blogger is all about.

  7. Sebastian Gomez // 1 October, 2014 at 4:52 am //

    Please don´t use the name “Third World Country” to refer to my country. History is not our fault. Thank you!

  8. One thing I really don’t like about Japanese toilets is the tendency to not have soap or hot water (especially in the winter). I mean, if the toilets themselves have heated seats, why can’t there be hot water, too? I can deal with a temporarily chilly butt, but my hands will stay freezing if I have to wash (/rinse…) them in freezing cold water… But I can deal with that as long as there’s soap. Hand sanitizer kills some of the germs, but not all of them. Only soap can kill some of the germs in fecal matter that are often quite easy to pick up in public restrooms as well as other various bacteria… See –> http://biology.about.com/od/microbiology/a/handsanitizers.htm

    • I know! That bugs me too. Japan is so clean and conscious about germs (most of the time), so I’m always surprised when there isn’t any soap. I finally got around to carrying a little handkerchief, because it just wasn’t cutting it to dry on my pants anymore…

  9. Loving this blog! But it is turning me off of the idea of international travel hehehe

  10. So what happens with your number 2 paper? Diarrhea?

  11. Ah, this post brings me back…

    Good thing you didn’t visit the Amazon rainforest. How you take care of business there might’ve blown your mind.

    I’ll give you a hint: are you good at digging?

    But maybe they’ve upgraded since then.

    • Hahahaha. I can imagine. I got really good at digging when we lived in Ghana (not so much fun when you’re in your tweens).

      I was pleasantly surprised to see that none of the Peruvian toilets we found were the squatty potties common in Japan :)

  12. When I first came to Japan there were actually still a lot of public restrooms that had no toilet paper. While reading this I realized that it’s very uncommon to find no toilet paper in a restroom these days – except maybe the local public park, or something. It’s also very rare these days to find a restroom without at least one western toilet, but not so 20 years ago. My knees are forever thankful for that advancement!!

    • That’s neat. I can count the number of Japanese public restrooms without toilet paper on one hand – it’s a rare sight to see nowadays. Sometimes I wish I was a bit older so I could see the structural (and other) changes Japan has gone through.

      I had a friend from study abroad in Tokyo who has never used a Japanese style toilet. I was surprised; I guess if you live in Tokyo you can get away with only using the Western toilets.

  13. Interesting! Not sure when I will visit here but it’s nice for a heads up about the washrooms xD
    I was surprised when I went to Japan at first actually and there was often no soap in many places. Actually the difference of toilets is kind of amusing

    • My husband always carries hand sanitizer around in Japan because a lot of the public toilets don’t have soap.

      I’ve written a couple posts about toilets; I’m not sure about the practical use of them, but they are fun to write about. Hah.

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