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Don't Drink The Water?

The company we chartered our sailboat from said this in an email: "We recommend that you always have at least 2 6-pack 1,5lt bottles of mineral water as water in the boat and in the islands in general is not drinkable. Please remember that the sun gets too hot and to avoid dehydration you should drink plenty of water."

Does that track with other people's experiences? What about in cities and towns, like Athens, Arachcova, and Delphi?

Posted by
5098 posts

On the Greek islands I've visited I always drank bottled water, I just don't trust the tap water in most Mediterranean countries.

Posted by
1112 posts

I always buy bottled water for drinking but use tap water for showers and coffee making just about anywhere in Greece!

Not sure what "not drinkable" means but water is generally safe to drink from the tap but I prefer bottled water.

Posted by
1370 posts

The water is safe anywhere in Greece. In some places though, including some area of Athens and some islands, it’s not particularly pleasant: it can taste brackish. Delphi and Arachova both have very nice tap water sourced from the local mountains.


Posted by
1354 posts

Ask locally if the water is safe to drink, there is no general rule. In some places tap water may be better than the water at your home.

When in doubt, drink bottled water.

In the islands water resources is a major problem, it can be imported by boat or produced by desalination plants. In any case, throw the plastic bottles in the bins provided for recycling, waste disposal is another major problem.

Posted by
205 posts

We drank bottled water on Santorini. We did bring a water filter and that worked fine. Tap water tasted horrible on Santorini, we did brush our teeth with tap water on the islands. We never tried the water on Naxos just used bottled or filtered. Athens we drank the tap water, it was perfect.

Posted by
6391 posts

Setting aside the local island water issues for a moment (me: I too prefer drinking bottled water anywhere around the Mediterranean), there's the OTHER issue for the OP which has not been addressed: water on the boat.

Depends on the specific boat, of course (water is probably just fine on the super-yachts of those Russian oligarchs...) but I'd expect that most small sailboats just have simple, plastic tanks for fresh water onboard. Those tanks may be difficult or impossible to disinfect, access (or even to just drain). A boat that's spent it's entire life in a hot climate, is passed endlessly from one short-term user to another (ie, a rental), those users are quickly long gone and probably not consistently diligent about cleaning up everything, never mind disinfecting hard-to-access systems that are hidden...that sounds to me like a recipe for disasters and water-born illnesses.

I had friends who took great care of their family sailboat, were obsessive about cleanliness and taking responsibility for everything they did (especially their treasured boat), and we didn't drink the water from their boat's tank either. From a short-term rental boat in a popular holiday destination? No way I'd drink that! Yes, the plastic waste is problematic, but if it were me, I'd be hauling my drinking water along in shrinkwrapped packages.

I'll spare you the stories I've heard about the quality of "drinking water" on commercial jet airliners (I'll just have a Perrier, please...).

Posted by
14126 posts

I have a few friends who live in Greece-both the mainland and the islands. (They were born there.)

THEY ALL DRINK BOTTLED WATER AT HOME. The water is just tastes bad.

Posted by
3257 posts

Aside from the boat question (and David has given us a great primer on that), for the business of what to drink on land -- the accurate answer is "It all depends." Frank II says all his friends in Greece "On the mainland and in the islands" drink bottled water at home. Well... that takes in a whole lot of territory! In many places, like bigger cities, the water is technically "safe" but chlorination makes it taste less than great... and in some very dry islands, desalinization is required -- and that never results in palatable taste. In other places, as mentioned (mainly in the mountains), the water source is outstanding, and is Far better than the bottled. Some examples I think of:

• DELPHI - The pitcher of tap water I drained, at a little sidewalk taverna, came untreated from snow-melt atop the famous Mt. Parnassus I was looking up at... and was the best water I've ever tasted in my long life.
• SPILI, in central Crete - This little village, in foothills of mighty Mt Ida, has a famous Roman-built fountain with 12 lionheads spouting(1) , where tourist refill their canteens. While we were doing so, we saw local waiters filling pitchers for use at table, and local residents filling large jugs for home use. On another side of Mt Ida, the village of ZAKROS has one of Greece's biggest water-bottling plants, because the local snow-melt water supply is so delicious.
• On smaller, fertile islands with good local spring water from the heights, for many years there were a few public "taps" with spigots. Naxos has very safe municipal water fromthe tap, but taste is just meh. In the past, some free "street taps" of local spring water were used by residents, and by restaurant waiters, to fill pitchers for cooling. However Naxos' increasing tourism (a has really stressed the island's water resources (causing hardship for its farms in the hills), so I wonder whether the local faucets are still in use.

Posted by
946 posts

Don't be cheap. Use bottled water. Don't put any tap water in your mouth. None of us on this forum have the ability to know whether any tap water will be safe unless we personally chemically test it.

I was in Greece for 13 nights in October 2018. I only drank bottled water I bought from grocery stores. The tap water in Nafplio was brown-rust colored. But I used it to brush my teeth and wash fruit anyway. I wish I had not. But I didn't get sick. At home I drink filtered tap water. When traveling I drink bottled water whenever possible. In Spain I didn't eat restaurant food once but 1-3/4 days after I arrived, within 3 hours I went from fine to having horrifying and severe symptoms affecting my digestive tract that lasted severely for a day and then differently and mildly for another day. Avoiding being too gross for now, I'll just say this was worse than simple diarrhea. I didn't absorb any nutrients except bottled water for 26 hours. I could have gotten too dehydrated or worse and needed a hospital. It couldn't have been food poisoning because I didn't eat any restaurant food. Maybe it was from using tap water to wash fruit and rinse my mouth after brushing my teeth.

Posted by
6379 posts

Mike L, there have been outbreaks of E. Coli or other pathogens (salmonella, listeria...) in supermarket produce and food too (unaffected by washing!), so that might have been it? Can't comment about Greece water, but "don't brush your teeth with it" is perhaps a bit extreme for folks without specific health issues.
Desalinized water does taste weird though, so I'd avoid that stuff.