Drinking Tap Water When Travelling – Safe and Eco-Friendly


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Water, while you’re travelling, is one of the key resources that every traveller needs.  Most travellers will resort to bottled water in South East Asia, Central America and South America.  We changed our travel habits to drink tap water while travelling and as a result save on average US$550 a year just on drinking water.

Drinking bottled water while travelling is generally viewed to be the safest way to travel, but it’s seriously environmentally unfriendly.  Here’s how we manage our drinking water and ensure its safe for our health AND reduces our plastic waste significantly.

In this article you’ll learn about environmentally friendly drinking water filters and how to save money on drinking water.

Travel Healthy and Drink 2 Litres of Water per Day

Health experts around the world state that you should drink at least 2 litres of water a day to stay healthy.  In Nepal, while trekking to Everest Base Camp, we upped this to 5 litres but needed it for the altitude.   Most of the time travelling, because we’re walking everywhere it’s not a problem and two litres seems like a small amount!

If you’re looking to buy a Filter Water Bottle – then check out our buying guide for the best Filter Water Bottles

We Drink Tap Water In Asia, Cuba, South America

We’ve made a conscious decision to change that for our future travels.  We are drinking tap water.   And I’m comfortable also, when we’re hiking, that we’ll fill our water bottles from streams and springs.

It’s not because I’ve developed a desire to send myself to an early grave or dice with whatever hasn’t been cleaned out of the water systems in Asia, South and Central America.  It’s because we’ve swapped our water bottles out.

Drinking Bottled Water While Travelling has a cost.

Here’s what it cost us to drink bottled water over the 424 days that I used to analyse our costs.

US$650 (GBP£507).  Each.  US$1.53 per day.  Each.  That’s GBP£1.20.  Each.  Every day.

Yeah, doing this analysis made me seriously, seriously think.

 

Cost of Drinking Water

How to Drink Tap Water

We’re using the Drinksafe Travel Tap – it’s got a built-in filter that we can use with ALL freshwater sources.  When the filter is done, after it’s filtered about 1600 litres of water, we just replace it with a new one.  This isn’t available as far as we can tell in the USA – so the alternative there would be the Lifestraw Go.

Which Water Filter to Use

We did a LOT of research about which filter system to buy.  We discounted the ones that leak badly when they fall on their side.  We got rid of the ones that require a separate bag to filter the water through, as space is at a premium in my backpack.

And we settled on the DrinkSafe Travel Tap.    It’s good for 1600 litres, has an auto-shutdown when the filter is dead and has been tested extensively.  It’s used by the British Army and by disaster relief teams worldwide.  It removes 99.9% of viruses, protozoa, anthrax and pathogens.  The Travel Tap is robust, but lightweight.  It doesn’t leak when it tips over.

 

Drinking Tap Water (1)

 

 

UV Light for Tap Water

And because we’re cautious travelers we’re also carrying a rechargeable steripen. Great value for the environment and your budget.   We don’t believe that just a steripen is enough for safe drinking water, as there are likely to be bits in the water too, so we’d use a steripen along with a filter water bottle.

So after we fill up our Drink Safe Travel Taps, from the tap, we give them 48 seconds of UV light to blast away problems that might be in the water.

Drinking Tap Water (3)

 

Drinking Tap Water (2)

 

Where is Tap Water Not Drinkable?

Tap water in Belize on the islands like Caye Caulker is NOT drinkable.

Not even with a filtering system.  On Caye Caulker in Belize, the tap water is very salty.  The Travel Tap  (and other filtering systems) doesn’t work so well with salt or brackish water, however, our accommodation (the lovely, quiet and reasonably priced Barefoot Belize) provided a gallon of drinking water for BZD$2.

If after our filter and zapping with the steripen the water tasted funny (happened once or twice), then we poured it out and bought a bottle instead, because we are cautious travellers.

 

Boiling Water When Travelling

We also carry a hot water boiler, that we acquired in Sri Lanka, which makes us coffee and tea for a fraction of the price of going to a café.  This is also our backup method of ensuring we have clean safe drinking water from the tap.   You can get prices on portable hot water boilers here. They’re generally known as Travel Immersion Water Heaters.

