Have you ever wondered what to do if you have an emergency while visiting Paris? Encountering an emergency can be scary wherever you are in the world, especially where you don’t speak the language. Whether you are a first-time Paris visitor or a seasoned traveler with multiple trips under your belt, knowing these emergency numbers in Paris will help put your mind at ease in case you face a situation that requires emergency assistance.
In France, there are eleven emergency numbers available depending on the specific situation, but there are five primary numbers you should know as you prepare to travel to Paris. And unlike the United States, dialing 9-1-1 is not an option.
Does 9-1-1 Work in Paris?
The short answer is no, it will NOT work in France.
While 9-1-1 is universally known as the primary emergency number for the United States, as well as several other countries, when visiting France, dialing 9-1-1 in an emergency will NOT work.
So, if you remember only one number from this list below, commit to memory the number 1-1-2. It is the equivalent of 9-1-1 in the United States and works throughout most of the EU.
How to Use Emergency Numbers in Paris
In France, there is a specific phone number assigned to different emergency situations. When an emergency develops, the French will immediately send a specialist for that type of emergency.
Knowing which French emergency number to call could mean the difference between life and death. Not fun to contemplate but memorizing them or saving them on your phone for easy access, BEFORE you travel, will give you peace of mind while you are in Paris.
All of these emergency numbers can be dialed from landlines and mobile phones and are free of charge. They work 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. They should also work on mobile phones with no SIM card, as well as when your phone is locked.
For peace of mind, check with your mobile carrier to be sure. So that when you are in Paris, based on your location, you will be connected to the closest service available, and the appropriate service(s) will be dispatched.
Let’s start with a simple list of the eleven primary emergency numbers you should memorize or save in your mobile phone BEFORE visiting Paris: (see the link below to download the list as a pdf)
List of French Emergency Numbers
SAVE A PDF COPY OF THE LIST: FRENCH EMERGENCY NUMBERS
The 5 Primary Emergency Numbers to Know in Paris
Let’s get more specific and review the five primary emergency numbers more in-depth that you need to know when visiting Paris.
1. DIAL 1-5: French Medical & Ambulance Services – SAMU (Service d’Aide Médicale d’Urgence )
The SAMU dispatch center is staffed with doctors and medical assistants who answer calls and determine the best next steps and actions to take.
Dial 1-5 if you need medical assistance or need a doctor on a Sunday, a national bank holiday, or when doctor’s offices are closed.
- Offering care or medical advice over the phone
- Direct callers to go to the nearest doctor, clinic or hospital
- Dispatch an ambulance or appropriate response vehicle
Examples of When to Dial 1-5 to Contact SAMU:
- If you need an ambulance: The operator will assess the situation and redirect your call to an ambulance transport service
- If someone has a heart attack
- If someone is hurt badly
- If someone is bleeding profusely
- If someone has difficulty breathing – an asthma attack
- All other medical emergencies
Alternatives to Using 1-5: SAMU – emergency medical & ambulance services
If you need medical assistance but are not sure it requires an ambulance, an alternative is a web-based app called SOS Médecins. Download the app (Apple & Google Play) and set up a basic account BEFORE you depart for Paris. You can also search for a Parisian doctor within the app.
Click this link for the SOS Médecins Greater Paris website in English: SOS MÉDECINS
They will send a doctor directly to your location (residence/hotel/apartment) instead of sending an ambulance. They operate 24/7 and work with other public French emergency services such as ambulances, fire brigades, and hospitals. If you are staying in a hotel, it is likely the concierge or the front desk can assist you in contacting SOS Médecins as well.
URGENCES MÉDICALES DE PARIS
If you are located within Paris city limits (inside the peripherique or the highway encircling Paris) Urgences Médicale de Paris offers 24/7 urgent medical services including home visits. They also offer tele-visits with more specific hours of availability. While their website does not offer an English option, it is fairly easy to navigate.
