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Do Not Buy Bottled Water When Traveling

Buy jugs of water, not bottles A liter of bottled water often cost just about the same as two liters; two liters cost roughly the same as four; and four liters is, as odd as it may seem, often more expensive than a twenty liter jug. Giving this, it is truly an economically idiotic move [...]

Buy jugs of water, not bottles

A liter of bottled water often cost just about the same as two liters; two liters cost roughly the same as four; and four liters is, as odd as it may seem, often more expensive than a twenty liter jug. Giving this, it is truly an economically idiotic move to buy bottled drinking water by the liter. When traveling, save money by purchasing water in twenty liter jugs.

Water is one of the prime necessities of life. It is one of the few basics that all travelers need to obtain every day. The world is full of water — in fact, it is 70% H2O — but only 2.5% of this is fresh water, and only the very slimmest portion of this is drinkable. Therefore the traveler is at the mercy of municipalities, companies, businesses, and the long arm of politics to obtain drinking water wherever they go. In 2011, this is not difficult to do: to get water, you just go to a supermarket and buy it in a bottle.

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Over the last decade many countries in the world have made a drastic shift towards using, almost exclusively, bottled water. Drinkable municipal water is a luxury of the past. In a rough estimate based on my travels and observations, I would say that 30% of the people on the globe are currently living off of bottled water, and this is a number that will continue to rise. These twenty liter jugs of water will soon become a normal fixture in almost every home on the planet within the next ten years, as it already is in Mexico, Central America, Turkey, the Middle East . . . on and on and on.

I cringe when I see trucks full of 20 liter jugs of water moving through the streets doing deliveries, I squirm when I see the stacks of these jugs in grocery stores, because this is a sure sign that the government of the place that I am in has given up trying to provide clean drinking water to its people — it is a sign that the companies are now in full control of proliferating another basic necessity for survival.

20 liters of water for 80 cents

20 liters of water for 80 cents.

But what can I do?

I buy bottled water by the 20 liter jug like everybody else. It is good that these jugs of water sell cheap, and most people in the world can easily afford them. 10 pesos — or 80 cents — is what I paid for twenty liter jugs of water in Puerto Angel; in Zipolite, I paid between 11 and 13 pesos; in Oaxaca City, I pay 16 — or $1.50. One 20 liter jug lasts my family of three around five days — and it is my impression that we consume vastly more water than the average person.

How to buy water by the twenty liter jug

There are often many places to buy these jugs from: supermarkets, convenient stores, and, very often, towns have wate trucks that drive around making home deliveries. Make sure the option you choose is near to where you are staying, as this will be the place where you continue exchanging these jugs for more water.

To buy these twenty liter jugs of water, you often need to leave a deposit. In actuality, you only buy the water, the jug that it comes in is rented out by the place you get it from. This deposit is usually around four or five dollars, and you get it back when you finally return the jug. You are also generally given a ticket when paying this deposit that you must retain and then return to the store with the jug in order to get your money back.

Receipt which says that I paid a 50 peso deposit for the water jug. To get this money back all I need to do is return the jug with this ticket.

When you empty the contents of one jug you can easily return it to the store you got it from and exchange it for a full one — this time you only pay for the water. You can continue doing these exchanges endlessly, but make sure you show the empty jug to an employee in the store before exchanging it for a full one — as if they don’t see you returning a jug they may try to charge you a deposit again.

How to use a 5 gallon jug of water

Update, January 18, 2009: In the comments that ensued from this entry, some readers expressed concerns as to whether a person of average strength could manipulate and use a 20 liter/5 gallon jug of water. To show that it is possible, I took the below photo of my 56 year old mother in law successfully taking water from a 20 liter jug.

Grandmother using 5 gallon water jug

Readers, please don’t make this any more complicated that it needs to be. This is a tip to save you money.

In the above photo, my mother in law had to lift up the jug as it was half empty, but she began using it when it was full. Here’s how:

A link to a video appeared in the comments that shows some weeny girl trying to put one of these 20 liter jugs on top of a holder/ dispenser and needed to lift the full and open jug up to shoulder height, flip it upside down, and put it in place — which can be a difficult maneuver for just about anyone to do.

