Is bottled water the only safe drinking water for travel?

Responsible travellers will be trying to minimise the footprint they leave on the environment by reducing the amount of plastic they consume. So is bottled water the only safe drinking water for travel? At your travel health appointment, you’ll get advice about safe drinking water to help you balance up the pros and cons of drinking bottled water on holiday.

Why would travellers want to drink bottled water?

Drinking unsafe water can expose you to water-borne pathogens. Some of these are potentially fatal, others take a long time to pass or have treatments with nasty side effects. All could potentially put you out of action during your business trip or holiday.

Water-borne diseases include:

  • campylobacteriosis
  • cholera
  • cryptosporidiosis
  • giardia
  • hepatitis A
  • hepatitis E
  • polio
  • Salmonella poisoning and typhoid
  • schistosomiasis

Of these, only hepatitis A, polio, cholera and typhoid are vaccine preventable, which means the only way to protect yourself from many water-borne diseases is avoid exposure in the first place. One way to avoid exposure is by only drinking water that you’re sure is safe.

Water in factory-sealed bottles is widely available and considered free from disease-causing organisms, so it is often recommended as safe drinking water for travel. You should, of course, use your common sense and watch out for vendors who might refill an empty bottle from an unsafe source.

You should also be aware that plastic bottles are a major cause of litter and may end up in landfill or dumped in the ocean – so dispose of yours with care and consideration.

After all that, you might be pleased to hear that bottled water is not the only way of avoiding water-borne illness.

How do I avoid exposure to water-borne illnesses?

At your travel health appointment you may learn that the water is not safe to drink at your destination. So plan ahead to ensure you stay hydrated during your travels. If you carry your own water bottle and fill it from a reliable source, you can be sure of a good supply of safe drinking water for travel.

Travellers going on expeditions to remote areas will want to look at different methods of purification as bottled water may not be available, and the empties are even more difficult for the locals to dispose of.

Techniques for purifying water include boiling, halogens and UV radiation and will allow you to make use of local sources. To learn more about water purification techniques visit NHS Fit for Travel. Water purifying equipment is available from pharmacies and camping shops.

For more tips, ask about purifying water at your travel health appointment or see our travel health article on water-borne diseases.

How can I protect myself from water-borne diseases?

At your travel health appointment, you can ask for advice on safe drinking water at your destination.

How do I make an appointment for travel health advice and travel vaccinations near me?

NX Travel Health Clinics travel health appointments provide same-day vaccinations against water-borne illnesses like typhoid and hep A. And they can give high-quality health advice – including about safe drinking water – at our travel clinics.