How to Keep Healthy When Traveling in China
Most of keeping healthy in China is about paying attention to the common problem areas: 1) adequate hygiene, especially when eating, 2) keeping warm/cool enough, 3) being well rested, and 4) staying well hydrated. Eat local foods cautiously and avoid the tap water.
To avoid illness and help you have the best China experience you can, we cover China's common and less common health risks and remedies below.
The main risks to your health are ordinary things like eating something you shouldn't, inadequate clothing for the conditions (see our weather pages for the month/destinations you will be traveling in for what to bring), over exertion, and exposure to infection. (Also altitude sickness in areas over 2,500 meters, mainly applicable to the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.)
Come prepared, insured, and take precautions.
China Travel Health Advice
- Water is easily available in China, but drink bottled, not tap water wherever you go, including in hotels or on the train. Drinking water is available at restaurants and hotels.
- Very few cities, like Hong Kong, have a 100% potable public water system available. Bottled water can be bought almost everywhere at kiosks, supermarkets, etc.
- Drink only boiled or bottled water or carbonated drinks in cans or bottles. Avoid tap water and drinking fountains. Don't drink beverages with ice, unless you are sure it have been made with clean water.
- Don't eat food purchased from street vendors.
- Wash hands often with soap or water (and/or instant antibacterial hand wash).
- Eat only thoroughly cooked food, or fruits and vegetables that you have peeled yourself.
- Never eat uncooked meat, raw eggs, or unpasteurized dairy products. Raw shellfish is dangerous for people who have liver disease or compromised immune systems.
Other Health Precautions
- Don't handle animals (especially monkeys, cats, dogs), to avoid the risk of rabies.
- Don't swim in fresh water (excluding well-chlorinated pools) in some parts of China to avoid infection with schistosomiasis.
- Don't share needles with anyone.
Vaccinations & Medical Suggestions
Foreign visitors should check what vaccinations are required or recommended when planning a trip. Your doctor may also be able to provide you with up-to-date information on the status of disease outbreaks in China. Most national governments also run travel advisory websites through their State or Foreign Affairs Departments.
While traveling with China Highlights, we take every precaution to provide a safe and healthy environment for you. We choose restaurants and hotels that are clean, safe, and we always keep your needs and interests in mind. However, here are some precautions for you to take into consideration for your trip to China.
Vaccines/Immunizations (4-6 weeks before your trip)
- Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG)
- Hepatitis B if you might be exposed to blood, have sexual contact with the local population, be exposed through medical treatment, or stay longer than 6 months. (Hepatitis B is recommended for infants and for children 11-12 years of age who did not receive it as infants.)
- Rabies, if you might be exposed to wild or domestic animals.
- Typhoid, for visiting developing countries.
Malaria is only present in the extreme south of China on the Southeast Asian border and Hainan Island. For prevention of Malaria, starting 4-6 weeks before your trip, start taking a antimalaria drug. Please ask your doctor which one he/she thinks is best. Protect yourself from mosquito bites using mosquito/insect repellant or spray.
Medicines to Bring
- Bring over-the-counter antidiarrheal medicine if you have or get diarrhea easily.
- Bring Ibuprofen, Motrin. Advil, or other types of mild pain relievers for headaches, toothaches, muscular aches, backaches, the common cold, menstrual cramps and fever reducers and mild body pain.
If you have a medical condition that requires you to carry certain medicines, customs regulations only allow you to carry enough for personal use for the length of your stay. Many medicines are available in China, so...
Bring Your Medical Records Along with You
All travelers are recommended to take their medical records along. In the event of an emergency your medical records will be of great assistance.
The medical record should include your blood type, immunization record, allergies, and any medications you are currently taking (both prescription and non-prescription), You should also include your doctor's name, address, phone number, emergency contact name and phone number, and your insurance company's name, address and phone number.
Hospitals in China
The major cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou have hospitals that will reach the standard of foreign hospital however the hospital systems differ considerably. Hospitals in other cities may not offer the same standards of hospitals as foreign countries.
If You Require Medical Assistance
In case of accident, most major cities will have a hospital with an accident and emergency ward, however, in more rural districts the nearest hospital may be a distance away so your best bet would be to call an ambulance. Outside of hours try a local hospital or in emergencies. Dial 120 for an ambulance which is a free call from any telephone.
Ambulances are not equipped with sophisticated technology, and seriously ill visitors are recommended to take a taxi to the nearest facility rather than wait for an ambulance.
In the event of a serious condition which requires hospitalization, your tour guide will do everything possible to ensure that you receive that best treatment possible. Please call your China Highlights travel advisor so that we can provide assistance.
Conditions Not Requiring Hospitalization
Clinics equipped with simple and general medical facilities are available in star-rated hotels, star-rated cruise ships and most of scenic spots in the city. For unexpected injuries or minor ailments, you can get first aid there.
