Azerbaijan is often referred to as the “land of fire” by locals and tourists alike. This small nation located in the Caucasus region of Eurasia has a rich culture, beautiful landscape, and friendly people…but access to toilet paper is unfortunately, limited.
Although you may find toilet paper in Western hotels and in parts of the nation’s capital, Baku, the Azerbaijani people largely rely on “toilet hoses” installed behind the toilet (very similar to a bidet) or Aftebehs: essentially a pitcher of water that’s kept beside the toilet that you can use to clean yourself after using the restroom. The bathroom culture there is very similar to other Central Asian countries such as Bahrain and Afghanistan.
What types of toilets are common in Azerbaijan?
Once you have left your hotel, the toilets in Azerbaijan will be a mixture of Western-style, “sit-down” toilets and “squat toilets” with very little or no toilet paper supplied (and maybe not any soap either). A squat toilet is arranged at floor level, which requires the user to squat over the bowl with bent knees. It’s important to note that when using a squat toilet, you should position yourself as close to the front of the bowl as possible, as excrement tends to fall onto the rear edge of the in-floor receptacle if the user squats too far back… for this reason many public squat toilets have signs reminding the user to “Please take one step closer.”
In more rural areas (as is the case in most of the world), you may also encounter the outdoor outhouse, which is simply a hole in the ground that you squat over, usually with some form of covering for privacy. While many people consider outhouses to be primitive and unsanitary, they can be clean and safe places to relieve oneself when designed and maintained properly.
What about Travelers? How should tourists deal with it?
Travelers may want to pack some toilet paper, wet-wipes and hand sanitizer when they visit Azerbaijan, as it is not customary to stock TP in most Azerbaijani bathrooms. Even if there is no TP though, have no fear: you will likely have access to a toilet hose (or even a bidet) or an Aftebeh (in more rural areas). These cleaning methods could take some getting used to but will certainly do the job and are arguably just as hygienic as using toilet paper.
Azerbaijan is an important and unique country located at the crossroads of Asia and Europe. With its ancient culture, diverse population and incredible natural beauty, Azerbaijan is a place that will stay in your heart long after you’ve left…but you may want to pack some toilet paper for your visit. Although there will likely be other options to keep your rear clean, anyone who possesses a “toilet paper or bust” mentality will want to be prepared for a culture that is largely “TP-agnostic”.