For the 50+ Traveler

Everyone has heard horror stories about vacationers coming down with a serious case of 'Montezuma's revenge' after simply brushing their teeth from a tap. While some adopt a better-safe-than-sorry approach no matter where they land, everybody needs to know to avoid drinking the tapwater in these countries.

1. Mexico

In recent years, Mexico has become an increasingly popular vacation spot for spring breakers, adventurous retirees, and even families seeking some fun in the sun. Unfortunately, the quality of the rapidly-growing nation's utilities hasn't quite caught up to the standards American visitors may expect.

This is primarily due to the fact that Mexico's regional governments are less consistent than those of other nations in enforcing strict water regulations. This, combined with the high levels of salinity in the country's natural water supply, means that drinking water from the tap can quickly make your vacation an uncomfortable experience. (And one restricted to your hotel bathroom.)

This certainly doesn't mean that all Mexican water is hazardous, as conditions vary by region, but it would still probably be best to proceed with caution.

Mexican beach

2. China

China may be an international powerhouse of technology, art, science, and culture, but there are some environmental issues that travelers from the west need to anticipate before visiting this fascinating land. Contrary to popular belief, even massive cities like Beijing and Shanghai do not offer tap water that is safe to drink directly.

This is a result of climate-based toxins that infiltrate the air due to the country's large population (and subsequent high levels of carbon emissions). All hope is not lost, however; in general, you can brush your teeth and even bathe in water without concern. Just remember that any water intended for drinking should be boiled to kill any potential germs prior to consumption.

3. Russia

For non-Europeans, the land of Russia can seem somewhat mysterious. On the one hand, this can make it a deeply attractive travel destination - who doesn't love learning about a new place through total immersion? However, there are some idiosyncrasies that those entering the country should know about and prepare for ahead of time. The state of the water supply should top that list if you're headed to the land of vodka, writers, and nesting dolls.

As powerful as Russia is, particular precaution is necessary when using the water in order to avoid illness and make the most of your trip. In historic cities like St. Petersburg, the plumbing systems are almost as old as the landmarks you've come to see. As a result, the water purity isn't exactly reliable. Showering is safe, but if you can, do your best to use bottled water to drink and brush your teeth while enjoying your time in Russia.

St. Basil's
The spires of St. Basil's, Moscow./Unsplash / Nikolay Vorobyev

4. Brazil

Despite what the recent summer Olympics may have led international viewers to believe, the water in Brazil is not actually all hazardous. Particularly in major cities such as Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, it is most likely safe to drink water from the tap in any hotel or condo you may be visiting, as most of these filter their own water. There is still cause for concern, however; this water is likely to taste substantially less pleasant than what tourists might be accustomed to. So, as much as it is unlikely to cause illness, visitors probably won't be too motivated to take a sip anyway.

That said, there are more rural areas in Brazil where the water is not safe to drink straight from the source. Should you choose to venture out into the less-densely-populated regions of the country (perhaps to enjoy the famously exotic wildlife), be wary of the quality of your tap water. Steripens, iodine tablets, or even good ol' boiling for one minute can help purify it if need be.

5. The Bahamas

Yes, the Bahamas may well be the perfect destination for a relaxing beach getaway, but that doesn't mean visitors should be relaxed in how they prepare and protect themselves while exploring the island paradise. It is vital that Bahama-bound travelers be diligent in avoiding not just the tap water, but also anything that has been immersed in or is composed of the water as well. Fruits and vegetables rinsed in sink water, as well as ice potentially made from it, can cause quite a host of problems if ingested.

Additionally, the Bahamas does pose an unusual problem for international travelers in that it is a relatively isolated island chain, meaning that your chances of getting sick here are actually higher. Illnesses that have been largely eliminated in other nations, such as Hepatitis A and even typhoid can be transmitted in the food and water in the Bahamas because of their limited access to mass immunization. This provides just one more reason for visitors to be cautious regardless of where they are staying on the archipelago.

Even though the water in these countries isn't 100% safe to drink, it shouldn't deter you from enjoying a vacation in these beautiful locations. Just keep your bottled water handy!

Exuma, Bahamas./Unsplash / Jared Rice