During travels in Africa and Asia (well, almost everywhere), water is the most important but also most dangerous product. Don’t cite me on this… Actually, do cite me on this – maybe this will be my legacy phrase after I am long gone, “Water is both life and death: Life for the lucky and death for the stupid, -- Glitter Trotter.”
In full seriousness, water is critical during travels; and you have probably heard that many many times before. Drinking 1 litre a day generally works for mild climates; hot and/or humid places (read, Asia, Africa, Middle East) would require closer to 2 litres a day.
Sometimes you also hear warnings about not drinking water from the tap, or checking the source of water, or even calls for restraining from drinking water altogether – all of which make it a bit unclear what is the actual problem and how to manage it while still getting your 1-2 litres down (pun fully intended!).
Here are the simple rules:
1. Don’t drink water from the tap while traveling, not even in a 5-star hotel. My husband got major infections twice – both times after brushing his teeth with tap water at major international-chain hotels. Drinking, brushing, gurgling with tap water might result in a trip to an emergency room. Aside from parasites/bacteria/viruses, tap water in different parts of the world might be loaded with chemicals and microelements that lead to health issues from enamel damage to cancer.
2. Don’t eat raw fruits or vegetables if you see drops of water on them or know they’ve been washed but do not know in which water; same rule as with tap water applies.
3. Don’t put ice in your drinks – in most hotels and restaurants, ice will be made of – Exactly! Tap water!
4. If your travels take you to a rural/remote area, Do carry paper cups and paper plates (and maybe your own set of plastic utensils). Regular cups and plates are washed in – you are right again! – tap water, or even worse – a nearby lake or river (let’s not even go there).
5. Do check the security of the cap-seal when you buy or order bottled water. When buying at a shop, try to twist the cap – if it opens easily, the water has been replaced with tap water. At a restaurant, always request the bottle to be brought unopened and open it yourself; restaurants are known for playing the “water games.”
6. Do carry a personal (clearly labelled) water bottle with you. The good thing is, nowadays most public places – hotels, malls, gyms, conference centres – have water-coolers in waiting areas and hallways. Replacing water in the big cooler bottles is cumbersome, so normally cooler water can be trusted. Alternatively, you can just buy and carry a 2-litre bottle from a shop (remember to check the cap).
With these simple rules, take charge of your “water moves” and be among those lucky!