drinking water in cuba

Drinking Water in Cuba

It’s one of the things we take for granted, being able to drink water from the tap at home.  But when we travel life can be very different.  And drinking water is something that shouldn’t be taken for granted, especially in Cuba.  The Cuban state might have included the right to access drinking water in its constitution in 2019, but that doesn’t mean it happens.  So what do you need to know about drinking water in Cuba?  Can you drink tap water in Cuba?  What precautions do you need to take when it comes to Cuba and drinking water?  Read on for more information.

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There are many things that affect the ability to provide drinking water – from the ongoing US embargo, a global pandemic, the ongoing crisis in Venezuela, the Russian invasion of Ukraine reducing support for Cuba from Russia, add to that changing rainfall patterns, and economic uncertainty.  Cuba has nationalized services that are responsible for providing essentials – and the supply of water is included in that.  However, it doesn’t mean that the water is provided, or that it meets international standards when it does arrive.  Sometimes the water is delivered in trucks rather than pipes. Sometimes there’s no fuel for the water trucks.  Life can be hard in Cuba.

But how does this affect you as a visitor to Cuba?  And your requirement for clean drinking water?

TLDR:  I always travel with a filter water bottle.  Because it doesn’t matter how many people tell you that the water is safe to drink it’s not them that’s going to be sick.  I’ve traveled to more than 100 countries, and drunk tap water in ALL of them – but always through a filter water bottle.  And the only time that I’ve been sick is when I trusted someone else to boil and filter the water for me. And a filter water bottle is one of the key things that I’d recommend taking to Cuba.

Right.  Enough of me.  Let’s get back to drinking water in Cuba.

Drinking Water in Cuba – can you drink tap water in Cuba?

TLDR:  No.

Most people visit Cuba for a 2-3 week vacation.  And like anywhere else in the world, the makeup of the vitamins and minerals in the water is really different from the water where you call home.  And that alone is likely to cause at least minor stomach upsets. 

The CDC suggests that up to 50% of international visitors will suffer some stomach upsets when traveling to other countries.

Tap water in hotels in Cuba is generally considered safe, for hygiene – like cleaning your teeth (but I still use my filter water bottle).  Bottled water is generally available in Cuba.

The lack of investment in infrastructure in Cuba has led to old pipes, decay, and changes in weather patterns means that hurricanes cause problems many years, and disrupt infrastructure that needs repair regularly.  Drinking water is treated with chlorine in Cuba, killing bacteria, meaning it often tastes like a swimming pool.

Where can you buy bottled water in Cuba?

You’ll need to head to where there are other tourists.  If you’re staying in a resort then you’ll easily find it.  If you’re staying in a casa particular (our guide is here), then just ask your host where to buy it.  You’ll be able to buy bottled water from paladares, and small Tiendas.

Bottled water can be expensive in Cuba – it’s not something that the locals use, and so this is a tourist only commodity.  You’ll likely pay around 15 CUP for a small bottle.  That will add up quickly.

If you DO buy bottled water in Cuba

Then here’s how to deal with the single-use plastic bottle that you buy it in.

Single-use plastic water bottles are rarely thrown away in Cuba, they have a massive recycling program for plastic bottles and just about anything else.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that the plastic is melted and reformed, but it’s definitely reused.  So if you DO buy bottled water while you’re in Cuba, don’t trash the bottle, leave it next to a bin, or for your host, as those plastic bottles will be reused and reused.  Cubanos will refill them with treated water and store them in the fridge, regular Cubanos do not buy bottled water.  Plastic bottles are used to buy and store items like dried beans, and soups.

Don’t buy bottled water in Cuba

Get yourself a filter water bottle before you go to Cuba.  You’ll

  • Save money on buying single-use plastic water
  • Save the world from more single-use plastic
  • Be in control of your own health.

Most filters in filter water bottles last for thousands of liters of water, and they filter out bacteria, pollution, and nasty tastes like the chlorine that Cuban drinking water is famous for.

Then if you want to help a local out, leave your filter water bottle with them when you leave.  Or take it with you on your next vacation (mine’s been to Nepal, India, Mongolia, and Turkmenistan to mention just a few countries that don’t have a great record on drinking water).

Filter water bottles work on all freshwater sources – so while technically you *can* dunk it in the ocean and use it to filter salt water all that’s going to happen is that the filter will clog pretty quickly.  So in an emergency, it’s fine to do that, but in general, you’ll just reduce the life of your filter water bottle very quickly.

What’s the Best Filter Water Bottle for Cuba?

You’ll want to get a decent brand name that has a good (future) supply of filters.  Lifestraw water bottles and Grayl water bottles are generally well-recognized names.

They both use two-stage carbon filters to remove bacteria, parasites, and chlorine.

The Lifestraw Go Water Filter Bottle has a 22-ounce capacity, it has a two-stage carbon filter that lasts for 100 liters of water and a membrane microfilter that lasts up to 4,000 liters of water.  The bottle itself is reusable, extremely durable, and BPA-free.  You can buy it here.

The Grayl GeoPress 24-ounce capacity filter water bottle removes viruses – like rotavirus, norovirus, hepatitis A, bacteria like  E. Coli, salmonella, dysentery, and protozoa such as giardia, cryptosporidium, amoebae) – from virtually any freshwater source.  It also removes chemicals such as chlorine, benzene, chloroform, and heavy metals like lead, and arsenic.  And yes, it does make the water taste better too!  Buy a Grayl Filter water bottle here.

You can also use a Steripen (and we travel with one of these as well) – but they will not remove any chlorine or other nasty tastes from the water. There’s more on what else you should bring to Cuba in our packing guide here.

FAQS on drinking tap water in Cuba

Got questions about drinking water in Cuba? Or want to know more about how to drink tap water in Cuba and we haven’t answered your questions?  Check out our frequently asked questions about drinking tap water in Cuba below, or ask us yours in the comments.

Can you drink Cuba Tap Water?

As a visitor, no, it’s not recommended to drink tap water in Cuba, unless you treat it.  You can boil tap water (but you’re on vacation…) or you can run it through a filter water bottle like this one with a two-stage carbon filter.

Can you buy bottled water in Cuba?

Yes, you can buy bottled water in Cuba.  Cubanos do not, on the whole drink bottled water, so all the bottled water that you find in Cuba is either manufactured or shipped in specifically for the tourist market, so there is no locally priced source for it and you’ll pay accordingly.

Can you drink the water in Varadero, Cuba?

Water supply in hotels in Varadero does tend to be of higher quality, but that doesn’t mean that your stomach won’t suffer.  Different regions and countries of the world have different minerals in water supplies and it will be different from that which you’re used to at home.  Drink it with caution.  Especially if you are visiting after hurricane season.

Should I avoid ice in drinks in Cuba?

Generally, if you’re avoiding the water, then you should avoid the ice too.  Many higher-end tourist areas will make ice with bottled water, after all they make Cuban cocktails amazingly well..  It’s a personal choice, but I would limit the ice that I put in drinks. 

Final Words on Drinking Water in Cuba

Just because other people drink the tap water in Cuba doesn’t mean that you should do it.  I always take a cautious approach to water, (being sick for 8 weeks after that water issue above will do that for you).  Regardless of how long you’re in Cuba for, you don’t want to spend any of your vacation looking for the next toilet or needing rehydration because you’ve got gastro problems.  Take care of your own water supply while you’re in Cuba – whether that’s by buying a filter water bottle (you’ll need to do that BEFORE you get to Cuba), or by buying bottled water, but be aware of the costs involved.

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