Dealing with emergency situations in Costa Rica

Hello everybody,

Dealing with unexpected situations abroad can be a very difficult matter. In order to better help expats and soon-to-be expats in Costa Rica face such tricky situations, we invite you to share your advice and experience.

What are the key emergency numbers you should know by heart?

In the event of a legal problem, an accident, a natural disaster, an injury or the death of a close family member, what are the first things to do in Costa Rica?

What are the things to plan ahead in order to better cope with such unexpected situations (registration at the Embassy, transport, medical, comprehensive insurance for instance)?

If you have gone through such experiences in Costa Rica, do not hesitate to share your story.

Thank you in advance!


Now, when applying for  legal residency, one is  required to have registered with their home country embassy.
If you have to make a 911 call for ambulance, police, etc., don't expect to speak to a dispatcher who speaks English, so have your directions, etc written down, making it easier on yourself when trying to remember when in panic mode.

And also be aware that 911 calls go to San Jose and they dispatch to the appropriate locale.  Almost guaranteed something will be lost in transit.

My friends in Dominical use a phone tree. Recently, a friend of mine from Romania wrote a cool app called Cell 411, which has gone world-wide. It's free to download and use, and the way it works is that if you have an accident, or get pulled over, or various other things, it sends a text message to everyone you tell it to---you can create your own group or join someone else's. On Google Play.

411 that's all? free download ? why have we never heard of it I wonder ?

There are quite a few apps out there just like that.  Have been for years.

Good to have a local Tico friend or two in case of an emergency, and some gringo friends as well.

I have not yet had a true emergency here, and hope not to. But if I do I will call a friend to take me to the hospital or etc for example. Probably a good idea to have a number for the local ambulance service. Anyone know how that works? A medical emergency if you live out in the boonies and can't get a friend to take you or they can't move you as in the case of a broken bone or ?

Not sure what I'd do in that case. As mentioned, my first inclination would be to have a friend take me to a hospital.

Legal problems: Have a couple good attorneys numbers. Find out who is good by asking around. I have one in San Jose and one locally in San Ramon as well.

I've read in other posts (but haven't been able to confirm):

a) When you call 911, you can ask for an English speaking person. (But always a good idea to have some Spanish ready.)

b) If you call a Cruz Roja ambulance, they will normally take you to the nearest public hospital.  But when they pick you up, you can ask to be taken to a private facility of your choice.

Here is a website confirming your info, redbeard...although it doesn't state whether or not being transported to a private facility is a 'free service'.

I do know if you were to go to a private facility and you needed to be transported to another facility by their ambulances, you are charged.

Several ambulance companies offer services to visitors and residentsfor an annual fee, as stated in this same website.

Came across some contradictory info regarding Cruz Roja ambulances, while looking for something else. Check at your local Cruz Roja for verification.

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