As an expat living in a foreign country, it can be hard to know quite how to react in any situation. That uncertainty is compounded when it comes to crises and emergencies. In such moments, whether you need to report a fire or need to consult healthcare experts in Saudi Arabia, being forewarned really is being forearmed. Therefore, this convenient guide provides all the emergency numbers and services in Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, it explains who to call and what to do in the event of an emergency.
Emergency numbers in Saudi Arabia
The main emergency phone numbers in Saudi Arabia are 911 and 999. These connect callers to the police and to the fire and medical services in the country. There are also individual emergency numbers and services in Saudi Arabia, as follows:
- Police assistance: 999/ 911
- Fire emergency response: 998
- Car accidents: 993
- Public ambulance services:997
- Natural disasters: 966
- Coast guards: 994
- General emergency: 112
In Saudi Arabia, language, cultural, and development barriers may prevent expats from accessing emergency services in the way they are familiar with in their home country. While emergency operators will typically answer the phone in Arabic, they will immediately connect you to an English operator upon request. On the other hand, a little knowledge of Arabic does go a long way.
It is always helpful to ring your embassy and ask what you can do in case of an emergency. In addition, a list of numbers is available on the Saudi National Portal.
What to do in an emergency in Saudi Arabia
Emergency coverage is comprehensive across Saudi Arabia. However, the speed of their response may not be quite what expats are familiar with, particularly in more developed nations.
Paramedic services are free in Saudi Arabia and cannot deny a request for transport to the hospital. As a result, there are a staggering number of calls to emergency services in Saudi Arabia. On average, the Saudi Red Crescent Authority (SRCA) alone receives 15,000 to 22,000 calls each month. Should a medical emergency arise, the quickest way to get medical attention is to head to hospital directly. You can either take the patient in your car or phone a taxi and communicate the urgent nature of the situation.
If you live on a compound in Saudi Arabia, check with the facility’s manager if they have an agreement with a particular hospital for medical emergencies. In that case, or if your insurance is through a specific hospital, you may need to call that hospital.
If you need an ambulance, or you need to report an accident or a fire, dial the appropriate number as soon as an emergency is apparent. The emergency services operator will customarily answer in Arabic, however English-speaking operators are available on request; as are those of other languages. The multilingual service is available in English, French, German, Bahasa Indonesia, and Urdu.
When calling 999 or other emergency numbers and services in Saudi Arabia, make sure to clearly state your name, the nature of the accident, the address of the emergency, and how serious you feel the situation is. In addition, ask for an expected time of arrival and whether trained medical personnel will be in attendance.
Does health insurance cover the medical emergency services?
Expats living in Saudi Arabia must have private medical insurance. They do not generally have access to public facilities, except in areas where private hospitals are not available or in emergency circumstances. Therefore, expats are usually advised to select a local hospital on arrival in Saudi Arabia. Each hospital operates its own ambulance service, and in an emergency, it is usually quicker to call your chosen hospital directly so an ambulance can be dispatched from nearby.
That said, emergency services to stabilize a patient’s health are generally free, and ambulances cannot refuse to transport patients to the nearest hospital in Saudi Arabia. However, once a patient has been stabilized, public hospitals generally require expat patients to move to a private facility where they are registered. You should contact your insurance or medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Basic medical insurance covers most emergencies in Saudi Arabia. However, coverage depends on each individual policy. Therefore, many expats in Saudi Arabia take out private health insurance so all eventualities are covered in an emergency.
Fire services in Saudi Arabia
The General Directorate of Civil Defense is responsible for dealing with fire emergencies in Saudi Arabia. In addition, the authority’s mandate includes producing risk assessments and finding solutions to natural, industrial, and domestic safety issues, among other services.
To seek help during a fire in Saudi Arabia, call 998. An operator who answers the call will require the address and details of the fire. It helps to be able to offer a landmark, such as Kingdom Tower or the name of a supermarket, in addition to a street and building name. In addition, you should ask to speak to someone in English if your Arabic isn’t good enough.
More information is available on the Saudi Civil Defense website.
Police in Saudi Arabia
In Saudi Arabia, the emergency numbers for the police are 999 or 911. Reporting a crime is now also possible on a smartphone application. The Kulluna Amn app enables citizens and expatriates to help maintain security and reports filed online reach 39 centers across the Kingdom.
Saudi Arabia’s ministry of interior is responsible for all matters relating to security and immigration. There are three police departments in the country: regular police, secret police (mabahith), and religious police (mutawa). While the regular police are responsible for the law enforcement and general security, and for issuing good conduct certificates, the mahabith handles domestic security and counterintelligence, while the mutawa enforces Islamic codes of behavior. Following recent reforms enacted by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the mutawa have been largely defanged, and expats do not now need to live in fear of committing some unknown infraction.
Healthcare and accidents in Saudi Arabia
You can reach the public ambulance service in Saudi Arabia by dialling 997.
Expats living in Saudi Arabia need to be aware that ambulance services may not be up to the standard they are familiar with in their home countries. Given that ambulance response times vary across the country, it may sometimes be quicker to drive or take a taxi to the nearest hospital – particularly in outlying areas. By law, ambulances cannot refuse to transport anyone to a hospital and, as a result, medical emergency numbers in Saudi Arabia are sometimes misused for non-emergencies.
Expats may sometimes be referred to private hospitals upon calling the healthcare emergency numbers in Saudi Arabia. However, others may live on a compound that has an agreement with a particular hospital for medical emergencies. Saudi citizens benefit from free treatment at public hospitals in the country, however expats are required to have healthcare insurance in Saudi Arabia. Consequently, expats select a local hospital on arrival in Saudi Arabia, each of which operates its own ambulance service. Some expats say it is quicker to call the hospital they are registered at directly rather than wait for a public ambulance to arrive.
