Emergencies in Colombia

Dealing with the emergency services

Emergencies in Colombia

To call an ambulance or the police anywhere in Colombia you should dial 123. As English is not widely used in the country it is advisable to speak slowly and learn some emergency Spanish words in advance.

The Colombian ambulance service

The Servicio de Atención Médica de Urgencia (SAMU) is the national ambulance service of Colombia. It is available throughout the country and is free to all citizens. The central regulatory medical emergency system is based in Valle del Cauca.

Equipped with radio communication systems 24 hours a day, they also offer a telephone information service, SIGCRUE (Sistema Información de Gestión del Centro Regulador de Urgencias y Emergencias) which generates daily information and news about the ambulance services and status.

When calling an ambulance your exact address must be given to the operator. The SAMU is equipped with a variety of vehicles depending on the medical problem. The operator will send the vehicle to your specified location as soon as possible and will make arrangements for a bed to be reserved in the A&E department (emergency room).

Paying for ambulances and medical treatment

Accidents do happen and illness can strike at any time, an emergency could ruin your trip and be very costly. It is highly advisable to buy travel insurance including:

  • Medical and hospitalisation coverage - the insurance will pay for the expenses directly if a visit to a hospital or doctor is included rather than paying up front first.
  • Civil liability coverage if you accidently hurt someone or damage private property.
  • An emergency number available if payment issues arise.

Make sure you carry your travel insurance policy with you in the case of medical professionals needing to see the terms and conditions.

Other emergency numbers

Here are a list of other vital emergency numbers in Colombia.

  • CAI Immediate attention center - Phone: 156
  • Civil Defence (Defensa Civil) - Phone: 144
  • Tourist Police (Policía de turismo) - Phones: (571) 337-4413 - 243-1175
  • Red Cross - Phone: 132

In Bogotá, Medellín and Cúcuta, dial 1-2-3, for police, the fire department and general emergencies.

Emergency phrases in Spanish

Here we have listed some crucial words in Spanish in case of emergencies:

  • Socorro! - Help!
  • Es una emergencia! - It’s an emergency!
  • Apúrense! - Hurry up!
  • Incendio! - Fire!
  • Ojo!/Cuidado! - Watch out!
  • Me duele - It hurts!
  • Corre - Run!
  • Llama una ambulancia! - Call an ambulance!
  • Llama los bomberos! - Call the fire service!
  • Llama la polícia! - Call the police!
  • Estoy sangrando! - I’m bleeding!
  • No está respirando! - She/He is not breathing!

Further reading

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