Let’s get practical for a second. The water situation in India can be dangerous. While many of the higher-end restaurants serve filtered water, there is always a bit of a concern and it is very important to be careful drinking water in India. The water supply in India can often be full of different types of pollutants and it’s typically extremely unsafe to drink. Understanding the drinking water situation in India is a must to prevent getting sick.
Bad water is the #1 cause of dysentery and parasite infection in India and around the world, so be prepared when you visit India or any other foreign country that may not have a safe public water supply.
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Here are 9 Safety Tips for Drinking Water in India
Is it safe to drink water in India?
The answer to this question is, “no” most of the time (and sometimes all the time). So, don’t take a chance. Instead, follow these 9 tips for what you can and can’t drink in India. The below tips also help make sure you stay healthy and hydrated!
The water supply in India can often be full of all kinds of pollution, which makes it unsafe, and because water is the best carrier of disease it’s an easy way to get sick.
A few important factors to keep in mind about water contamination is that rural India will have less purified and filtered water. Also, never drink water from a ‘water fountain’ or public places like railway stations.
If you are planning a trip to India, simply follow these tips for drinking water and other liquids in India!
1) Always Use a Straw!
Drink your bottled water, juice or soda with a straw. Or do as the locals do– pour the soda into your mouth without touching the can or bottle to your lips. You can even bring your own pack of straws to be safe.
2) Drink Soda and Juices from a Can
Yep, my number one and two tips are to choose drinks other than water! Drinking juice or soda from a can is a safe option. Glass soda bottles are very common in India and you’ll see brands such as Nimbooz (lemon drink), Mango Frooti (mango drink), Limca or Coke.
3) Drink Fresh Coconuts
Fresh coconuts are my favorite in any country. They are extremely good for hydration and providing electrolytes. These electrolytes are especially helpful in hot climates.
Note: If you want to be super careful, don’t drink coconuts unless you’re satisfied with the cleanliness of the knife that the coconut vendor is using, and then make sure to use your own straw.
4) Drink Bottled Mineral Water
The best-bottled mineral water brands in India are: Bisleri, Kinley, and Aquafina. Double-check the bottles are still sealed. It’s important to check the seal because it has been known that shop owners will refill the bottles and try to glue the lid back on.
5) Avoid Ice in Drinks
Typically the water used to make ice is not sanitary. Of course, there are exceptions such as high-end hotels and restaurants that use water purifiers. But, many public places including restaurants do not use water filters. India can get very hot and I know cold drinks chilled with ice will sound amazing, but it’s better to be safe than sorry!
6) Bring a SteriPen & Iodine Tablets
An affordable product that works well is a Steripen Freedom Water Purifier which uses UV to “destroy over 99.9% of harmful microorganisms in water.” With a SteriPEN, you can drink the water just about anywhere thanks to this small, lightweight (74g, 2.6 oz.) and rechargeable UV light water purifier.
In less than a minute, you can have a half-liter of water that’s 99% distilled and ready to go. This device can provide 8000 0.5L (16 oz.) water treatments.
Bonus! The end of the water purifier is an LED flashlight. A neoprene case, AC Adapter, and USB cable are included with the Freedom. This is one of the best water filter options for any kind of travel.
To be 100% safe, it is also good to use Water Purification Tablets and to boil the water for a few minutes to be certain that all the bacteria, such as Giardia, has been killed. These two products turn unsafe water with high levels of heavy metals and other health hazards into drinkable safe water.
7) Supplement with Electrolytes
Adding electrolytes and multivitamins to water or coconut water is a great way to get stay hydrated. My favorite electrolyte drink is EcoDrink and it is great for traveling. The small pouches are easy to travel with and you simply add them to water or any liquid for an excellent nutrient delivery system that helps to boost the immune system, provides balanced energy without stimulants, and are loaded with electrolytes to keep you hydrated!
8) Brush teeth with bottled mineral water
I also travel in Mexico quite a bit and I have gotten into the habit of always brushing my teeth while traveling with bottled water. Since all tap water in India is usually contaminated with both bacteria & pollutants, it’s not safe, even for brushing your teeth. Another reason to take this precaution is that the gums can be a direct path to the bloodstream allowing infection to get in.
9) Bring a Grayl Quest Water Filtration bottle
I was so excited to try out the Grayl water bottle with filter. The bottle comes with three optional filters; a tap filter for everyday water, an international travel filter which I took to on my Mexico trip and a hiking trail filter. The filters can be interchanged and all you do is pop on the filter of your choice, fill the empty outer cup with water and then push the inner cup with filter down so water passes through as filtered clean water(think French press). The bottles are BPA-free plastic. Pretty cool invention!
Check out the Grayl Quest Grayl Water Filtration bottle on Amazon.
Drinking Water Standards India
The drinking water problem in India is vast. With a huge population, it is thought that as many as 256 of 700 districts in India have reported ‘critical’ or ‘over-exploited’ groundwater levels.
Getting clean and safe drinking water is the goal, but in many third-world countries, the water is dangerously contaminated. A report by NSO suggests that two-thirds of Indian homes drink unsafe and untreated water. The Bureau of Indian Standard has designed a specific guideline for safe drinking water which is supposed to be in place by 2030.
The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has specified drinking water quality standards in India to provide safe drinking water to the people. While there is good documentation that this is in the works, it’s important to follow all precautions so you don’t end up with Delhi Belly aka diarrhea!
If you are heading to India for the first time, you must check out my tips for a first trip! They are based on my first trip to India and everything I learned researching my trip and what I wish I knew before I arrived.
How to Avoid Diarrhea & What To Have If You Get It!
Next, to prevent any type of stomach issues, here is what I recommend.
Whenever I travel internationally, I bring grapefruit seed extract GSE. If my stomach starts to feel funny I put a few drops in filtered water and drink it. For my first trip to India, I decided to take it a step further based on a suggestion from the Passport Health Clinic and take a preventative supplement called Travelan. It is a dietary supplement high in antibodies that help prevent diarrhea. I will simply take one pill before each meal.
If you can’t find Travelan, a great backup supplement option for gut health that helps prevent diarrhea is Pure Velvet Capsules.
DiaResQ, is a backup for Travelan, and if you do end up with diarrhea. It’s specifically made for travel and is supposed to stop diarrhea with just two doses. I was told to take Imodium with the DiaResQ if I wasn’t able to stay in my hotel for it to kick in (for extra and immediate help). I bought Travelan and DiaResQ from Passport Health, but did a search when I got home and found them both on Amazon.
I also suggest bringing Oil of Oregano for Immune and Intestinal Support as well as upset stomach. Papaya enzymes are great for digestion and can be found at natural food stores or on Amazon. As careful as I was I still had some digestion distress.