The most frequently asked question when you are getting ready to travel to Mexico is, “Is the water safe to drink?” Most of us have personally experienced or know someone who has had Montezuma’s revenge. Right? I thought it would be helpful to share my experience about the water in Mérida. And, most importantly to answer the question, “Is the drinking water in Mérida Mexico safe?
Tips And Tricks For Mérida Mexico Drinking Water
I can say that I have NEVER been sick from the food or water in Mexico (knock on wood!). Maybe it’s because I’ve learned a few tips and tricks over the years which I will share with you here. Most of the Mérida Mexico drinking water is purified at the source. However, the distribution system can allow for the contamination of the water en route to the tap.
To be completely safe, only drink bottled water.
Water supply and sanitation in Mérida
Water can flow through old pipes where heavy metals, bacteria, and other contaminants can seep into the water. Without testing, there is really no way of knowing if the tap water is safe to drink or contaminate.
Let me say this straight –
There is no need to be paranoid. In most cases, tap water is safe for brushing teeth, boiling pasta, or making coffee.
However, until you get used to a different environment, I wouldn’t recommend it. Keep a bottle of water handy by the bathroom sink for brushing your teeth.
It’s best to buy bottled water, just to be on the safe side. It will also help you from ingesting any nasty contaminants. Some of these don’t make you sick immediately but are bad for your health.
Personally . . .
I’ve been traveling to Mexico for many, many years. I use tap water to brush my teeth. But not for anything else, especially when I cook or make coffee.
Mérida Mexico Water Quality
Do what the locals do . . .
Most locals don’t drink water. Actually, they don’t drink a lot of water, period. When in Rome, or in this case when in Mexico, do as the locals do and don’t drink the tap water.
Now, you might ask:
1- What about brushing my teeth?
Until you are used to the environment, use bottled water.
2- How should I wash fresh fruits and vegetables?
Most people use Microdyne.
3- Is it ok for making coffee or pasta?
I used bottled water.
4- What about ice?
I don’t use ice at all but I follow these simple rules:
- If I’m in a restaurant, I will ask if the water has been filtered.
- If I’m not sure, I will not drink a beverage with ice. I will order a cold drink and pour it into a glass.
- If you are at home, make your own ice in ice trays (do not buy a bag of ice from the convenience store).
I do not consider Mérida a Third World city. Neither is it a First World city. There is a vast range of prosperity and poverty here. This means the lack of education can breed disease with the simplest of actions like hand washing.
All of these things combined point to tap water as a definite no-no.
Advice For Mérida Mexico Drinking Water
I think we could all agree it’s possible people don’t have enough germs in their system. In the U.S., there is a large use of antibacterial products. Ultimately, we do need to have some good bacteria to fight the bad bacteria. When we travel, regardless of the location, we are subjected to germs and foreign germs.
To stay as healthy as possible, consider the following recommendations:
- Use bottled water to brush teeth.
- Avoid swallowing water in the shower.
- Avoid eating lettuce or salads in a restaurant (even the best restaurants) OR squeeze lime juice prior to eating.
- Use a food-safe cleaning product for washing fruits and vegetables (research the best one for you).
- Avoid putting your water into a ceramic or pottery container (called a garrafone).
- Do not reuse/refill plastic bottles.
- For large water bottles, ensure the cap is a seal with protective plastic.
Lime Juice: My Secret Weapon
Let’s talk about the magic of lime juice. This is a trick I learned from a local many years ago.
Limes have high acidity which can neutralize some dangerous bacteria. Specifically in foods that have been stored or washed incorrectly. A study found that, with the addition of a little sunlight, citrus fruits can help kill harmful bacteria like Escherichia coli (or e-coli) in contaminated drinking water.
But here’s the interesting thing . . .
Many restaurants will bring you limes for your drinks and squeeze on your food. I almost always ask for extra and squeeze the juice on almost everything (except pizza, of course). I think one of the main reasons I’ve never gotten sick is the use of lime juice.
The second reason is the good germs. I seldom use antibacterial hand products however I do wash my hands on a regular basis. I don’t touch my face and I’m conscientious of what I do touch in public places. Limes are like my magic pill along with the other precautions I take. It has been worth it.
Advice About Fancy Resorts
You would think that these would be the safest places for water.
I have found the opposite.
And here’s why…
Resorts have a lot of buffets. Buffets have a lot of people touching the handles of the served food. Germs collect on the handles and, if not washed properly will cause a lot of bacteria to linger. Most resorts have filtered water however occasionally the water used for ice is from tap water.
Just because the water is filtered, doesn’t mean the ice is made with filtered water. When you are in areas with more concentrated staff and more guests, you are likely to be subjected to more bacteria.
Buying bottled water in Mérida
Bottled water is the BEST option for most tourists as every supermarket, convenience store, and roadside stand sells bottled water. It is the most convenient option, but also the most expensive. By this I mean, you will pay approximately $1.50 U.S. for a 5 gallon bottle.
Tip: When buying bottled water, check that the seal on the cap is intact.
People will sometimes collect old bottles, refill them with tap water, and sell them. This is uncommon in Mexico but does happen on occasion. You can purchase 5 gallon bottles at convenience stores and grocery stores or you can have them delivered. In some neighborhoods, a water guy will periodically drive through. You can just flag him down and purchase a bottle.
Mexico has 3 main water companies, Crystal, Bonafont, or Agua Pura. Once you buy a bottle that is marked with one of these company’s brand name, you must swap it out with the same company.
Tip: For around $11 USD, you can buy a small electronic pump to attach to the top of your bottle. This makes transferring the water much easier. A USB charger charges it and it is quite convenient.
If you do get sick, drink Gatorade or purchase rehydration salts in a pharmacy. You will get dehydrated quickly if you have diarrhea.
You can also try the BRAT diet: banana, rice, applesauce, toast and include other low fiber, gentle on the stomach foods such as crackers and chicken broth.
All of these items help with nausea, are easily digestible and can be eaten in small amounts. Pepto Bismol usually helps with stomach upset. You can also take Imodium for diarrhea. If you find you are getting worse instead of better, you may even need to go to the doctor or hospital.
Final Thoughts on Is the Drinking Water in Mérida Mexico Safe?
If you are getting worse instead of better, visit a walk-in clinic or pharmacy. (Go to the Traveler’s Rolodex – See the opt-in below)
After spending many years traveling and living in Mexico, I have never gotten sick from the water. I’ve followed the precautions outlined in this article and would never drink straight from the tap. I offer the same advice to you.
Let’s not forget . . .
There’s no need to be paranoid about Mérida Mexico drinking water as long it is from a bottle that the seal has not been broken.
For more information about Mérida, you can see here: Is Mérida Mexico Near the Beach?
See also, A Massive List of Free Things to do in Mérida
One more thing . . . want to chat? Come hang out in the group.