Are you concerned about drinking water in Mexico?
It’s a question that I receive constantly as someone who has lived in Mexico for over five years.
The answer is almost always a big fat no.
It, of course, depends on where you are in Mexico. After reading about the problems with water in Mexico City, I would never use it to make coffee, but I don’t mind using it to brush my teeth or obviously, taking a shower.
In Puerto Vallarta, many locals happily drink the tap water there.
Drinking water in Mexico is a hotly debated topic among expats, locals, and travelers. It’s a question I get in my inbox at least once or twice a week and it’s one I’d like to help answer.
There are tons of alternatives and if you are (hopefully) conscious of avoiding single-use plastic, several ways to ensure you are drinking clean water without needing to buy bottled water on your trip to Mexico.
I also want to put the age-old question of “can I have ice in Mexico?” to rest forevermore.
Can I Drink the Water in Mexico?
It depends on where in Mexico you are traveling to, but the safest answer to this question is no. You should not drink the tap water in Mexico.
Tap water around Mexico, especially in Mexico City and other more touristed destinations in Mexico is purified. The problem is that the pipes that transport the water from the treatment centers to the tap in your sink where the water comes out are often old, full of heavy metals, and more than a touch dirty.
Here’s the thing. I have friends that were born and raised here in Mexico City and they always drink tap water. They make ice from tap water, they drink it by the glassful. And they’ve never had a problem.
I have other friends who are expats here in Mexico and they have had tap water once and been sick. They now use bottled water for absolutely everything, even brushing their teeth!
This is all likely to do with our stomachs not being used to the types of bacteria here. This can happen with street food, a fruit whose skin you eat, and even raw vegetables at fancier restaurants.
The bottom line is you don’t have to be crazy fearful of the tap water in Mexico, but it’s best to avoid drinking it if you’re new to the country.
Many people in Puerto Vallarta drink the water (check out this video where locals are interviewed). I have friends who live in Monterrey and they also drink the water.
Most people avoid it in places like the Riviera Maya. While it is a heavily touristed area of Mexico, it is generally accepted that most people buy water for consumption rather than using tap water in Mexico.
Where to Avoid the Tap Water in Mexico Completely
Never ever let the tap water in Chiapas touch your lips.
This is the one state in Mexico where I won’t even brush my teeth with the tap water. I wish there was an alternative to showering in it, to be totally honest.
Chiapas is a wonderful part of Mexico. It is full of jungles, history, and cultures to learn about that are older than the Aztecs.
But it is also the poorest state in Mexico. There are very few water treatment centers and most people drink Coca-Cola because it’s safer (and generally cheaper) than water.
I made the mistake of letting the tap water of Chiapas pass my lips only once and both my boyfriend and I were violently ill for 24 hours. It was the worst of Moctezuma’s Revenge that I have ever known.
Do yourself a favor and avoid using tap water anywhere in Chiapas. This also holds true for beach towns in Oaxaca and any other rural areas in Mexico where you may wander.
Should I Avoid Ice in Mexico?
No, you do not need to avoid ice in Mexico. Especially at cool bars, nice restaurants, or anywhere else in Mexico that has any level of sanitation.
This is a question I get a lot. This is also something I hear people saying to servers at restaurants constantly. They order a cocktail or a soda and they ask for it without ice or they ask the waiter if the ice is safe.
I think the Mexico of old probably had a few issues in the 80’s and 90’s with tourists who came to the country and perhaps this reputation has never left.
However, these days, every single reputable restaurant and even most of the not-so-reputable restaurants use filtered water to make ice cubes. In fact, they usually buy bags of ice from purification centers that make the ice themselves.
Every bar, cafe, and even street vendors uses ice that they have purchased from water-purifying plants. They do not use tap water, they do not use unpurified water.
Don’t worry about the ice in your drink when you’re visiting Mexico, it’s been made to ensure you don’t get sick. Plus, it’s hot here, nobody wants a lukewarm cocktail.
Using Tap Water in Mexico to Clean Your Food
I’ve been living in Mexico City for over two years now and I have always used just regular tap water to rinse my fruits and vegetables.
If I’m going to eat raw leaves like lettuce, kale, or spinach, then I’ll make sure it’s nice and dried off before I eat them. Otherwise, if I’m just rinsing them to cook them then I’ll just give them a quick wash and then start chopping.
As I’ve been in Mexico longer, I’ve also started using iodine cleaners like Microdyn to rinse my fruits and vegetables. I especially use these if I’m going to be eating raw vegetables like lettuce or tomatoes.
Microdyn is a solution that you mix with water (in this case it would be the tap water in Mexico) in order to clean your fruits and vegetables. It kills off most of the germs not only on the fruits and veggies, but also in the tap water.
You can purchase Microdyn before your trip here on Amazon. If you are already in Mexico, head to a large chain grocery store like Chedraui, Superama, or Walmart to find it.
I have had mixed experiences over the years using tap water to rinse my vegetables.
The reality is that fruits and vegetables in Mexico have traveled across the country. They have sat in dirty trucks and they have sat on dirty market floors. They have shared trucks with things that you probably don’t want your fruits and vegetables touching.
The safest option for cleaning your produce in Mexico is to get a vegetable cleaner like Microdyn.
Just make sure to mix it with bottled water if you are traveling through Chiapas or around the state of Oaxaca where the tap water is not as safe to use.
