Drinking Water in Europe – Is it Safe to Drink?

When leaving the United Kingdom to travel abroad on holiday, or for other reasons such as a business trip, it is likely that you will receive lots of travelling advice. One piece of advice that is often given to British holidaymakers is to drink bottled water and to avoid drinking tap water. Although this advice is certainly appropriate for third world countries, where water hygiene levels are a lot lower than what you find in the United Kingdom, is it really necessary for countries in Europe?

European drinking water
Is water safe to drink throughout Europe?

People regularly get told to avoid tap water in some western European countries such as Portugal, Spain and Greece. Instead, they are advised to drink bottled water. However, contrary to this advice, the water in every western European country is good to drink. In fact, the water levels, in all western European countries, meet minimum European Union standards. However, it is important to bear in mind that although the water is considered safe to drink it might not necessarily be treated the same as water in the United Kingdom. For example, water in foreign countries might contain a lot more fluoride than British water which might have a negative impact on people whose bodies are sensitive to this kind of change. The taste of the water from other European countries might be considerably different too. Therefore, if you prefer to not take any risks, it is still a good idea to drink bottled water which can easily be acquired in supermarkets.

Bottles shopping centre
Bottled water can easily be purchased at any supermarket

Unlike all countries in western Europe, the water standards in eastern European countries, for example Bulgaria, Croatia and Cyprus, are considerably lower. Anyone travelling to an eastern European country is advised to not drink tap water at all. Water quality standards vary country by country and where you are within these countries. In most cases, water in urbanised areas, particularly large cities, is usually safe enough to drink. However, water in more rural areas might be unsafe to drink and could potentially make you ill if consumed. Therefore, it is not worth taking the risk, so always drink bottled water. Bottled water can be easily purchased at large supermarkets. If for some reason this is not an option boil the water you intend to drink before drinking it.

More top tips in relation to areas which could contain unsafe drinking water:

– Always carry a European Health Insurance Card, when travelling abroad, in case you need to access medical treatment from drinking contaminated water. The European Health Insurance Card is the replacement for the old E111 and can be applied for at https://www.europeanhealthcard.org.uk/e111/

– Try to consider other sources where water might come from. Washed salads, fruits and ice are potential sources of water and it is best to stay away from them if the local water supply is found to be contaminated.

– If you are swimming in any bodies of water, make sure the water is safe to swim in.

– Always use soap when taking a bath or shower and avoid getting water in your mouth.