on not drinking the water

This is the first time in my life that I have been told, “Don’t drink the water.”

As in politely decline when you are offered some poured into your cup.

As in no ice in your drinks

As in use bottled water when you brush your teeth.

As in shower with your mouth closed.

I have taken Joy‘s sage advice of placing a towel over the bathroom sink faucet to stop myself from instinctively putting my toothbrush under its flow.

Up until now, the most dramatic water change I had experienced was that the water in Salt Lake City tastes totally different than the water in Portland (true story.)

Have you done ever this? Come to a place where the local water was a no-go? Tell me about your experience.

15 Responses to “on not drinking the water”

  1. Lynzie

    I’ve done this on more than one occasion. It’s not entirely because the water is bad for you (although we know in some places it is), it’s mainly because the water is different. We are immune to the bacteria in our water. We are not immune to the bacteria in other countries.

    I thought it was challenging to not brush my teeth, but the hardest part was making sure I ordered everything in Mexico and Argentina without ice. Other than that, it really wasn’t too bad because there was bottled water everywhere.

    • AllisonO

      Yes! That’s what someone said, that it was more an acclimation thing. Interesting stuff!

  2. bethany

    Many a time. I was in Nicaragua this past summer and followed my usual routine with only one slip up. I washed my hands and then ate a granola bar (without sanitizing said hands) about 10 minutes later and got hit with a mild case of TOURISTA. Luckily I had a cipro prescription for such an occasion and only had one bad stomach day.

    there’s a reason they tell you not to drink the water, including the ice!

    • AllisonO

      We brought a low-dose prescription antibiotic with us for that reason, but thankfully no one has had to use it (yet).

  3. Tiffany

    Hi sweet lady :) Both boys went through that in Uganda, but came out unscathed. However, Alex has been to Nicaragua twice. This last time, about 2/3 of the group got sick 2 days before returning home. At a picnic, off site from their regular eating locale, they were assured the ice was made with filtered water. Uh, yeah no.

    • AllisonO

      Yeesh. I do so miss my ice, but it will be worth the wait until I am safely on American soil.

  4. Alanah

    Many many times, my husband and I have traveled through South America and while we were living in South Africa (where you can drink the water) we traveled through Africa. Most recently we lived in Indonesia where you couldn’t drink the water and one of the biggest pleasures when we came home was having clean tap water. It used to be a nightmare to wash veggies, fruit, and teach my son not to drink the bathwater. I can’t tell you how many dinners I ruined by absentmindedly putting some tap water in to make the sauce!

    Looks like you are having an amazing time.

  5. Vanessa @ Strickly Speaking

    It’s currently my life! Living in Uganda we only drink bottled water. Sometimes I’ll boil the tap water or use it to cook with if I”m going to be boiling it, but otherwise we drink bottled water. And I totally cheat and use tap water to brush my teeth but rarely do a full rinse with it.
    I’m like Alanah above and have had to tell my youngest on so.many.occasions to STOP drinking the bath water. Even in normal circumstances that’s gross! Haha.
    Some days I have the odd feeling that I just wish I could pour water out of a tap (and cold water. With amazing water pressure at that!) and gulp it down. But it is what it is.
    I will be so ever-thankful in a years time when we can just drink water straight out of the tap back in Canada. SUCH a blessing although my husband and I have talked about how it seems that “drinkable” water back in the US/Canada is wasted by coming out garden hoses and sprayed all over grass or street cleaners using it to wash the ROADS for goodness sakes! And the majority of people here don’t even have a TAP in their home!
    It’s amazing, really.
    Really enjoying reading your experience thus far in Sri Lanka.

  6. Samantha

    I lived in Mumbai, India for a year with my husband (who is from there). It wasn’t fun brushing with bottled water the whole time, or being careful in the shower. I got sick 2x, once with ice and once with improperly cooked food. Not bad for an entire year. I’ve gone back once since then for two weeks. It was actually harder because this time I had a 15 month old. It’s hard to explain to the toddler and the inlaws why we have to be so careful. But no one got sick! I did have prescription antibiotics with us for him if he had. I felt so lucky we didn’t have to use them.

    • AllisonO

      O, wow. It must have been so difficult to navigate the food and water uncertainty with a toddler!

  7. Brooke Edging

    We have dealt with it before in Uganda and now we are moving there so we will really have to deal with it. We will have a giant water purifier for drinking water so that will be good. I will have to learn how to navigate the dish washing as well as the children bathing!! I think that we will periodically take medicine to protect us from the occasional water ingestion! Its wild.

  8. grace

    after living in mexico six years i should be a “local” by now, but, wait a minute, even the locals don’t drink the water! ;)
    I do, and I’ve always, brushed my teeth with it and I’m still alive. So there’s that.

  9. Stephanie

    I went to Haiti in college and we were told not to drink the water. When we got back to the States, I found out I had Giardia (a parasite). I think it was from getting water on my lips in the shower, because I made sure not to drink the water! Crazy!

  10. Stephanie

    When we were in high school my now husband went away to Equador. He ended up being hospitalized upon his return to Canada. He was careful not to drink any of the water, but forgot to pass on salad (the greens are rinsed in local tap water and obviously uncooked). He was sick for weeks. We were pretty much airing on the side of complete paranoia in subsequent vacations to China and the Dominican Republic. Not fun!


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