Watch video of weenie girl and water jug

But, in the case of a traveler using these 5 gallon water jugs, this series of actions is inapplicable — as travelers do not tend to carry around these holders/ dispensers with them. You will never need to do what this girl does in the video.

Keep the jug on the ground.

To use a 5 gallon jug of water, keep it on the ground — these things are a little heavy when full. Just grab the open jug by the neck and tilt it over towards the receptacle you want to pour water in, pour, and then return it to its proper upright position. While the jug is still full and heavy, it should never fully leave the ground — just tilt and pour.

When these jugs become empty enough that you can no longer get any water from it by tilting, then  you need to lift it up — as my mother in law is doing in the above photo — but by this time it is, obviously, vastly lighter and easier to manipulate.

Or, if you do not wish to maneuver one of these water jugs manually, there are little plastic pumps that can be purchased cheaply (see photo at top of article) that are made to fit right on top. With one of these pumps, all you need to do is operate the handle and water pours out from the spigot. This is probably the most common domestic way of extracting water from 20 liter jugs — the chest high holders that are shown in the above video are generally only used in hotels and other businesses.

Jugs of bottled water conclusion

If one liter and 20 liters of water cost the same price, I am going to go for the larger quantity — hands down, this makes sense to me. I am truly baffled as I travel the world and see other travelers laying waste to hundreds upon hundreds of small bottles of water and, in the process, raising their cost of travel, literally, by hundreds of dollars. Though I suppose convenience — hey, who wants to carry a heavy 20 liter jug around the streets? — often usurps cost/ quantity ratios.

Even if a traveler just stays in a place for two or three days and only consumes half of a 20 liter jug of water, they are still saving themselves a good deal of money. Even if you don’t need 20 liters of water there is nothing that says you can’t just dump the excess when you are finished — $1 for ten liters of water is, relatively, still a good deal.

Bottled water truck in Oaxaca, Mexico

Bottled water truck in Oaxaca, Mexico

On a global scale, it is truly beyond me why bottled water has taken precedence over water filters. I suppose businesses found that they can make a lot of money by controlling a population’s access to drinking water than by providing the power for people to clean their water themselves.

I often recommend filtering tap water to make it drinkable as a travel strategy, as this is perhaps the absolute cheapest way to go, but paying $1 for a week’s supply of water is not going to break any traveler’s budget. Filtering a day’s supply of water for yourself usually takes around twenty minutes start to finish, and I would gladly pay 15 cents a day to not have to do this chore. Where I can, I choose to buy water by the twenty liter jug.

Obtaining water in this way has become the rule for so many people on the planet, and all travelers well knows that if they can hone in on the living strategies of the locals they can find ways to travel cheaper. This is perhaps the golden rule of travel: live like the locals to live cheaper. In this current era of human existence, the locals are buying 20 liter jugs of water.

Find more Vagabond Journey travel tips.

Filed under: Food, Travel Tips

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 88 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3411 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Rochester, New York

23 comments… add one

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  • Dave from The Longest Way Home January 15, 2011, 1:21 am

    Will have to disagree with you here Wade, at least in partial terms.

    If stationary for a month, in an apartment for so, then sure a gallon container is a lot better just for environmental reasons alone.

    If staying in a hotel/guesthouse for 2 weeks then be prepared for battle moving container of water into your room. Never mind that many of these containers require deposits and transportation to ones accommodation. That aside, the hostel owner is the biggest problem.

    Likewise with filtration systems. They do not remove heavy metals nor modern day chemicals. Yes, there are plenty of bottle water horror stories out there too. But, in a developing country I would not use one.
    See more here http://www.thelongestwayhome.com/blog/how-to-live-overseas/water-6-years-of-travel-thats-a-lot-of-bottles-maybe/

    I think the only approach to this is for countries to improve their recycle policies.

    Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com January 15, 2011, 10:02 am

      I have never had a problem moving these 20 liter jugs in and out of my hotels/ hostels. If the staff had a problem with it, they would lose or I would leave. These jugs are a little heavy, but, if she had to, my wife could carry one home.

      True about filtration systems, but then there are those people who say drinking water from plastic bottles will shrink your balls. Sometimes, I suppose, we just need to not think about potential hidden though negative health impacts that lay beneath our daily actions — something is always working to poison us, no matter what.

