After you’ve decided where to go, what to take and just how tanned you’re going to get; it’s worth thinking about your health. Drinking tap water abroad is one of those things that can often pass you by. Buying bottled water is a general piece of advice most people follow – but why?
Is tap water safe to drink? The water you find abroad (outside of the UK) is not always rife with bacteria and disease, but it’s worth considering that it may have been “treated” differently to the water you drink at home.
Other considerations include; is it “hard” or “soft”? and just where in the world are you going?
Many people travelling from the North to the South of the UK often avoid the tap water and similarly the other way around. The change between water regarded as ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ sometimes leads to people buying bottled water even here, at home. ‘Hard’ water is classified as water that contains dissolved minerals and regarded as having a nicer flavour, while ‘Soft’ water is rain water and as it runs through the ground it absorbs minerals like chalk and lime.
“Treating” water is the process by which Governmental authorities alter the water before it reaches the house-hold tap. By this we mean it is first Coagulated – electrified to remove negative charges from dirt, then Sedimentation – meaning the dirt sinks to the bottom, Filtration – the top water is poured through filters such as sand, gravel and charcoal, then lastly, it’s Disinfected – chorine or some derivative is added to kill the remaining particles/bacteria etc.
Where are you going? If you’re in mainland Europe or the North Americas, generally you can rest assured that the water will be of a high enough standard to mean drinking will not result in illness. Although regions vary and if you are at all suspicious, feel free to buy bottled water from the shops or use a filtration device.
There are a multitude of devices, tablets and ideas on the internet as to how to purify your drinking water while abroad. If you are unwilling to avail yourself of a new-fangled device, boiling the water is generally regarded as a reliable method.
If you are travelling to a country that is regarded as having poor or little sanitation processes, your domestic water filters would not be suitable. Therefore, before travelling, it may be worth investing in purification tablets.
For those of you travelling with ‘little ones’, it could be worth investing in travel steriliser bags or cold water steriliser bags as you might find them called. An easy and safe way to ensure you baby’s bottles are clean and ready for use.
It is crucial that you always read the label and or consult your GP if unsure what best water purification tablets to use. The same would apply to steriliser bags.
It’s not so much the foods, but the preparation process that you should wary of. The NHS website advises travellers to steer clear of “salads, such as lettuce”; they are washed with the same water that you’d drink abroad – avoid. Likewise, “uncooked fruits and vegetables” are also washed in the same water – wash them in your own, sterilised water and peel before consuming. Milk and pasteurised products can be a concern and it’s just a good rule of thumb to avoid street meat.
Avoid ice in your drink.
Use bottled water to take your medication and brush your teeth too.
If you are staying in a hotel, ask the staff if it’s safe to drink the water. Don’t worry about offending them, they have experience and if the water is suspect, they likely don’t drink it themselves either.