On entering hospital all patients are required to pay a substantial deposit before any treatment will be administered. Nursing care in hospital is strictly limited to medical treatments so patients will require a person who can assist with all other activities. No food is supplied.
Most hospitals and medical facilities will require either a deposit, or payment up front. Those in major cities may accept credit cards, but others may insist on cash. They will not all recognise foreign medical insurance. We highly recommend that all travelers buy comprehensive travel insurance in their home country before departure. See our recommended China Travel Insurance.
A number of the larger cities have Western-style medical facilities with international and local staff. Some other hospitals in major Chinese cities have gaogan bingfang - wards which are equipped with reasonably up-to-date medical technology and physicians who are both knowledgeable and skilled. Many of these wards will provide medical services to foreigners and have English-speaking doctors and nurses. There are also some foreign-operated medical providers who cater to expatriates and visitors.
Global Doctors operate in China. We recommend them for English-speaking medical assistance. They aim to be “a one-stop full service centre, where consultation, diagnosis, treatment, reassurance and a cup of coffee can all take place under one roof.” (http://globaldoctorshospital.com/about-us.php) Their clinics are listed below.
Global Doctors 24/7 Medical Emergency Assistance: +86 10 5915 1199 (Chinese/English)
List of Hospitals with English Speakers
Friendship Hospital — Global Doctor Clinic
- Tel: +86-10-8456-9191, +86-10-8315-1915
- Add: 95 Yong’an Lu, Xuanwu District, Beijing 100050
Beijing United Family Hospital
- Tel: +86-10-6433 3960/1/2/4/5, Fax: +86-10-6433 3963
- Emergency hotline: +86-10-6433 2345
- Add: 2 Jiangtai Lu, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100016
Beijing United Family Clinic — Shunyi
- Tel: +86-10-8046 5432, Fax: +86-10-8046 4383
- Add: Pinnacle Plaza, Unit 818, Tianzhu Real Estate Development Zone, Shunyi District, Beijing 101312
International SOS (Medical Emergency and Evacuation Service)
- Tel: +86-10-6462 9100 (24-hour Assistance Center), +86-10-6462 9112, Fax: +86-10-6462-9111
- Add: Suite 105, Wing 1, Kunsha Building, 16 Xinyuanli, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100027
International Medical Center (IMC) — Beijing
- Tel: +86-10-6465 1561/2/3 (24-hour), Fax: +86-10-6465 1984
- Add: Lufthansa Center, Office Building, Suite 106, 50 Liangmaqiao Rd., Chaoyang District, Beijing 100016
Chengdu Global Doctors Medical Center
- Open: Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm, Saturday 9am to 12am, 24-hour emergency service
- Add: Rooms 9–11, 2nd floor, South Entrance, Lippo Tower, 62 Kehua North Road, Chengdu
- Tel: 86-28-85283660 / Fax Number: 86-28-85283667
- Medical appointment and enquiries:
Global Doctors Chengdu Clinic
- Tel: +86-28-8522 6058 (9:00-18:00), +86-28-139 822 56966 (18:00-9:00)
- Web: www.eglobaldoctor.com
- Add: 21 Kelan Bangkok Garden, Section 4, South Renmin Road, Chengdu, Sichuan
Sichuan International Medical Center and Foreigner's Clinic
- Tel: 028-8542-2777, 8542-2408
- Web: www.goldencard.com
- Add: No 37, Guoxue Lane, Chengdu, Sichuan
Chongqing Global Doctors Clinic
- Open: Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm / 24-hour Emergency Service
- Add: 139 Zhongshan San Lu, Yuzhong District, Chongqing
- Tel: 86-23-89038837 / Fax: 86-23-89038839
- Medical appointment and enquiries:
First Attached Hospital of Chongqing Medical University
- Tel: +86-23-6881-6534, Emergency: +86-23-6901 2330
- Add: 1 Youyi Road, Yuanjiagang, Chongqing
Guangzhou Global Doctors Clinic
- Open: Monday to Sunday 9am to 6pm 24 hours Emergency Service
- Add: 1st floor, Building D, Tianyu Garden (Phase II), 136 Linhe Zhong Road, Guangzhou
- Tel: 86-20-38906699, 6088, Fax: 86-20-38906000
- Mobile: 18988972716 (24 hours)
- Medical appointment and enquiries:
United Family Hospitals
- Add: 1st Floor, Annex Building, PICC Building, 301 Guangzhou Dadao Zhong, Guangzhou
- Tel: (020) 8710 6000, Fax: (020) 8710 6010
Guangzhou Can Am International Medical Center
- Tel: +86-20-8386 6988 (24-hour)
- Add: 5/F Garden Hotel, 368 Huanshi Dong Lu, Guangzhou
Guilin People’s Hospital
- Add: 12 Wenming Lu, Guilin, Guangxi 541002
- Tel: (0773) 282-7626;
- Emergency Department: (0773) 282-5116, 282-1079
Sir. Run Run Show Hospital
- Tel: +86-571-8609 0073
- Add: 3 Qingchun Dong Road, Hangzhou, Zhejiang
First Attached Hospital of Kunming Medical College
- Tel: +86-871-532 4888 (operator)
- Emergency: +86-871-532 4590
- Add: 153 Xichang Road, Kunming, Yunnan
First People's Hospital of Yunnan Province
- Tel: +86-871-363 4031(operator)
- Add: 172 Jinbi Road, Kunming, Yunnan
Tibet Autonomous Region No. 1 People's Hospital Emergency Medical Facility
- This is a 24-hour facility (unlike the rest of the hospital).
