Accidents and emergencies in Brazil

Updated 2022-03-28 15:09

Public healthcare is free in Brazil, as this country has universal healthcare. This means that if you ever need to see a doctor, whether it's a routine checkup or an emergency visit because of an accident, you won't have to pay a cent.

This means that for example, if you've been hit by a car as a pedestrian walking across the road, you can call the emergency number (192) and an ambulance will come to get you, free of charge. If you're subscribed to private insurance, like many Brazilians are, these private hospitals may have their own ambulances to bring you to them. In this case, you'll want to have their number handy. Saving them as a contact on your phone can be a good idea.

The Brazilian emergency services

The emergency service in Brazil is called Serviço de Atendimento Móvel de Urgência (SAMU).

Most hospital staff will only speak Portuguese. Because of this, it's important to learn some Portuguese for emergencies. Or you need to be prepared to call someone who knows Portuguese to accompany you to the hospital.

If you can, try to get private health insurance. Because public healthcare is free, emergency rooms are usually overcrowded and wait times can be long. In addition, the staff isn't usually very qualified either. A nurse will check you in and prioritize you according to how urgent they deem your health emergency to be. It's very possible that they might misjudge your situation, which is why if possible, you should go private instead.

Emergency numbers you should know

Here are some important emergency numbers you should know in Brazil:

  • Ambulance: 192
  • Fire service: 193
  • Federal police: 194
  • Military police: 190

Do note that the operators speak Portuguese and more often than not, don't speak English. So you need to either learn how to describe where you are and basic health issues or be prepared to hand the phone to someone who speaks Portuguese to explain what's going on.

Accidents and emergencies for tourists

If you're on a short trip to Brazil, or if you're living in the country but have family and friends visiting you, you can rest easy knowing that public healthcare services are available to everyone for free, including tourists. So you can rest easy knowing that if anything happens, the public healthcare system will take care of your loved ones.

However, they should still get travel insurance, The public healthcare system is often overwhelmed, and if they want prompt treatment, it may be better to go private. The care is of better quality with private facilities as well.

Urgent care

What should you do if you have a medical issue that doesn't warrant a trip to the emergency room but it can't wait for a regular GP visit? In that case, you can try an urgent care visit.

You should check with your own GP to see if they have emergency hours outside of their usual business hours.


In Brazil, pharmacies are typically only open six days a week. They'll be closed on either Sunday or Monday.

Also, don't expect them to be open 24/7. Usual business hours are only during the daytime. However, in São Paulo, there's a pharmacy helpline that's available 24/7 if you need assistance. Just dial 136.

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.