      “I think the only approach to this is for countries to improve their recycle policies.”

      Not sure if this is even a good way, as there are many negative side effect to recycling as well.

      Ultimately, in this case with no ideal solution, my major concern is price. If buying water in smaller bottles, I will spend around and extra $2 or $3 a day for my family to drink; if buying a 20 liter jug, this price is dropped to $1 for five days.

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      • Dave from The Longest Way Home January 16, 2011, 5:29 am

        You’re Wife is one strong lady!!

        I look forward to your article about the negative effects of recycling too, am sure you will have people frothing at the mouth!

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        • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com January 16, 2011, 11:18 am

          My wife’s grandfather is one of the founding fathers of sustainability science. What he says about recycling is interesting. He gets annoyed when I publish what he says haha. I have to do it as if someone else said it and then he comes back to me to tell me he is in agreement hehe.

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          • Bob L January 16, 2011, 1:12 pm

            I would love to hear some of these stories. Now that we live in a time of science by consensus (something Galileo would not approve of) hearing different views are always refreshing, whether you agree with, or even believe them. Chaya’s grandfather’s accomplishments and his knowledge of the worlds ills are great. Maybe you could add him as a guest poster from time to time.

            Bob L

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            • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com January 16, 2011, 1:17 pm

              I will ask him. He would be another great correspondent.

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        • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com January 16, 2011, 11:27 am

          Yeah, Chaya is pretty strong. I made her show me how she can carry one of those five gallon jugs, and she can do it. I think most people could, if they took a few breaks in between the store and where they are staying. Or they could probably just tip one of the grocery store boys to carry it for them.

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  • Andy Graham January 15, 2011, 2:23 am

    I think long-term traveler finally become aware of the dent in a budget caused by purchasing water. I lived on about five dollars per day for 4-5 years. My solution was often, just to drink the water and not worry, but then again, I have big huevos. I still drink the water sometimes when I am lazy, generally the only thing that stops me is the taste 88 countries and I am alive.

    Buying is a math problem, and generally only about 1 in 20 people can do the math in their head, the other 19 refuse to use a calculator because they would appear cheap or stupid.

    This budget thing is only go to work on 1 in 20 readers…hehehe Optimal buying strategies is the goal, Dave is sort of correct, and Wade is correct, obviously I am going to buy one bag of water if needed. Actually, I cannot remember the last time I purchased a liter bottle of water, normally I buy bags, or sachets or your five gallon types. (Get the hotel to purchase, you will save on deposit.)

    The hard rule of thumb for me is, if the poor locals are drinking from filtered or pure water, then so am I. If I was on a strict budget, and I was a wimp, I would always boil water.

    I have been truly annoyed at all the NGO’s for years that have created these dirt filter boxes to filter water, in Nepal they have them in bulk size. I asked,
    “Where do you test the water?”
    No answer, and no answer and no answer, as far as I am concerned, if you tell me to not drink the water, you better at the same time show the lab report.

    I got on a kick about 12 months ago, I called with Skype to a water testing lab in the USA. I was going to do a worldwide experiment. I was going to test both the bottled water, the tap, and get a general sample of water around the planet. I would send samples to the USA, and try to get other travelers to join in, this sounded good to me.

    The United Nations has this goal of pure water, I could hop on their well intended noise.

    The man said to me,
    “Andy, 80 percent of all harmful things die within the first 24-48 hours in a bottle, by the time the sample bottles arrived, most problems would be killed.”

    If you remember in Dominican Republic in Sosua, and many places on the planet, water is stored outside, truly a simple way to make pure enough to drink. Bottom line, taking a few bottles, fill them with water, putting it on a shelf for three days, then running it through your dirty socks is probably as safe as bottle water.

    Or you can buy a 60 dollar ultraviolet cleaner and pretend it worked.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com January 15, 2011, 10:24 am

      “Get the hotel to purchase, you will save on deposit.” This is good. I left this out — sometimes we have had the hotel arrange the water for us with never a problem (it is convention in this part of the world to drink bottled water from these five gallon jugs).

      You are also right about just drinking tap water. If I am in a country where the common people (not middle class and not the extreme poor) drink the water, then I do too. But when I see the water trucks making deliveries everywhere and these five gallon jugs in everyone’s home, that the people pay money for, I follow suite. Basically, the intelligence of people, cultures, and groups should not be overestimated — cultures do stupid things everywhere — but when it comes to a basic need, such as water, I trust that they have found the best of a few not very good solutions.

