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china & menstruation

October 5, 2023

Top Tips for Menstruation Travel Across China

You’re about to embark on the trip of a lifetime across China, and you don’t want your menstrual cycle to put a stop to your fun. China is a vast country, meaning travel across it can be long and uncomfortable even when you aren’t on your period while travelling. To make your travels as comfortable as possible, we’ve compiled some top tips to consider for your journey.

How to prepare

Before you start your journey, there are a few things to prepare.

Tissues

Regardless of your sex or gender, you should travel with tissues. Almost all public toilets in China do not provide toilet rolls or tissues. The few that do will be placed outside the cubicle and will probably charge you.

Most tuck shops or kiosks sell pocket tissues for a few RMB, so you’ll be able to buy a pack easily.

Products

You will struggle to find a product vending machine in a public restroom in China, so if you are travelling during your period, bring enough products for the journey.

Menstruation Travel Top Tip

Depending on where in China you are visiting, tampons might not be available to buy. If they are your product of choice, bring plenty with you.

Hand washing

Bringing hand sanitiser with you is also a good idea because the water available is often cold, and most public toilets don’t offer soap.

In the toilets, you might have to use the handrails to hold on while you squat, so it’s a good idea to bring hand sanitiser with you for this too. Speaking of squatting, let’s get on to the public bathrooms

Products

You will struggle to find a product vending machine in a public restroom in China, so if you are travelling during your period, bring enough products for the journey.

Everything you need to know about Chinese toilets

Depending on where you are in China and how far off the beaten track you are will directly relate to the facilities available.

In built-up metropolitan areas, you will usually find western-style toilets—although occasionally, they will have dirty footprints on them from being used as squatter toilets. In built-up areas, handicapped and accessible bathrooms are becoming more common. Some toilets will have a handheld bidet shower that can be used to help you clean.

Squatter toilets

Squatters are a room divider; some people hate the idea of them, and some love them. As you travel, you might start to see them in a positive light. You don’t need to touch anything, so they are relatively hygienic, although they can be a bit precarious. 

Sanitary products

It is unusual to find sanitary products available in public toilets, so bring a good supply with you. It is also normal to throw sanitary products and used tissues into a bin provided in the cubicle rather than into the basin.

Chinese characters for toilets

Many toilets have WC written on them, but in case they don’t, look for the following characters:

The characters for public toilets are 公厕 (gōng cè).

The character for females is女 (nǚ).

The character for males is 男 (nán).

Different ways to travel across China

The transport you choose will probably be linked to your budget, timeframe and how remote your destination is. Likewise, the facilities available are closely linked to these factors.

Buses

Long-distance buses do not usually have a toilet on board. However, there is usually a scheduled stop or two on the journey. As mentioned previously, the facilities vary greatly, and facilities out in the countryside will be very different from those in the big cities. While travelling to more remote areas, I have used restrooms that did not have doors on them and others with a plumbed river that passes the waste from the stalls in front of you past you and onto the ones behind you. All this is to say, facilities will be available, but the conditions might not offer you privacy and discretion, so be prepared for this.

Trains

There are two types of trains in China—the cheaper slow trains and the more expensive fast trains.

Slow and sleeper trains

If you are getting a slow or sleeper train, you will have access to a toilet for the full journey. However, it will be a squatter and the hygiene varies greatly. Another thing to note if you are getting a sleeper train is that the bottom bunk is seen as a communal bunk. The people on the two bunks above are able to sit on the bottom bunk all through the day. If you are hoping for some privacy and you don’t want strangers sitting on your bunk, I would suggest getting the middle or the top bunk.

If you do not get a bunk and you go in second class, you will be cramped onto a wooden bench for your journey.

Fast Trains

Fast trains are more comfortable and quicker. You will get a padded seat, aircon and the bathroom facilities are much more modern on these trains.

Airports

Airport facilities don’t differ much from airports everywhere else in the world. However, you should bring your own tissues, and you probably won’t get any products in the bathrooms.

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Rebecca Clifton

Rebecca is a writer and editor working in print and online. She’s passionate about travelling, and there’s nothing she loves more than exploring somewhere new—especially if it involves a long walk with a few pitstops for coffee.

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