The emergency the generic emergency number for Spain and the rest of Europe for fire, police or ambulance service is 112. The number is free to call and the operators should speak English. But be aware of two things: you have to know where you are, and although it is extended as far as possible for emergency calls, mobile phone coverage may not work in some mountain areas. A message on your phone alerts you to this. If this happens then flag someone down, point to you phone and say coberatura, meaning ‘covergae’ – everyone in Spain is aware of this problem and may know to within a few metres where there is coverage. There is also considerable debate in the blogosphere about foreign phones having less coverage than Spanish ones, so ask your helpful shepherd to try his/her phone if yours persists in not working.

The Fire Brigade: Bomberos

Remember that everyone has a responsibility to report forest fires. This sounds dramatic – but then so is a forest fire! Don’t worry about raising a false alarm – there is a system of permits for planned burns of scrub, for example and never underestimate a fire’s ability to cut you off – even on the tarmac.


Emergency ambulances are operated by various NGO’s such as the Cruz Roja (Red Cross) and Protección Civil as well as mutuas (mutual insurance societies). If you see a Cuz Roja post you can go in and ask for help for first aid, etc. but not for ailments – go to a chemists – farmacias, which have green cross signs.

Accident and Emergency: Urgencias

Major hospitals and some health centres (CAP – Centro Attención Primaria) have emergency departments, Urgencias, where you can walk in for treatment – be sure to have your insurance or European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to hand.

Non-urgent ’emergencies’:

Theft – the Policia Nacional (091) look after theft In the Basque Country Catalonia and Navarre their own police forces do this, but the 091 number should work. It may be worth going to the local police force first though 092. See ‘The Police’ for more on this.

Illness – go to an Urgencias, Cruz Roja or CAP. It’s also worth going to a farmacia as they always have a trained pharmacist on the premises who can offer a range of treatments, cures, patches, etc. but you will have to pay for this even with an EHIC, so keep the receipt for your travel insureance.

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