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I tend to get dehydrated rather easily, a problem that is compounded when I travel to locations where the water is unsafe/unfamiliar for me. I often seem to find myself having to choose between getting sick from dehydration and (potentially) getting sick from drinking local water.

I'm not accustomed to bringing a filtration/purifying device with me (though if this is a practical solution to my problem, I am definitely open to suggestions), and bottled water gets very expensive very quickly (not to mention it always seems to run out so fast...). I am at a loss for how else I might approach this problem.

How can I ensure that I have access to drinkable water when I travel?

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I long ago gave up worrying. I find I get sick so often (esp in third world countries) that I now just assume I will, carry a bog roll (toilet paper), and some Immodium (medicine to help prevent the need to run to the toilet every few minutes).

It's not ideal, and if it happens, there are ways to prevent the infamous Delhi Belly.

However, there are some things you can do to locate healthy water, wherever you are:

  • Boil it - the most common method of getting rid of some of the bugs, make sure it's properly boiled.
  • filter it, if you have one. You can buy portable travel ones around the place.
  • Use water purifying tablets.
  • Use portable Ultraviolet light purifiers. These are quite new and some concerns exist over their ability to kill all pathogens, but they do have some effect.
  • Buy bottled water over the counter.
  • Ask your hosts or people you meet - they may suggest a place that they know uses a filter, for example.

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For further reading, Wikipedia has a really extensive article on portable methods of water purification, and what works and doesn't.

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    Thanks! This is exactly what I'm looking for... although I suspect it might cause more than a few raised eyebrows when I pull out my DIY water filter at a restaurant :P – user82 Feb 26 '12 at 22:54
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You can't ensure it.

But you can prepare yourself.

Bottled Water Bottled water is obviously a great (but expensive) choice, but may just be a part of the cost of traveling that you have to account for. A lot of outfits will provide bottled water, which is a nice bonus.

Water Bottle with Filter I have seen quite a few water bottles with filters built in. Here is one that I found with a quick google search as an example. Many outdoor equipment stores carry them. Here is one from REI

Full Filter System You can always carry on of the larger setups that can filter more water for like a full camel pack.

Iodine Tablets You can go old school for the serious moments.

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Drink tea.

After water, this is the most consumed beverage in the world. I bet that the main reason in most parts of the world is that water is unsafe unless after having been boiled.

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My thinking is you need a filtration canteen. Like this one.

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In some places like India, you can order "boiled water" even in a restaurant - they know visitors may have issues with water safe for locals. It should get you boiled and cooled water, or else options for water that is safe for visitors - filtered or otherwise purified water - since they would guess that's why you're asking. It should work to get your point across, and they can let you know what options are locally available. Even if it isn't a known thing where you're traveling, it should get you safe water once they figure out you really want your water boiled.

In other places you can order as a drink something like hot water with lemon, a different context for the same precaution - boiled water. This may be cheaper than bottled water, since tap water is cheap and need only be heated, though no guarantees.

Another possible alternative is fruit - fresh squeezed juice (it must be undiluted, so very fresh and/or prepared before your eyes) is generally safe, and in some countries widely available. Even if not, eating some fruit can help you need less water overall as you get moisture from the juices.

ps - remember to be wary of local ice, it can be made from not-visitor-safe water.

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