Is it Safe to Drink Tap Water When Traveling Abroad?

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Tap water is one of the major causes of health complications for travelers. And you don’t want to get sick when traveling, right?

Think of the adventures and fun you could miss if you were to fall sick. And when we say getting sick, we don’t mean a mild headache or a running stomach.

Drinking untreated tap water can result in spending days in the hospital. It can cause severe bacterial diseases, cholera, dysentery, and typhoid.

So, is it safe to drink tap water when traveling abroad? If possible, avoid drinking tap water in a foreign country. Some countries will claim that drinking their water is safe when it’s not.

You don’t want to experiment with your body, right? Note that locals can drink the same water and have no issues at all because they’ve adapted to the water supply. But you’ll get sick because the water pathogens are foreign to your immune system.

How to Avoid Getting Sick When Drinking Tap Water Abroad

  • Research the Quality of Tap Water for your Destination

Before packing for a trip abroad, familiarize yourself with the quality of water at your destination. You don’t want to get surprises after arrival.

Armed with facts, you’ll know what to expect on arrival. If the water is unsafe, you can pick some bottled water for drinking and mouth care.

Note that you’ll experience the same problems for using ice cubes from unsafe tap water hence the need for the research.

If possible, pay a visit to a travel clinic before traveling abroad. It’s one of the best ways to get information on what to expect when you travel overseas and how to keep yourself safe and healthy during the trip.

  • Know the Countries with Safe and Unsafe Water

Another step to keeping safe from contaminated water is knowing the countries with safe and unsafe tap water. You can check this on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website (CDC).

A country whose tap water is listed as unsafe doesn’t necessarily mean that the water is polluted or unclean. It could contain impurities that pose a risk to travelers without a built-up tolerance.

If you happen to travel to such a country, avoid their tap water at all costs. And remember, it’s not just drinking; avoid food that has been rinsed with water, such as fruits and salad.

Some of the countries with safe drinking water include most Western Europe countries like Belgium, Finland, Germany, Greece, Austria, Italy, Ireland, Malta, Monaco, San Marino, Portugal, France, Denmark, Sweden, Netherlands, Poland, and Norway among others.

In Asia, it’s safe to drink tap water in Hong Kong, Brunei, Israel, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea. Use caution in other countries within this region.

Avoid drinking tap water if traveling anywhere in South America, Central America, The Middle East, and Africa. Greenland, Canada, and the US are the only countries with safe tap water in North America.

Avoid drinking tap water in Mexico as well.

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Is it Safe to Drink Tap Water When Traveling Abroad

How to Test the Quality of Tap Water When Traveling

Many microbes in water are colorless and odorless, thus undetectable. You need proper water testing tools to test the quality of your water.

You can also try reliable water purification methods to ensure the water is safe for drinking. Some of these methods include:

  • Boiling

Boiled water is safe to drink. You just need to remove any large particles from the water (if any) with a filter and let the water boil for a few minutes.

Leave the water to cool before drinking.

  • Add Chlorine Drops

Chlorine drops kill germs and bacteria in the water effectively. However, you must be careful not to use more than the recommended amount.

Too much chlorine can lead to serious health complications like coughing, chest tightness, and blurred vision.

  • Use Iodine Solution

To purify your water with iodine solution or tablets, read and follow the instructions on the manual provided. Usually, the method requires you to mix the solution with the water, shake and let it sit for about 30 minutes.

  • Use a Travel Water Purification Device

Walk into your local outdoor or camping store, and you’ll mostly come across several water purification devices you can use to purify your tap water. Some are compact enough to carry comfortably in your carry-on when on the go.

Some water bottles even come with a built-in filter and purification system.

Tips to Help You Drink Clean Water in High-Risk Destinations

If traveling in a country whose tap water is listed unsafe by the CDC, use the tips below to ensure that the water you drink is clean.

  • Avoid drinking water if you don’t know the source

Don’t drink water served from the tap, in restaurants, and pitchers at hotels if unsure of where it comes from.

  • Ensure that the water is disinfected

If you can’t access bottled water in a rural area, ensure that the tap water is disinfected before you can drink it.

  • Choose sealed bottled water

If not careful, you can end up drinking tap water packed in a water bottle. Ensure that the bottled water you purchase has a safety seal.

  • Choose carbonated drinks

A sealed beverage with carbonation bubbles proves the drink is clean and safe to consume. If drinking from a can, wipe and disinfect the exterior to ensure that it’s clean as well.

  • Avoid reconstituted juice

Stay away from any juice made by adding tap water to the concentrate. This poses the same risk as regular tap water.

  • Don’t ask for ice

Ice made from tap water is just as unsafe as tap water. Turn down ice if you are not sure it was made using pure water.

Potential Illnesses from Contaminated Tap Water

If you are suffering from diarrhea, vomiting, extreme nausea, chills, and fever after traveling abroad, chances are, you drank untreated tap water.

Other symptoms include stomach or intestinal cramping, stomachaches and pain, and dehydration.

If you experience these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

Conclusion

It is safe to drink tap water when traveling abroad if the country has clean tap water. If traveling to a developing country, there’s a high chance that their tap water isn’t pure and thus unsafe to drink.

To ensure that you are safe from waterborne diseases, research tap water quality for the destination country to prepare in advance. This way, you’ll have nothing to worry about.

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