A common stereotype we proved wrong whilst travelling South East Asia is that clean, safe to drink water is hard to find. Whereas in fact it was much easier to find than we had ever thought, meaning a refillable bottle is simply a must have. Not only to reduce our plastic trail in countries without the logistics to deal and dispose of it, but to also save money!
Check out a few of the tips we picked up and ditch bottled water once and for all.
At the Airport
1. Refillable Bottle in Your Carry-on: So you can’t pass with over 100ml of liquids through Australia’s airport security, but you can bring your empty bottle and fill it up with tap water on the other side. Now you’ll avoid all those silly inflight plastic cups and the need to call the flight attendant every other hour. Additionally if you ran out on the plane many now have filtered taps in the galley. If flying with a budget airline you will save a lot of money on overpriced bottled water by making sure you have plenty of your own.
2. Water Dispensers: Many airports around Asia have these facilities in the boarding areas, from the very big Singapore airport to the very small in Siargao we were able to keep ourselves well hydrated at no expense! Occasionally some airports even allowed us to pass the security control with a full refillable bottle (or two).
Whilst in South East Asia
Now that you arrived without using plastic it doesn’t make much sense to buy bottled water when in its reports the UNEP ranked by mass 5 South East Asian countries in the top 10 of mismanaged plastic waste worldwide. Collectively contributing to 8.9 million metric tonnes of mismanaged plastic waste per year.
Unlike the general public may think; in most areas of South East Asia, many locals do not drink tap water. Instead you will commonly see locals refilling 20L blue drums at local purifying stations. At these stations the ground water is filtered through powerful filters, then purified with UV light. This method being exceptionably simple, effective and is environmentally safe. UV systems destroy 99.99% of harmful microorganisms without adding chemicals or changing the water’s taste or odour.
Now that you know there is clean water in Asia, let me tell you where to find it:
3. Free Refills in Accommodations and Diving Centres: Yes, you heard well, FREE! I do not mean the complimentary 330ml bottled water that many hotels still offer. I mean unlimited filtered refills from a 20L blue drum (as mentioned) either as an initiative of the individual business or encouraged by grassroot environmental organizations such as S.E.A. Movement or Trash Hero Komodo.
Very common in the Philippines and Indonesia.
4. Complimentary Table Water in Restaurants: Unlike in many western countries, most restaurants in SEA provide free filtered water with your meals. If you ask for a bottle refill before you head off very rarely the owner would deny this, just make sure to leave a tip behind as thanks ;)
5. Water dispensers: Throughout the Philippines and Thailand we commonly found these machines scattered around cities and towns. Keep your change because it’s going to come in very handy! In Thailand you can refill your 800ml bottle for as little as 5 THB equalling 20 Australian Cents :o
No luck with these options?
6. Talk to the locals: ask in local business or knock on homes to refill, which we did many times whilst offering a small compensation. In most cases we had to insist on paying! People are incredibly kind and it’s usually as simple as asking.
7. Boiled tap water: If the water is cloudy filter it before boiling by using a cloth, paper towel or coffee filter. Bring water to a rolling boil and keep for 1 minute ensuring to kill any bacteria and making safe to drink.
Planning to travel off track?
8. If you are planning to explore remote areas we highly recommend you to do some research on the different products available to disinfect your own water. We have personally used SteriPEN throughout our travels and were very happy with the results! Both our 600ml Foldable Bottle and 800ml Stainless Steel Bottle have wide necks so you can fit the SteriPEN inside!
One last tip, when you run into a clean water source, fill up your bottles! Asia is hot and humid so you should keep yourself hydrated whilst exploring!
Now that you know all our tricks make sure you don’t keep them to yourself!
Please share your own tips and experiences throughout different areas of the world so we can all be a little more prepared to avoid single use plastics and leave cleaner paths.
Wishing you some very safe and hydrated travels!