Traveling abroad is an exotic enticement, many tourists go without considering what to do if something happens.  If you do not know the emergency service numbers, or even how to ask for help, you could be in worse peril.  Emergency numbers, like legal systems, vary from country to country. Most countries do not have a single emergency number such as the United States 911 emergency number for ambulance, fire or police; although some countries redirect 911 to their emergency systems.  The digits 112 are becoming the world standard.  You may want to think twice before dialing emergency numbers in some countries.

Always register your trip in the U.S. Department of State’s State Smart Traveler Enrollment program at step.state.gov. It is extremely important to know this information before you step foot off the plane. Knowing the emergency number could save you or your friend’s life. The U.S. Department of State lists all the emergency numbers per country. It is also important to have the number to the United States Embassy in each country you are visiting on hand when you travel.

According to usnews.com, the most popular destination for American tourists is Europe. Other popular countries include China and Mexico. Here is a comparison of the emergency call plans for the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, France, China and Mexico:

UNITED KINGDOM has a few emergency call numbers:

  • 101* is a supposed to be a fee for service hotline for non-emergency calls, such as reporting a crime.  
  • 999 is the historic number.
  • 112 is the preferred emergency number. It will redirect you to local emergency services.

*It can cost 15 pence to dial 101.  Telegraph put out a seething criticism in 2015 saying dialing 101 is a waste of time.  Police.uk, says to call this number if your car has been stolen, damaged property, suspected drug use, if you’d like to ask about a general question, or to give information about a crime in the area you are in. Telegraph says 1,085,829 calls were abandoned or dropped.  Police.Uk recommend using this website, in order to get the local police number for the town you are staying in.

According to ec.europa.eu, if you dial 112 you will transfer to the emergency responder in the area, free of charge. Europa reports, “It is not possible to call 112 from a mobile phone without a SIM card.:”  

According to osac,gov, The United Kingdom has a similar, sometimes better police response than the United States. The police are community driven, thus they are professional and motivated to keep crime low.

GERMANY has two different emergency numbers:

  • 110 for police.
  • 112 for fire or ambulance.

If there is an emergency while driving, police boxes are stationed along the side of the road to call for help. Signs with arrows point to the closest box. According to osac.gov, the crime rate against Americans in Germany is low.

ITALY has civil police (polizia) and military police (carabinieri).  Their roles overlap.  According to www.Justlanded.com, the carabiniere have stations in most Italian villages and are more prevalent in Italy than civil police. The Carabiniere are generally called for national security and policing.  Here are some relevant emergency service numbers:

  • 112 Carabinieri, Italian military police.
  • 113 Italian civil police.
  • 115 Italian fire brigade.
  • 118 Italian ambulance.

The telephone numbers within Italy are also color coated:

  • A green color generally means they are toll-free numbers inside Italy. These numbers must start with either ‘800’ or ‘147.’
  • Blue numbers are used for child abuse reports;
  • Pink numbers for abuse against women;
  • Violet for any other abuse;
  • And, red for prenatal services.  

Some services may not be available if you are using a mobile phone.

According to osac.gov, the crime rate in Italy is around the same as the United States but does exist. Sexual assaults, homicide and theft occur to American citizens. Both branches of police are well armed and usually considered responsive.  Italy has a guilty until proven innocent legal system.

FRANCE has a multitude of numbers for emergencies. According to ec.europa.eu,

  • The main number is 112. This number can be reached by a mobile phone. If you do not speak French there are interpreters who can translate the call for you.
  • To contact the police directly, call 15.
  • If it is a medical emergency, you should call 17.
  • To call regarding a social emergency dial 115.
  • France does offer the emergency number 114 to persons who are hearing impaired or deaf.

According to osac.gov, the police in France are proactive when fighting crime.

CHINA is a popular destination to study abroad. According to Travel China Guide, the main emergency numbers are:

  • Police dial 110.
  • Ambulance dial 120.
  • Fire dial 119.

It is recommended you call the police first so they can assess the situation. You must know your location and nearby landmarks when you notify police.

According to osac.gov, China has a low crime rate against Americans traveling there. The police in China are vigilant, tough on crime and will respond to foreign victims with the same vigor as Chinese citizens. OSAC refers to them as excellent.

MEXICO is a popular destination for Americans. According to Angloinfo, Mexico has a couple different numbers to call for different emergencies:

  • Police and the primary emergency number is 066; although it is recommended you look up the number for local police in the state you are visiting.
  • Ambulance dial 065. However, you may need a private versus a public hospital for quality of care.

Mexico is rated number two most corrupt police in the world by Criminal Justice Degrees. The U.S. Department of State has an active travel warning for Mexico as of January 1, 2016 due to threats by organized criminal groups.  According to osac.gov, the level of crime in Mexico is critical. The crimes range from theft to kidnappings. Mexico has a low conviction rate. It is important to vigilant due to the fact most crimes are committed against those who are unaware. Mexico has currently tried to make their force better.  You are advised to ask for identification before you give your identity to the police due to a number impersonations. Record the officer’s name, badge number, and patrol car number. Keep the location and contact numbers for the U.S. embassy with you in case of harassment or wrongful detainment.

SUMMARY
It is extremely important to know the correct emergency number and whether or not there is translation support before you step foot off the plane. Knowing the emergency number could save you or your friend’s life. Always check travel safety information on countries you are traveling to at travel.state.gov. You want to know if the police are trustworthy before you dial.