Eat and drink safely abroad

The most common illnesses among travellers are generally caused by eating food or drinking beverages contaminated by bacteria, parasites, or viruses. Always take precautions with food and water to avoid getting sick.


Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.

Eating and drinking

Swimming and bathing

Water treatment methods

To ensure that water is safe to drink, there are several water treatment methods available for travellers. These methods include boiling, using chemical disinfectants, portable water filtration devices or ultraviolet light.


  • Boiling water is the best method to make water safe to drink.
  • Water should be brought to a rolling boil for 1 minute.

Chemical disinfectants

  • Chlorine and iodine chemical disinfectants come in many forms including drops, tablets and packets of powder.
  • The chemical disinfectant should be purchased in Canada, if possible.
  • Chemical disinfectants may not remove all parasites. Water should also be filtered or boiled to ensure safety.
  • Iodine containing disinfectants should not be used by children, pregnant women, persons with thyroid problems or known iodine sensitivity or for continuous use for more than a few weeks at a time.
  • Chemical disinfectants should be used with caution. The manufacturer’s instructions should be followed carefully as this approach may not be effective or may be dangerous if used incorrectly.

Portable filtration devices

  • Portable filtration devices include ceramic filters, carbon filters and membrane filters.
  • Filters should have a pore size of less than 0.5 microns to be most effective.
  • Filters may not remove all viruses. Filtered water should also be purified using a chemical disinfectant or boiled to ensure safety. 

Ultraviolet (UV) light

  • UV light devices are effective to disinfect small quantities of clear water. Germs in cloudy water can be shielded from the light by small particles.

Bottled water

  • Bottled water from a trusted source is a convenient alternative to water purification. Prior to drinking bottled water, ensure the seal has not been tampered.
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