A Traveler’s Guide to Safe Tap Water

Posted in: Where to Live

drink safe tap waterJust where in the world is there safe tap water?

Who can you trust? Locals or expats?

Safe water can be a pretty big issue. Not only can it ruin a perfectly good trip with diarrhea, but bad water can also carry hepatitis A, typhoid and cholera. This is nothing to play around with.

When it comes to amoebas and parasites, it pays to be a bad host.

In this post, we share research from the US Center for Disease Control about where to find safe tap water – and how to make bad water safe to drink.

To get started, here are some tools and tricks you can use to make bad tap water safe:

3 Tools to Make Tap Water Safe

  1. Sterilize the water: A common tool for water sterilization is the SteriPEN UV light. A few weeks ago, we published lab results of before / after water sterilization with the SteriPEN with water samples from Cuenca Ecuador. Read the full post with video results.
  2. Boil the water: Another popular way to make tap water safe is boiling. It is simple, fast, and safe. How long to boil water?
  3. Filter the water: At home, we prefer to filter our water. Read why here. Here is the counter top ceramic filter we use.

The following statistics are based on data from the US Center for Disease Control. See text version of the infographic below the image.

[Infographic] A Traveler’s Guide to Safe Tap Water

Here is a breakdown of where to find safe tap water around the world:

safe tap water

Infographic courtesy of the fine folks at Neomam.

Where is the Tap Water Safe?

Here is a detailed breakdown of where to find safe tap water around the world.

  • Continent of Africa: None
  • Continent of Asia: Brunei, Hong Kong, Isreal, Japan ,Singapore, South Korea
  • Continent of Europe: Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Vatican City.
  • Continent of North America: Canada, Greenland, United States of America
  • Continent of South America: None
  • Continent of Oceania: Australia, New Zealand

It isn’t just what you drink. Bad water can make you sick while swimming, brushing your teeth, ice cubes and while in the shower.

Your Turn

How do you keep healthy while traveling? Please share your tips and comments below…

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Meet the Author

Bryan Haines

Bryan Haines is editor of GringosAbroad - one of the largest English language sites about Ecuador. Work with GringosAbroad. He is a travel blogger, photographer and content marketer. He is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Media (content marketing for travel brands).

6 comments… add one
  • JS May 5, 2015, 1:02 am

    Your chart of South America is flat out wrong. The water in Argentina, Uruguay and Chile is absolutely fine to drink. I have a very delicate stomach, and I’ve spent a lot of time in all three places and drank the water right out of the tap in Buenos Aires, Mendoza, Montevideo, Santiago and Valparaiso — as well as much smaller towns in Patagonia. There may be rural locations in those countries that don’t treat their water, but it is 100% safe to drink the tap water in the major cities in those three countries, and visitors to Argentina especially have nothing to worry about unless they go way, way off the beaten path. (The same can be said for visitors to the Northern Territory in Australia, or even parts of Nevada, Louisiana or Alabama, USA).
    You are correct that you cannot safely drink the tap water in any other country in South America. But the southern cone has the water treatment problem pretty much under control.
    Source: I’m an American who has lived and traveled in over 30 countries (many of which don’t have drinkable tap water — some of which do, but Americans are irrationally afraid of it).

    • Bryan Haines May 5, 2015, 10:09 am

      I agree that there are areas in these countries with good water. But the chart is rating countries as a whole. If we were to break down each of these countries by region, the map would look quite different.

  • Tao Mar 25, 2015, 9:28 am

    Hi, Bryan, I can’t find the IDWC survey, I want to know any other towns have good tap water other than Cuenca, which has lower elevation. Thanks.

  • LORRAINE Nov 3, 2014, 12:02 pm

    I THINK THAT SOUTH AFRICA WATER IS ONE OF THE BEST IN THE WORLD .. PLEASE CONMMEND ..

    • Bryan Haines Nov 3, 2014, 3:36 pm

      Hi Lorraine – I’m not sure what you’re asking me to do.

      The infographic was prepared with data from the US Center for Disease Control. I’m sure that there are areas in each of the countries that have good water but this chart covers countries as a whole. So if there are areas with bad water, the country can’t be listed as having safe drinking water.

  • Max Sep 28, 2014, 10:42 am

    Here’s my plan in Ecuador and i do this in most countries. I buy a couple of large bottles of water for my bathroom for brushing my teeth. In the shower i make sure not to get water in my mouth. I don’t use ice cubes in drinks and i drink softdrinks from the bottle. I also take a bottle of water with me on hikes along with my ‘LifeStraw’ in case i run out of water and i need to drink from a stream.
    BTW, i wouldn’t recommend drinking the hotel water in most European countries either. Best to stick with the plan above.

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