Can I Drink the Tap Water in Europe?

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It might sound like a silly question, but we’ve all heard the horror stories: hardy travellers felled by gastroenteritis or chained to the toilet for weeks with the stomach bug from Hell.

Of course, in some countries the tap water is notorious – but in others, particularly in Europe, the risk that tap water poses to travellers may be less evident, especially when you see locals drinking it without problems. Just to make the situation more complicated, it only takes a cursory Google search to realise that the information out there can be quite contradictory when it comes to certain countries, with different sources recommending different things.

The fact is that for the most part, the tap water in Europe is drinkable at least from a local perspective. It’s the visiting travellers who might be affected in some of the slightly dodgier areas – but how likely this is depends entirely upon the microbiology of the water and the status of the drinker’s immune system.

So, for ease of use: here’s a handy list of where in Europe the tap water is safe to drink and where it isn’t, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – who fall at the conservative-bordering-on-hypochondriac end of the spectrum.

Countries where the tap water is safe to drink

  • Andorra
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Gibraltar
  • Greece
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Ireland
  • Liechtenstein
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Monaco
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • San Marino
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • UK
  • Vatican City

Countries where the tap water isn’t safe to drink

  • Albania
  • Belarus
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Estonia
  • Hungary
  • Lithuania
  • Macedonia
  • Moldova
  • Montenegro
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Serbia
  • Slovakia
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine

To be honest, I think a lot of the countries the CDC classes as ‘unsafe’ are perfectly fine – I’ve drunk tap water in Croatia, Slovakia and Hungary myself without any hideous consequences, and online research reveals many other travellers attesting to the safety of tap water in many of the other places on this list. However, if you want to play it super safe, then this is the list for you. Alternatively, do a little country-specific research, weigh up what people say, and make your own informed choice.

And don’t forget – it’s not just about drinking tap water. If you do think the tap water may pose a risk, then keep your mouth shut when showering, use bottled water to brush your teeth, and avoid ice cubes and unwashed/unpeeled raw fruit and veg.

Do you think the CDC’s list is right or wrong? Let us know in the comments below.

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About Author

Leah Eades is a compulsive traveller and freelance writer, whose adventures so far include working in an Italian nightclub, contracting a mystery illness in the Amazon, studying at a Chinese university, and cycling 700km along the Danube River. She blames cheap Ryanair flights for her addiction. Having recently graduated with an English degree, she is currently based in Florence, Italy.

11 Comments

  1. Do not drink tap water in Malta. None of us locals drink it. In some areas the water systems are very old plis a simple ph test will show you it is not good for you.

  2. Water in Bosnia and Hecegovina is one of the best quality for drinking in whole world. You can surely drink tap water, it’s completely clean, pure, healthy and delicious. Greetings from Sarajevo.

  3. Tap water in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina is quite drinkable. As someone who grew up there, we’ve never used bottled water for anything. The same can’t be said for a lot of major cities in the USA or Canada, where there are frequent issues and warnings about drinking tap water. Maybe CDC should do their research a bit better.

  4. This list is wrong. Never drink water in UK. It always makes me sick. My sister was travelling there last summer and had the same experience. Better avoid travelling to UK if you don´t want to have bowel disease. I did research on internet and I found a lot of researches on this topic. Even on WHO official page you can find the warning.

  5. Personally, I’ve never experienced any problems drinking tap water anywhere in Europe; the EU sets standards in water quality. I’m British myself, and whilst the water in my native Scotland tastes much nicer (in my opinion) than the water in London, where I live now, the water across the UK is absolutely safe to drink.

  6. The list is wrong. You can definitely drink tap water in Slovakia. It’s totally safe and tastes really good. Locals drink it every day.

  7. Strange to see that tap water in Lithuania is not safe to drink. In Lithuania, all drinking water is produced from pure underground water resources, which are the safest, and water quality is tested regularly, so it is safe to use.
    Many EU countries use water from river basins to produce drinking water. More of additional substances is required to process it. Lithuania is ONE of the few EU countries that use only underground water for water production.
    Special stickers are made in hotels that free tap water is offered.

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