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10 Countries Where You Shouldn’t Drink Tap Water

It’s not safe for tourists.

Traveler’s diarrhea is real. When you’re traveling internationally, you have to remember that the country’s tap water may be unfit to drink, or even brush your teeth. Even if it’s safe for locals, the water may give you troubles because your body may be unused to certain pathogens, so do not drink tap water before confirming if it’s okay for you.

Unfortunately, safe tap water is a luxury that not many in the world have. According to the UN, two billion people in the world live without safely managed drinking water services, with 1.2 billion lacking a basic service. A majority of these live in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

Although the U.S. is not listed among the countries with unsafe tap water, the resourceful nation faces challenges with equal distribution and quality standards. The problem is much more severe around the world and water-borne diseases cause thousands of deaths annually.

There are dozens of countries where you can’t drink tap water. With this list, we’re just scratching the surface. It’s always a good idea to check the CDC’s advisory on drinking water for each country before you plan your visit.

INSIDER TIPInstead of depending on bottled water provided by hotels, you can consider buying a water filtration bottle and reducing your plastic waste.

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Around 10.5 million travelers from the US headed to Mexico in 2019. During the pandemic, the country stayed an attractive destination for American tourists with its ease of entry requirements and the industry has seen a recovery since. In 2022, more than 22 million travelers stayed overnight in Mexico, and in November, 6.1 million visitors went to the country, a 22% increase over 2021.

Needless to say, it’s an easy-to-access and popular destination for Americans. However, if you are flying to the neighboring country, remember not to drink tap water or ice that’s made from it. Mexicans themselves don’t consume tap water: it is the top per-capita consumer of bottled water (8 in 10 Mexicans drink from bottles). In addition, the country is facing a major water crisis as reservoirs dry up.

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Consider India one of the countries with unsafe tap water. In July 2021, Puri in Odisha became the first city in India to have safe tap water, but as a rule of thumb, don’t drink tap water in the country. A survey last year revealed that only 2% of Indians get potable tap water, and 65% use a filtration system. Around 37.7 million are annually affected by water-borne diseases in the country.

So while street food may also seem tempting (and it really is delicious), your body may not react well to it. Stick to cooked food in restaurants and boiled/filtered water. You can also easily find fresh coconut water in the country, which will keep you hydrated.

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The Asian country has been dealing with salty water and locals are relying on water tanks. But even without the crisis, the water isn’t safe to drink and Thais also buy bottled water. The CDC advises against tap water and well water as well as ice made from these sources. However, there are plenty of brands in the ever-growing market including Aura, Nestle, Singha, and Crystle.

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The Bahamas

Tap water is considered safe for consumption on many islands in the Bahamas, but people mention an aftertaste and advise bottled water. The CDC also recommends disinfected water. You should also know that Hurricane Dorian impacted the water quality in 2019 and left the residents of Grand Bahama island without safe drinking water for months.

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If you’re going on an Incan exploration in Peru, make sure you take a water filter or water-purification tablets because the water isn’t potable. If you’re going on treks and camping, make sure the water is boiled and disinfected.

Peru is struggling with life-upending water scarcity and is another country with unsafe tap water. Toxins have been detected in water sources in the country, so you’re better off with bottled or filtered water.

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According to a UNICEF study, around 70% of household drinking sources are contaminated by fecal waste in Indonesia—it is one of the countries where you can’t drink the water directly from the tap. The Asian country doesn’t have dependable sources of piped water, and the locals don’t drink water directly from the tap. It’s safe to shower with, but you should boil or use filters when you’re quenching your thirst.

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Brazil is counted amongst countries with unsafe tap water. Around 35 million people (of 212 million) of this South American country have no access to drinking water. It’s surprising because Brazil has 12% of the planet’s fresh surface water reserves. The CDC recommends travelers to avoid tap and well water. In 2020, residents of Rio complained of dirty and smelly tap water. A year earlier, pesticides were discovered in water sources of 1,400 towns.

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South Africa

Is it safe to drink tap water in South Africa? Well, it depends on where you are. In big cities, it is safe for consumption, but you will need to boil the water you find in rural areas. A 2022 report pointed out that the country’s water quality is declining. The CDC recommends using filtered water in the country. Water is sacred in the African country that is facing a rapidly worsening water scarcity.

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The Maldives

The islands in the Maldives depend on rainwater and seawater, but luxury resorts have their own water desalination facilities. So, it may be safe to consume tap water at properties like COMO Cocoa Island. When in doubt, ask the resort. However, note that the CDC doesn’t recommend drinking tap water in the Maldives.

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French Polynesia

It is safe to drink tap water in some areas of French Polynesia (including Tahiti and Bora Bora), but it’s better to ask your hotel or the locals. To be on the safe side—as on CDC’s side—stick to boiled and filtered water.

fouDor April 6, 2023

The title should actually say "Just 10 of many countries..." otherwise the title gives a very wrong impression as this list is far from complete

MsJonesy March 11, 2023

I always drink filtered or bottled

timhammond4719 March 10, 2023

Tough to trust an article that insists any water isn't "portable."

PARKSVILLE March 9, 2023

Tap water in Puerto Vallarta is fine! I've been drinking it for years...the city purifies it. Most areas of Mexico requires bottled water, but not PV.