- Emergency number: +86-891-120
- 24 hour emergency number with an English language speaker: +86-891- 632 2200
- Add: 18 North Linkuo Road, Lhasa, Tibet 850000
Portman Clinic (General)
- Tel: +86-21-6279 7688
- For appointments: +86-21-6279 8678
- Fax: +86-21-6279 7698
- Add: Shanghai Center 203 W, 1376 Nanjing Xi Lu, Shanghai 200040
Hong Qiao Clinic (General)
- Tel: +86-21-6405 5788, Fax: +86-21-6405 3587
- Add: Mandarine City Unit 30, 788 Hongxu Lu, Shanghai 201103
Huashan Hospital (Medical/surgical emergencies)
- Tel: +86-21-6248 3986, +86-21- 6248 9999 ext. 2531
- Add: 15th Floor, Foreigner's Clinic, Zonghe Lou, 12 Wulumuqi Zhong Lu, Shanghai
Hua Dong Hospital (Medical/surgical emergencies)
- Tel: +86-21-6248 4867, +86-21-6248 3180 ext.3106
- Add: 2nd Floor, Foreigner's Clinic, 221 Yan'an Xi Road, Shanghai
The First People's Hospital (Medical/surgical emergencies)
- Tel: +86-21-6324 3852 (24 hours).
- Add: International Medical Care Center, 585 Jiulong Lu, Shanghai
General Hospital of Tianjin Medical University
- Tel: +86-22-2781 3159
- Add: 154 Anshanda, Heping District,Tianjin 300450
The First Center Hospital of Tianjin
- Tel: +86-22-2362 6600
- Add: 24 Fukang Lu, Tianjin 300450
Wuhan Global Doctors Clinic
- Open: Monday to Saturday 9:00am to 6pm; 24-hour emergency service
- Add: 241 Peng Liuyang Road, Tongren Hospital, Wuchang District, Wuhan
- Tel: 86-27-87656685, Fax: 86-27-86839993
- Medical appointment and enquiries:
People's Hospital of Shaanxi Province
- Tel: +86-29-8524 9600, +86-29-8525 1331, +86-29-8525 5977 (switchboard)
- Add: 256 Youyi Xi Lu, Xi'an, Shaanxi 710068
No. 2 College Affiliated to Xi'an Medical University
- Tel: +86-29-8767 9323, +86-29-8767 8421 (office)
- Add: 157 Xiwu Lu, Xi'an, Shaanxi 710004
Rural Health Facilities and Chinese Health Improvement
Facilities in rural areas are likely to be very limited. Take care in rural areas and seek medical assistance for serious conditions in the cities.
Government Health Initiatives
After the founding of New China in 1949 the Chinese government put the emphasis of medical work on the rural health services, disease prevention and health care and giving a boost to traditional Chinese medicine. Great efforts were devoted to setting up medical and public health institutions.
A nationwide public health network has now been basically formed and an adequate contingent of medical personnel has been established. China’s medical education system is complete, and a large group of medical experts has been trained.
Great Improvements in Public Health
By the end of 1999, there were 310,000 public health institutions (including clinics) with 3.16 million beds, of which 2.93 million beds were in hospitals and clinics. There were 4.46 million medical personnel, including 2.05 million doctors and 1.25 million nurses. The public health institutions, hospital and clinic beds and medical personnel increased by 83 percent, 58 percent and 81 percent, respectively, compared with those in 1978.
The technical level of public health has improved greatly, and the management and supervision of medical work have been strengthened. An urban and rural medical insurance system combining state planning and fee paying has been established. Traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine have been promoted simultaneously.
Rural health work has been improved, greatly contributing to the overall health of the population. The average life expectancy of Chinese people, the death rate of infants and childbirth death rates have almost reached the levels of developed countries. The incidence of many epidemic diseases has dropped considerably, and some endemic diseases are now under control.