Foreign travel advice
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
If you’re on prescription medication, make sure you either bring enough with you, or have access to a supply once in China. Certain medicines may not be available in China (including major brands readily available in the UK), and you may be prohibited from bringing some medicines into the country. For more information and advice, check with your GP and the Embassy of China before travelling.
Depending on which hospital you’re taken to, medical care is generally good in major cities, though some hospitals can be very crowded with long waiting times. Outside major cities, the standard of healthcare is variable; sometimes poor, and disorganised. Healthcare is not provided free of charge in China and medical bills can be very high. Medical evacuation from China is very expensive. Make sure you have comprehensive travel and medical insurance covering healthcare and medical evacuation/repatriation for the duration of your stay. Further information can be found on our Medical treatment in China document.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 120 and ask for an ambulance. Ambulances can be very slow to arrive and may not have trained responders. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment. The British Embassy, Beijing and Consulates in China publishes a list of hospitals and specialist medical service providers in China.
The high levels of air pollution in major urban and industrialised areas in China may aggravate bronchial, sinus or asthma conditions. Children, the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions may be especially affected. You can check the pollution index levels for many cities on the aqicn.info website.
It is not unusual for guests to consume large quantities of strong alcohol served at business dinners in China. On rare occasions this has led to severe illness or even death. Fake alcohol is also sometimes sold in bars and this can be more damaging to health than genuine products.
Tap water in China is generally not safe to drink. You should drink only bottled water.
The extreme altitude (over 3,000m) in some mountainous areas of China, including Tibet, parts of Xinjiang-Uighur Autonomous Region and Qinghai Province, may cause altitude sickness.
The Chinese authorities react quickly to any outbreaks of any infectious disease, including enforcing quarantine for those showing symptoms. There are occasional incidents of influenza transmitted to humans from animals, notably birds and pigs. Outbreaks are usually confined to rural areas and infection is believed to arise from close contact with infected birds or animals. For more information see the NaTHNaC website.
Dengue fever is present in some parts of China mainly during the rainy season. There has been a large increase in cases of dengue fever in Guangdong province. You should take appropriate precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.