How to Phone For Help Across the Globe

By Paul Riegler on 7 November 2019
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Few travelers know what to do and whom to call in an emergency when traveling, whether that emergency is an accident, a fire, a heart attack, or something else of similar nature or magnitude.

Emergency telephone numbers are typically three-digit numbers that can be easily memorized. The problem is that there is no universal standard for them and they typically vary from country to country, although the European Union has standardized on one.

Travelers can dial the local number for help from virtually any mobile phone, payphone, or landline at no charge.  Even in non-English speaking countries, since English is the most widely-spoken second language in the world, it’s likely that the operator will understand some basic phrases.

We last looked at this topic in 2017 and thought it important to update and revise this guide for 2019.


The first emergency telephone number deployed anywhere in the world was “999” in London on July 1, 1937. It soon spread throughout the rest of the United Kingdom. Later, in 1946, “116” was adopted as an emergency number in Los Angeles, California, while“911” was first used in the U.S. in 1968 and became ubiquitous in the 1980s. The European Union standard for emergency calls, established in 1991, was “112.”

As a result, the three most widely recognized emergency numbers are 112, 911, and 999.


In Europe, 112 is used throughout the EU. Armenia and Belarus use 102 for police, 103 for medical, and 101 for fire. Turkey uses 155 for police, 112 for medical, and 110 for fire, while Vatican City uses 113 for police, 118 for medical, and 115 for fire although dialing 112 on a mobile phone will be forwarded to 113.

In the Middle East, Israel uses 100 for police, 101 for medical, and 102 for fire and dialing 112 from a mobile phone works for all emergencies. 999 is quite common and used by Bahrain, Lebanon (which also uses 112), Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the U.A.E., while 112 is used by several countries including Jordan (which also uses 911) and Syria.

In Africa, many countries use two-digit emergency numbers including 17 in Algeria, Chad, and Mali, while South Africa uses a five-digit number, with 10111 for fire, and 10177 for medical. 112 may be used on mobile phones, however.

Click here to continue to Page 2Emergency Calls in Asia-Pacific and the Americas

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