Drinking Water in Greece and ways of asking for it in a Restaurant
In mountainous Greece (the islands and mainland are both very mountainous) there are often springs with pure drinking water where local people come to fill up bottles and jugs to take home and even mule herds or what have you, bring animals to drink. These are usually by the side of the road and the more water an area has the more of these springs or pee-ghee there are. Streets in Athens and all over Greece are named after springs usually called just Zodogou Pigi or life giving spring.
In some larger towns, spring water is sometimes piped in from some distance and to little taps with ornate, often arched housings around them sort of like the one photo right.
Springs like these are not for tourists only but preceed the concept of tourist as we know it. These springs are for the local people and their animals so don't be afraid to partake of a centuries old tradition of sharing and distributing water.
'Nero' means water in Greek
Loose in the enviroment, in their own milieu, wiser tourists are often seen with bottled water, sometimes pulling one out of their day pack, and rightly so, as museum and archeological site water is questionable, rarely free and needlessly expensive. Is it an accident or did they plan it that way? My guess is better than yours and I'm leanin towards: its no accident!
By Law bottled water comes in 2 sizes LG and SM. and costs 40 or 50 eu cents for a small and 1eu for a one liter size or the large.
MAINLAND Greek Restaurant Dining
Depending on where you are in MAINLAND Greece, taverna and restaurant tap water is perfectly safe to imbibe and often preferable. There is likely no need to order bottled water. Local water is perfectly safe and drinkable in many towns especially in mountainous areas. Essentially all of Greece is mountainous.
ISLAND Greek Restaurant Dining
On most of the the Greek Islands water is a problem to a greater or lesser extent. Any water, either hotel room tap, restaurant or bar or what have you may be suspect. On an island you are much more likely to drink imported from off island bottled water of which there is usually an abundant supply at hand.
Since on many islands you can drink the tap water its good to know that In fancy joints, some unscrupulous waiters or waitresses may bring bottled water as a matter of course unless you specify Tap water and ask for a 'carafe' and 'potiria' (glasses). I always try to eat where the Greeks are eating and not the tourists traps.
- A large bottle of Tap Water Ena meghalo Boo-kali Nero Vree-see-ios
- Bottled water Em-(fi-a-le)meno (Fiale is a flask )
- With or with out gazi or gas (Anthrakiko aka carbonation )
- drinking glasses or Po-teer-yia potiria
- learn more Greek words
Considering that the latter are by law brought with no extra charge, and taking note of the fact that plastic bottles constitute a huge percentage of the plastic garbage in Greece (often burned on hillsides, and in any case, not bio-degradable), visitors to Greece would do well to ask if the public water is safe to drink before buying bottled water, and to carry a thermos or water bottle with them to fill up where there are taps with spring water.
In towns where there are such taps, eating establishments often stock up on this water for those who ask for the carafe rather than the bottled kind. All of this does not in any way deny the fact of occasional unsafe, bad tasting, or over chlorinated public water usually from a big city tap.
As with everything in Greece, it is good to ask a few local people for their opinion. Ask the people in the tourist offices if they drink the local water (since they have no stake in seeing you buy bottled water), and also if there is local spring water in taps around the town. Islands too are often short on water. In Syros for example the tap water is not potable. Always ask, but even so Montezuma has yet to visit his revenge upon Greece. Barbarossa yes, Montezuma no.