Drinking Water in China

Tap water in China is undrinkable, but safe to be used to brush teeth or wash up. Travelers can drink boiled water or easily find bottled water in convenient stores everywhere.
 

Tap water is not drinkable in China hotels
Tap water is not drinkable.

 

Can I drink the tap water in China?

No, the tap water in China is undrinkable. Unlike in most western countries, people get easy access to safe tap water, while in most places in China the tap water is not safe for drinking before it is boiled, although it looks clear. Even in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, water from the tap is not well filtered, sterilized, or purified, which may carry hazardous contaminants like sediments, rusts, bacteria, virus, chlorines, and some other heavy metals. Sickness like diarrhea caused by drinking unclean water may spoil your trip.
 

 

Is it ok to brush teeth with tap water in China?

Yes. There wouldn’t be any problem using the tap water to take a shower, brush the teeth, wash face, hands, or clothes. You can be at ease when doing such washing just like all Chinese do.

If you are still worried, you can use the boiled water or bottled water to brush your teeth and rinse your mouth. In addition, you’d better peel the fruit even though you have washed it with the tap water.
 

 

Where can I get potable water?

For drinking, one can easily buy bottled mineral water at a price as low as CNY 2, cheap and safe. Quality and popular brands include Nongfu Spring, Nestle, C’estbon, evian, Kunlun Mountains, and Wahaha. Various kinds of bottled tea and juice are also available.

Otherwise, you can use the boiler provided in the hotel rooms to have the tap water boiled, and wait for it cooling down to be drinkable, or bring some in your thermos when you go outside.

1. Drinking Water in Hotel

Some hotels are facilitated with a dispenser which delivers both cool and hot potable water, while some are equipped with a heater or thermos. You can use the heater to boil water or use the boiled water directly from the thermos free of charge. Besides, decent hotels may supply high-quality bottled mineral water for a minimal charge.

2. Drinking Water in Restaurants

Water is served for free before the meal in most Chinese restaurants, and some even offer tea or soup instead. Always, the water offered has been boiled, and it is served hot or warm as Chinese people believed drinking cold water may not be good for health. Most restaurants have bottled water or other beverages on their menu. However, you must pay for them and the price is a little higher than that in the supermarkets. Note that some restaurants may sell cold drinks, but without ice.

3. Drinking Water in Tourist Sites

Only a few tourist sites offer free drinkable tap water, like the Shanghai Disneyland and Hangzhou West Lake. In most cases, there are stores or vendors selling bottled drink, but the price may be a bit higher than that sold outside. Especially in some mountain sites, because of delivery difficulty, the price is several times more expensive than that in supermarkets. Therefore, you are suggested to buy outside the scenic area, particularly when you travel to places like Mt. Emei, Mt. Huashan, and Yellow Mountain.

4. Drinking Water in Airports & Railway Stations

No matter at the airports or train stations, there are stores selling bottled drink, and the price may rise to some degree. There are also dispensers for both cold and boiled water, and what you need is to carry a bottle with you. Even when you get onboard on a train, the bottle would come in handy.

Tap water is not drinkable in China
Tap water in hotels is not drinkable.
Bottled Mineral Water
Bottled Mineral Water

 

Notes

1. Bottled drink is mostly contained in plastic barrel. Once it is opened, it's recommended that you drink it up within one week. When the date range spans more than 7 days, the water can cause health problems as bacteria may become present, especially in summer.
2. When buying bottled water, make sure the water is transparent, free of any form of deposits, and the bottle is smooth and clear. Also check the date of production, shelf life, and whether the seal is intact.