When we decided to rent a condo in Playa Del Carmen for a month, our biggest concerns were the Mexican drinking water and food safety. I knew Celine and I could manage to stay healthy, but what about our 2 & 4 year old kids? Surely they’d get Mexican water in their mouths in the bathtub or eat a bad taco or something?
I’m happy to report that with attention to detail and probably a little luck, we managed to spend four full weeks without any food safety issues in Mexico. (Make that 6 weeks after you tack on our 2 week trip to Mexico City and Valle de Bravo with our kids!)
We have traveled a lot in countries where the water quality isn’t acceptable for tourists, so we have practical experience with food and water safety, but neither of us are professional health practitioners. This blog post is simply an account of our Mexico food safety behavior based on our experience and research and shouldn’t be taken as professional advice.
Please consult a travel health professional for your own situation.
This post contains compensated links.
Here’s our top 8 tips for food safety in Mexico:
Mexico Water Safety Tips
1. Drink Purified Water
This water safety in Mexico tip seems obvious, but it’s super important. Even the locals drink purified water. In Mexico purified water is called ‘agua pura’.
Most Mexican all-inclusive resorts will exclusively serve their guests purified water, but make 100% sure before you book your stay.
If you are staying at a Mexican Airbnb or VRBO, you’ll need to buy your own purified water. Thankfully this is super-easy as there are Mexican convenience stores all over the place, especially in the tourist areas of town.
OXXO is the biggest chain of Mexican convinience stores, but you can also buy purified water at the Mega supermarket chain or even at Walmart stores. We recommend that each family member bring their own refillable bottle to Mexico. Then you can buy 5 gallon jugs of water to fill them up. I’m a pretty small guy, but I can carry a 5 gallon water in each hand for a reasonable distance.
An especially easy way to get purified water in Mexico is to have it delivered. Our Playa del Carmen apartment rental had a water dispenser which holds 5 gallon jugs of ‘agua pura‘ (purified water). Our condo staff would bring up new jugs on request at a cost of 40 pesos ($2 USD) each. Each jug of purified water would last our family of 4 for approximately 3 days.
2. Boil Water for Coffee in Mexico
With water safety concerns, you may be wondering if you can drink coffee in Mexico? We love coffee, so we were determined to find a way to drink coffee in Mexico.
We drink a lot of coffee, so rather than drain our purified water supply, we decided to boil enough Mexican tap water each night that we could use in our coffee the next morning.
When boiling water in Mexico, it is essential to boil the water vigorously for at least a full minute – we often went way longer. Boiling water is a very effective way to disinfect drinking water in Mexico. Once the boiled Mexican tap water cooled, we poured it in the coffee maker.
3. Taking a Bath in Mexico
As parents of two small children, we wondered if it was safe to take a bath in Mexico? We viewed bath time as one of the biggest risk of getting untreated Mexican water in our kids mouths.
Young children are too young to know that the Mexican drinking water is not safe and that they need to keep their mouths closed throughout bath time. This significantly increases their risk of getting sick in Mexico.
We reduced the risk by severely limiting their ‘real’ baths in Mexico. Our Playa del Carmen condo had a chlorinated pool, so a daily dip in the pool is almost like a bath, right? Well, close enough anyways…
When we did give them a proper bath in Mexico, we kept the water levels in the bathtub very low and kept the duration of the baths very short.
4. Washing Dishes in Mexico
Our Playa del Carmen condo didn’t have a dishwasher, so we had to wash our dishes in the sink. Did we use purified water to wash our dishes in Mexico?
Nope – we used very hot, tap water to wash our dishes in Mexico. We used tons of dish soap and made sure every single item was thoroughly dried before use.
5. Brushing Your Teeth in Mexico
This one is pretty clear – you need to use purified water at all times when brushing your teeth in Mexico. This includes using purified water to rinse your toothbrush afterwards. Never use the tap water in Mexico to brush your teeth (unless it has been properly boiled or treated first).
We didn’t use one on our trip, but if you want an extra layer of water safety in Mexico, consider buying a travel water purifier.
Mexico Food Safety Tips
6. Buying Food at a Mexican Grocery Store
Walmart and Mega are the two main supermarkets in Playa Del Carmen. Both are very big supermarkets and appear to uphold the food cleanliness standards we have back home.
We shopped for groceries at the Playa del Carmen Walmart a few times, but mostly we went to Mega for a more local experience. The food safety standards at both Mexican supermarkets seemed high and I had no food safety concern for my family.
7. Use Disinfectant on Your Mexican Produce
There is a rule of thumb for travelers about eating fruit and veggies in developing countries which says, “if you can’t peel it yourself, you shouldn’t eat it”.
If you stick to this food safety rule for travelers, you will get tired of eating bananas and papayas in a hurry! To expand your selection of fruits and vegetables in Mexico, do what the locals do and buy some food disinfectant.
Food disinfectant is available for sale in the produce section of the Mexican supermarkets.
Simply take your produce home, soak it in water and add the specified number of drops of disinfectant and let it soak for the specified time. Worked like a charm for us!
8. Mexican Restaurant Food Safety
When traveling, we try very hard not to eat out in the center of the tourist districts. Here the restaurant prices are high and the food quality is often low. We have success finding restaurants in Mexico with better food quality and lower prices a few blocks away from the main action.
These Mexican restaurants are still focused on serving food to tourists, so they are used to our food safety and water quality standards. It makes sense… if they give enough people travelers diarrhea, they will get horrible reviews on Google or Yelp. Making tourists sick will kill a Mexican restaurant.
In Playa Del Carmen, the main tourist area is 5th Avenue. We ate at a ton of family-friendly restaurants in Playa del Carmen – none of which were on 5th Avenue. The restaurant food was excellent and didn’t get sick once.
We stayed away from Mexican street food though. As amazing as Mexican street food looks and smells, the risk of food poisoning is much higher and we simply didn’t want to risk it with small kids.
If you have smaller children, you may wish to read our Keeping your Baby Safe in the Tropics blog post.
We hope you learned something from these Mexico food and water safaty have a fun & healthy trip to Mexico!
DON’T MISS: If you are currently in the Mayan Riviera or are planning a trip there, don’t miss our blog post, Plan the Best Family Trip to the Mayan Riviera. It’s full of planning tips, exciting family activities and links to all of our Mayan Riviera blog posts. It’s sure to help make your family trip a memorable one!
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