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Traveling Abroad: Don’t Drink the Water

By on December 24, 2017 in Asia Travel, Mexico Travel with 13 Comments

Cabo, Mexico“When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.” – Clifton Fadiman

This blog was inspired by a former co-worker, who honeymooned in Cabo. As I had been, she asked me for suggestions. I gave her several ideas, based on my research and what I had done during my visit.

When she returned, I asked her about her trip. Unfortunately, she and her husband had been sick the entire time. They had not traveled much, and thus, they were inexperienced at navigating travel challenges.

Cabo, Mexico   Cabo, Mexico

I asked, “What happened?” On their first night at their fancy, expensive, all-inclusive hotel, they drank several mixed drinks. All was fine, until the morning. Their cocktails were loaded with ice, which made them sick for the rest of their honeymoon.

El Farallon, Cabo, Mexico   Gina Pacelli, El Fallaron, Cabo, Mexico

Travel tip: When traveling abroad, don’t drink the water. This includes ice. This means check your bottled water and make sure it has not been tampered with.

Depending on where you travel, you may have to take precaution when drinking or using water. Although locals can drink and use the water, your body may not be able to process it, especially if your immune system is weak. Traveling is an amazing experience, but hours on a plane and other travel quirks may weaken your body. Even if you are at your peak, you may not be able to handle water abroad. Their purification system, if they even have one, will differ from what your body is accustomed to.

Lady, China   Little girl, China

When I journeyed to China, I only drank bottled water. One time, when my mouth was parched, I wandered into a sketchy, little, convenient store. I purchased two bottles of water, only to realize they were not sealed shut. I had to return them and pick out two new bottles. In many countries, the stores will refill “bottled water” with tap water.

Gina Pacelli, Great Wall of China   Terracotta Army, Xian, China

Depending on where you go, the water may be so bad that you cannot even brush your teeth with it. When I traveled to Ecuador, I had to use bottled water to brush my teeth. The faucet water was suspect, and I did not want to risk getting sick during my vacation.

Iguana, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador  Parade, Quito, Ecuador

Travel tip: Be careful of what foods you consume. 

I love food. Eating ethnic food and street food is part of the experience of traveling abroad. However, be smart about your options. You do not want to end up in a situation where you ruin your vacation because something did not agree with your system. Only you will truly know what your body can and cannot handle. If you are unsure, test your limits smartly.

Note: I shied away from the chicken feet, but I devoured the crabs. How daring would you be given these options?

Chicken Feet, China   Crabs, China

Travel tip: Bring toilet paper and sanitary wipes.

What happens when you are in a foreign country, you had some ice, and now you need a toilet – desperately? What are your options?

The Forbidden City, Beijing, China   The Summer Palace, Beijing, China

If you are in China, you may be faced with a hole in the ground. If you are in Vietnam, you may stumble upon a unisex bathroom with no toilet paper. If you are hiking Mt. Fuji in Japan, you may find a hole in the ground with a few wooden planks surrounding the “toilet” and a stench so bad you stop breathing to avoid fainting into a pile of bodily fluids. In some countries, you may even be in a highly populated tourist destination, and there will not be any toilet paper or the option to use a toilet if you are not a paying customer.

Toilet, China   The Summer Palace, Beijing, China

If you are in a place with a hole in the ground, there is not going to be any soap. If you are in a highly populated tourist destination in a poor country, there will not be any soap. If you are at a “five-star” bathroom in China, there is not going to be any soap.

Sunset, China   Gina Pacelli, China

Picture this. You just finished a fabulous lunch, with an amazing coconut drink. Being ignorant, you forgot to think about ice when you ordered your drink. You continue on your merry way, when your stomach starts rumbling. You break into a sweat. You need a bathroom. There are none around. You finally find a unisex one. You purge all the solid toxins from your body. There is no toilet paper to wipe your ass. Your friends are with the tour guide, sampling Vietnamese candies, out of earshot. What do you do? This is not a scenario you want to be in.

Coconut Drink, Vietnam   Mekong Delta, Vietnam

Despite these little hiccups, traveling is one of the most rewarding experiences one can have. Take risks. Be spontaneous. Take precautions, only when necessary. Know where you are going, and be smart about your decisions. Happy traveling!

Do you have a crazy, “sick” experience or some travel advice to share? If so, share your story in the comments section below. 

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