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Water availability on GAS tour

We are planning our first overseas tour this May (RS GAS tour). We are both big ice water drinkers; and hubby is alcohol free. Would like to know what the restaurant culture is regarding serving water with meals. Skipping the ice is not a problem; but is water offered, as well as refills? Wouldn't want to offend any of the locals (or our tour group) with bringing our own water supply. Thanks for enriching our experience!

Posted by
11286 posts

In these countries, free tap water is hard to get. You usually buy mineral water (still or sparkling), and of course if you want another bottle, you have to pay again (no free refills). Even if they are willing to give you tap water (and sometimes they will refuse), it isn't usually free unless you are getting another beverage. This other beverage need not be alcoholic - I often get water and soda. As for ice in the water, this is not usually possible (I have seen it sometimes, but it's rare).

Just be prepared. Most restaurants will have mineral water available in bigger bottles (one liter or 0.75 liter), but some will only have 0.5 liter. If you really like lots of water, you may have to fill up between meals, or increase your water budget! If you are looking to buy bottled water to carry around (or just a bottle you can then refill from the tap), supermarkets have all kinds of waters at very inexpensive prices (even in Switzerland, which is notorious for charging a not-low price at restaurants for everything, including tap water).

Tap water is fine to drink in these countries, but it just "isn't done" to get it in restaurants. The locals truly marvel at the American custom of free unlimited ice water!

However, if you are going to France, tap water is commonly served in restaurants. It's not served with ice, but can often be quite cold. Just ask for un carafe d'eau; it is indeed often served in a carafe or other fancy bottle. You'll see one on all the other tables - it's quite standard for French people to get it, regardless of whatever else they're drinking.

Posted by
2096 posts

I would call the RS office to get a definitive answer to your question. I have only been on 1 RS tour that included Berlin and Dresden. I drink lots of water too and I cannot recall having any problem in these cities with a lack of water.

Posted by
308 posts

I have not taken the RS GAS tour, but I have been on three RS tours and the guide always makes sure there is plenty of tap water on the table for the group meals. Additionally, the guide teaches the group about the local customs regarding drinking water at the table (usually in the very first group meeting).

Posted by
9682 posts

No problem. I’ve done this one and water is available on the table for every group meal. It may not be iced.

No problem being alcohol free. I don’t drink much and always just had water at meals.

Posted by
21041 posts

My beverage of choice is water. I'm an independent traveler, so no one is arranging to have water waiting for me when I enter a restaurant. I always carry a water bottle around with me. What I try to remember to do (but often fail at) is drink enough water before I go into a restaurant that I don't start out thirsty. I don't mind paying for one bottle of water; it's buying the second one that annoys me.

Posted by
3491 posts

On every RS tour I have taken (10 so far) there has never been any issue with getting water with the group meals. It may be tap, it may be mineral, it may also be fizzy (usually if fizzy is provided, flat is as well), but it is always never ending during the meal. More recently it has always been cold. It is never served with ice. I'm sure if you want a glass of ice, the restaurants will provide it.

Also, on the tour bus during the day there will be water available for purchase. Half litre bottles usually for 1 Euro each. And kept in a refrigerator so nice and cold.

Posted by
6622 posts

Our experience on GAS (and other tours as well) is that the restaurants at which the RS tour has arranged group meals, were well aware of American travelers' expectations and preferences, so they are prepared with cold water and other differences from normal local service. There's a downside to that experience (to some), but that's they way it was. Sometimes, the RS group may be the only ones there, or in a special room that they have prepared so as to keep the loud Americans away from the regular customers. Just don't expect it at restaurants off the tourist path when you're on your own. There's no such thing as a restaurant that won't bring you water, sometimes you may have to speak up and ask.

Posted by
2 posts

Thanks everyone, for your responses! For first-time European travelers, I know we will have many more questions in the near future.

Posted by
6622 posts

Laurie, one of the great things about the RS tours and the tour leaders ( to many of us), is that they make a point of talking about local customs and expectations, and don't wrap you in a protective layer of the familiar. So by all means ask questions of the tour leader if you're wondering about something. They like to share information like this.

Posted by
2070 posts

Our Swiss guide told us that the RS contract with restaurants includes free water, at a group meal. However , we found that if we ate at the same restaurant [in our RS hotel] without the group, no free water. When we ate without the group, we then decided we would pay for wine, [but not water], and just bring our travel water bottle full!

Posted by
8102 posts

In German, you can ask for tap water and sometimes you get it and sometimes you don't. It is called Leitungs Wasser. Some places you can ask for Tafel Wasser, which translates to table water and is basically tap water in a glass, but they will charge you for it. They may ask if you want still water or fizzy water. You can also ask for ice cubes, which will probably be crushed ice.

There is a movement in Germany now for restaurants to offer free water or at least to refill your bottles for you. Pressure is being put on cities to at least install water fountains in public areas. Slowly but surely, they are moving away from bottled water.

Do not drink from your bottle of water that you brought into the restaurant. This is considered really rude, and just not done. Would you bring your own drink into a restaurant in the US?

Wide variety of juices available in Germany and probably in Austria and Switzerland. My favorite is a Kiba, which is cherry juice with a swirl of banana juice in it. Cranberry juice, passion fruit, or fresh OJ are often available. Ice tea is seldom made fresh and on site, but if it is it will often have mint leaves, berries, or ginger in it. Bottled, flavored ice tea is more common.

Posted by
4684 posts

In Austria, just ask for Leitungs Wasser. This is free tap water. No ice.

Posted by
14891 posts

I take a small light-weight cooler on many trips. Then I refill one or two 1/2 liter water bottles with tap water (about 3/4 full) and i the evening ask the hotel to freeze them. I pick them up at breakfast, add more water and put them in the cooler. Bingo, ice cold water all day.

The cooler doesn't take up my room in my suitcase, I pack stuff inside it. It's useful coming home because the hard sides protect any breakable souvenirs I pick up along the way.

Some places do charge for tap water. That happened in Switzerland, several of us had dinner together, most ordered a bar drink and we asked for a pitcher of tap water. Two who had not ordered drinks were charged for the tap water - at about what it would have cost for a glass of wine.

Posted by
1098 posts

ask questions of the tour leader

I'm sure Stan wasn't implying that you shouldn't ask here. Keep the questions coming :-)

Posted by
6622 posts

ask questions of the tour leader
I'm sure Stan wasn't implying that you shouldn't ask here. Keep the questions coming :-)

Absolutely.