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March 19, 2010

Water While Traveling: What You Need to Know to Stay Healthy

By WorldNomads

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Editor's Note: Thanks to Chris Cranshaw, founder of Hydropal, for providing this information. Chris is a seasoned traveler who has been working to help the environment and provide safe drinking water for 15 years.

Water is something most of us take for granted until we step on a plane and head out into the world. Then we suddenly realize that this precious liquid so necessary to sustain life can also cause serious ill health and even worse.

Nothing ruins a good trip like a bout of diarrhea, nausea, feeling totally exhausted, feverish, and in no mood for anything but bed! Waterborne illness is one of the leading sources of health problems for travelers, and can have serious immediate consequences and after-effects for months.

Where are you at risk?
High-risk areas include Central America, most of Africa and Asia and the Middle East. Moderate-risk areas include Eastern Europe, Russia, South Africa, Argentina, Chile, and the Caribbean. Even developed countries aren't necessarily risk-free.

Basically if you want to be safe, assume the worst and plan accordingly.

Don't use local tap water without purifying it in some way, even for brushing your teeth or washing fruits and vegetables. And don't make the mistake of using locally produced ice cubes: Freezing doesn't kill the germs!

Is bottled water the best option?
Yes and no. It's easy, sure, but it is expensive (worldwide we spend US$100 billion on bottled water a year!), has serious health issues, and huge environmental consequences.

Anyone who has travelled will be well aware of the huge problem of plastic bottles littering the countryside and turning pristine bush and beaches into rubbish tips.

Using just four bottles a day, a single traveler is likely to throw away over 50 bottles in just a couple of weeks—not a nice legacy to leave your host country.

The fact is that worldwide, almost 90 percent of plastic water bottles are not recycled and end up in landfills or worse. And once they're out there, they stick around affecting habitats of all kinds and killing an alarming number of fish, dolphins, birds, and other wildlife.

Then there's the huge carbon footprint, the toxicity issues, and various other long-term environmental time bombs...

So what are the options?
If you can plan to avoid bottled water in your travels, you'll be doing everyone a favor. Here are some other options that are all cost effective, healthy, and environmentally friendly.


For more information
Hyrdopal: A water bottle with a carbon filter in the lid, costs $20-$40 depending on the level of filtration required. The bottles lasts for years, the filters for hundreds of refills.

Plastic bottles:

Water quality globally:

Read more stories from to help keep you traveling safely. provides travel insurance and travel safety services to residents in over 150 countries, making it an essential part of every adventurous traveler's journey.

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Related Topics: Africa Travel · Asia Travel · Central America Travel · South America Travel · Travel Tips


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