Nothing ruins your hard-earned holiday faster than a stomach bug.  We’ve all been there at one time or another, and having to remain close to the ‘facilities’ when you’re supposed to be exploring a far flung part of the world is no fun for any of us!  Up to 50% of ‘travellers tummy’ can be traced back to unsafe food or water sources – a purely preventable scenario if you know how to take appropriate precautions!

Finding access to safe drinking water can often be difficult whilst abroad, particularly for those travelling in more remote areas of the world.  Predominantly, the most common way to ensure safe drinking is to purchase bottled water in single-use plastic bottles.  With the drive to reduce the use of plastic across the world, this solution has become far less palatable.  Thankfully, there are other ways that we can access safe drinking water  … without having a negative impact on the environment around us! 

What Causes ‘travellers tummy’?

Drinking clean, safe water whilst travelling can not only prevent disruption on your holiday, it can prevent the most serious of illnesses which could lead to hospitalisation and even death. Taking precautions and increasing your understanding of water sources and potential contaminants can significantly reduce the risk of falling ill whilst away on your holidays.

The most common cause is bacteria (such as E. coli, dysentery, typhoid and salmonella) and can lead to illnesses of varying seriousness and length. Thankfully, the majority of water filters and purification processes will remove sickness causing bacteria, so with caution this kind of illness should be relatively straight forward to avoid.

Then of course there are water-borne viruses (such as SARS, hepatitis and norovirus).  These tend to be the least common cause of illness but can lead to more serious, even fatal, consequences.  Viruses are particularly troublesome to remove from water, hence additional precautionary steps are required in areas where these is a higher risk of drinking contaminated water.

Which Countries Have Safe Drinking Water?

The quality of drinking water depends greatly on a number of factors relating to the likelihood of contamination, presence of bacteria and the source of the water itself.  Travellers may be faced with a variety of sources of water whilst on holiday – anywhere from running tap water and drinking wells, to remote streams and rivers.  There is no single source of safe drinking water for travellers so precaution is needed wherever or whenever you need to drink.

Drinking water is generally safest in developed countries such as the US, Australia and parts of Europe, however even these destinations are not considered to be completely safe.  For instance, Australia has relatively similar drinking water standards to the United Kingdom, however there is still a risk of Hepatitis A contamination and health regulators sometimes recommend pre-travel vaccination (dependent on the area of travel). The basic rule is … no matter where you are … do your research and take care when choosing what to eat and drink.

how to stay safe?

Here are a few tips to staying safe and accessing clean drinking water whilst on your holiday.

  • Research – access information about your destination to understand the risks, specific precautions required and the kind of drinking water sources you are likely to come across.  Speak to your Tour Operator to understand the specifics of your trip and whether you will be travelling to areas with limited availability of clean drinking water.  Your Tour Operator will also be able to advise you of the safety measures they have put into place to keep you safe and well.
  • Find a safe source of water – generally speaking, bottled water (in sealed bottles) are considered safe, however it is best to be mindful of the devastating impact that this has on the environment and local communities. Be mindful of scams in many countries which involve opportunistic individuals re-filling plastic bottles with tap water.  Always check the seal before your drink.
  • Its not just drinking water – don’t forget that you can be exposed to contaminated water in other ways.  Take care when bathing, cleaning your teeth and swimming. And don’t forget the ice in your gin!
  • Take a water purifier/filter on your travels – a high quality water bottle with a new, approved filter will enable you to drink water from a variety of sources.  We are big fans of the Water to Go bottles with replacement filters to give you a longer-term solution to safe drinking water on your travels.