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Tap Water While Traveling

This week’s Travel Tip Tuesday: water bottle economics.

We’ve already written about the importance of bringing a water bottle when packing for a trip. It seems obvious, but we see people with disposable water bottles all the time. Now we’ll go a little deeper and offer some extra tips and advice. (Even if you’re going somewhere with safe tap water, like here in Chile.)

When You Can’t Drink the Tap Water
If you’re someplace where tap water isn’t safe to drink, you’ll have three options:

  1. Buy bottled water (easy, but expensive)
  2. Boil tap water (time consuming and impractical without a stove)
  3. Filter/sterilize tap water (not easy, or unhealthy for more than a couple days)

We actually brought a water filter with us. While it’s great for camping, the volume and speed make it impractical for day-to-day use. Same with boiling, even though we have a stove. You drink more water than you think, and you don’t want to be boiling and filtering during your free time. Plus, boiling and filtering may make water safe, but often the taste is no bueno.

However, forking money over to bottled water mega-corporations can also leave a bad taste in your mouth, both because of their business practices and the cost. See everyone walking around with those small, 12-16 oz. water bottles? Let’s assume they cost an average of USD$2 — less at a store or street vendor, more at a restaurant. That’s anywhere from $8-10 per day, per person! Or $100 for a five-day trip for two people. That’s just loco.

What We Recommend
Whether you’re traveling for a weekend or several months, stop by a local convenience store and pick up a large bottle — say, six liters or so, or more if possible! — to keep in your hotel room, hostel or apartment.

Those will run you $3-5 and last you a couple days at least. Then, you can just refill the water bottle you brought. Cheaper, better for the world, and more convenient than boiling or filtering.

Important Tips and Tricks

  • Let’s say you do want to boil or filter, or you’re in a place where tap water is safe…but tastes awful. (We miss you, San Francisco tap water.) Pick up a lemon or cucumber at a nearby store and add a slice or two to your water bottle.
  • If you’re short on carrying space, consider bringing collapsible water bottles that can fold up very small when you’re done with them. 


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