How To Make Sure Your Drinking Water Is Safe When Traveling Abroad


When traveling abroad, especially to third world countries, travelers are always wondering what the best way to make sure the water is safe to drink in the country you’re traveling in.  

I remember when I went to Cusco, Peru in the summer of 2018, I was a little worried about getting water in my mouth even in the shower because I had read online that this can easily happen and travelers had gotten sick from this occurrence. 

Now whether or not that was true or not, I wasn’t going to take any chances.  If water from the shower could get me sick, I better be extra careful with any water I come into contact with. 

I thought about buying all of my water from the store in a water bottle, but that gets expensive and I was there for 5 days! 

Therefore, instead of paying for expensive bottled water at the stores in the center of the square in Cusco, I opted to get the water out of the tap and treat it. Luckily, I had planned this ahead of time. 

Below I’m going to share with you 5 ways to make sure your drinking water is safe before you consume it.

So let’s dive right in.

1. Iodine

Iodine is a fantastic way to make sure your water is potable.  Thankfully they have created Iodine tablets that are very convenient and easy to make sure your water is clean.  

Iodine tablets are what I used when I was in Cusco.  Potable Aqua with PA+ is probably the most popular brand and you easily it from Amazon.

First, you want to read the directions on the iodine tablet label. It only takes two germicidal water purification tablets and two PA Plus tablets to disinfect one quart (one liter) of water. 

Tablets with PA Plus will disinfect contaminated drinking water in any situation. Included in the Potable Aqua package are two types of tablets, Drinking Water Germicidal Tablets to make water bacteriologically suitable to drink, and PA Plus tablets to neutralize the after-taste and color in the water.

Once you place the tablets in the water container, you will shake it for a bit and then close the lid of the container as tight as possible. At this point, you will let your water stand for 30-35 minutes before you drink it. 

2. Personal Water Filters

Personal water filters such as the one that  LifeStraw manufacturers is perhaps one of my favorite and trustworthy sources to keep water safe.  You can filter up to 1000 liters of contaminated water without iodine, chlorine, or other chemicals. 

You can easily carry this water filter in your backpack, a purse if you’re out touring the city, or in any satchel that you are carrying with you while traveling.  

It’s such an important item that you should never go on a trip without it.  I also carried one of these with me, along with my iodine tablets during my vacation in Peru.  It’s better to be safe than sorry.

3. Boil Your Water

One of the most surefire ways to know that your water is safe to drink is to boil it.  If you have been storing water for an emergency, boiling water will kill off most of the bacteria, viruses, and microorganisms that make water unsafe.  

Although you can’t always be 100% sure, boiling water will get you pretty close.  Most of the organisms that will make you sick can’t survive water temperatures past 212 degrees Fahrenheit.  More than that, they actually can’t survive past 160 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 30 minutes.

If you’re out hiking in rugged terrain, this can easily be done over an open campfire.  You can collect water from any nearby water source, bring it back to your camp, filter it, then boil it to get rid of all pathogens. 

4. Steripen

Ultraviolet light is one of the most effective ways to get rid of the bacteria in your water. Ultraviolet (UV) rays essentially annihilate the DNA of the pathogens in the water.  It is an extremely effective way to stop the microorganisms from reproducing in the water as well.

There are a few different devices on the market that you can use to purify your water.  If you are going on a hiking or backpacking trip abroad, there are some commercial UV water sterilizer pens on the market you can buy to put in your hiking backpack.   

You simply fill up your water bottle or container with water from the lake or stream, and stick the UV pen into the container and hold it there for about 45 seconds and then the water should be ready to drink.  

These UV pens run on batteries, so it’s very easy to keep them going for quite some time because you simply have to replace the batteries. 

The other option is hand-cranked UV water purifiers that use short wave germicidal UV light to purify the water.  One of the more popular models that hikers use is the Steripen Sidewinder Water Purifier.  With these types of purifiers, they run through manual hand cranks instead of batteries.  

You need to be careful with UV light purifying methods because if the water source is really cloudy, it allows the bacteria and viruses to hide from the UV light and you won’t get the water 99% cleaned. 

 It’s best to take water from clear lakes and streams when using the UV pens and hand cranks so you know you’re getting the most out of this method.

5. Water Filter Bottles

Another great idea is to buy a water bottle that already has a built-in water purification system.  Again, Lifestraw makes a fantastic one called the Lifestraw Go. You don’t have to do anything except for add water and voila! Your water is safe to drink.

These types of water bottles will protect against bacteria, parasites, chlorine, pesticides, and herbicides. They also claim to improve the taste of water, but you can be the judge of that yourself.

These types of water bottles with filters of BPA free but please note that you will have to replace the filters after filtering 4000 liters of water.  

Final Thoughts

Drinking water is nothing to mess with when you are traveling to other countries.  The worst thing you want to do is get sick and get stuck in a bed for the rest of your vacation.  So hopefully this post helps you with some ideas of how to purify your drinking water and keep it safe when you are traveling. 

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