Visiting Mexico: What to Do If You Get Sick or Injured

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When you were planning your trip to Mexico, chances are that you didn’t take the time to explore possible medical treatment options in the unlikely event that you got sick or injured while you were here.

You just assumed that everything was going to go great — and it was, right up to the point that you fell off of a rented scooter and possibly fractured your wrist. Now you suddenly find yourself having to navigate through a healthcare system that you know little or nothing about. Throw in a language barrier and the situation can turn downright scary.

Fortunately for you, you have our site saved on your phone and you can get some immediate guidance to help you through the situation.

Emergencies

If it’s an emergency, you can call 911 and an ambulance will head your way. There are numerous private ambulance services and depending where you are in the country, you may have a couple of them show up to compete for your business.

Be aware that the private ambulances aren’t free and they will expect payment.

Non-Emergencies

In a non-emergency situation, you have a little more time to ponder your healthcare options while you finish off that last Margarita.

If you’re not sure what medical facilities there are near your location, you can download a free phone app from the Mexican government that will give you detailed information about both public and private facilities. To learn more about it, click HERE.

When you use that app, you’ll likely see a lot of facilities. Knowing which one to choose will depend on your particular medical issue.

For example, If you have a broken wrist, you’ll probably want to go to a larger facility where they have the equipment and staff to handle that type of injury. However, if you only have an ear infection or a persistent bout of Montezuma’s Revenge, then a pharmacy doctor or a small clinic will probably be the best option.

Here’s a breakdown of the popular options available, together with some pros and cons:

Hotel Doctors

Most large hotels and resorts will have a physician either on site or on call to handle the medical needs of their guests.

Pros: English-speaking; convenient

Cons: Very expensive when compared to other treatment options; lack of diagnostic equipment (e.g. X-Ray, MRI); unable to handle complex cases

Pharmacy Doctors

Many pharmacies have a doctor’s office attached with posted hours. To more about pharmacy doctors, click HERE.

Pros: Inexpensive ($5-$30 USD in most cases); convenient; fast

Cons: May not speak English; set office hours; lack of diagnostic equipment (e.g. X-Ray, MRI); unable to handle complex cases

Public Clinics and Hospitals

Mexico has both a public and private healthcare system. If you’re not a member of the public system, you can still receive treatment there.

I lumped clinics and hospitals together in the same category. Obviously, the smaller clinics may be unable to handle major medical emergencies.

Pros: Inexpensive

Cons: May not speak English; long wait times at many facilities; smaller facilities may lack diagnostic equipment

* Note- We have known a few people who after several hours of waiting at a public facility with a significant injury, left and went to a private facility where they were treated immediately

Private Clinics and Hospitals

Linda and I have been extremely impressed by the private healthcare system in Mexico. Whether it’s an injury or an illness, this is our first choice for any type of treatment.

Pros: Excellent care; well-equipped; short wait times; often staffed with English-speaking doctors and personnel

Cons: Most expensive option

Billing and Insurance

If you go to a private facility, you can expect them to ask to see a credit card before they even look at your broken ankle. Full payment is due before you leave the facility.

It’s important to note that your medical insurance back home may not cover you when you’re abroad, and even if it does, the coverage may not be sufficient to cover your costs. That’s why it’s always a good idea to spring for medical travel insurance. The plans are relatively inexpensive and most vacation booking websites (e.g. Expedia) offer insurance options at the time of booking.

If you do have insurance and plan on seeking reimbursement later, be sure to ask for a factura from the hospital. They will likely ask you if you have an RFC, which is a tax number in Mexico. You can give them the generic RFC used for foreigners who are not registered in the system: XEXX010101000.

Let’s Wrap This Up

Most people don’t think about getting sick or injured when they go on vacation, but it happens more often than you might think.

We recently went to a local private hospital for a routine doctor’s visit and the waiting room had about a half a dozen tourists in it with bandaged ankles or wrists. We knew they were tourists because they were all wearing hotel bracelets. And just in case you were wondering — no, they were not all from the same hotel.

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About the Author

Q-Roo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years before retiring at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He and his wife moved to Mexico looking to maximize their retirement income. In 2016, they started a blog called Two Expats Mexico (qroo.us) sharing their experiences, as well as information about the logistical and legal aspects of retiring south of the border. The blog has been viewed over two million times and the articles have been republished in numerous periodicals across Mexico.

31 Comments on "Visiting Mexico: What to Do If You Get Sick or Injured"

  1. Glenn Stainton | June 12, 2018 at 7:53 am |

    Enjoy your posts but I think you gloss over the requirement that most hospitals want full payment on your credit card before allowing you to leave which means you will need a large line of credit

    • Q-Roo Paul | June 12, 2018 at 7:59 am |

      I added a line that the payment was due in full. As far as not allowing you to leave, that does happen but it’s a violation of the law.

      I plan on doing another post with patient’s rights and what to do when they aren’t respected.