Click this link for the Urgences Médicale de Paris website: URGENCES MÉDICALE DE PARIS
If you find yourself with a non-emergency medical, or dental situation, and the emergency contacts I have shared above are not able to assist you, or if speaking with them on the phone they are not able to speak English, you can contact Doctolib. They also have an option to select your preferred language (English = Anglais) Posted below is a screenshot of a search I did for a dental emergency showing how to select your preferred language.
In the navigation bar search for Médecin Généraliste (General Doctor), type your address and select your language from the menu and a list of doctors.
Download their app BEFORE you travel to Paris and familiarize yourself with it.
Click this link for the Doctolib website: DOCTOLIB
2. DIAL 1-7: French National + Local Police – Gendarmerie & Commissariat de Police
This is the number to call to report a crime and/or another emergency situation. In France, the national police and gendarmerie oversee public order and safety to protect people and property against multiple threats of crime. This includes protecting France against terrorist threats, so if you witness something that concerns you in this regard, you can call #17 or the Universal European Emergency Number. #112.
Note that if your situation is NOT a medical emergency, such as a stolen purse, another option is to look up the phone number of the police station nearest your location. While I have, thankfully, not had to use this option, my first inclination would be to open Google Maps and search “local police near me.” In this case, proceed to the station nearest you and report the situation in person.
Examples of When to Dial #17 to Contact the Police:
- Mugging or purse snatching
- Stolen phone or personal property
- Physical assault or violence
3. DIAL 1-8: Fire Department – Sapeurs & Pompiers
The French fire department responds to more than just fires. You can also contact them for medical emergencies, or traffic accidents that involve people or property. Firefighters are usually the first to respond to traffic accidents and injuries. Personally, I have seen them arrive on the scene of the recent protests in Paris. They are trained to provide basic life support measures and first aid.
Examples of When to Dial 1-8 to Contact the Fire Department:
- Gas Leak
- Traffic Accident
Note that, often, it is hard to determine whether to call Parisian medical services (1-5 SAMU), the fire department (1-8 Sapeurs – Pompiers), or the Universal Emergency number (1-1-2 General Emergencies). However, these emergency services generally work together and can coordinate services and next steps.
4. DIAL 1-1-2: Universal European Emergency Number
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, dialing 1-1-2 is the 9-1-1 equivalent in the European Union and can be called for any type of emergency. Depending on your location, when you dial, you will be connected to the nearest call center where a trained operator will listen to your specific situation. They will then forward your call to the appropriate services.
However, when in France, calling the local French number that is most relevant to your situation may get you to the appropriate services faster.
Examples of When to Dial 1-1-2 to Contact the Universal European Emergency Number:
- If someone is seriously wounded in an accident
- When something is on fire
- In a life-threatening situation or a rescue is necessary
- If someone is unconscious, suffocating, or bleeding
- If you are a victim of or witness a violent crime
- If you see someone attempting to commit suicide
- If you see someone try to break into a home or business
- When you see someone break into a car, attempt to steal, or damage it
- If you see behavior or items related to a terrorist attack
Click this link for additional information about 1 1 2: UNIVERSAL EUROPEAN EMERGENCY NUMBER
5. DIAL 1-1-4: Emergency SMS – Text Assistance for the Deaf & Hearing Impaired
The French Government offers a website and an app called “URGENCE 114” for deaf and hearing-impaired individuals in France. When a caller sends an SMS text to the emergency number 114 on a mobile device, the call is routed to a national relay center located at the University Hospital Centre in Grenoble, France. They also offer a video option to communicate with sign language, or in a situation where you cannot speak. The app also offers an immediate video option if you cannot type a text message, or need to communicate in sign language.
The call center is staffed with trained deaf and hearing professionals who answer calls and contact the appropriate emergency services: local police, SAMU, fire brigade, or national gendarme.
I tried to download it while in the U.S. to determine if the app offers information in English, but it needs location services to be activated. There is an SMS text option without location services turned on. I will check this again next time I am in Paris and update this post accordingly.
Whether there is English available on the app or not, if you are deaf or hard of hearing or experiencing an emergency where you cannot speak, such as choking, knowing that you have the option to send an SMS (text) or video call offers additional peace of mind while you are traveling in Paris.
