Travel Advice - What's safe to drink during travel abroad?
Problems with water quality are usually
restricted to lesser-developed countries that do not have adequate
chlorination programs. Intake of contaminated water often results in
diarrhea but can, also, result in serious disease. Water that has
been adequately chlorinated will afford substantial protection against
viral and bacterial waterborne diseases.
In areas where chlorinated tap water is not
available or where hygiene and sanitation are poor, only the following
beverages might be safe to drink:
- Tea, coffee, or other beverages made with boiled
water (and be sure that it was boiled).
- Canned or bottled carbonated beverages,
including carbonated, bottled water and soft drinks.
- Make sure that the cap on the bottle is
securely sealed. Re-using non-sanitized bottles is common in some
third world countries, so inspect all containers before drinking the
- In addition, make sure that the bottle is
opened in your presence, not out of your sight, or your drink could
- Beer and wine.
Note that plain old bottled water is not in the list
of potentially safe drinks.
- If water in the area is unsafe, bottling local
water will not sanitize it. In locations where water might be
contaminated, be advised that ice will likely be contaminated and should
not be used or requested.
- If you are certain that the bottled water was
produced in a developed country, consider drinking it.
- If ice has been in contact with reusable,
drinking containers, thoroughly clean the containers, preferably with
soap and hot water, after the ice has been discarded.
- If you believe that the bottled water has been
imported from outside the country (e.g. a sealed and properly labeled
bottle of Pellegrino), it should be safe to drink.
It may be safer to drink a beverage directly from
the can or bottle than to use a glass that could have been contaminated
- Note: water on the outside of beverage cans or
bottles might be contaminated. Travelers should dry wet cans or bottles
before their contents are consumed. Be especially careful to clean
surfaces that will come into direct contact with the mouth.
Remember that fresh vegetables, fruits, and salads
are normally washed before serving. If the local water is not fit to
drink, uncooked foods that are washed in it are not safe either.
Whenever there is the possibility that water is contaminated, avoid
brushing your teeth with tap water.
Finally, water and ice aboard
commercial aircraft are not always pure.
- The food and water on the flight may have been
provisioned in the country of departure, where water and ice may be
contaminated. Be safe.
- Ask the source of the water and ice. If in
doubt, follow the rules above.
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