Emergencies can happen anytime, and knowing emergency numbers to call in France for help is crucial for your safety and those around you. In France, a well-organized emergency response system is in place to provide prompt assistance in urgent situations. There is no single number to dial, unlike in the USA or UK, but the emergency numbers in France are relatively easy to remember. If you can’t remember them – print them out and stick them on your fridge, or save them on your phone.
So, how do you know who to call for help? Dial these numbers depending on the situation at hand:
15 for the SAMU (Service d’Aide Médicale Urgente) in the event of a medical emergency
- Call if urgent medical attention is needed for a medical emergency, e.g. loss of consciousness, heart attack, breathing difficulties, etc
- The operator will assess the situation and provide immediate support, e.g. give medical advice over the phone, send an ambulance, etc.
17 for the Police (Police / Gendarmerie)
- Call to report a crime, seek police assistance, or report an incident that requires immediate law enforcement intervention.
- The police can assist with various situations, including violence, aggression, robbery, burglary, etc.
18 for the Fire Department (Sapeurs Pompiers)
- Call if you encounter a fire a gas leak or require assistance in situations related to fire safety
- They are often the first port of call for many other emergencies, including road traffic accidents and domestic injuries/accidents
- They have trained paramedics to provide medical emergency support.
114 for All Emergencies (for the deaf and hard of hearing)
- This number allows you to send an SMS to the emergency number 114 for assistance in emergencies
- Appropriate support, such as police, SAMU, or the fire department, will be dispatched as needed.
196 for Maritime Emergencies
- Dial this number in case of any distress or emergencies at sea
112 for All Emergencies
- The universal emergency number that works across EU
- For all emergencies, including medical, police and fire incidents
- The operator will either deal with the request directly or transfer the call to the most appropriate emergency service
- While English is commonly used, operators also speak the language of the country in which you are calling
- If you’re a tourist in France, use this number to talk to an English speaker
Contact SOS Médicins for non-life-threatening medical emergencies
- Home visit by a doctor or a video consultation with a doctor available 24/7
- Contact SOS Médecins by filling in an online form on this website or by calling them on 01 47 07 77 77 to make the booking
- Use them as an alternative to calling 15 for the SAMU in case of non-life-threatening emergencies e.g. you or your child feel too ill to leave home to see a doctor or it’s the middle of the night and you need medical advice
- A doctor, not an ambulance, can typically arrive to examine you within an hour or two
How much does a medical emergency cost in France?
All of the emergency services mentioned above, except for SOS Médicin, are generally free to individuals who are part of the French healthcare system and to Europeans holding a valid European Health Insurance Card (“EHIC“).
If you are a resident of France and have healthcare coverage through the French system (with a carte vitale), you should not have to pay for emergency medical services such as SAMU. Similarly, if you are an EU citizen with a valid EHIC you are typically entitled to free or low-cost emergency medical care, including SAMU services, while in France.
However, carrying the necessary documentation, such as your carte vitale or EHIC, is essential to prove your eligibility for free emergency medical services. Without this documentation, you may be asked to pay for the services provided, and you can later seek reimbursement through your health insurance or travel insurance, depending on your circumstances.
It’s worth noting that for individuals not part of the French healthcare system or EU citizens without EHIC coverage, there may be charges for SAMU services, but these charges are generally reasonable. If you fall into one of these categories, it’s essential to have appropriate travel insurance to cover potential medical expenses while in France.
The cost of an SOS Médicin doctor call-out to your home ranges from €35 to €85, depending on the time of day of the visit. For example, a home visit by a doctor during the day from 8 am to 8 pm would cost only €35, a visit on a Saturday after 12 pm and public holidays would cost €55, and a visit at night would cost €85. The extra charge for a home visit to see a child aged 0 to 6 is only €5.
If you’re a French resident with carte vitale
If you are part of the French healthcare system and have a carte vitale, French health insurance will cover your consultations with SOS Médicin like a traditional medical consultation with a doctor. The reimbursement is therefore made up to 70% based on a price of €25 and can be made upon presentation of carte vitale to the doctor. However, any price increases related to extras such as mileage costs, child visits etc, are not taken into account in the reimbursement, except in some instances, e.g. for pregnant women, seniors over 80 years old, etc.
Let’s look at an example:
An SOS Médicin doctor visits you at home on a public holiday and the visit costs €55.
- Social security will reimburse 70% of €55, or €38.50. You will still have to pay the remainder of €16.50.
- Once you have obtained reimbursement from Social Security, you can claim a 30% reimbursement from your mutual insurance company based on €55, or €16.50.
If you have no carte vitale, are a tourist or an EU citizen without EHIC coverage
You may still use SOS Médecins for medical emergencies. However, you may be required to pay for the services upfront, and you can later seek reimbursement from your travel or health insurance if you have one. Check the terms and coverage of your travel insurance policy to understand how reimbursement for emergency medical services works.
Have you experienced French emergency assistance since residing in France? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below. Your insights could prove invaluable to others in similar situations.