If you are visiting Mexico for the first time, you are probably wondering “can you drink the water in Mexico?” Afterall, when we travel, we often encounter countries where it is perfectly fine for us to consume the local tap water with no issues whatsoever, and others where it is not possible to do so.
Mexico falls into the latter category. It is not safe to drink the water in Mexico because although it is purified at the source, it often gets contaminated en route to your tap.
It is not just because as a tourist, your stomach isn’t used to the local water and any minerals and nutrients it contains. Even local Mexicans do not drink tap water here because it comes with too much risk of getting sick.
Instead, you need to buy bottled water. You might have more questions regarding drinking the tap water in Mexico and why it needs to be avoided, which we will answer in this guide.
We will also look at things like brushing your teeth with the water in Mexico, cooking with it, and using it to clean fruit and veg.
This article has been written by a British Travel Writer that has been living in the Mexican Yucatan for the last two years. (Me!) Rest assured, you are in good hands here and I will tell you everything you need to know about consuming tap water in Mexico.
Can you Drink the Water in Mexico?
As we have established, you cannot drink the tap water in Mexico – not in Cancun, not in Mexico City, not in Merida, not anywhere. Locals don’t drink it either and they will either purchase large multi litre garrafones of clean water to have delivered to their homes, or they will purchase bottled water at supermarkets and convenience stores.
Locals find the sheer mention of drinking water from a tap utterly disgusting which should tell you everything you need to know about consuming it as a tourist.
(My boyfriend is Mexican and his suspicion and horror at the sheer concept of drinking tap water in Mexico extended to being overcome with suspicion when we traveled in Europe and I told him the water was safe. He eyed me suspiciously as he filled a glass with tap water in our hotel room in Vienna, convinced I was trying to poison him).
The good news for you as a tourist or as someone moving to Mexico, is that since the tap water here is known for being unclean, it is never used in any situation. For instance, you don’t have to worry about ice in your drinks because bars and restaurants have ice delivered.
Ice is never made with tap water. Similarly, water served for free at a table at restaurants will always be from a garrafone.
Any other beverages like agua frescas, coffees, teas, etc will not be prepared using tap water.
Why can’t you drink the water in Mexico?
There are a variety of reasons as to why the tap water in Mexico isn’t safe for human consumption. For one thing, many of the pipes and distribution systems are often old, faulty, and damaged and so, the water can sometimes become contaminated on its journey to your tap.
Anything from dirt, dead animals, bugs, contaminants, microorganisms and bacteria can find their way into the water. The water in Mexico is also much “harder” than water in other countries and contains heavy metals and sediments that are simply not good for us.
(Go ahead and fill up a glass or a pot of water here and you will probably see lots of dirt and sediments floating about in it. When I have tried boiling a pot of water in the past, the sediments inside have stained my pans white!)
There is really no way of knowing exactly how bad the water is in your area without trying it and seeing whether you get sick or not. But generally speaking, that is neither the most pleasant nor advisable thing to try!
Some parts of the country, like Chiapas, are notorious for making people sick. It is better to not risk it. Mexicans don’t, and bottled water is very affordable and widely available.
Drinking water as a tourist in Mexico
When it comes to drinking water in Mexico, you should stick to purchasing bottled water. Most hotels and Airbnbs will usually leave one or two bottles in your room for when you arrive. These are typically replenished every day.
Aside from that, you can pick up large bottles of water at OXXO convenience stores, supermarkets, pharmacies, and most gift shops for just a few pesos. Your hotel reception probably has plenty of water stocked up in a hotel fridge too.
To save both money and plastic waste, consider purchasing a reusable water bottle to carry around with you during your trip.
That way, you can buy very large bottles of water to store in the refrigerator of your hotel or Airbnb. Then, pour an amount into your reusable water bottle.
Invest in a reusable water bottle
There are an abundance of different reusable water bottle brands on the market today. Lifestraw bottles are particularly good.
These lightweight, durable bottles are available in both 22 oz and 1-liter capacities. They are also designed in such a way that they keep the water very cold.
So, even if you are walking around Mayan ruins in the intense Mexican sun all day with your water bottle in your hand or shoved in your backpack, your water will be as ice-cold as it was when you poured it out! Better yet, these bottles contain an extra level of filtration.
This makes sure that the water is super purified. Each purchase provides one child in a developing country with a year’s supply of clean water so there are ethical benefits to choosing this brand of water bottle too.
Agua potable in some Mexican hotels and resorts
Some luxury hotels and all-inclusive resorts do offer special tabs for drinking water for their guests. If they do, they will likely tell you about it at check in and the taps will have a little sign above them saying “agua potable”.
(If in doubt, always ask first, never just assume!) Some people that live in Mexico long term choose to have filters installed on their taps around the home.
If you are staying in an Airbnb, you should assume that water filtration systems have not been installed, but you can always double check by asking your host first. (Again, never just assume!)
