Toilets and showers in South and Central America

Daily hygiene is something that you do not want to neglect even when traveling. Especially after exhausting days one would like to have a hot shower and of course one can’t avoid the walk to the toilet. But other countries can also turn these everyday things into small challenges. Also we stood at the beginning of our journey several times perplexed in the bathroom and tried to become clever from the fittings and signs .

Toilets in Central America

In most countries of Central America there is no functioning sewer system, as it is usually known in Europe. In some cases, there are no sewers at all and wastewater is collected under buildings in cisterns. Even if there are sewage systems, the sewers and pipes are often designed far too small for the many houses connected to them. And even if the water does end up in a sewer system, that doesn’t mean the water is also piped to wastewater treatment plants.

All of this means that the amount of solids that can be removed through the sewer system is very limited. Long story short: In most countries, it is not at all common to flush down toilet paper. On the contrary, toilet paper in the toilet usually causes the pipe to clog while still in the same house. If the toilet paper still makes it to the cistern or the sewer, it leads to blockages there at the latest. Therefore, toilet paper should not be flushed down.

Instead, next to the toilet are usually trash cans in which you can dispose of the toilet paper. An  exception are larger hotel facilities, which often have their own wastewater filter systems.

For us it was at the beginning very getting used to dispose of the toilet paper in this way. Of course, we were also a bit disgusted by it at the beginning. However, one must honestly say that it stinks less than we had assumed. However, you should, especially if you stay longer in one place, make sure to dispose of the garbage regularly. In Mexico, for example, we went to use all shopping bags and also larger plastic packaging to collect the toilet paper in each and then  dispose of it almost daily.

Showering in Central America

Showering in Central America and South America, as well as other less industrialized countries around the world, is also alienating to begin with. Unlike in Europe, centralized hot water benders are not necessarily common there. Instead, water for showering is heated, if at all, by electric showerheads.

Electricity in the shower, let us at the beginning first of all the hair to stand on end. In one or the other shower, we also got an electric shock once. However, most shower heads are 12V devices. This voltage is not dangerous for humans. Of course, there can be exceptions to this, because often electrical installations in developing countries are also brand self-made and screwed together at will. Some things we have learned in the meantime about heated shower heads, however, we would like to share with you anyway.

  • The temperature setting on heated shower heads is usually done on the shower head itself and not via the faucetsas we know it in Germany.
  • It is quite normal that some models of heated shower heads produce a spark in the housing when you turn on the waterand you see a short flash from the outside
  • Avoid touching the shower head once the water is running. You should also avoid the 10cm below the heated shower head. Otherwise, you may get an electric shock, similar to a pasture fence
  • Some shower heads also regulate the temperature by the amount of water flowing into them. That is, the less you turn on, the warmer the water. These are mainly shower heads that do not have temperature regulation on the head itself.
  • For shower heads that have temperature regulation, the symbols are often confusing. Usually black, respectively a filled circle, means warm, while white, thin lines and empty circles means cold.
  • For shower heads with temperature control with a switch on the head, do not turn the water on too low, as they will either not turn on or the risk of getting an electric shock will increase
  • With heated shower heads, it is absolutely common to have a power cord running above the shower to the shower head. Sometimes there is also a fuse in the shower area that needs to be turned on to get the shower head to work. Even though we were always assured that the voltage was harmless, try not to get the fuse or the wires wet and make sure the insulation on the wires is intact before showering. If in doubt, ask your hosts or, if you are unsure, tape off appropriate areas.
  • When booking your accommodation, make sure that it offers hot water. This is common but quite not everywhere the case
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We have now gone to us in new accommodation briefly explain the function of the shower to let, after we were nevertheless frequently confronted with different systems and also because we had no desire for further power surges. However, in most hotels, especially in larger international chains, there are also the usual hot water benders in Germany and temperature control via a one-hand mixer.

Summary Showers and toilets in Central America

Even simple everyday things can be confusing when traveling. If necessary, ask your hosts how personal hygiene is handled in your host country. Having a toilet overflow, getting electrocuted by the shower head or having to take cold showers is just not fun. In our experience, such questions also break the ice between cultures quite wonderfully, and you may end up learning a lot more than just how to operate the showerhead.

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