There are over 45,000 Google results which match this subject written in the last month alone. And yet, without fail, at least weekly, I see someone ask the question anew in a Facebook group.
“Can I drink the water?” and, “what’s up with not flushing the toilet paper?” are big questions and people want answers. (more on the toilet paper in a later post)
I’ve seen a lot of fear mongering in conversations about this subject. But in my opinion, the answer is one of simple common-sense.
Whether you live in Mexico, Minnesota or Madrid, tolerance to local bugs is built over time and depend on an individual’s personal sensitivity level. There are some folks out there with stronger resistance than others, hence the phrase “cast-iron stomach”. And there are some out there with remarkably weaker tolerance than others.
Here’s where the common-sense comes in … if you have a high tolerance ordinarily (you know who you are - you order steak rare, you love sushi, etc.) then you likely don’t have to take many more common-sense precautions than you take in the states. If you have a low tolerance … I think you can finish my sentence. ;)
So common-sense aside, here are some of the top FAQs I see …
Drinking water - Use bottled. In Mexico it is very popular to have a garrafón in the kitchen, which is just a 5-gallon jug of water. In many cities you can have the garrafónes delivered and picked-up right to your door. In San Miguel de Allende I pay $28 pesos per garrafón (~ $1.56 USD) which is very economical as compared to buying smaller bottles in the grocery store.
Washing produce - Now this topic can generate A LOT of opinions. I’d like to refer you again to common-sense. Mexicans aren’t putting secret bio-agents in their produce sprays to trick the Americans, I promise. If you would wash it in the US, wash it in Mexico. If you liked to wash with a vinegar or some other rinse, knock yourself out. Remember, much of the produce which ends up on the shelves in US grocery stores is imported from Mexico.
Using water for cooking - Use tap water for cooking if you’ll get it to a rolling boil for at least 1 minute.
Using water for brushing your teeth - Unless you can’t control your impulse to swallow it or you have low tolerance for bugs, use the tap water.
At home, make ice with bottled water.
In a restaurant, us common-sense (I know, broken record). If the place looks like they spring for bottled water, don’t worry about it. If not, order a bottled drink sans ice.
Ordering water in restaurants - Same as above.
Bathing - Really? Yes, some people ask if they should boil the water before bathing. Just keep your mouth closed and get clean, don’t stress.
Water for pets - This one is your call. I wouldn’t give my kids tap water to drink but would I give it to my pets? Not sure, I don’t have pets. But I know plenty of people who do give their pets tap water and probably an equal amount of people who give them bottled. So to each their own.