It’s all too easy to take clean faucet water for granted. We make our morning coffee with it and fill up our ice cube trays to keep our summer drinks cool, but as safe as the drinking water in our home country might be, you shouldn’t make this assumption while traveling. Tap water is even of a different quality in each US state, so you should probably prepare for the fact that the quality of drinking water can differ quite vastly around the world.
Sipping on less than sanitary water on your travels can put more than a kink in your holiday plans. Unsafe faucet water could mean contracting stomach bugs or worse. And it's important to remember that drinking water directly from the tap in certain countries won’t be the only culprit behind an upset stomach – ordering salads that have been washed in the stuff and ice in your holiday cocktail can be risky in areas where water could be contaminated.
To be on the safe side when you travel, it’s always worth buying bottles of water to stay hydrated wherever you go. The good news is, there are plenty of countries that boast excellent quality drinking water that’s almost as good (if not better) than the bottled kind. To stay safe and avoid falling ill on your well-earned holiday, take a look through this brief guide to the best and worst of drinking water around the world.
Scandinavia as a whole is home to some of the clearest and best air quality on the planet, so it only makes sense that their water supply would be equally pristine – especially in the northernmost haven that is Norway.
Norwegian tap water has a reputation for being some of the safest (and tastiest) of its kind. Norway is so dedicated to maintaining crystal clear drinking water in fact that its most popular bottled export ‘Voss’ water is sold unfiltered and untreated – just put through nature’s own sieve. #NoFilterNorway
Pakistan, unfortunately, suffers a huge gap between the richest and poorest halves of the population and as a result, basic resources and hygiene are fairly scarce throughout the country. Close to 35% of the population do not have access to safe drinking water.
Worse still, even some bottled varieties of water in the country have been rated unsafe for human consumption, with traces of arsenic being discovered in certain brands. Travelers are encouraged to boil tap water that could be treated insufficiently or using purification tablets. But mostly, tap water in Pakistan isn't worth the risk.
Latvia is famed for its gorgeous scenic beaches and its reputation for safe drinking water is almost as good among travelers. The beautiful and bustling capital Riga holds its water supply to an incredibly high standard – regularly monitoring and testing the water quality from source to tap.
Water levels in the country are managed to the Nth degree to ensure enough residents have access to clean, purified drinking water. Good job when you have about a gazillion white sandy beaches to explore here!
Although major cities throughout Turkey have many water filtration plants in place, the drinking water is largely reported to be a hit and miss affair in safety terms. While tap water in areas like Istanbul and other city areas is not considered as toxic as other countries mentioned here, it is best approached with caution (that goes for ice in drinks too).
The issue with poor drinking water in Turkey is mainly down to the poor quality of water pipes in certain locations. Antiquated piping can risk to lead contamination and other pathogens invisible to the naked eye. Stick to bottled water to be on the safe side.
There are many reasons why Denmark has been dubbed one of the “happiest countries in the world”, and one of them could be linked to the fact that their drinking water is the bee's knees. The water surrounding Copenhagen’s iconic Little Mermaid statue may not be for consuming, but as for Danish potable water – it is thought to be so clean that it surpasses bottled water (in taste and quality).
Most of the restaurants and cafes you visit while in Denmark – especially in the capital – will proudly serve tap water above bottled any day of the week. Even their tap water is sounding ‘hygge’ to us!
The advice for travelers to Hungary is that safe tap water is restricted mainly to the major cities. While drinking water in Budapest is generally of good quality, it’s thought that the natural water supply in Hungary’s surrounding villages and islands is not such a safe bet.
According to national public health studies in Hungary, around 30% of the country’s public potable water has failed to meet EU requirements and testing has found rural water supplies to contain arsenic and other harmful contaminants.
As with Hungary’s water supply, quality is best within major city areas in Serbia, but travelers are advised to opt for sealed, bottled water to be on the safe side. Often, drinking water that may have been labeled ‘unsafe’ for consumption also refers to the fact that foreign visitors will not be immune to the local water supply, causing upset stomachs at best.
Stray to the Serbian countryside, however, and you may not want to risk drinking the local supply. Rural areas tend to have higher levels of pollutants in the water, so look out for your health and buy bottled.
From the bustling city spots to the mountain resorts, Sweden is a country that boasts unfalteringly clean water. In most cases, every form of water other than bottled is far superior in taste and quality to its store-bought rival.
The top quality Swedish tap water in most households comes with little to no bacteria – even in the capital. Travelers through rural and more mountainous areas of Sweden may notice a slight salty taste to the tap water, but this is a sign the supply is rich with minerals and therefore amazing for you!
