The Easy Ordering Tip Tourists In Spain Should Know To Avoid Paying For Water

Food in Spain is an experience of its own. With its bucket list-worthy destinations for foodies and mouthwatering food tours across some of the country's most popular destinations, the European country knows how to do dining and hospitality very well. However, there's typically one thing that surprises U.S. tourists when they dine: Where's the water?

While restaurants in the United States will typically welcome patrons with a free, ice-cold glass of water, most places in Spain — and, generally, throughout Europe — won't necessarily serve it unless you specifically ask for it. And, to make matters worse, when you do ask, it's quite likely that they'll bring out a (relatively expensive) bottle for the table — and then charge you for it.

So, how can you ensure you won't be paying extra for the water you drink? Make sure you ask the waiter for "Un vaso de agua del grifo," which directly translates to "A glass of water from the tap." That way, they'll know not to bring out an entire bottle — and you can dine a little easier knowing that you won't be charged for it.

Providing access to unbottled water is a legal requirement in Spain

For starters, if you're worried about getting sick, you'll be happy to know that drinking tap water in Spain is perfectly safe. In fact, roughly 99.5% of the tap water throughout the country is considered safe for consumption — meaning you can sip away without a worry. Therefore, it's totally fine (and safe) to go ahead and ask for a glass of tap water when you need one while you're dining out — especially considering that the staff are obligated to serve it to you once you ask.

Why is that? Well, since 2022, all restaurants and hotels in Spain are legally required to provide their customers with unpackaged drinking water — aka, tap water — completely free of charge. This is part of the country's recently-implemented "Law on Waste and Contaminated Soil for a Circular Economy," and their efforts to reduce waste and combat the over-purchasing of bottled water — a lifestyle choice that, ultimately, wreaks havoc on the environment.

The European bottled water vs. tap water debate

According to a Reddit discussion about how common it is to drink tap water in Europe, Spaniards took to the thread to set the record straight: It depends on where you are in the country. So, while tap water in Madrid is generally tasty, water from the northeast, according to Redditor u/Naruedyoh, is typically "dull" — meaning most people wouldn't choose it over bottled. The same goes for places like Barcelona where, per Redditor u/MrsBurpee, tap water "tastes horribly." 

Beyond Spain, other countries also have their own quirks when it comes to water. A few destinations throughout Europe, like Italy and Poland, still prefer to buy bottled over getting their H2O from the tap. This decision ultimately boils down to personal taste — literally. Most bottled-water drinkers complain that tap water just doesn't taste good because of the traces of chlorine and fluoride that are sometimes added. Meanwhile, bottled water has a flavor that can't be beat. This is often due to a higher concentration of minerals, all of which contribute to its unique taste and potential health benefits.

On the other end of the spectrum, countries like Iceland and Finland actually pride themselves on the quality of their tap water, per Redditor u/ImFinePleaseThanks. Not only are their water sources exceptionally pure, but according to locals, bottled water is actually pretty expensive, so it's just not worth it.