Tips to Attain Medical Care in China when you Don’t Speak Chinese

portrait of an asian medical team.Living or traveling to a foreign country can be quite scary especially when you need medical aid and the people around don’t speak English. If you are traveling to China or planning on living in China, here are some helpful hints that will make navigate the Chinese health care system:

Tip 1: Where to go in case of an emergency

In case of a medical emergency, the main concern most people have is where is the closest hospital. In China, you can’t just ask where is the closest hospital to treat my emergency. Hospitals function slightly differently in China. Not all hospitals will accept all types of patients. Many times patients arrive at the hospital only to be diverted to another hospital. Hospitals have specialties and mostly, only children hospitals will accept children. So, it is a good idea to find out which hospital will treat your problem before setting out.

Tip 2: Hire a native speaker

Most people in China speak Mandarin, they do not speak English. If you are lucky or living in a major city, the hospital will have a VIP section with English speaking staff, or is a full-fledged international hospital. If not, hire a translator to ensure you can communicate with the doctors, nurses and other staff easily.

Tip 3: Carry cash

In most Western countries, you may be able to use your credit card or your insurance card to get medical treatment. In China, however, medical treatment will not start until you pay in cash, so make sure to carry plenty of cash if you are headed towards a hospital.

Tip 4: Look for a foreign clinic

Major cities have hospitals or clinics that cater to foreigners. The cost of care at such clinics is far higher than regular hospitals, but there is no worry about language. The staff at these clinics speak English. They will also have speakers of other international languages.

The type of care will be more familiar from standards and style to accommodation. They also offer emergency health care. The only problem is that these hospitals and clinics are limited to areas with high expat populations. Anywhere else and you will have to navigate around the language barrier.

Tip 5: Medical Insurance

When traveling to China, most travel agencies will offer some type of travel insurance. If possible purchase travel insurance with medical emergency evacuation insurance. This type of insurance ensures that you can be evacuated to a location outside of China for treatment. This might come in handy in case of a serious problem.

Happy travels, we hope your time in China is free of emergencies!


Founders of havingababyinchina.com, Jeremy and Jacquelyn have four children. The first three were born in three different hospitals in China and the last was born at home in the US. Jeremy and Jacquelyn created havingababyinchina.com in 2009 after they found little information for foreigners having babies in China. They love connecting with other foreigners having babies. Learn more about them on the about page.

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