Click this link for the URGENCE 114 website. Search in the app store to download their app.
THE S.T.E.P. PROGRAM & EMERGENCY SERVICES AT THE U.S. EMBASSY IN PARIS
Another important task I highly recommend BEFORE you travel to Paris is to register yourself and your traveling party with the U.S. State Department’s STEP program. STEP stands for Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. Whether I am traveling solo or not, and no matter the destination, I register with the STEP program for every trip I take. It only takes a few minutes to register, but you will receive email notifications “about safety conditions in your destination country so you can make informed decisions about your travel plans.”
It is a free service that allows the Paris, or the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate in other parts of France, to have your contact information pre-registered in their system should you need their assistance while traveling.
For me, it is all about peace of mind. While in Paris in January-February 2023, I received timely emails from the STEP program notifying me of (4) protests that occurred during my stay, their locations, and areas to avoid during the nationwide protests over the change in retirement age across France. It was very helpful, as I could then easily avoid those locations and enjoy my plans for that day/evening.
Click this link for the U.S. STATE DEPT. S.T.E.P. website.
While I cannot personally promise you get the assistance you need should you encounter an emergency while in Paris, I do hope this post is helpful and that knowing the French emergency numbers offers you peace of mind as you prepare for your trip to Paris.
I can speak from personal experience, that, while not in Paris, but traveling solo in Rome in 2018, and found myself in need of an ambulance and overnight emergency medical services after I crashed a rented Vespa and ultimately had a surgical fracture of my ankle, knowing this information would have been very helpful. I had no idea what to do.
If that had happened in France, having this information would certainly have offered me more helpful options for the emergency services and certainly peace of mind as a solo traveler. And now, whether traveling solo or with others, after saving these emergency numbers under my “French Emergency Contacts” I know I can access the numbers quickly and easily should the need arise. Bon voyage mes amis!
Helpful Tips from a Seasoned Paris Traveler
PRO TIP #1: Google Translate is your best friend in Paris
And whether you do find yourself in need of emergency services while in Paris, or need replacement medications remember to use the Google Translate app to communicate the written translation of your issue to the professionals that come to your aid. This worked like a charm when I was in the hospital in Rome. The Italian ER doc spoke zero English but we communicated easily with the GOOGLE TRANSLATE app.
Email yourself important medical information such as a small list and dosages of your prescriptions and your U.S. doctor contact info BEFORE you travel to Paris.
PRO TIP #2: Forgot to Pack Your Medications – or – They’re Packed Inside Your Lost Luggage?
First, DO NOT pack your Rx prescriptions in your checked bag. Post-COVID, we have all read about the rising number of checked bags being lost. Or, let’s say you lost them another way during your journey. Instead, pack them in your carry-on bag or purse. Been there, done that. I lost mine en route to the airport on my way to Paris! While rifling through my carry-on bag, in the Uber on my way to the airport, the pouch they were oh-so-diligently packed in fell out of the carry-on bag and was left behind, unnoticed by me until I was at my departure gate. Which, for me, led to Pro Tip #3 . . .
PRO TIP # 3: Download Images or Screenshots of Your Rx’s
Before you leave for Paris, log in to your doctor or medical insurance provider’s digital chart. Take a screenshot of your prescriptions and save it on your phone AND send it to yourself in an email – in case your phone is lost or stolen. While you’re at it, share this info with your travel partners too.
You can show this Rx at most Parisian pharmacies which will fill a small quantity (usually 7 days’ worth) until you return home. You will have to pay in cash or by credit card, as obviously, your U.S.-based medical insurance will not work in France. Fortunately, prescription drug prices are lower in France than in the U.S.
When this happened to me, the pharmacist was very helpful and I was able to log in to my medical insurance online chart to show him the Rx details using my mobile phone. If I had taken a screenshot and /or emailed them to myself, I would not have had to access my private medical insurance account via public wifi.
Wondering What Travel Apps You Need for Your Trip to Paris?
Read my post about THE 7 MOST INDISPENSABLE TRAVEL APPS and download them before you depart