Potable water in the Egyptian capital may taste strange and even slightly off-putting to travelers as it is heavily chlorinated before it reaches your glass. Despite the odd taste though, Cairo’s water supply is relatively safe to drink. But elsewhere in the country, water straight from the tap is best avoided.
Thankfully, even the smallest towns in the country sell various bottled varieties at an affordable price, so if you’re headed outside the city, stock up on bottled for the best chance of avoiding illness.
Sadly, an overwhelming 84% of Cambodians do not have access to safe, clean drinking water and 5% of the population rely on delivered bottled water supplies.
Despite a healthy bout of rainfall during their monsoon season and the Mekong River flowing through the country, a lack of technology and water treatment resources in Cambodia has led to a water crisis. Travelers to this part of the world are advised to use water purification tablets and to only consume bottled water with a serrated seal.
If it weren’t already apparent from how gorgeous New Zealand’s mountain lakes and rivers appear when you’re scrolling through Pinterest, we can verify for you now that their drinking water is every bit as beautiful as the place itself.
Similarly to Switzerland and Canada, New Zealand’s population is pretty sparse – there are famously more sheep than people! - and the people are safe to sip on an abundance of pure glacier water on their travels and beautifully pure tap water at home.
Montenegro boasts majestic mountain scenery and beaches, but just be wary of what you order at a beach front bar, because the ice or washed lemon slice in your cocktail could spell an upset stomach for the rest of your travels.
Despite a wealth of natural surface water from the country’s various lakes and rivers, Montenegro’s tap water quality is let down by a lack of proper wastewater treatment facilities, making it harder to filter the already polluted rivers and other sources.
One of the most picturesque and stunning locations in the world is also home (surprise surprise) to plenty of glorious quality drinking water. The Austrian governments own Austrian Water Act was set up purposefully to protect their water resources and continually test and re-test their water regularly to make sure it’s the best it can be.
In between perusing the finest coffee houses in Vienna, a humble glass of home tap water will provide as delicious a drink as any in this pretty part of the world.
Belarus carries a fairly strong health warning against drinking tap water, with official tourism sites suggesting that it must be boiled beforehand or consumed in bottles. The effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster had a devastating impact on Belarus, and for the health and well-being of citizens and tourists today, local water and produce from the affected areas are strictly avoided.
The risk of radiation poisoning may be low in the affected areas today, but drinking water is certainly not worth the risk.
Ukraine is one of the world’s worst offenders when it comes to drinking water and ranks as the worst country in Europe for water quality. Not only is it not dangerous to drink from their tap water supply, it is also strongly advised that tourists don’t brush their teeth or bathe with it either.
Fortunately, bottled water is fairly cheap if you buy in bulk. Just be sure to purchase sealed bottles of spring or carbonated water as a broken seal could suggest the bottle has been refilled with undrinkable tap water.
According to an analysis of Bulgaria’s water resources by the Ministry of Environment and Water, it was found that an alarming 18 out of 28 districts in the country were home to substandard levels of drinking water.
The worst-hit rural areas of the country reported discovering all manner of contaminants in the water supply from chromium and lead to traces of arsenic. As a precaution, travelers should stick to the capital city of Sofia for Bulgaria’s safest tap water, where it is collected from the nearby alpine terrains at Rila Mountain.
Where countries in Southeast Asia are concerned, clean running water isn't necessarily the first thing that springs to mind. Many places suffer from horrible levels of pollution – particularly in the big cities – and polluted air often pairs with polluted water. Fortunately, Singapore doesn’t fall into this category.
This small Asian nation is roughly the size of Los Angeles but is home to more than 5 million residents, so maintaining clean and sustainable drinking water is vital. Singapore is also thought to be one of the greenest countries on earth.
The ‘potable’ tap water in Venezuela is heavily polluted, coming out of the tap a visible cloudy, murky brown color. And unfortunately, even the country’s bottled drinking water doesn’t fare any better. As of 2017, Venezuela has suffered a shortage of bottled water and travelers are advised to come prepared before sipping it.
To stay hydrated but avoid illness, water purification tablets and iodine are recommended before drinking the local water supply, as well as boiling the water and taking care to use filtered bottles before consuming.
A combination of insufficient water treatment facilities and outdated water pipes has left large parts of Mexico with fairly poor quality drinking water. Most of the tap water that is available in households is not always properly purified and the antiquated piping has introduced bacteria and other impurities into the supply.
Because of this, around three-quarters of the population consume packaged water. In fact, Mexico is one of the top countries to consume bottled water per capita on the planet.