      Right on about just putting tap water into bottles and leaving them in the sun for a few days. Wrote about this in El Salvador at Solar water disinfection. It works to kill bacteria and parasites, though many feel that the plastic leaches into the water and has some kind of negative health impact.

      But it is my impression that humans are naturally very resistant to water toxins. I grew up out in farm country and drank well water for most of my upbringing. My family never questioned it until some upstart new neighbor went around testing it. He was trying to petition the town to run a municipal water line out to us. He took a sample of our water and brought us back a detailed list of all the pollutants, toxins, and chemicals that were in it. We found that our water was unfit to drink on dozens of different fronts — from fecal contamination to pesticide residues to bacteria — but it never bothered us before. But, upon finding this, my mother made the family switch to bottled water and our house soon became littered with hundreds of empty three gallon jugs. Eventually, the town did run a water line out to us.

      If my mother had know about the solar disinfection method we probably would have just done this. It is easy and cheap — though I don’t doubt that reusing a plastic bottle and baking it in the sun does lead to it being chemically broken down, which can pollute the water with toxins.

      I grew up drinking heavy amounts of toxins and bacteria in my water, and I believe that this was once normal on this planet before this bottle water craze. I cannot say if this had a detrimental effect on me or if it made me strong. But I do know that I rarely ever get ill when traveling haha.

      It seems as if this pure water craze is more fodder for businesses to step in and take over the distribution of a basic human need all over the world. It is a move to make money.

      Link Reply
  • JonSkarvinski January 16, 2011, 2:37 am

    Hey Wade,
    This had nothing at all to do with this specific post. However, it had occurred to me that I have not once read anything regarding what happens when you become injured/sick to the point that you can not treat yourself…yourself. What if you drink some poorly filtered water and become infected with something more than Montezuma’s revenge? Or what if you miss a step and break your femur? I have never read anywhere that you factor travel insurance into your costs. You find yourself in a very precarious financial position when your luck runs out and you are not insured. I am not an insurance salesman, lol. I am quite simply, concerned for your safety! Has this been lurking in the back of your mind for a while, or do you have a system in place perhaps involving other family members in case such an event transpires. Just wondering…

    Link Reply
    • Dave from The Longest Way Home January 16, 2011, 5:39 am

      There are plenty of water borne issues that can lay you on your back. I know as I’ve had most of them.

      The problem starts with people who can’t stand a bad stomach for more than 2-3 days without whimpering to a doctor. Sorry, to be crude but long-term travelers need to grow immune to 360 degree toilet decorating.

      Constant plane hopping to new destinations can result in this, as it wears your body down and you are being subjected to new strains of all the bad things that make the toilet your worst friend.

      That said, I will disagree again with Wade, and possibly Andy about travel insurance. At least in Asia and West Africa. Come down with something seriously heavy, lets say a stroke. And without a travel partner right next to you, and you could well find yourself going broke in a night.

      Malaria is not serious in these places if you are a smart traveler. But if you get smacked with an appendix problem, or hemorrhage and are without insurance, you will have to cough up a lot of cold hard cash v quickly to get treated properly, and quickly.

      Either way getting seriously sick and being alone in any country is bad news. A partner is your best help there. Otherwise you can be in world of trouble is you are staying in the wrong part of town where nobody knows you name.

      If Wade really is carrying around $5,000 in his back pocket he’s doing well!

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      • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com January 16, 2011, 11:24 am

        360 degree toilet decorating. Funny that we all know what you mean haha.

        The problem with travel insurance is that you need to pay up front and be reimbursed later. If you don’t have the cash in hand to pay, then the insurance means little. If I need to make up a few grand quickly again I can usually do this with little difficulty.

        Though I agree strongly with you, Dave: getting sick and being alone is one of the worst fates imaginable. I would not want to imagine being real ill and needing to get up and go to the store myself for menial, though necessary, items — like water, food, medicine. The best travel insurance policy is a good travel companion.

        Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com January 16, 2011, 10:38 am

      In 11 and a half years of travel, I have perhaps spent between 200 and 300 dollars on medical care. Compare this against the cost of paying for insurance for 138 months and it does not add up. This is not to say that I have not had problems: I have visited doctors, spent days in hospitals, bought this or that medicine, my wife had her prenatal check ups abroad. This is to say that medical care is dirt cheap in most of the world. The USA is odd in that people NEED insurance to visit a doctor there as it is too expensive not to, but most of the countries in the world do not work on this system: either medical care is socialized or it is cheap enough for the local people to pay for.

      If I break my leg I expect to pay maybe $50 to $100 at most. I have found that the amount that I have paid for medical care in the past does not even equal the deductible on most travel insurance plans — and this includes a two night hospitalization. So, for now, travel insurance is not in the cards — especially since you need to pay for care in advance and then get reimbursed later.

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      • craig | travelvice.com January 16, 2011, 12:26 pm

        Shattered my heel in a small village in Romania in 2008 and paid about US$20 in the closest large city (Sibiu) for the x-ray, cast and labor — all without insurance. I’m sure the cost of the gas in the car we took there and back cost as much as the care.

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        • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com January 16, 2011, 12:51 pm

          It is insane how little health care costs in countries outside of the insurance infrastructure.

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  • Andy Graham January 16, 2011, 5:09 am

    If I understand right, and I know I do… hehehe
    President Obama said,
    “We now have universal Health Insurance.”

    Wade says he keeps 5000 dollars backup, this will pay for about any problem except long-term cancer. Generally, the ability to replace the 5000 on a regular basis is needed.

    I just purchased 30 half liter sachets here in Kpalime, Togo for 50 cents USD. Funny, that is French for bag, and in Ghana, they also call them Sachets.

    Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com January 16, 2011, 11:16 am

      If I need to clear out that money the I suppose I would need to find a job that pays more than VagabondJourney.com to replenish it. Not terribly difficult to do. Maybe I will go and take a three month Iraq contract fixing ice machines or something haha.

      Link Reply
  • Phil January 17, 2011, 6:57 pm

    I think the reason most people go for a 1 or 2 liter bottle is simply convenience. Even in my hometown where the water is perfectly safe, tens of thousands of locals consume bottled water (and miss out on the fluoride protecting their teeth).

    A thoughtful, practical, aware traveller could easily adopt your method, but unfortunately that’s not all travellers these days. In the hostel scene, backpackers don’t blink an eye at the cost of a night drinking endless bottles of Corona, Lao Lao or Heineken, what’s a dollar or two for a bottle of water?

    For the budget conscious or environmentally aware, the 20 liter jug is a great idea, although many people do struggle with the challenge of putting a new jug on a dispenser or even filling a drinking bottle.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6Wpe0-R5YM&feature=related

    Declaration – I write about travel safety issues at WorldNomads.com (a travel insurer – more on that later) and have looked at water security in many destinations.

    You will never find totally pure water. All water contains microbes and bacteria. The mix of microbes and bacteria changes from place to place. Which is where traveller’s diarrhoea comes from – it’s just your system coming to terms with the new mix of nasties. As long as the water fits under certain thresholds (which is what municipal water treatment is about) it will never cause serious illness. The bacteria are relatively benign and any upset will be mild. It rarely lasts more than a week,

    So what many people suspect is “unclean” water is probably just a new mix of mild bacteria. The resulting “360 degree decoration” is inconvenient, but not serious. If it lasts more than 2 weeks – see a doctor because it’s either something else or you are at risk of dehydrating.

    Just a couple of notes on purifying water:

    Freezing the water does nothing.

    Boiling water kills bacteria, but as the bacteria cells die they release a toxin which can be as bad/worse than the bacteria. Water must be boiled and filtered to be “pure”.

    Filtering systems are many and varied, the UV ‘pen’ the carbon filter hand pump etc.
    For a simpler method, Dr Thomas Dietz from Emergency and Wilderness Medicine recommends putting 4 drops of Betadine to a litre of water, and leaving it for 30 minutes. It doesn’t do anything for the taste, but it’s purified.

    However, none of this removes pesticides from the water. And bottled water won’t help either. In India, 65% of locally-produced bottled water is simply pumped straight from the local source without any treatment. In 2003 the New Delhi Centre for Science and Environment tested 30 Indian brands and found ALL had unacceptable levels of pesticides. That’s probably true of the 20 liter jugs too although the research doesn’t specify.

