One of the most common causes of sickness for travelers is being exposed to contaminated food and water. And one of the easiest ways for these bacteria and parasites to enter your body? Through contaminated local tap water. The last thing you want is a bout of stomach cramps to ruin your trip, so this article will take a look at the tap water in South America and let you know which countries it is safe to drink in.
We can't cover every city in each country so, if in doubt, ask a local whether the water is safe to drink. Take a look at what they're doing, too -- are they buying bottled water or drinking from the taps? And a bit of quick googling for a specific city will help a lot. Sometimes the locals can stomach water than your body may not be used to, so it's wise to use some caution.
If you find yourself in a country that doesn't have clean tap water, then you can either buy bottled water or carry a portable water purifier with you. One easy way to purify tap water is with the Grayl. This water bottle eliminates pretty much all viruses, cysts, and bacteria from your water, making it perfectly safe to drink.
Take care when drinking anything that contains ice cubes in places where you need to be wary, in case they're made from tap water -- ask at the restaurant if it's safe to drink. Additionally, steer clear of salads, fruits or vegetables, which may have been washed with tap water.
Here's the list of the countries in South America, and whether the tap water is safe to drink or not:
Argentina is a well-developed country and the tap water throughout the country is safe to drink. In more rural areas, you can expect the water to taste strongly of chlorine, but it won't harm you in any way.
If in doubt, ask the locals to see what they do and follow their lead. There are very few areas of the country where the water isn't safe, and as a tourist, you'd be unlikely to visit them.
Make sure to avoid drinking the tap water while you're in Bolivia -- it's not safe to drink, even in the major cities. In fact, it's best to not even use it while brushing your teeth. Fortunately, bottled water is widely available and very affordable, or you could use a Grayl water bottle, which was described above.
When it comes to tap water, Brazil can be a little tricky. In the major cities -- Rio and Sao Paulo -- you can drink the tap water, but travelers report that it tastes revolting. With that in mind, unless you're traveling on a very tight budget, expect to buy bottled water or purify water from the tap throughout your trip.
The tap water is safe to drink in Chile, with the exception of San Pedro de Atacama. Be aware that the tap water has a high mineral content, so could lead to the development of kidney stones or kidney infections if you drink it for several months straight. If you're prone to either, it's wise to limit the amount you consume. Be cautious and mix up your water routine with bottled water every now and then.
The tap water is safe to drink in most large cities in Colombia. Stick to bottled water if you decide to venture out into more rural areas. Agua Manantial is your best option for bottled water, as it tastes the best and is still inexpensive.
You should not drink the tap water in Ecuador, even in the major cities, as there are many disease-causing organisms in the water. Stick to bottled water, filter your water, or boil the tap water continuously for several minutes (because of the altitude, you need to boil it for longer than you would at sea level) before drinking.
The tap water is safe to drink in the Falkland Islands.
The tap water is not safe to drink in French Guyana. Buy water from a store, use a water filter, or boil your tap water before consuming it.
The water from the tap in Guyana comes out brown, due to the chemicals in the water, which can be interesting if you're not expecting it! The water isn't polluted, but the tap water is generally not safe to drink. Stick to bottled water here.
You shouldn't drink the tap water anywhere in Paraguay. Risks from doing so include dysentery, typhoid, and tuberculosis. Definitely not a place to even use the tap water to brush your teeth.
You should avoid drinking the tap water everywhere in Peru.
Drinking water is safe in Paramaribo, but ask a local for advice before drinking water outside of here, as it's not usually safe. If you're not sure, always go with bottled water.
The tap water is safe to drink throughout Uruguay.
The tap water is not safe to drink in Venezuela. The country is currently (2017) experiencing a shortage of bottled drinking water, so bring water purification products (iodine) with you, or a water filter, to make sure you'll have access to some. Filtered water bottles are a good idea, or boiling the water before you drink will keep you safe and hydrated.