What happens if you drink the water in Mexico?
If you drink the water in Mexico, you are not going to spontaneously combust or immediate fall to the floor clutching your throat but you could get sick later on. Nothing might happen to you, but you might also become unwell with viruses which is why it isn’t worth the risk.
In the past, tourism companies across the world have made travelers aware of people getting sick with parasites, illnesses like Giardia and cyclospora after traveling to Mexico, or finding that H. pylori bacteria has gotten into their system and given them stomach problems. On the less severe end, you might find that your days are ruined by one too many trips to the bathroom after ingesting dirty water.
Vomiting and traveler diarrhea (or TD/Montezuma’s revenge) can happen in Mexico if you consume dirty water or food that has been washed with it. If diarrhea lasts for an extended period, it can go on to cause dehydration and you might need to see a doctor.
Across Mexico, you will find plenty of walk-in where you can have an appointment with a doctor for as little as 50 pesos (circa $3 USD). You simply stop by the clinic, wait in the waiting room until it is your turn and then explain your symptoms.
These health professionals have seen these things countless times and they will be able to recommend treatment or prescriptions that can help you get fast relief from your symptoms. You can search on Google Maps to find the nearest clinic in your area, but they are often located in strip malls or on main streets beside major pharmacy chains like Farmacia Guadalajara which you will find across Mexico, or Farmacia YZA.
Ordering garrafóns of water in Mexico
If you head to any Mexican household, you will see that people usually have several huge 20-liters (5.3 US gallon) jugs of water in their kitchen known as “garrafóns”. This is because when you have to consume only bottled water every day, it works out much more economical to buy in bulk.
This might sound irrelevant to you as a tourist but if you are going to be spending weeks or months traveling in Mexico or staying in an Airbnb/rented accommodation, you might find it better to purchase garrafón. You can buy a 20L garrafón filled with water at Oxxo, or any other Mexican supermarket or convenience store for around 70-80 pesos. ($4-$5 USD).
When you have consumed all the water inside, you can get it refilled again for another 20-40 pesos depending on the store. (Between $1.50 and $3). If, like me you cannot lift these giant bottles of water, you can opt to either purchase refillable 5L bottles or to have garrafóns delivered.
Water delivery services are available in virtually every city, town and village in Mexico. You will hear the vans playing a tanoy when they drive through the streets to see if anyone wants water. (And you can ask for information on this in the expat Facebook groups for people living in your part of Mexico.)
You should also purchase a water dispenser if you are going down this route to make it easier to get water from the bottle. (It basically works like a pump and you can find them for sale for just a few pesos in Oxxo, Walmart and plenty of other stores).
What is the best brand of drinking water in Mexico?
When you go to a convenience store or supermarket to buy drinking water in Mexico, you will note that the fridges are stocked high with lots of different brand names of water. Honestly, all of them are completely fine to drink as all of them are clean, bottled water.
Usually I just scan to see which one is the cheapest. Local Mexican brands of water are just as good as renowned water brands and are much more economical. Water is water at the end of the day.
Bonafont, Ciel, Perria and Epura are among the most popular water brands in Mexico. Of course, you will also find more ¨upscale¨ water brands such as Fiji water, Evian, and Perrier widely available too.
Can you drink the water in Mexico? FAQs
Now that we have covered the basics about the situation with the drinking water in Mexico, why it should be avoided, and everything you need to know about purchasing bottled water, let’s look at other situations where you might not know whether the tap water in Mexico is safe to use.
The answers to a lot of frequently asked questions on this matter are detailed below. Hopefully, you will find the information that you are looking for there but if not, you are of course welcome to reach out to me.
Using the water in Mexico on your hair and body
The water in Mexicocan be very drying on the skin. Keep in mind that it may affect your skin texture or cause outbreaks, even if you do not typically have problem skin.
Similarly, in some parts of the country, the water can dry your scalp and cause itching or irritation. Some long term residents in Mexico will often install water filters onto their shower heads to purify the water that comes out of the tap and onto their bodies!
Basically if you are just passing through Mexico for a week or two on a Yucatan itinerary or similar, I would say not to worry about it as you will only be dealing with the water here briefly. If you are planning to relocate to Mexico longer term, you might want to consider installing a filter on your taps.
As bougie (or as my Mexican friends would say, “fresita”) as it may sound, I actually choose to wash my face and do my morning and nighttime routine with bottled water from the garafone rather than with tap water. I have oily skin but the hard water aggravates my face and dries it out.
For a period, I noticed I was getting dry, scaly eczema-like skin on my forehead and occasional breakouts of spots which I haven’t had in over 15 years. I switched to filling up a jug with garrafone water each night and washing with that and haven’t had an issue since.
Are drinks in Mexico made with tap water?
