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The One Thing You Need to Add into Your Phone Before Traveling Abroad

We are all familiar with the U.S. 911 help number, but who do you call when you’re in a foreign country?

Looking up your destination’s emergency phone number isn’t a standard vacation-planning step. But the old adage of “it’s better to be safe than sorry” rings true —no one who finds themselves in an emergency situation abroad expects it to happen to them. We’re all familiar with 911 in the U.S., but what number do you dial when you’re in a foreign country? Emergency numbers around the world aren’t something you want to be trying to figure out in the midst of extreme danger.

It only takes a few minutes to find the number that may save your or someone else’s life, thus making it the one thing you should be adding to your phone before a trip abroad. Consider it part of your itinerary research process.

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Emergency Numbers Around the World

Here are some popular English-speaking destinations’ emergency numbers around the world, and how to find any other ones you need.

  • Australia uses 000, and New Zealand uses 111.
  • Canada and Mexico use the North American standard of 911, as do all American territories (Puerto Rico, American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands) and much of the Caribbean including Antigua & Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Bermuda, Bonaire, Belize, the Cayman Islands, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and Turks and Caicos.
  • The European Union has created a universal number of 112. Several non-E.U. countries in Europe, including Russia and Switzerland, have also adopted the 112 standard. Outside of the E.U., India also uses 112, as well as South Korea. However, in South Korea, use 1339 for medical emergencies; this number is specifically for foreigners in Seoul.
  • Jamaica uses 110 and 119.
  • The Philippines uses 166 and 177.
  • Japan uses two numbers: 119 (ambulance and fire) and 110 (police).
  • South Africa seems to be the only English-speaking country to use more than three digits: 10177 and 10111.
  • The United Kingdom uses both 999 and the 112 E.U. standard.
  • In Hong Kong, the emergency number is 999.
  • Brazil uses 190 for police, 192 for ambulance, and 193 for fire.
  • China uses 110 for police, 120 for ambulance, and 119 for fire.

In non-English-speaking countries, there’s no guarantee the operator will speak English. However, the Department of State provides a list of emergency numbers around the world (organized alphabetically)—and it’s a good idea to have your destination’s number saved regardless.

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Once you have the number for the country you’re visiting, take the time to store it in a place that’s easily accessible (such as your mobile device), but you should also remember it in case your phone isn’t readily available in an emergency. Even if you do have your phone handy, you’ll be able to dial the number faster if you know it by heart rather than fumbling through your contacts and wasting precious time. It only takes a minute, and it really is better to be safe than sorry.

As a back-up to the 911 equivalent, consider saving the nearest U.S. Embassy’s direct and/or emergency line into your contacts. This could be helpful in less urgent emergencies, like a lost passport or an evacuation situation—each of which could require official assistance.

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Editor Shannon McMahon is a former news reporter who writes about all things travel. Follow her on Instagram @shanmcmahon.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2008. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

By Shannon McMahon

Editor Shannon McMahon is always planning her next trip and often writing in her travel journal. Follow her on Twitter @shanmcmahon_ and on Instagram @shanmcmahon.

Shannon joined SmarterTravel in 2015. A former news reporter, she's lived in the south of Spain, spotted elephants in Sri Lanka, gone spelunking in the Caribbean, hiked Jordan's Petra Basin, interviewed Sao Paulo's Michelin-Star chefs, and explored China via bullet train. Travel trends, news oddities, and her visits to up-and-coming destinations are some of her favorite things to write about.

Her stories have also appeared online on USA Today, The Sun, Huffington Post, Business Insider, blog.TripAdvisor.com, Boston.com, and more. Her educational background is in journalism, art history, gender studies, Spanish, and film. She's been quoted as an expert travel source by CNBC, People.com, MarketWatch, The Washington Post, USA Today, and more.

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Email Shannon at smcmahon@smartertravel.com.

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