Behind the scenes on a road ambulance: what's on board?

If you’re thinking about medical repatriation by road ambulance, you probably have a lot of questions about what’s involved. Who else will be on the journey with you, and what kind of equipment will they carry? How do meals and toilet breaks work? What do the vehicles even look like on the inside? After all, not everyone has spent much time in an ambulance – let alone for several hundred kilometres.

With that in mind, we’ve put together a quick overview. Here’s what you’ll find on the other side of the EMS Air Ambulance & Medical Repatriation doors.

Behind the scenes on a road ambulance


As soon as you accept a quotation from us, our team gets to work on your route. Within Europe, we have our own fleet of ambulances on standby, each deep-cleaned and disinfected so they’re ready to leave at short notice: this means we’re often able to collect you within 24 hours of your call. Our own fleet contains Mercedes-Benz vehicles, but we also work with a global network of trusted partners who supply us with similar, state-of-the-art ambulances. EMS ambulances are purpose-designed for long-distance travel. The vehicles have automatic gearboxes as standard, for a smoother ride.

Fuels and stops

People often wonder how far a road ambulance can take patients. The answer is probably further than you might think! Our average repatriation journey is between 1,600km and 2,500km, but we’ve also done transports of over 4,000km (you can read about one such trip from Athens to Aberdeen here). The ambulances run for around 400km, or about four hours, before they need to refuel. We use these petrol / gas station stops for food and drink breaks and rest. Depending on their condition, some patients like to stop for a toilet break, but we also bring catheters, incontinence pants (diapers) and disposable urinal bottles with us in the ambulance.

Medical bag

One of the most important pieces of kit on a repatriation is the medical bag. This is a large, pre-prepared pack that contains a wide range of supplies in case we need to make a medical intervention: everything from intravenous (IV) lines to oxygen masks, pain-relief, medicines and sedatives. Many of these items are also stored on the ambulance itself, so the medical bag acts as a kind of mobile backup for any urgent treatments we might need to carry out during the trip.

Medical stretcher

Within the ambulance, patients travel on a specially constructed medical stretcher. Like the vehicle, it’s designed with long-distance travel in mind. The legs are fitted with air suspension to reduce bumps and we use thick vacuum mattresses to provide more comfort and support. We also carry gel mattresses, extra pillows and blankets along with us. The bed is fully repositionable, which means we can adjust our patient from flat to upright depending on their condition.


Many patients want to make the journey with a friend or loved one, and that’s certainly something we can accommodate. There’s space on the ambulance for one passenger and two sets of luggage weighing up to 20kg each. As a passenger, you can either travel up front with the driver/s, or in a seat alongside the medical stretcher. We carry a wheelchair on board (although the stretcher itself can be taken outside for fresh-air breaks, if needed). EMS ambulances also have tinted windows, so anyone sitting up inside the van can look out as they’re travelling.

Medical team

Every road ambulance repatriation comes with an advanced paramedic, and often a doctor too. They’ll travel with you all the way to your home or local hospital, or hand over to a replacement medical team en route (before crossing the channel from Calais to Dover, for example). We also have a medical director available by phone at any point during the trip. If the journeys are longer than 1,000km, we generally use two drivers so one can rest and take over after a few hours.


Food and drink come as standard with your repatriation package. We carry water with us in the ambulance, of course, but we usually also stop to buy hot meals and drinks during the journey. This usually happens at our refuelling points – just let the team know what you’d like to order and they’ll handle it for you.


Medical repatriation with COVID-19 is not a problem for EMS Air Ambulance & Medical Repatriation

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