We use ours in the amazing GSI Outdoors mugs – and they’re big enough to cook a packet of noodles in! – find out where to get what we think is the Best travel mug ever.

Cost of Drinking Bottled Water

I took another look at two years of travel.  We left the UK on May 7th, 2014 and headed to Asia via Russia, Mongolia and China.  I’m using cost comparisons from NUMBEO to chart how much drinking water costs in various countries.

I’ve ONLY included costs where Numbeo has the cost of bottled water (which is why it doesn’t add up to all the countries we visited nor all the days we were travelling).  Here’s what it would have cost us for the number of days we spent in each of these countries.  I excluded Australia and New Zealand as we drank the tap water there.

I also took the assumption that we drank 2 litres of water per day in each of these countries (sometimes it was more sometimes less).  As it happens I can only easily find the bottled water costs for 424 of the first two years we spent travelling.  It’s enough for a very compelling argument.

Cost of Drinking Water

If you’re looking for other ways to save money on travel – yet still have a great time, then you won’t go far from by following these 5 expert tips for delightful travel.

The cost comparison:  Drinking water from the tap versus bottled water

Here’s how much we’re paying for water now.

Cost of Travel Tap including filter (good for 1600 litres of water): US$34.53 (£26.95) We have one each.  New filters cost around GBP£20. > Get A Price for a ‘Filter Water Bottle NOW

Cost of Rechargeable Steripen (good for endless litres of water):  US$83 (£65) – we share this. Check out prices of Steripens now.

Let’s assume for the purposes of comparison if we’d bought these when we set out and used them for the 424 days above.

Our costs for drinking water would have been US$76.17 per person over the 424 day period – making the assumption that we drink 2 litres a day each.

That’s US17cents a day.  Or 14 pence a day. 

If we’d used our Drinksafe Travel Tap and Steripen for these 424 days alone, we would have saved more than US$570 (GBP£448) in 18 months.  EACH.  And there would have been two less 2-litre bottles each rolling around in a landfill.  A day.

Cost of Saving the Environment –  Priceless

It’s not just the cost savings that we’re thrilled with.  Anyone who’s spent any time in Asia, Central America or indeed near the ocean will despair of the number of waste plastic drinks bottles.  So save your budget and save the planet and at least get a reusable water bottle, think about an integral filter and a steripen.

Resources

 

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About Sarah Carter

Sarah Carter is an avid reader, writer and traveller. She loves hiking, sailing, skiing and exploring the world through food. She left a successful career in IT security and compliance in both the UK and US to travel the world with husband and partner in adventure, Nigel.

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5 thoughts on “Drinking Tap Water When Travelling – Safe and Eco-Friendly

  • The Backpack Library

    Hey Sarah and Nigel, Hope you are both well? I remember you telling us about your water bottles, I always felt so guilty about the amount of plastic bottles we were using, not to mention the cost! Definitely going to get one of these bottles should I go travelling again, I’ve also sent this post over to a friend who is going travelling soon.

    Great post!

    Josie

    • ASocialNomad Post author

      Hey Josie – thanks! We’re good, enjoying a little downtime in Bulgaria before setting off again. The bottles are great – especially as you can detach the filter and use a tube extender if you get “ok” water to use. It saved us a fortune in Central America – and as you say, the waste with the plastic bottles is just awful! Hoping you’re enjoying the heat in the UK at the moment… S

  • Melanie

    Wow, this is really interesting. My travels led me to be living in rural Tanzania for the past year or so and it’s been driving me nuts how I can drink water here without resorting to purchased water. Not so much because of cost but because of the seemingly endless plastic bottles that end up in landfill. The combination of these two sound like the perfect solution. Will check them out when I’m visiting uk later in the year.

    • ASocialNomad Post author

      Thanks Melanie – I wish we’d used this from the beginning of our travels – we would have saved not just a fortune, but also trashed significantly less landfill plastic bottles!! Tanzania sounds amazing.. perhaps 2019…