There are a lot of great Mexican drinks that are made using water as a base. In particular, you absolutely need to try agua frescas which basically consist of mineral water blended with fresh fruit juices.
You don’t need to worry about drinking these as they are always made with purified water, not water from the tap.
You will basically find no end of different agua frescas flavors across the country and many people will create their own recipes. Horchata, jamaica (Hibiscus juice) and tamarindo (made from tamarind pods) are some of the most popular.
There are also different blends that can only be found in certain parts of the country. For example, in Merida and in Campeche city, piña con chaya is a popular choice. This is water blended with fresh pineapple, sugar, and chaya – a Yucatecan version of spinach.
Other beverages are completely fine to drink too. As mentioned, nobody drinks the tap water in Mexico, not even Mexicans. Coffees, teas, cocktails, etc will all be made with bottled water and so will the ice that is plopped into them.
Can I brush my teeth with tap water?
Brushing your teeth with the tap water in Mexico is usually fine and a lot of both travelers and locals do it. You may only want to be more careful in areas that are known to make people sick, like Chiapas.
Similarly, if you happen to swallow a very tiny amount while brushing your teeth or when showering, don’t freak out. You would have to be very unlucky to get sick from ingesting such a small amount of water.
Can you drink the water at a resort in Mexico?
No. You should never just turn on the tap at a resort in Mexico and just assume the water is fine simply because you are at a luxury resort.
Always ask first. If the water is drinkable, you will usually find that there are signs around the room/the wider resort notifying you as such.
Some resorts may have water dispensers in their lobbies and communal areas whereas water from the tap flows from public water systems that are not clean.
Can you have ice in your drink in Mexico?
Yes! There is absolutely no issue with having ice in your drink in Mexico as restaurants, bars, cafes, hotels, etc will all have large bags of ice delivered.
This rings true everywhere – i.e. all over Mexico and not just in the touristy areas. So if you find yourself traveling to off the beaten path places in the Yucatan, or remote villages in Sinaloa and Jalisco, just know that ice is delivered as standard.
Nobody is standing in the back of the restaurant filling up an ice cube tray with tap water.
Can you eat salad in Mexico?
Yes. You can eat salads, vegetables and fruits in Mexico. Obviously when you are dining out at restaurants or street vendors’ carts, you have to trust that the person preparing your food is washing everything thoroughly and being hygienic.
You could argue that you have that risk when you eat out anywhere in the world and that’s why its a good idea to check past reviews and trust your gut when you are choosing restaurants and street vendors. For instance, is there a queue of people waiting to be served?
Are they local? (Both are a good sign). Alternatively, does it look like food has been left out for extended periods or are there flies around the cart. (If so, it probably doesn’t look appealing anyway).
At most mid to high end restaurants, hotels, etc, fruit, veg and salads are usually high quality. The people preparing your food do this day in, day out so they know how to clean everything properly.
How to clean fruit and veg by yourself in Mexico
If you are preparing fruit and veg by yourself in self-catered accommodation, you should wash the fruits and vegetables you prepare in a bowl of bottled water, rather than with tap water.
Due to the bacteria and pesticides that may be found on the fruit, you need to also use an antibacterial, anti-germ solution such as Microdyn.
This washes the fruits and veggies more thoroughly. You generally need to fill up a bowl with
bottled water, add 2-3 drops of the solution and then wait for 10-15 minutes, depending on the amount of items you are cleaning.
Obviously, when you are preparing your own food, you have more control over this.
Can you drink the water in Mexico if you boil it?
You are safe to consume the water in Mexico if you boil it. The boiling process kills off any germs and bacteria that may be found within.
Still, some people still prefer to prepare cups of coffee and tea with bottled water. It is safe to cook rice, pasta, boiled veggies, among other dishes, with the water in Mexico.
Can you drink the water in Mexico? Final thoughts
We have established that you shouldn’t drink the tap water in Mexico for any reason, and we have looked at the reasons as to why. Don’t spend your vacation stressing over this as as mentioned, people don’t use tap water when they are preparing drinks, etc so you are not going to accidentally ingest it unless you specifically pour yourself a cup of water from the tap.
If you are unfortunate enough to fall sick in Mexico, it could be any combination of reasons – from the stress and disruption of your schedule when traveling, to consuming unfamiliar foods etc, so don’t assume that its the water and you are going to be really sick. (By the way, I have been living in Merida for years and have only been sick a handful of times so traveling here isn’t synonymous with getting sick either).
If you are faced with a stomach upset or a nasty bout of Montezuma’s revenge, rehydrate by drinking plenty of clean, bottled water and electrolyte solutions. If your symptoms are particularly severe or last more than a day, be sure to consult a doctor.
Do you have any other questions about why you can’t drink the water in Mexico or other aspects of planning your trip? Please do not hesitate to reach out to me and I will do my best to get back to you as soon as I can.
Safe travels and enjoy Mexico! Buen Viaje! Xo