Accidents and emergencies in Portugal

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Updated 2021-09-27 13:08

Portugal is a generally safe country to visit and to settle in. It has a low crime rate, a developed infrastructure and available healthcare. This, your stay in Portugal, no matter how long, should be comfortable and safe.

With that, in the unfortunate case that you do run into an emergency, you should be prepared. It's important to know who to call and how to deal with an emergency -- and this is what we will cover below.

Health emergencies in Portugal

If you are having a health emergency, you should call 112 -- this is the equivalent of 911 in the US and 999 in the UK. 112 is also a general emergency number used across Europe. All 112 calls are toll-free. Note, however, that a call to the 112 won't guarantee that you will be sent an ambulance -- this only happens if you are facing a life-threatening emergency.

Note that if you don't speak Portuguese, it's best to let the operator know that right away. In this case, you may be forwarded to someone who speaks English. With that, it's probably best to have a Portuguese speaker by your side as you make the call. You will need to offer the following information:

  • Type of emergency
  • The number you are calling from
  • Where you are calling from
  • Who needs assistance: age, gender, current state, etc.
  • If there is any additional assistance required in this emergency (if it's a traffic accident, a fire, etc.).

The operator will then advise you on the best course of action. If the emergency is not life-threatening, you will be directed to the nearest hospital.

When you go to the hospital, it is also advisable to have someone who can speak Portuguese. You will need to describe your condition, fill in forms, etc.

If you are in need of urgent medical attention -- but it is not an emergency -- you can call the Saúde 24 number at 808 242 424. This is a 24-hour helpline managed by the Ministry of Health. Note that your calls are not toll-free and cost the same as local calls.

Note that emergency care in Portugal is not free. Even if you have local health insurance, you may be required to pay additional costs.

Portugal has 24-hour pharmacies that are open all through the night. Make sure to locate such a pharmacy in your area and have the address ready in case of emergencies.

Crime rate in Portugal

Portugal has a low crime rate -- but petty crime is quite common, especially in big cities. Pickpocketing can occur on public transportation, in hotel lobbies, restaurants, airports and more. This is why it is essential to always keep a close eye on your belongings and never leave them unattended.

Another more frequent issue is the theft of belongings from vehicles. Perpetrators may pop car locks, doors and trunks and take personal belongings from within the vehicle. This is why it is strongly advised to take any valuables out of your car or, at least, keep them out of sight.

To call the police in Portugal, use the 112 emergency number we've already referred to above.

Road safety in Portugal

When it comes to road safety, the situation in Portugal has significantly improved in recent years. The country used to have a rather high rate of car accident fatalities per inhabitant -- but the Portuguese government has taken measures to address it. Thanks to the improvements in the road network, road safety awareness campaigns, tougher controls and penalties, Portugal is now a rather safe place to drive.

In case you do get into a road accident, you should first call the emergency 112 number. Your on the spot actions depend on the specifics of the accident. If no one has been hurt, you can simply exchange insurance information and be on your way. If there is a disagreement with the other driver or drivers, do not sign any documents and wait until the traffic police arrives.

The number for traffic police (Guarda Nacional Republicana) in Portugal is 219 223 000.

Useful numbers:

Emergency services: 112

Saúde 24: 808 242 424

Traffic police: 219 223 000

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.