    There is a filter that will remove pesticide residue, but it’s about the size of a swimming pool filter assembly – not really for travelling.

    As for travel insurance, Wade I note your perspective, and respect that decision, but I don’t think that’s right for everyone.

    Many people have a limited time on the road and want to make the best of it, they don’t want a week or two lying low while they recover, they’d prefer to get some attention which puts them right as soon as possible – and get on with the trip.

    Unless you’re a doctor, can you be sure you have ‘just’ traveller’s diarrhoea? Do you know how to diagnose Giardiasis, or Hepatitis A… all of which have similar symptoms?

    Here are some true travel claims from Worldnomads.com customers:
    Gastro? No, it was a ruptured cyst!
    http://www.worldnomads.com/claimstories.aspx?keyword=not+just+any+stomach+ache&type=general

    Tummy upset? No, it was intestinal worms!
    http://www.worldnomads.com/claimstories.aspx?keyword=worms&type=general

    3 weeks of pain.
    http://www.worldnomads.com/claimstories.aspx?keyword=gastro&type=general

    Lost 15 kilograms!
    http://www.worldnomads.com/claimstories.aspx?keyword=diarrhoea&type=general

    Having travel insurance gives you access to an assistance line, where you can be put in touch with the nearest doctor or directed to a clinic. They can also tell you which hospital/clinic in your vicinity is recommended.

    It’s true you have to pay up front and be reimbursed, but if you’re on a really tight budget wouldn’t you prefer to get that money back? Some travel insurance companies (such as ours) will let you claim online when you’re travelling, so you don’t have to wait till you get home from your trip to be paid back.

    It is also possible to get a travel insurance policy that will cover you for trip interruption – if you get sick from the water and can’t go on the tour you’ve pre-booked you can be reimbursed. Not every insurance policy offers this, so choose carefully.

    WorldNomads.com travel insurance offers plenty of benefits. A couple of days with TD is an inconvenience, but in most developing countries the greatest threat to your health is a traffic accident. Medical evacuation to your home country can cost $150,000 and up. Medical costs vary greatly by country, so whilst you might get treatment in a local hospital for USD$30, that same treatment may be $300 or $3000 in another country. We have dealt with million dollar hospital bills.

    In the worst case, even repatriation of your remains can cost $30,000. Not a bill you want to leave with your family.

    As I said, I write about travel safety issues, where’s safe, where’s trouble, and that information is freely available to WorldNomads. As pointed out by Wade, the best travel insurance policy is a good travel companion. One that supports you throughout your journey.

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    • Dave from The Longest Way Home January 18, 2011, 2:19 am

      I think Phil’s points are very valid.

      “In the worst case, even repatriation of your remains can cost $30,000. Not a bill you want to leave with your family.”

      Not really a great legacy to leave behind. Many people think an embassy will help them out here. I can tell you know they won’t.

      Great info from Phil also on the hazards of water and some real stories of people getting sick when traveling.

      I think that those on short term travel trips or RTW need travel insurance. They are generally partying like crazy, climbing, diving and taking more chances than longer term travelers or perpetual travelers.

      That said, a partner can help you out if they are from the same place you are from.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com January 18, 2011, 2:03 pm

      Hello Phil,

      Thanks for the information on water quality abroad.

      As for your concerns about the average person’s ability to use a five gallon jug of water, I updated this entry and added a photo of my 56 year old mother in law easily using such a jug along with a description of how someone should go about doing so.

      As for insurance, I cannot deny your claims, and understand your point: for some people, in some circumstances, travel insurance has worked out well. But for the stories you included to have any real meaning we need to know the cold hard percentages of how many people pay for World Nomad health insurance and how many actually are able to use it.

      As a rule, odds are always in the favor of the insurance company, but this is another story.

