How to Find Safe Drinking Water While Traveling (Without Resorting to Plastic Bottled Water)

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There’s no denying that cutting down on your waste takes time, patience, and a lot of practice.  It’s a trial and error process to figure out how to implement habits and routines in your day-to-day life that support your zero waste goals.  

Once you’ve got those habits and routines nailed down, it’s smooth sailing… in a typical week.

But what happens in an atypical week?  Things like illness, holidays, and travel can interrupt your groove of low-waste living.  Traveling can be especially difficult, as it can be challenging to keep yourself fed and watered without resorting to single-use disposables, ubiquitous and convenient as they are.

Water can be of particular concern, especially if you’re traveling to a country that doesn’t have safe drinking water readily available.  Is it possible to travel to places like Mexico and India without resorting to plastic bottled water?  

The answer: yes, it is possible.  But as with most aspects of low-waste living, a little bit of planning goes a long way.  

First rule of thumb, always bring your own bottle. 

Having your own water bottle is essential for avoiding plastic bottled water.  Bring the biggest one you can comfortably carry while you’re out sightseeing during the day, so that you’ll have to fill up less often. 

When flying, fill up in the terminal before you take off. 

Having water with you on the plane will enable you to say no to the plastic bottled water offered you on flights.  If you must partake of a beverage on the plane, opt for one in an aluminum can, and tell the flight attendant you don’t need a plastic cup.  Hang on to the can and recycle it at your next opportunity. 

When sightseeing, fill up before you leave your accommodations.  

If you’re staying in a hotel, it will most likely have access to filtered water that doesn’t come in a plastic bottle, though you may have to ask.  In India, for instance, the tap water in hotel bathrooms isn’t usually safe to drink, but most hotel kitchens will have a water filter that they use for filling glasses in their restaurants and cafes.  Ask if they’ll fill your water bottle for you.  

Staying in a home stay or AirBnB?  Homes are likely to have access to filtered water that is not individually bottled, too.  Ask your host if you can fill your bottle with filtered water before you head out for the day.  

If your accommodations don’t have a water filter, buy the biggest water jug you can find.

Stop at a local shop and buy a gallon-size or larger jug of water to stash in your room, and use that to fill up before you leave each day.  Yes, it’s a plastic bottle, but by buying a large jug, you’ll use much less plastic than you would if you bought the same volume of water in individual bottles.  Just remember to recycle the jug when you’re done, if you can.  

When you’re out and about, ask restaurants and cafes to fill your bottle with filtered water. 

Again, most restaurants will have water filters of some kind.  Ask the staff nicely if they’ll fill your bottle so you don’t have to buy a plastic one.  Remember, most locals aren’t relying on plastic bottled water for their drinking needs!  Where are they getting their safe water?  

Consider a water bottle with a built-in filter. 

For times when you can’t find pre-filtered water, consider a bottle that filters out impurities right in the bottle.  That way, you can fill up anywhere, and know that the water you’re drinking is safe.  This one is made just for this purpose. 

Give yourself a break if, despite your best efforts, you must resort to plastic bottled water. 

The most important thing is to make sure that the water you’re drinking is safe, so if plastic bottled water is your only safe option, then that’s the way to go.  Do your best to avoid it, but be kind to yourself if you can’t.  


Have you found it difficult to find safe drinking water while traveling?  How have you worked around it?  I'd love to hear about your experiences! 

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