Accessing Medical Services and Hospitals

Information about the medical care available, hospitals, health centres and emergency services for foreigners in South Korea, and how to access English-speaking medical care...

Chinese medicine

In China, traditional Chinese medicine is found alongside modern Western treatments. There are Chinese medicine hospitals and treatment facilities throughout the country.

Hospitals in China

The vast majority of medical care in China is delivered in hospitals, whether it is treatment for a cold or for major surgery. There is very little record keeping of people's health and there are no general practitioners or family doctors. Most hospitals accept credit cards to pay for treatment.

All of China's major cities have hospitals which specialise in different fields and are equipped with some modern facilities. Smaller cities usually have general and some specialist hospitals. It is not necessary to make an appointment at these hospitals, just go along and wait to be seen.

The standard of care in Chinese hospitals varies widely. Some hospitals have a gaogan bingfang or VIP ward which is typically better equipped and has well-trained staff, many of whom speak English.

In rural areas, healthcare is developing at the county, township and village levels, but the care provided is often basic with little equipment and few trained personnel. It can be difficult for foreigners to get treatment in rural areas, even in an emergency.

There are hospitals with English-speaking doctors in many parts of China.

Foreign-run clinics

Some of the major cities have private foreign-run hospitals and clinics which provide very good care. These are the most expensive option, with care costing up to ten times that in a public hospital. It is advisable to have good private health insurance and check what is covered by this insurance. Staff in these clinics speak English and generally some other languages.

Embassies usually carry a list of hospitals or clinics with Western-style facilities and English speaking health professionals. To find an embassy or consulate in China, see Consular Services.


In China, ambulances generally have little sophisticated equipment and the staff may have little or no medical training. The United States Embassy advises foreigners to take a taxi or other vehicle to the nearest major hospital in the event of an injury or sudden illness.


To find a pharmacy in China, look for the green cross on a white sign. There are pharmacies in all towns and cities, and medicines can also be bought in hospitals and health clinics. Very few pharmacies have English-speaking staff, although many medicines have the generic name of the medicine in English on the packaging.

Pharmacists can provide some advice and over-the-counter medicines. A prescription is generally required for antibiotics. It is advisable to bring medicines from the home country where possible, but the prescription for these should be kept to show customs officials if required.

Some pharmacies are open 24 hours a day, especially in large cities