      As far as using health insurance abroad, it seems like a mute point to me. On one hand, having a claim that will go over the standard deductible is rare ($100 deductible, right?) if the traveler uses local medical facilities — NOT VIP CLINICS. And for medical expense in most countries to go beyond a few grand you would need to receive a lot of care. It is my impression that people get travel health insurance to deal with big problems, but as they need to pay for it in advance I cannot see how having travel insurance really helps. Sure, it would be great to receive the money back that you pay for medical expenses abroad, but what is the probability of these refunds being more than the premiums combined with the deductibles? In point, in most countries, medical care is free or very low costs. For nothing but long duration illness or extreme catastrophe a couple hundred bucks will more than cover just about anything.

      Also, when the typical traveler becomes seriously ill the first thing they do is take a flight home — thus ending their ability to use their travel insurance. Given this, a cheap evacuation insurance policy may be a good idea.

      As far as people taking out medical insurance for a vacation, good on them. I have nothing to say here. When weighted up against a multi-thousand dollar short duration trip, the cost of travel insurance is nominal — and World Nomad prices are very good. But this website is about long term, perpetual, extremely low budget lifestyle travel, and is not really focused on short duration tourism. So much of the content here becomes irrelevant when taken out of this context.

      Why should a tourist on vacation bother themselves with carting around 20 liter jugs of water? Why should a tourist sit around all day being scared out of their wits in a local hospital for an easily fixable stomach bug? They shouldn’t. They should buy easy to carry small bottles of water and cough up the $100 bucks for insurance as, in the end, these costs are nominal when weighted against their expenses.

      But for me, I travel year round with a family of three on a $10,000 budget. If I had paid for a World Nomad’s insurance policy for the full duration of my travels, I would be around $7,000 in the hole, as even though I have been in hospitals more times that I care to count I have only had one incident where I would have been able to make an insurance claim, and this would only have been for three dollars haha. Given this, I figure that I have a $7,000 buffer that I would need to fill before travel health insurance would become a value.

      For $7,000 I imagine that I could get my teeth replaced, a toe amputated, a few broken limbs mended, and perhaps a boob job or two.

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  • the candy trail ... | Michael Robert Powell January 23, 2011, 10:45 pm

    Yeah, I use bottled water for taste and to avoid metals, crap, etc. The 19 liter refills here in China cost 6 RMB >$US 1; while a 1.5 liter bottle costs 3 – 4 RMB. Locals don’t drink the tap water, either. (But nothing bets New Zealand tap water; safe and delicious).

    Heavy, yes. I buy it from a shop 400 meters away and lug it up 6 flights of stairs, every week or so; I like to think that’s it’s exercise I need (but usually beer follows the task …).

    But when traveling fully, not hanging out somewhere, then I use the 1.5 – 3 liter choices for ease of use/transportation (but must have spend a fortune over the years).

    Insurance. Depends on the individual. I don’t use it and have been pretty lucky, rarely sick except: Malaria – East Timor, 2000; Dysentery – Pakistan, 1990; Altitude sickness – Tibet, 1994.

    But I suppose one day, I will need to afford a coffin …

    the candy trail … across the planet, since 1988

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    • trevor September 7, 2012, 1:32 pm

      Wade , u created an up rising here!!!!!!.

      can i say something too ???

      Water… i drink a lot… i use iodine droplets, and boiled water…. and bottles… thanks for the tip that a 20L bottle is so cheap!!!!!!

      i work in Switzerland…. they have the cleanest water in Europe… i drink it out of the streams up in the mountains, even when there are cows around.. YET the Swiss drink bottled water at 3-9SFr per litre, cos they like bubbled water…. stupid people!!!!

      here is my view on travel insurance….. UK insurers and probably most others say in the small print that, one is NOT insured if u go to countries that are on the foreign and commonwwealth office ‘unsafe’ list….. they will always make an excuse not to pay up… ‘unsafe’ countries are more fun than others…. Pakistan, east timor are def not listed as safe …BUT probably safer than u can imagine, or indeed safer than walking the streets of London after sun down…….
      i was bitten by a dog in India…. i was treated a lot faster than A&E (ER) in the UK…had 6 injections and paid 40$…. a lot less than the ammount u have to pay first on any claim……

      @Dave…. if one are in need of a coffin…. thats not really gonna be ur problem is it… cos if u r dead , u r dead…. they cant send u the bill.. and really if one is dead who gives a shit if u r cremated of coffinized or left in a ditch……

      Trevor

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      • trevor September 7, 2012, 2:01 pm

        ooops .. meant to say The candy trail… not Dave

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