Similarly, expats should register with a local dental clinic and enquire about its emergency services.
Nevertheless, emergency departments at Saudi Arabia’s major hospitals, particularly in Riyadh and Jeddah, are able to handle any medical emergency. During medical emergencies, a hospital will accept you for initial treatment and may transfer you to a hospital that is more able to deal with your problem.
Emergency pharmacies in Saudi Arabia
There are 24-hour pharmacies in most major cities in Saudi Arabia. Here is a small selection:
Poison control in Saudi Arabia
The Ministry of Health handles poison-related cases and you can reach them on the following emergency services numbers:
- +966 11 232 4180
- +966 11 232 4189
Alternatively, expats could call King Fahd Medical City’s poison control department at the toll-free number 800 127 7000. The Riyadh-based facility provides immediate and expert treatment advice and assistance over the phone for toxicology and poisoning cases.
Mental health services in Saudi Arabia
Mental health services in the UAE generally fall short of more developed countries, and workplace-provided insurance coverage is patchy. Generally speaking, expats and residents may want to top up policies to include psychiatric support or take out private health insurance in the UAE.
As of 2019, there are no separate mental health emergency services numbers in Saudi Arabia. In fact, expats are best off taking preventative action and staying alert to possible red flags. Ask your doctor what to do if you require emergency mental health assistance. Alternatively, call the ambulance hotline by dialling 997 for immediate stabilization treatment, or your own hospital’s ambulance.
Drug and alcohol services in Saudi Arabia
Narcotic drugs and alcohol are illegal in Saudi Arabia. Sharia, or Islamic law, is strictly enforced in the Muslim country, and alcohol and drug offences are considered a crime against God.
As a result, there is a lack of literature that reports the current scenario of drug information services in the country. Expats who seek medical help for drugs or alcohol are at risk of being arrested and charged with alcohol-related misdemeanors. Furthermore, penalties include lengthy imprisonment and deportation.
Children, family and youth services in Saudi Arabia
The National Family Safety Program (Arabic) helps with family and children’s issues in Saudi Arabia, from domestic violence to child abuse. It aims to protect the safety, security, and unity of affected families. It runs a child helpline at the toll-free number 116111.
In 2016, a center for receiving calls about domestic violence opened to help Saudi women. Trained Saudi women run the centre around the clock, and you can reach it by dialling 1919 toll-free.
However, both services are mostly in Arabic and focus more on helping Saudi citizens. Expats should generally seek help via their embassies. For a list of diplomatic missions and their emergency numbers, consult the Saudi National Portal.
Utility and telecommunications services in Saudi Arabia
Electricity and water failure occur occasionally in Saudi Arabia. Call the numbers below from anywhere in the country:
- Saudi Electricity Company: 920 001 100, for electricity failure;
- National Water Company: 888-CALL-NWC (888-225-5692) for water failure or to report a fault or broken main.
Road and traffic emergency services in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia has a high number of traffic accidents. In fact, approximately 20% of hospital beds are occupied by victims of road accidents.
If you are in a car accident, call the traffic police immediately at 993. Do not leave the scene of the crime until the police arrive; they will evaluate the incident and advise you that you may leave. If you do not understand Arabic and someone asks you to sign any documents in the language, either refuse to do so or clearly write on the document that you do not understand what you are signing. This will help you in case you are left with the blame of the accident.
Furthermore, you should call your insurer immediately, or seek help from one of the following membership associations:
Animal services in Saudi Arabia
There are few animal shelters across Saudi Arabia. Nevertheless, significant numbers of animals are abandoned across the kingdom, with concerned residents making an increasing number of calls to the few shelters that do exist. A list of nationwide resources is available at Pets in Need KSA.
Tourist services in Saudi Arabia
Although it is home to a wealth of natural wonders and cultural beauty, the magic Kingdom has only begun promoting tourism in recent years. With special services for tourists yet to be developed, even the tourism website directs those visiting the country to the main emergency numbers in Saudi Arabia.
Those visiting for Hajj or Umrah should call the multilingual 911 emergency services numbers in Saudi Arabia.
Lost or stolen property in Saudi Arabia
If you should need to report lost or stolen property, here are some important emergency services numbers in Saudi Arabia:
- Lost bank cards: Call your bank and report the loss. They may ask you to make a police complaint. You can do so by visiting the nearest police station or calling 999.
- Lost mobile phones: Theft or loss of property, including smartphones, is to be reported to the police. To have a SIM card replaced, call your concerned provider (Zain: +966 590 00 0959; Jawwy/STC: +966 114 55 5555 or 900 from a network phone; Mobily: +966 560 10 1100 or 100 from a Mobily phone; Lebara: +966 57 600 1755 or 1755 from a Lebara phone)
- Lost passports: Again, the police are your first port of call. Then you will need to call your embassy or consulate.
Emergency terms and phrases in Saudi Arabia
Here is a list of Arabic terms and phrases that are helpful when calling emergency numbers in Saudi Arabia:
- markaz al-šurṭah: police station
- men faḍlak etteṣel belbūlīs: call the police, please
- mustašfā: hospital
- taʾmīn: medical insurance
- dawāʾ: medicine
- duktūr: doctor
- ʾazmah qalbiyyah: heart attack
- mumken tesāʿednī?: can you help me?
- meš lāʾī el-bāsbūr betāʿī: I lost my passport
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