In many developing world countries, the tap water is unsafe for drinking. If you are traveling to a developing world area, you can either buy bottled water or you can treat the tap water yourself. Treating water is a lot easier than many people think. There are multiple options to choose from and depending on your destination, a combination of methods may be best.
Most tap water in first world countries is treated with chlorine. You can also use chlorine to treat your water when you are traveling. Chlorine tablets can be purchased at most camping and recreation stores or you can buy them online from retailers like Amazon.com. The tablets will come with a set of instructions indicating the amount of water that each tablet can treat. Chlorine typically takes several hours to treat a few liters of water, so keep in mind that you won't be able to drink the water right away. Another chemical treatment option is iodine. While iodine is a more rapid treatment option, many people often complain of a funny aftertaste. Like chlorine tablets, iodine drops can be purchased at camping and recreation stores or from online retailers.
UV Light Treatment
There are a variety of products out there that use UV light to treat water. UV light destroys the DNA of viruses and bacteria that could make you sick. A minute or two of UV light will render a liter of water drinkable. The benefits are clear: it is quick and there is no foul aftertaste. UV light treatment options are a bit more expensive, however, and you will likely spend at least $40 for one of these devices. SteriPEN makes a great UV light treatment wand that costs around $50. It uses rechargeable batteries.
Boiling is the tried and true method of water treatment. It is very effective, but you need to make sure you do it the right way. First of all, make sure that you remove or filter out any larger particles or contaminants in the water. If there is sediment or any kind of heavy metals in the water, the boiling will do nothing to remove them. Secondly, you need to make sure that you boil the water for an adequate amount of time. At sea level, you should boil the water for at least 3 minutes. If you are at 5,000 feet above sea level or higher, boil the water for five minutes. If you are above 5,000 feet, add an extra minute of boiling time for every 1,000 feet in elevation.
Depending on where you are traveling, you may be able to cheaply purchase bottled water. But the cost will add up over time and there also environmental consequences as well - most developing world countries do not have recycling programs. Consider one of the options above or a combination of them to treat and purify your water when you're on the road.