Home > Healthy Travelling > Drinking Water Abroad

Drinking Water Abroad

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 9 Jan 2013 | comments*Discuss
Water Drinking Water Safe Water

The golden rule of drinking water abroad is "when in doubt - don't." Don't drink any tap water that you have not specifically confirmed is safe for human consumption. Pollution and waterborne diseases mean that unless tap water has been purified, it could lead to discomfort at the very least.

The good news is that even if the tap water is non-potable (unsafe to drink), you have a variety of options while travelling abroad including boiling your water, bringing a water purification system, and switching to bottled water for the duration.

Think about your plans for drinking water abroad before you travel because to get in the recommended eight glasses per day, you'll need to be ready from the start!

Non-potable Water

The United Kingdom is very lucky to have clean, safe water on demand. Many of the countries you visit during your gap year may not be so lucky. High risk areas for non-potable or unsafe tap water include: India, Africa, Central and South America, Russia and its former satellite nations and Asia and Southeast Asia.

Non-potable water is water that has not been treated to remove pollution, waterborne diseases, infectious agents, excess minerals and more. Without this treatment, no authority can approve it as safe to drink.

Remember, when in doubt, don't drink the water. Also don't; use tap water for making ice, don't drink anything served with iced cubes, don't mix powdered drinks or medicine with tap water, don't eat raw fruit or vegetables that may have been rinsed in tap water and finally use bottled water to brush your teeth with.

Boiling Water

Boiling water serves to purify water because it kills off any disease-causing bacteria, viruses or parasites.

Before boiling, make sure there is no visible dirt or foreign objects in your water and then bring it to a rolling boil for at least five minutes. Using a pot or kettle are the most efficient options for boiling.

Remember that the container in which you will be storing the boiled water should be sterilised as well.

Water Purification Systems

Most commercial water purification systems are meant to be installed directly into a tank of water or a tap, but there are options for travelling.
  • The SteriPen can purify 16 oz of water in less than a minute.
  • The Miox Travel Water Purifier can purify up to four litres of water at a time.
  • The Katadyn Water Bottle can purify from any fresh water source in the world.
  • Micropur Purification Tablets require only 30 minutes to neutralise cryptosporidium, bacteria and viruses.
  • Potable Aqua tablets have been used by militaries around the world for over 50 years.
  • In a pinch, iodine will purify water though it will also leave a residual taste that most find unpleasant.

Bottled Water

Perhaps the easiest way to identify drinking water abroad is to simply opt for bottled water, yet this option also requires careful selection. Before purchasing bottled water try and find a labelled brand you recognise and make sure that the bottle you purchase is sealed, a good idea is to select fizzy water to be sure that it has not simply come from a tap. If you can not find any bottled water to meet your standards, natural fruit juice is a great alternative.

Finding safe drinking water abroad can be tricky. If you are opting for bottled water, consider purchasing multiple bottles at once to ensure that you have enough when needed. If you are hoping to use a water purification system, keep it in your daypack at all times. If you plan to boil water, check that you have all of the supplies you will need. Regardless of the method you choose, strive to drink at least 8 glasses of water per day to stay hydrated, and even more if you are particularly active or in a hot climate.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • mplo
    Re: Hitch-Hiking and the Dangers
    Listen, AnonAnon: I disagree with you here. As I pointed out earlier on this thread, hitchhiking crimes are rare, because very few…
    20 September 2018
  • mplo
    Re: Hitch-Hiking and the Dangers
    To jesse and AnonAnon: Just because there are more cellphones and other methods of calling for help if one gets in a nasty,…
    20 September 2018
  • DJ Reu
    Re: Hitch-Hiking and the Dangers
    There are People who are oppsessed with hitchhicking just because they want to save money and others don't have a choice but to…
    2 January 2018
  • Seb78
    Re: Hitch-Hiking and the Dangers
    @mplo - whenever a person hitchhikes it can't be a comfortable ride. The person who is giving the lift will always be wondering…
    10 August 2017
  • mplo
    Re: Hitch-Hiking and the Dangers
    to AnonAnon: To say that more people get hurt or killed while crossing the street is a totally BS non-sequitur and off the…
    10 August 2017
  • mplo
    Re: Hitch-Hiking and the Dangers
    To Lady Hitchhiker: If you get picked up by decent and/or loving people that you don't know when you hitchhike, that's anybody's…
    10 August 2017
  • RiverMan
    Re: Hitch-Hiking and the Dangers
    @Speaking from experi - you've made some great points. They are a good balance between being careful and responsible and trusting…
    16 June 2017
  • Speaking from experi
    Re: Hitch-Hiking and the Dangers
    As an experienced hitchhiker I must say, almost all of the reactions below are understandable, from a certain point of view. I…
    2 June 2017
  • Vem Caindo
    Re: Reporting a Crime Overseas
    You should also mention that in some countries being a victim of a crime constitutes as a crime itself. For example, in Saudi Arabia…
    13 April 2017
  • mplo
    Re: Keeping in Touch on Your Travels
    Here's another thing, too, Missy9012: Hitchhiking has always been especially unsafe here in the United States as a whole, due…
    20 February 2017