Should you drink only bottled water when you're traveling?
Is it safe to drink tap water?
Is it safe to brush your teeth with it?
These questions come up no matter where you're traveling.
In most developed countries, you don't need to drink bottled water unless you want to.
Tap water will be safe to drink there.
The water you need to be most concerned about is water that might contain microorganisms that will make you sick... right?
We Brush With Tap Water
The truth is, we almost always brush our teeth with tap water....
Part of the time because I forget to use anything else!
OK... Here in Wadi Rum, Jordan we did have bottles of water with us, but... but I don't know what our excuse was. We didn't get sick... that's what mattered.
And We Drink Tap Water...
We drink tap water much of the time too, but there are places where even we insist on bottled water.
And we always travel with our Pepto-Bismol.
Some people have a problem no matter where they go. (Mark used to... either his stomach got stronger, or it's the Pepto-Bismol that's kept him healthy!)
If you have a particularly sensitive stomach, even small changes in mineral content might upset you for a few days.
"Tourista" Can Travel Both Ways Across The Border!
U.S. citizens traveling to Mexico often complain of getting "tourista" or "Montezuma's Revenge"....
...but sometimes Mexican citizens traveling to the U.S. get tourista too!
In most of these cases, it's just the change in the water that causes minor problems, and it goes away in just a day or so.
In less developed countries, you are more apt to run into water that contains a variety of microorganisms you want to avoid.
Diseases that you want to avoid
from contaminated food and water include:
Typhoid fever and
(You can get vaccinations to protect you against Hepatitis A and Typhoid.)
Generally even your hotel will let you know if the water isn't safe to drink.
They will post a notice by the faucet and provide a complimentary bottle for you to drink from.
In this case you should use their bottle to take your pills and brush your teeth too.
That's what we found in this jungle lodge in Peru.
In countries where you can't drink the water, you shouldn't have ice in your drinks.
You should drink beers and sodas from the can or bottle if glasses don't look clean enough for you.
If your beer has been chilled in ice, the outside of the can may have been contaminated too, so take care.
Tea, coffee, and other beverages made with boiled water are OK.
When we visited our guides family in a little village in Kenya, his wife insisted on serving us tea...
She took pains to explain that she was boiling the water so it would be safe for us.
The hospitality was so welcome... and so was the tea!
It never hurts to be a little too cautious and drink only bottled water.
Watch your food too...
You should also think twice about your food. Salads could be a problem. Remember that old rule.... "Cook it, Boil it, Peel it, or forget it!"
Maybe we're not cautious enough. I
can here one of our travel buddies even now saying, "I wouldn't eat (or
drink) that!" We have on rare occasions briefly paid the price.
Be certain that the bottle you bought is sealed. In very poor countries, sometimes bottles are refilled from the tap... that won't do you any good.
Is the water safe goes beyond just the tap water. We wrote that page to remind you of that too.
Keep in mind that you can swallow water accidentally if you are swimming in contaminated lakes and rivers or inadequately treated swimming pools.
If you are hiking or staying in wilderness areas, it probably isn't a good idea to drink from streams unless you know that they are safe. Even in the U.S. and other developed countries some streams and rivers are contaminated with giardia... a microscopic parasite that can infect your intestines and cause diarrhea for 2-6 weeks. It's inconvenient to take bottled water into the wilderness, so boil your water or take water filters with you.
Bottled water is readily available almost everywhere
Hotels often provide it... (But check to see if it is complimentary or not)
Tour companies supply you with it.
And you can always buy it in stores or roadside stands.
So don't worry overly much about the water... just grab a bottle and get on the road.