YOU’VE just stepped into your hotel room and you’re parched.
But a bottle of Coke from the minibar costs a bomb, the shop across the street just closed, and you’re not sure about the quality of water coming from the tap.
Do you risk it? Or play it safe, down the Coke, and let your holiday budget take the hit to guarantee no late-night shuffle to the bathroom?
To drink or not to drink is a question we’ve all asked during a holiday in a faraway land, so here are the facts.
The Travel Doctor, TMVC’s national medical director Dr Natalie Gray, says the rules are simple when it comes to consuming water.
“Boiled is safe, bottled is usually safe but check the seal is unbroken, and avoid ice in drinks as freezing water preserves germs, it doesn’t kill them,” the chief travel doctor explains.
“If you’re unsure of water quality, use bottled water to clean your teeth, and using water purification tablets or a water filter bottle can make this easier. You don’t need to boil water for long periods as just bringing it to the boil will kill most organisms.
“It’s better to be cautious and safe rather than lose a few days of your holiday to sickness and travellers should assume water may be contaminated in any developing regions such as South and South-East Asia, the Pacific, South and Central America and Africa.”
Be a water hoarder
When I travel overseas, regardless of the destination, I become a water magpie and grab every bottle that comes my way just to be sure I’m not going to get caught short – and thirsty – in the middle of the night.
Water is regularly offered gratis to travellers, with drivers presenting bottles to passengers and hotels leaving a supply in guestrooms, so pack a zip-lock bag and allocate a little space in your suitcase to stash your collection on days you’re changing hotels.
Vaccinations and medications
“There are safe and effective vaccines to minimise the risk of cholera and typhoid for those travelling to endemic countries and we recommend all travellers to developing regions visit a travel doctor at least six weeks before departure,” Gray says.
“The Travel Doctor provides travellers with medicine kits tailored to itinerary and medical history, which may contain antibiotics to treat severe sickness from waterborne bugs, tablets to reduce nausea and diarrhoea, and Hydralyte to assist rehydration.”
Avoid drinks with ice as freezing water doesn’t kill bacteria.
Eating and drinking
So, what are the mealtime rules when tap water is contaminated?
“Contrary to popular belief, alcohol doesn’t kill the bacteria in ice,” Gray says, correcting a travel myth.
“Street food is a large part of the travelling experience but we want this to be memorable for the right reasons, so look for food stalls that are busy and food is freshly cooked – fried, boiled or steamed – and peel-able fruit such as bananas, citrus and mangoes are fine.
“Avoid food that has been left around and exposed to flies and it’s best to stay clear of salads, unpeelable fruit and vegetables unless you’ve washed them yourself in bottled, boiled or filtered water.”