Despite what you might assume, water isn’t always completely safe to drink. Most of the water that we do drink has been treated and purified, and even if it hasn’t been, our bodies have become accustomed to what may be in it. This often isn’t the case when you travel to foreign countries. Whether it’s because water purification and sanitation laws are more lax in foreign lands than they are in the United States,or because it may naturally contain substances that your immune system isn’t used to, it’s very easy to get sick from drinking tap water while traveling. Unclean drinking water is a common cause of traveler’s diarrhea. This is exactly what it sounds like, and although it is rarely life-threatening, it can make for an unpleasant vacation.

What Not to Drink

Preventing traveler’s diarrhea and avoiding unsafe drinking water is usually a simple matter. As a rule, you should never drink tap water, well water or unpasteurized milk whenever you travel abroad. You should also avoid fountain drinks or anything containing ice. Most ice is made from tap water, and having it in an otherwise safe drink is just as bad as drinking water safe from the tap. You should also exercise caution while bathing or swimming, since that obviously uses tap and well water as well. That doesn’t mean going without bathing during your two-week vacation. What it does mean is that you should avoid getting water in your nose and mouth, and that you should be careful when going into showers, saunas or anywhere else that may have a lot of steam or water vapor.

Buying Bottled Water

Whenever you travel to a foreign country, you can be reasonably sure that bottled water is safe. Bottled water has been purified and sealed to remove contaminants and prevent any further contamination. There are a few drawbacks to sticking entirely to bottled water, such as the price and the fact that some questionable brands may not be as safe as others, but these are usually easy to get around.

It often helps to buy cheap bottled water at home before traveling and then pack it with the rest of your belongings. However, since that will run out eventually, you will have to buy more water at your destination. When that time comes, ask the staff of the hotel or resort where you are staying about the best brands of bottled water in the area. It should be reasonably inexpensive, and it should be a trusted brand. It goes without saying that this should be factored into your vacation budget as well.

You should have enough bottled water or access to a place that sells cheap bottled water to last for your entire vacation. If you want to make absolutely sure that you are safe from waterborne illnesses during your trip, use bottled water even when brushing your teeth.

Alternatives to Bottled Water

Unfortunately, it is entirely possible that bottled water won’t be available where you are staying. If this happens, there are alternatives. Water purifiers usually work well enough to make tap water safe to drink, as do purification tablets. Pack some of these when you go on a trip or locate a local store that may have them. Coffee, hot tea, soup and other drinks and foods that rely on boiling water are generally safe as well.

No matter how you choose to do it, keeping yourself safe from traveler’s diarrhea and other waterborne illnesses should be a priority on your vacation. Water quality does vary greatly from region to region, so it’s always better to be safe than sorry.