Using Tap Water in Mexico to Brush Your Teeth
While I don’t drink tap water in Mexico, I don’t have a problem using it for a few other things.
I have no problem using the tap water to brush my teeth and the thought of using bottled water to do so makes me giggle a little. When I traveled through South East Asia, I used bottled water to brush my teeth because often the water was not even pumped in (it came from the nearby river or something).
Like I’ve mentioned throughout this article, it depends on what part of Mexico you are in as to whether or not you should brush your teeth with the tap water in Mexico.
If you are unsure or don’t feel comfortable, you can always use bottled water or use the Grayl water bottle to purify any water before putting it in your mouth.
Using Tap Water in Mexico for Tea and Coffee
Some say that unless you are going to bring the water up to a complete boil for over a minute, you should use filtered water.
I think this is the safest option. If you are in your hotel room or Airbnb and you want to make coffee, then I recommend using filtered water. It’s not only safer, but it tastes a lot better, too.
I personally do not use tap water in Mexico to make coffee and tea. I don’t even like using it to make rice. I once read a very unpleasant article about what you may find in your tap water in Mexico and I sort of wanted to stop using it to even take a shower.
There are other parts of Mexico, like Guadalajara or Monterrey, where the pipes are newer. The systems are better. There are fewer people.
This all means the water system doesn’t have nearly as much pressure on it as Mexico City. You are much more likely to be able to drink the water in these cities. Or at the very least, to use it for cooking.
So What Water Should You Drink in Mexico?
You have a couple of options for drinking water in Mexico when you visit.
If you are going to be staying in one place for several days, I highly recommend buying a large 20-liter (5-gallon) bottle. In Mexico, they call this type of bottle a garrafon. You can ask for it when you go inside a store and you will pay a deposit for the first bottle. After that, you will be able to simply swap the bottle for a new one.
These bottles are sterilized and refilled with filtered water so there is no plastic waste created. They usually cost between 15 and 45 Pesos (75 cents-$2 USD) depending on where you are in the country (in my experience Mexico City is the most expensive).
You can buy them from almost any convenience store. Look for Oxxo or 7-11 nearby. You can also buy them at grocery stores or other smaller, locally-owned convenience stores. You will see them stacked up outside of these smaller stores.
If you are staying at an Airbnb, they should provide at least one of these for you as well as a mechanism that makes it easier to pump the water out of it (tipping it into a glass is basically impossible unless you want to spill water ALL over the place).
Otherwise, if you are just traveling for a short period of time, you can buy 2-liter, 1.5-liter, 1-liter, and 500-ml bottles from convenience stores like Oxxo, 7-11, or local non-chain stores. A 500ml bottle costs about 5-10 Pesos, and you can get a 1.5-liter for between 10 and 20 Pesos.
Filter Water Bottles for Travel
If you will be in Mexico for more than a few days, if you travel here frequently, or if you travel to lots of countries where the water isn’t safe to drink, I highly recommend investing in a good filter water bottle.
Not only do you reduce your plastic waste, but it’s so much more convenient to be able to fill up your bottle at any water source and know that when you take a sip, it’s safe to drink.
You don’t want the ordeal of needing drinking water in Mexico to hinder your day-to-day activities.
You want to be able to grab the bottle and go knowing you can fill it up anywhere you want throughout the day. Even in a public bathroom or at a water fountain. These bottles are so good they allow you to drink terrible dirty river water safely!
I’ve tried a few different bottles over the years and these are definitely my favorites.
Lifestraw Go Bottle: The Lifestraw Go bottle is the first one that I bought when I moved to Mexico. I like it because you simply unscrew the top, fill the bottle to the line, screw it back in and you can suck the water straight through the filter straw.
There’s no water for the water to be filtered, you can just drink on demand like you would with any other bottle.
The negatives of the Lifestraw Go bottle are that it is sometimes hard to suck the water through the straw. It’s not as easy as a normal straw.
You also can’t let the filter dry out. If it dries out, it has to sit and soak in water again for almost 24 hours before it will work again. However, it filters out 99.99% of bacteria and heavy metals, which means you can take this anywhere and still enjoy clean drinking water.
Thermos NSF/ANSI Certified Tritan Water Filtration Bottle: This guy is pretty great and really perfect for camping and filtering out tap water in Mexico. I like it because it pushes the gunk from the water to the bottom and then allows you to simply open the top and drink the clean water as normal. No need to use a straw or suck up the water.
The negative for me is that you have to replace the filter after 20 gallons of water. In my opinion, that’s not a huge amount. The Lifestraw go filter lasts for 260 gallons.
GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier: By far the most expensive water bottle on this list, this is for those of you that love to go hiking, camping, are traveling to Mexico as well as other countries where you can’t drink the water.
It is my favorite on the list (my mother always told me that I have expensive taste) and is the one that I come back to again and again wherever I travel.
It cleans the water as well as the Lifestraw Go bottle, but there’s no messing around with straws or worrying about the filter drying out. It’s a nice-looking water bottle and is super easy to clean. I also like that you can filter the water and then pour it into larger bottles or into a cup for brushing your teeth.
You simply fill the bottle, push the filter slowly down to the bottom, and then you can drink the water.
I usually filter it and then pour the water into a larger container and stick in the fridge so I can have a big pitcher of cold drinking water in there all the time. Then I never have to worry about drinking water in Mexico or think about whether or not I have enough for the week.
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