Can You Drink Tap Water In Bogota?
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Bogota is Colombia’s capital and one of the most developed cities in South America. Next to La Paz, Lima, and Quito in neighboring nations, Bogota scores pretty high as an industrialized Latin American city. However, many are unsure whether Colombia has the same water maintenance and purification safety standards. These fears are further solidified by the locals, who almost always boil their water before drinking it.
Generally, it is wise to boil your water in Bogota, Colombia. While certain areas are safer than others for drinking water straight from the tap, most locals would advise you to boil before drinking. Sometimes, a filter is necessary due to potential heavy metal issues.
If you’re planning a trip to Bogota and aren’t sure whether the water’s safe for drinking, then you’re in the right place! Keep reading to answer all your questions.
Do You Have to Boil the Water in Bogota?
The water in Bogota is much safer than the tap water in other Colombian cities. However, whether you should boil the water before drinking depends on where you stay in the city.
The more modern the area, generally the safer the water is for drinking, and you may be alright if you don’t boil your water.
While Bogota is the most developed region of Colombia, some of the plumbing needs to be updated, making the water not perfectly safe for consumption.
There’s a lot of online disagreement about whether you need to boil your water in Colombia. Of course, Colombia is a large country with 32 different departments and five districts, varying levels of development.
Bogota is located in Cundimarca in the capital district of Colombia, and is one of the country’s most developed areas.
Thanks to its development, the city has one of the most advanced plumbing systems in the country. Despite its modern development, though, certain areas of the district suffer from old pipes and contaminated water sources.
The southern region of Bogota is very different from northern Bogota, especially when it comes down to water sanitation.
The disparity between southern and northern Bogota is one of the reasons why it’s better to be safe than sorry and just boil your water before drinking it.
I’ve lived in Bogota for several years and have always boiled my water before drinking it. My reason for doing this stems primarily from locals advising me to always boil my water before drinking it.
While certain areas might be safer than others, I feel like the locals probably know what they’re talking about.
When is the best time to visit Bogota? I answer that here and yep, it has to do with the weather!
Is it Safe to Drink water at a Hotel in Bogota?
Hotels are safer options for tap water than some older buildings in Bogota. However, don’t assume all hotels have the same sanitation standards as other Bogota hotels.
If you’re staying in a reasonably modern hotel built in northern Bogota in the past 5-10 years, then the water is probably safe to drink from the tap but ask the staff before doing so.
Similar to the question above, there’s a lot of disagreement online about whether tap water in hotels is safe for drinking in Bogota.
As a rule of thumb, you should avoid drinking tap water in buildings that still use water tanks on the roof.
While water tanks aren’t necessarily uncommon in U.S. hotels, most locals advise you to avoid drinking from the tap of old hotels with old water tanks.
What about if you plan on visiting Cartagena while visiting Colombia? Can you drink the tap water there? Like Bogota, it’s a nuanced answer. Check out Can I Drink Tap Water in Cartagena?
Is There A Lot of Heavy Metals in Bogota’s Water?
The Bogota River is a highly polluted river system in Northern Colombia.
The Bogota River was tested and found to contain several heavy metal contaminants, including cadmium, arsenic, and chromium.
Most of these contaminants are from industrial fertilizers and other runoff from industrial plants.
The Bogota River begins just outside Colombia’s capital city and is a tributary of the Magdalena River. The river is an essential source of water supply to the farming districts and the city district of Cundimarca.
Three branches of the Bogota River flow through the city districts of Cundimarca, including the Tunjuelo, Salitre, and Fucha Rivers.
The water pollution in the Bogota River has impacted the city’s and local farms’ health and safety.
Since the water is used for irrigating crops and livestock, it can cross-contaminate the agricultural section in the rural regions surrounding the capital city.
While these contaminants are a concern, they’re not entirely uncommon for major river systems.
The Raritan River flows through New Jersey and is the 12th most polluted river in the United States. China’s Yangtze River has also increased in pollution as the nation continues to industrialize.
Essentially, yes, the Bogota River is polluted with heavy metals. However, this is probably true for the nearby river or water supply near your hometown.
The best way to be safe, no matter where you travel, is to bring a water purifier with you. I always buy purified water or use a purification system in my fridge, whether in the U.S. or Colombia.
I’ve seen many backpackers use this travel filter made by Grayl or use these water purification tablets by AquaTabs.
Where Does Bogota Get its Water?
Despite the size of the Bogota River, most of Bogota’s water supply comes from the Chingaza National River.
The river flows south from the Andean Mountains into Bogota and is considered much cleaner than the Bogota River. The surrounding Chingaza national park is also a beautiful region worth visiting if you’re in Bogota.
The Chingaza River is a large body of water in the Andes Mountains. It’s one of 40 glacial lakes in the Orinoco River Basin. The water is one of the purest in the region and provides a significant amount of clean water to the capital city.
Chingaza River National Nature Park is also an excellent tourist attraction. You can hike in the mountains rich in natural wildlife like deer, wooly monkeys, ocelots, pumas, and spectacled bears.
Of course, you must be very careful when traveling in this area because of the wildlife, so make sure you travel with a group.
Another question I get often is, can you use Uber in Bogota? Well, it’s a tricky answer, and I provide the dos and don’ts of Uber in Bogota here.
Bogota is a gorgeous city, with amazing festivals and one of the most developed areas in Colombia, along with Medellin and Cartegena. The water supply is relatively safe, especially in the Northern parts of the city.
Since Bogota’s weather is relatively cold, there aren’t as many bacteria in the water as in some hotter regions to the south. If you’re traveling through Pasto or Popoyan, then you should ensure you always boil your water. The infrastructure is not as good in these areas, and the heat allows more bacteria than in regions near Bogota.
I hope this article helps keep you safe while traveling through South America. While Bogota’s water is much safer than other cities in Colombia, I always boil my water just to be safe.
Before you go, here are some other hot Colombian topics you need to read:
Quora: Is the water in Colombia safe to drink?
Colombia.Co: How does the political and administrative organization work in Colombia?
Trip Advisor: Can we drink the tap water in Bogota?
Environment and Society Portal: Waste and water pollution
Urban Water Blueprint: Bogota, Colombia