In most parts of the world where you may find yourself, you don’t have to worry too much about drinking water from the tap or being served ice with your drink. But Southeast Asia is, unfortunately, not one of these places due to its lack of filtration systems. While in other countries I typically bring a refillable water bottle and top up as needed, this is one place I’ve visited that makes that much more difficult, but not impossible.
You’ll want to be wary of any water you that you haven’t seen the source of, or bottles that aren’t sealed. Ice in glasses is also a risk and can typically give you stomach ailments or worse. In many places, it is fine to brush your teeth with the tap water, being sure not to drink it directly, but I erred on the side of caution by brushing with bottled water when at all possible. It can sometimes take just a little exposure to make stomachs turn.
Free Bottles of Water
Most hotels and guesthouses throughout Southeast Asia, specifically Thailand and Cambodia, offer 2 free bottles of water per day for guests. While you may not feel that your room needs cleaning every day, it’s smart to at least ask for the bottles of water.
Reverse Osmosis Systems
I had no idea what these machines were when I first spotted them across from my guesthouse in Chiang Mai, but I soon found out I could use my refillable bottles here to fill up 1, 5 and 18 liter bottles for as cheap as 5 baht, the equivalent of 15 cents. Just stick in your coin, press the green button and wait for the water to come out. It’s been treated using ions to remove chemicals. These are found throughout Thailand, but I haven’t seen as many in other countries.
Boiling Water to Cool
Another hack for securing clean drinking water was taken from a method commonly used for camping. I’ve filled a tea kettle, which comes standard in many hotels in Asia, from the tap, boiled it to the point of making it clean, and allowed it to cool before filling my bottle. I could quicken the progress by sticking a bottle in the mini fridge, when my room had one. This hack only works if you have a kettle or a kitchen to boil water, but be sure that the bottle you fill it with is made of high grade, BPA free plastic to keep it from emitting toxins from melted plastic.
Bring a Water Filtration or Purification System
In the past we’ve discussed various methods for purifying your water on the go, including the SteriPen, filtered water bottles and iodine tablets. If you’re worried about not being able to find clean water during your trip to Southeast Asia, particularly if you’ll be in remote areas where you won’t be able to purchase bottled water nearby, it’s a good idea to come prepared. While you may have to wait 30 minutes per liter, iodine tablets are the easiest to travel with and are just as effective.
Buy Bottled Water
While it’s not the most environmentally sound option, bottled water is very cheap in Asia. Expect to pay 7 baht (20 cents) at 7-Eleven for a small bottle. Just remember to recycle your bottle if you can find a place for it!