28th Jun, 2022

Drinking water when you travel: what you should take into account

Drinking water safely when travelling abroad

In many holiday destinations, it is not safe to drink tap water. This does not necessarily mean that you can only drink mineral water: there are other, more sustainable ways to relieve your thirst. You can for instance purify water yourself with tablets or use a filter. Will you be travelling outside of Europe, for instance Vietnam? Then you should also check if you need a Vietnam visa.

Beware of tap water abroad

When travelling, especially in tropical destinations such as Egypt, Vietnam or Indonesia, it is essential to keep hydrated and drink enough water. However, in many countries outside Europe, it is not safe to drink tap water. Many times, this is because the piping systems in those countries are not properly maintained. If there is not enough pressure on the pipes, bacteria can develop. In water systems that are not cooled or heated well enough, the legionella bacteria can grow. This type of bacteria can cause severe pneumonia. In many countries, chlorine is added to water in order to kill bacteria, making the water drinkable but less tasty.

To avoid infections, travellers are therefore advised not to drink tap water, but to buy instead bottled mineral water. If you do this, remember to always check if the cap is still sealed, as in some countries, plastic bottles are filled with tap water and then sold to tourists. You should also be careful about using ice cubes to cold your drinks and with other products where tap water might have been used. You’d better avoid eating salads and other raw vegetables, as they are often washed in tap water.

You can purify water yourself

Bottled mineral water is a good solution, but it is not a sustainable alternative, as it generates a lot of plastic. In fact, many travellers try to avoid this. Fortunately, there are other options to make sure the water you drink is safe. One well-known but cumbersome way is to boil your water first and then let it cool. Boiling the water kills pathogens. However, this method is very time-consuming and not very practical. Another option is to use water purification tablets containing a chemical such as chlorine or iodine. However, there are also health risks associated with these tablets. You can only use these tablets in a limited number.

Another way to purify water is by using a filter that eliminates most bacteria and protozoa. The only drawback is that even water filters are not 100 percent reliable. Not all viruses can be stopped by a water filter, and there is a big difference in quality between different filter systems. There are systems where the water is filtered through a straw and water bottles with a built-in filter.

In conclusion, there seems to be no perfect way to solve this problem. Maybe the best thing to do is to find a balance between the different methods described above, as well as adopting a series of habits, like ordering carbonated, sealed drinks, or drinking coffee and tea made from boiled hot water.

Other things you should think about: your travel documents and visa

In addition to informing yourself about how to make drinking water safe, it is also important to check in time whether you need a visa. UK tourists  do not need a Vietnam visa for a stay of less than 15 days. However, those who wish to stay in Vietnam for longer than two weeks must apply for a visa. For several years now, this can be done easily online, with the digital application form. For most travellers, it is therefore no longer necessary to go to the Vietnamese embassy or consulate.

After filling out the application form, a passport photo and passport scan must be provided.

The electronic Vietnam visa is generally granted after about 7 working days and sent by e-mail. So start applying for your visa on time and it and taking precautions to filter drinking water at your destination.

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