Potable Water in Europe: How to Stay Healthy When Travelling

Nothing can wreck your hard-earned European vacation faster than a doubt of diarrhoea or other sickness picked up from drinking non-potable water.

Potable water, also referred to as drinking water,  is defined as water safe enough for drinking and food preparation, according to Wikipedia.

drinking water in Europe

The European Commission takes potable water seriously. The European Citizens’ Initiative states that: Water and sanitation are a human right! Water is a public good, not a commodity!

As a result, all water in Western Europe is safe to drink. If you’re travelling to Eastern Europe, you need to check as it’s country specific. It’s worth noting that not all European countries belong to the EU and may have different standards.

It wasn’t always this way. In medieval times many people drank beer as a replacement for water since the beer was purified, whereas the water was contaminated! You won’t have that excuse today in most European countries, but I have no doubt that you’ll find no problem finding another reason why you MUST drink the beer during your vacation 😉

Finally, just because a country is listed as having non-potable, i.e. unsafe water, it doesn’t necessarily indicate polluted water, but it may contain certain pathogens that may cause intestinal issues for those who haven’t built up a tolerance to it.

For easy reference, check out the map below indicating which European countries have potable water:

Potable Water in Europe Placeholder
Potable Water in Europe

If you must drink non-potable water in an emergency, then follow these safety precautions outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Happy health and hydration during your European vacation. Bon Voyage!

Potable water research combined from:
Centres for Disease Control and Prevention
European Commission

Laurel Robbins is the founder of Monkeys and Mountains, an adventure travel blog and company that helps people plan their active holidays in a sustainable way. Although Canadian, she lives in Germany. You can find her in the mountains on most weekends.
2017-03-13T04:51:20+00:00

8 Comments

  1. Marcia October 25, 2015 at 4:37 pm - Reply

    Reading this, I realize I associate water woes more with travel in developing countries but it can happen anywhere, I guess. For me, it’s the taste that causes me to pause. Water tastes different from state to state here. I’d never drink the water in NJ, for example, though I’m sure it’s clean but it has a really weird taste. I’m guessing it’s from how they filter their water. I wonder: should water have a taste?

    • Laurel November 2, 2015 at 9:04 am - Reply

      @Marcia – You’re absolutely right, sometimes the taste can be a bit off putting, even if it’s totally safe to drink.

  2. rebecca October 27, 2015 at 8:38 pm - Reply

    Really good resource, thank you for this information. I would never thought to not drink water, anywhere in Europe

    • Laurel November 2, 2015 at 9:03 am - Reply

      @Rebecca – Glad you found it useful. it’s confusing as in many countries they only drink bottled water even though the tap water is perfectly fine.

  3. Izy Berry November 3, 2015 at 8:29 pm - Reply

    Great post really usefull information for travel !! This is very important no one wants to be sick when you are in other country

    • Laurel November 13, 2015 at 5:49 pm - Reply

      @Izy – Glad you found it useful!

  4. Tami Gibson November 26, 2015 at 2:38 pm - Reply

    LOL drinking beer is safe, indeed. Almost everywhere in Europe water is safe. Thank you for sharing your article! Best regards!

  5. John Carston April 29, 2016 at 4:30 pm - Reply

    I hadn’t thought to have potable water for a European vacation but I’ll need to keep that in mind when I plan for the trip. It’s helpful that you provided a map of the countries that have potable water was well. Thanks for the helpful safety info.

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