Hospitals in Beijing

Beijing has excellent medical facilities, as advanced as any in the world – as long as you can pay for them. Your employment package should include insurance that covers these facilities. In fact, normal state hospitals here are also quite good. What you’re paying for with international providers is English-language personal care, pleasant surroundings and doctors with international experience who spend time listening to concerns and answering questions. You’re avoiding waiting all day in a crowded hospital for a 10-minute session with an overworked doctor. It’s worth it.

There are two main types of healthcare available other than the state system: local hospitals with special foreigner wings (Peking Union Medical College Hospital and China-Japan Friendship Hospital are two well-known ones), and private providers. If you want to save money and your medical problem is straightforward, consider the former. Fees are considerably lower (though beware that you may need to provide a deposit of around RMB10,000 if you need to be admitted), and equipment and care is good. In fact, you’ll probably be using identical X-ray machines and so on to those in the rest of the hospital; the difference is nicer rooms, no hours of waiting and doctors who speak some English and have more time for you. Note that Chinese doctors love to put people on drips at the slightest excuse; make it clear you don’t want this if you feel it’s overkill. They tend to stint on painkillers though.

Private providers have mushroomed in the last decade, offering a global standard of care, excellent facilities and an extremely comfortable experience. This is definitely the best approach if your insurance covers it. Fees are two to five times those of local hospitals, and will rise fast if you require serious treatment; but you won’t find better healthcare anywhere in the world.


Basic dental work, as well as cosmetic work, is very reasonably priced here. Big chains like Arrail are as high-tech, professional and hygienic as anywhere in the West; and if you need English-language service, you’ll get that too.


There are pharmacies everywhere, many open 24 hours, but don’t expect brand names to be the same. Find out in advance the name of what you want if possible; if they don’t have it, they’ll probably be able to offer an alternative. Certain drugs that are prescription-only in the West are available over the counter in Beijing, otherwise bring your prescription from home and get your provider to write you a local version.

Try out some local medical approaches, too. Both no-frills and high-end massages (of the respectable kind) are easy to find here, along with cupping, acupuncture and the like. TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) is also fascinating, and can be effective where Western medicine fails, or used in conjunction with it. It’s not snake oil (literally or figuratively): medicine is produced in laboratories and clinically proven to be effective.


The emergency number to call an ambulance is 120. They’re unlikely to speak English, so have someone write down the basic phrases you’ll need along with your address, practice them and keep the information handy. Note that ambulances take you to the nearest hospital, not the one of your choice. If possible, you’re better off getting a taxi or being driven– again, have the address in Chinese characters on you.

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