It’s common for tourists to develop traveler's diarrhea when testing out foreign water supplies, but in the case of Jamaica, not all drinking water has been sufficiently disinfected and an upset stomach is likely to continue past the usual period of settling into the local food and drink.
Most of Jamaica has perfectly safe and clean tap water, but you should take extra care when traveling to far rural areas where street food and local drinks are more likely to have been prepared in untreated and unfiltered water.
The Icelandic tourist board has not only described their natural water supply as “pure and delicious”, they are so confident of the quality (and quite rightly so) that people are actively encouraged to drink from lakes, streams, and rivers. Anything other than mud or seawater is basically ripe for the sipping!
Iceland’s drinking water has always been naturally purified and filtered through lava before it gets to the faucet, so you won’t detect the faintest hint of the usual chloride taste associated with most other household water supplies.
When traveling to Cuba, clean and safe tap water is hard to come across. Hotel tap water is generally considered safe for consumption, but on the whole, Cuba can’t always be relied upon for sanitary drinking water.
The majority of households in the country will customarily boil the tap water before drinking, if not, use water purification tablets first. If you’re thinking of heading to Cuba on your travels, just make sure you’re prepared with water filtration kits first and don’t forget to avoid ordering ice in your drink!
Paraguay is a country rich in natural resources, including the world’s largest drinking reservoir – The Guarani Aquifer – beneath its soil. Unfortunately, improper proper water treatment facilities have made this vast reservoir virtually undrinkable, and as a result, Paraguay has one of the highest mortality rates in the world concerning exposure to unclean water.
Drinking even filtered tap water here may lead to illnesses such as dysentery, typhoid, and tuberculosis, so extra care should be taken when eating out and about. Sealed bottled water and canned drinks are best for keeping hydrated and healthy.
When traveling to Chile, you should probably be aware that the tap water quality can range from place to place. Whilst the water supply is largely hygienic throughout the country, the mountainous town of San Pedro de Atacama is a definite exception.
In this part of Chile, the water supply is somewhat dangerously high in mineral content, so much so that you could risk developing kidney stones or a nasty kidney infection from consuming enough. Stay safe by drinking a balance of bottled water in riskier areas and sticking to safe and clean resources in city areas.
It probably shouldn’t come as much surprise that the home of the Swiss Alps is also home to some of the best natural mineral water on the planet. As a nation, Switzerland is incredibly clean living – you’d be hard-pressed to find trash lying around here, even in the big cities – so it’s little wonder the Swiss government takes extra care when it comes to their crystal clear water supply.
Their mineral-rich water is so pure in fact that many locals have extolled the joys of drinking directly from the mountain stream while trekking!
Although government efforts have been introduced to improve the water quality in Bhutan, large parts of the country still suffer from water shortages and what is available is thought to be largely contaminated. In fact, a 2017 study found that only 44.3% of the Bhutanese water supply is safe for human consumption.
Bhutan is abundant with fresh, flowing water, but insufficient testing facilities have meant that identifying pathogens and other unwanted impurities in the water has been a slow and steady process.
Stocking up on bottled water on your travels may be a slight inconvenience, but its a health necessity if you’re headed to Peru. Travelers are advised against using the tap water supply to brush their teeth, let alone stay hydrated with.
Drinking Peruvian tap water could leave you out of action for most of your vacation, as the local water supply contains a lucky dip of contaminants. Parasites, amoebae and other nasties can lurk undetected in the tap water and can cause everything from stomach bugs to more serious infections.
In China, the water supply is almost as polluted as the thick layer of smog hanging over some of its major cities. The country’s water itself may not necessarily be polluted, but the antiquated plumbing throughout much of China has led to tap water becoming contaminated.
In Beijing, in fact, a quality water report found that almost 40% of the water supply was too polluted for purpose and in China’s port city of Tianjin, only 4.9% of water is fit for human consumption.
Canada’s fairly low population coupled with an amazing and rigorous filtration system means that a glass of tap water here is as pure tasting as you can get. Due to the low demand for tap water, our friend in the north can afford to provide unlimited access to crystal clear drinking water.
Canada’s own Moraine Lake is thought to boast some of the clearest water on the planet, but even this pure natural wonder has some competition from the country’s natural water supply!
India is one of the richest countries in the world, but their ever-growing population has put a considerable strain on their natural resources – leading to clean drinking water being a rarity for millions. A poor water infrastructure has resulted in contamination by sewage and other impurities which can result in contracting a number of nasty diseases and illnesses.
To avoid dysentery and possible parasitic infections, it’s best to stick to bottled mineral water or stay hydrated with fresh coconut drinks and boiled teas.