      So many topic ideas, so little time. 😉

  2. Stephanie L Sales | June 12, 2018 at 8:06 am |

    Excellent!! Thanks!!
    I have forwarded this post on to friends – it’s time they subscribed too.

    I especially appreciate the “pearls” you always seem to include. Today’s special treats include the locator app link & the generic ID # necessary for obtaining a FACTURA.

    Muchísimas Gracias

  3. Cheryl Laidlaw | June 12, 2018 at 8:08 am |

    Driving from Cancun to Akumal today to dive…hope we don’t need to use any of this excellent advice!

    • Q-Roo Paul | June 12, 2018 at 8:14 am |

      Nah, you’ll be fine. It looks like it’s going to be a beautiful day too 🙂

  4. Mark dietz | June 12, 2018 at 8:34 am |

    Credit card , best hospitals. Cancun won’t take cash , even in emergency I’ve lived it

    • Q-Roo Paul | June 13, 2018 at 6:55 am |

      Great tip, Mark. We have always paid cash at the hospitals but we weren’t getting anything major done.

  5. Nikki Cantu | June 12, 2018 at 8:35 am |

    Thank you! Very helpful info.

  6. A list of recommended hospitals would be helpful. I found the hospitals in Cancun both public and private to vary greatly in technology, expertise, and service.

    I found Amerimed to be pretty good…

    • Q-Roo Paul | June 13, 2018 at 6:54 am |

      I stopped short of recommending any particular locations because it seems that there is always someone who pops up with a bad experience etc.

      Amerimed is good but they tend to be at the highest end of the price range.

  7. Kerry Ecklebe | June 12, 2018 at 9:21 am |

    QRoo Paul …. you are the best!
    Your clear and concise information is invaluable. Blessings on you for your willingness to help others who love the Mexican lifestyle !!

    • Q-Roo Paul | June 13, 2018 at 6:51 am |

      Thanks for following the blog, Kerry. It gives me something to do on rainy days (like today).

  8. I broke 2 ribs.. I went to a private physician.. He was great.. He actually drove me to Cancun proper to a hospital for x-rays.. He charged me 45 pesos……I received amazing care there..

  9. Miguel Castillo | June 12, 2018 at 9:35 am |

    Thanks for the GREAT advise. … Lately i have been spending a month or longer in the Yucatan and I have been purchasing Travel Insurance Thru AAA, as my medical insurance in US does not cover me Internationally. ….I would like to add what AAA recommended. In the event that one becomes ILL or needs medical attention, it is very important that we call the 1-800 number on the policy prior to getting medical attention so a case # can be opened, We will need to pay out of pocket and make sure as you stated to get a Factura or Receipts for claim reimbursements. Paul Your Blog is always on point and I always appreciate your advise. Regards, Miguel

    • Q-Roo Paul | June 13, 2018 at 6:49 am |

      Thanks for sharing that additional information, Miguel. 🙂

    • Karen Brewster | June 13, 2018 at 10:19 am |

      Miguel, can you give me a little more info on the company AAA? Would that be the auto insurance company?

  10. Great post. Very informative.

  11. Thank you for this Paul!! Been traveling to Mexico for over 20 years and never knew all this. Have shared on all my Mexico FB groups, knowing others could benefit from your insights as well!

  12. What great and helpful information to have. Thank you for sharing it!

  13. I am an insurance specialist with wonderful options for Mexico travelers and Expats, but I don’t want to step on toes here to self-promote so Paul please advise if I may comment from a professional standpoint.

    • Q-Roo Paul | June 12, 2018 at 3:21 pm |

      I respect that you asked about posting first. Feel free to share additional information with our readers 🙂

  14. Wanted to mention one thing, Paul, that might be considered a con, and that is if one ends up in need of a blood transfusion. I don’t know about Q-Roo, but in Guadalajara in Jalisco, even some (all?) private hospitals, while they will provide you with blood from their blood bank, will also expect you to somehow get friends or family to replenish the blood bank. One hospital emailed me that they would put an announcement on the radio to ask for donors to help me out if I should be in such a situation. It’s not a situation I’d want to be in. Thanks.

  15. I’ve gone through both minor medical incidents and a major one when my husband had a heart attack once when we were vacationing there. We were lucky that we had a credit card with a high limit and since then I always make sure we take a couple with us. While they made us give a $2000 deposit on admission, when they realized he would need a cardiac catheterization and stent placement, we had to give them $20,000 for them to proceed with that procedure. I just think it’s good to know these things because people are always shocked when it happens to them. I was not really because I was aware of this policy. I’m just glad we had the resources to do it. Our health insurance did pay everything except a standard deductible when we got home. It was a scary experience for sure but he received excellent care. And being a nurse I felt like I was a pretty good judge of that.

  16. Wally Von Bila | June 13, 2018 at 10:12 am |

    I live in Rosario,Mex.For $20 dollars a year. I joined Cruz Roja.If I need a ambulance the Cruz Roma ambulance is free.

    • Q-Roo Paul | June 13, 2018 at 10:15 am |

      That’s a great tip. How is the response time? I’ve read some conflicting articles about it.

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