Travel Advice

by Kristin Gagnon, RN Kristin Gagnon, RN No Comments

Water Purification

Water Purification

The What’s What of Water Purification

Bottled water, filters, chemicals, boiling, UV lights – there are many options for accessing clean drinking water while travelling. But are all methods equally as effective? The answer is no! Below we will review the pros and cons of several options for clean water and disinfection methods.


Bottled Water

Bottle water is the convenient go-to for most travellers. It is usually cheap and easy to come by. However, in some places it may not be much better than tap water. It is important to ensure that it is properly sealed. It is also important to consider the environmental impact of the plastic bottles as most developing countries do not recycle.


Let’s talk about alternatives!


Heat is a sure way to kill the most common bacteria, viruses and parasites. Although most organisms are killed below boiling point, bringing the water to a boil is the only recognizable way without a thermometer to ensure that the water is hot enough to kill all microorganisms. Boil the water for 1 minute, or to conserve fuel you can bring the water to a boil, turn off the stove and keep the container covered for several minutes.

water purification bottle



There are different types of filters that travellers can consider carrying with them as an alternative to bottled water and if boiling water is not always an option. The most important factor to consider is the pore size of the filter. Those with a pore size of 0.1-0.4 microns can usually remove parasites and bacteria but may not always remove viruses. There are filters available the can remove molecules smaller than 0.1 microns known as ultrafiltration, nanofiltration and reverse osmosis. Many products of this type are often expensive, slow to use, and can add bulk and weight to baggage. Filters with a portable design often have a pore size of only 0.2 microns so these filters are best used in combination with chemical disinfection.



Chemical Disinfection

water purification tabs

The most common types of chemical disinfection products are iodine and chlorine. Sodium hypochlorite, the active ingredient in household bleach, is also used worldwide at a concentration of 1.5% to disinfect water. When used in sufficient concentration and water treatment time, chlorine and iodine will kill bacteria and viruses, but may not be effective at killing all types of parasites. This is why chemical disinfection can also be supplemented with a filter to ensure that all viruses, bacteria and parasites are removed. Chemicals can also be neutralized by cloudy water so it is important to ensure that water is clarified with a filter before using chemical disinfection.

Iodine can affect the thyroid so it is recommended to limit iodine use to a few weeks of emergency use. It is also not recommended for anyone with an unstable thyroid disease, iodine allergy, or pregnant women.

Chemical disinfectants can alter the taste of your clean drinking water. The taste can be improved by:

  • Running the treated water through a filter containing activated carbon
  • Adding a 25mg tablet of vitamin C to treated water







Chlorine dioxide is another type of chemical disinfectant that can kill viruses, bacteria and most parasites. Low doses do not affect the taste or colour of the water.








Ultraviolet (UV) Light

SteriPEN Classic 3

UV light will kill bacteria, viruses and parasites in water, but does require clear water to be effective. Portable, battery-operated devices are available that will disinfect small quantities of clear water. Other larger units are available for larger volumes of water but require power devices.

An example of a portable UV light device is the SteriPen. There are several models of this device but most are relatively small and easy to pack into your luggage. There are battery-operated and rechargeable models that will treat small volumes of water (i.e 0.5 L – 1L) in only a few minutes. Also available is a pre-filter that fits with the SteriPen to filter out larger particles to ensure that water is clear.




In Summary….

  • Boiling is the most effective and reliable alternative to bottled water.
  • Filters may not be small enough to get rid of viruses, so use in combination with chlorine or iodine (which used alone may not kill all parasites).
  • Chlorine disinfectant is favourable over iodine as iodine can affect the thyroid.
  • Chlorine dioxide is another type of chemical disinfectant that will kill viruses, bacteria and parasites.
  • UV light will kill viruses, bacteria and parasites but water must be clear.


The technique you choose will of course depend on personal preference, water source, and type of travel you are doing!

by TravelSafe Clinic TravelSafe Clinic No Comments

Destination Mexico

Destination Mexico

Destination Mexico –  Traveling Do’s and Don’ts


Dreaming of Mexico

Winter in Vancouver can be a little challenging with the copious rain and seemingly ever-present overcast conditions. After a while, the thought of escaping to a warmer and sunnier climate invariably crosses our minds, and dreams of sipping Mai Tais on tropical beaches draws us to our MacBooks in search of a good deal on a flight to anywhere sunny and hot!  One of the most popular getaway destinations these days is Mexico and with good reason! Mexico is a diverse country that offers something for everyone.


A Mexico for Everyone

So, whether you want beaches or nightlife, rustic or modern, Aztec-ruin-adventure or all-inclusive, family-friendly or grownups only, Mexico has it all! However, before you rush to buy the next available seat to the land of tequila and salsa, it’s a good idea to know a few Do’s and Don’ts.


The Do’s

When traveling throughout Mexico, it’s a good idea to take the following “Do’s” into consideration.


  1. Dress To Blend In

To protect yourself from thieves or general unwanted attention, it’s a good idea to dress more like the locals. While locals in the coastal areas tend to be less conservative, in inland locales women tend to dress more conservatively, opting for more coverage like pants, skirts with T-shirts or blouses. It’s always a good idea to observe what the locals are wearing and take a page from them!


  1. No hablo español. ¿Habla usted inglés?

It’s always a great idea to learn a few Spanish phrases to help you get around, especially if you are in a bind! While many Mexicans can speak English, it’s best not to assume everyone will be able to, especially if you are travelling to more remote areas of the country. You’d be surprised how far a few Spanish phrases will get you! There are some great apps that you can use that will make speaking Spanish a lot easier, such as TripLingo or Microsoft Translator.


  1. Go With Your Gut

Nine times out of ten, your instincts are correct. If something feels “off” about an individual or a situation, it probably is. If this is the case, trust your gut and politely, but assertively, remove yourself from the situation.


The Don’ts


  1. Don’t Drink Tap Water!

Nothing ruins a vacation like a bad case of Montezuma’s Revenge! The best way to avoid this is by steering clear of tap water. However, often people forget to check if the ice in their drinks is from tap water or not. The best way to avoid any chance of getting sick from the water is to drink only bottled water and ask for “no ice” in your beverages.


  1. Leave the Valuables at Home

Avoid being a target of theft by leaving your valuable jewelry and technology at home. While we understand that you want to look good on vacation, it’s best to leave the diamonds and gold at home and opt for costume jewelry instead. If you insist on bringing your expensive SLR camera, just be sure to hide it safely when taking transit or walking around in crowded places.


Stay Tuned!

Stay tuned for part 2 of our Mexico Do’s and Don’ts, coming soon! We hope your Mexican vacation is fun-filled and safe!

Before you travel, protect your health.

Travel Safely with TravelSafe Immunization Clinic