We often get asked by our readers: Can you drink the tap water in Ecuador? Whether or not you can drink the local tap water is an immediate concern when traveling to many foreign countries. Potable tap water is especially concerning for those who try to be environmentally conscious and/or are on backpacker’s budgets, as buying bottled water gets wasteful and expensive.
Upon arriving in Quito, you’ll learn quickly from locals or fellow travelers that you should not drink the tap water in Quito. Most hostels and hotels in Quito offer bottled water or have a 5-gallon dispenser to refill your own bottles. We were told that the tap water in Quito is technically potable; it is actually the old, dirty city pipes that soil it before reaching the sink. Despite this reality, many locals will drink tap water in Quito, and almost all cook with it, as they’ve obviously built up immunity to things that might not agree with a foreign digestive system so well.
How about the tap water in Cuenca? You may have heard the rumor that you can drink tap water in Cuenca. But can you drink the tap water in Cuenca, really?
Short answer: yes, yes you can! From day one, I drank the tap water in Cuenca and never got sick or had to go to the hospital during my 7-month stay. In fact, most of my expat friends and colleagues did the same, with no issues.
Nonetheless, despite the fact that you “can” drink it “without getting sick,” does not mean that Cuenca tap water meets the same standards as tap water in more developed countries. For those with sensitive stomachs, young children, or those who simply choose to err on the side of caution, you are advised to avoid drinking tap water in Ecuador, even in Cuenca. Stomach illness is NOT uncommon for foreigners or locals, and most expats don’t have raw data on exactly how the Cuenca municipality treats its water.
If you’re staying in Cuenca short term and you don’t want to drink tap water, your best bet is probably just to buy gallon bottles weekly. If you are staying longer, ask your landlord to have a 5-gallon dispenser set up, and get a contact number for local delivery. Generally, water delivery in Ecuador can be made same-day. If you are living permanently or very long-term in Ecuador, having weekly water delivered could add up over time. Looking into a more advanced water filtration system to run the local tap water through would be more economical, environmentally sounder, and take up a lot less space in your home.
If you are looking at staying in Cuenca long-term, head over to GringosAbroad.com to see how Bryan and Dena filter the water for their family in Cuenca. Search Amazon.com for affordable water filtration or check out local classifieds to find used ones on the market.
Have experiences or opinions on tap water use in Ecuador? Join the conversation and comment below.
August 12. 2012