I would like to ask if the tap water in hostels of Ireland and England is drinkable. I never saw someone drink from there, and even in the pubs you have to order for a bottle.

  • 3
    I've been drinking it for over 30 years ;) Mains water is drinkable. In public areas, if a water supply isn't safe (for example it's off a tank) it's usually signed.
    – webdevduck
    Jul 31, 2013 at 22:09
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    You have to order bottled water in pubs because pubs are there to sell drinks. It's nothing to do with the drinkability of the water. Nov 14, 2013 at 16:15
  • You can also order tap water in pubs which is almost always free, but the publican won't be too impressed if that's all you order
    – Phil
    Sep 12, 2015 at 15:20

5 Answers 5


When I moved to London for a few years, almost all my friends had filters. The trace calcium / limescale in the water will result in some people telling you it's "hard" water, or "soft water" depending on where in the UK you are.

Indeed, there's debate over where it tastes better or worse:

Is there really a north-south water taste divide?

Hardness of tap water in the UK

Many friends had these filters to try and remove the limescale, and you had to regularly clean your kettle to remove the build up of this stuff.

However, is it drinkable? Sure. No problems at all. Most who buy the bottled water did so purely for convenience, or taste.


Short answer - you'll need to ask the property to be sure.

All the mains tap water will be fine to drink everywhere in the UK and Ireland.

However... Some hostels may have a tank which feeds some of their taps, so you may find that the taps in the kitchen are mains-fed and fine, but the ones in bathrooms (for an example) could be fed via the tank, and may not be as fresh. The hostel will be able to tell you which ones are fine. Additionally, there are some hostels that aren't on the mains water (eg remote ones in Scotland), so there may not be any drinking water there, other than what you hike in yourself.

In pubs - it's always fine to ask for a glass of tap water, and they'll give you one (it's in their license). However, bottled water may taste nicer, so people not drinking eg beer may well often prefer bottled.

  • pff good to know it, in london my friend and I were spending almost 5 pounds per day only for water (each one of us), and we were both too shy to ask. anyway thank you =) Jul 13, 2013 at 9:42
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    If you don't like the taste of the tap water, go to a supermarket. You can by bottled water in 1.5+ litre bottles very cheaply, very much cheaper than in smaller bottles! Otherwise, drink the tap water, it's fine :)
    – Gagravarr
    Jul 13, 2013 at 16:10
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    The thing about pubs and tap water isn't quite like that. You can make yourself very unpopular in a pub by asking for tap water - they are there to sell drinks, after all. Jul 13, 2013 at 20:42
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    @DJClayworth If you go into a pub and order only a tap water, expect some "interesting" looks. Order two pints and two glasses of tap water, and you'll have absolutely no problems! As long as you're not taking the piss, pretty much everywhere will be happy to give you tap water to go with your other drinks/food
    – Gagravarr
    Jul 15, 2013 at 8:37
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    Public buildings/hotels etc with non-drinkable tap water are required by law to have a "Not suitable for drinking" or similar sign next to the taps. If there's no sign, the water is fine.
    – Jon Story
    Dec 15, 2014 at 10:08

Tap water in the UK and Ireland is drinkable. There are a tiny number of cases where it is not, but the place you are staying at should post notices on any indoor tap where the water is not drinkable.


Premises that serve alcohol are obliged by law to provide free tap water to guests so I wouldn't be shy to ask for it. Nowadays they don't even look surprised when you order mains water!

BTW here is a list of some FAQs regarding British tap water (including your question). It's not hyperlinked unfortunately but I used the ctlr+F function to look up this answer



The water from taps in Great Britain does vary in hardness depending on where you are as the map above shows. Anywhere where food is involved the water will be mains supplied and quite safe to drink. Mains water is carefully and continuously monitored by the Water Authorities. This does not apply to water in washrooms/toilets etc. Often this water is supplied from a storage tank in the attic of the property and is not potable (drinking). This practice is rarer in modern properties but is quite common in older buildings, small hotels, lodgings etc.

  • 1
    Interesting information but doesn't seem to answer the question at hand.
    – Karlson
    Sep 12, 2015 at 15:28

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