Safety Tips and Travel Insurance Options for China
China is a hot destination for world travelers and visitors in more ways than one. Travel here is booming. It is the 4th most visited destination in the world (after Travel to France, the Travel to United States, and Travel to Spain). The country also ranks first in the world regarding the travel industry’s contribution to employment. And it’s a country on the cutting edge of cuisine, fashion, technology, and entertainment.
China wasn’t always so accessible. Between 1949 and 1974, the tourism industry was closed to all but select foreign visitors. And today’s tourists are often playing catch up when it comes to their knowledge about the country. Our guide to China covers Chinese travel insurance and safety advice to help every traveler have the best possible trip.
General Travel Tips and Safety Advice for Visitors to China
China is larger and more diverse – in ethnicity, in geography, in food, in tradition – than most travelers realize. Regardless of where you go, keep these tips in mind.
Work hard to break the language barrier. English language skills are growing rapidly, especially among young people and urban dwellers. However, knowing several basic Mandarin phrases is invaluable. Hire a tutor for the most efficient learning experience. Even a few hours of instruction will make a huge difference when you arrive. (And if you need extra motivation, note that a typical scam is taxi drivers who don’t turn on the meter. Ask your tutor for a phrase or two to use in this situation!)
As with travel to all major cities, keep your wits about you. Pickpockets love large crowds and distracted foreigners. If you don’t trust yourself to find your way back to your hotel, take a photo of its business card (written in Mandarin) and a photo of the exterior.
Research the weather while planning your trip. The country is vast, with an equally significant amount of climate zones. Knowing what to expect will help you have a more comfortable trip.
Make communication plans. Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube are officially banned in China. Make arrangements to keep in touch by email or invest in a VPN (virtual private network).
Expect pollution and congestion. Smog levels are notorious in China’s cities. As well, cigarette smoking is widespread. Speak with your doctor before your trip if you are prone to asthma.
Travel Insurance Plans for Visitors to China
Comprehensive travel medical insurance is essential in China. The treatment at the best private hospitals is extremely expensive compared to the more basic public hospitals. And if serious health services are needed in a remote area, expensive airlift services are required. It’s best to be prepared. Choose a policy that includes translation services, medical evacuation, and private hospitals to maximize your comfort.
For all nationalities (excluding Canada and Australia) the Atlas Travel Insurance plan is an excellent option, providing affordable coverage and a wide range of benefits.
- You choose between the basic essentials and more extensive coverage.
- Meets Schengen visa insurance requirements.
- 24/7 worldwide travel and emergency medical assistance.
Another excellent option with affordable coverage is the Patriot Travel insurance plan.
- Short-term travel medical coverage.
- Coverage for individuals and dependents.
- Freedom to seek treatment with hospital or doctor of your choice.
Trip Cancellation Insurance for International Citizens Visiting China
For international citizens traveling to China (excluding US citizens), the Roundtrip International plan is an excellent choice. The plan provides trip cancellation, trip interruption, emergency medical, and many other benefits.
- Trip protection for non-U.S. residents traveling up to 30 days.
- $100,000 personal liability benefit.
- 24/7 multilingual travel assistance.
Travel Insurance for US Citizens Traveling to China
We recommend the Roundtrip Elite plan for trip cancellation coverage to US citizens traveling abroad. An alternative option would be the GeoBlue Voyager plan which offers a comprehensive travel medical benefits but does not include trip cancellation benefits.
- Comprehensive trip protection for U.S. residents traveling abroad.
- Optional rental car collision coverage available.
- Optional Cancel for Any Reason coverage available (if eligible).
- Great option for US citizens traveling abroad
- For trips up to 6 months for ages up to 84
- May cover pre-existing conditions for medical services
Medical Insurance for Foreigners in China
If you are looking for a Chinese health insurance for expatriates, the Cigna Global Plan is a comprehensive annually renewable plan. This plan provides an unlimited amount of coverage annually, and benefits include for doctor office visits, prescription drugs, maternity, surgery, hospitalizations, diagnostic testing, lab work, emergency medical evacuation, repatriation, etc. This plan will cover you all over the world – including China – and you can choose to include or exclude the US in coverage. Learn more about international health insurance plans.
- The flexibility to tailor a plan to suit your individual needs
- Access to Cigna Global’s network of trusted hospitals, clinics, and doctors
- The convenience and confidence of 24/7/365 customer service
Related:Expatriate Insurance Plans
Vaccines Required for Visitors to China
Before any trip, check that your routine vaccinations are up to date. This list includes tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, chickenpox, polio, and influenza. Additionally, travelers to China should be vaccinated for Hepatitis A and B. In particular, Hepatitis B is widespread in China, with approximately 10% of the population infected.
The CDC also recommends travelers speak with their doctors about vaccines for typhoid, yellow fever, rabies, Japanese encephalitis, as well as preventative treatment for malaria. Whether or not you’ll require these different forms of protection depends on where you’ll be traveling and what you’ll be doing.
Diet, Water, and Medication Considerations
Tap water in China is not potable. Bottled water is widely available, as are bottled soft drinks, beer, and hot coffee and tea. Identify safe street food vendors by a long line of locals eager to eat their fare. Look for a very busy cook who is continuously cooking to fill orders (and not letting food sit and cool). Treat undercooked or raw meat and eggs with serious caution.
Your packing list should always include sunscreen, a bug spray with 20% Deet, and a basic first aid kit. Prescription medication must be in the original packaging from the pharmacy, with the prescription label attached.
Emergency Assistance Numbers for Visitors
- Emergency services Beijing: dial 999
- Emergency services Shanghai: Dial 120
- Fire department services: dial 119
- Police services: dial 110
Embassies in China
- United States: 86 10 8531-3000
- United Kingdom: 86 10 5192 4000
- Canada: 86 10 5139 4000
- Australia: 86 10 5140 4111
- France: 86 10 8531 2000
Understanding the Chinese Medical System
Healthcare in China is a mix of public and private services. Nearly 95% of the population has some form of basic public health coverage. However, only a portion of the cost associated with personal medical treatment is covered by the public plan. The system is restructuring, in part to shrink the coverage gap between rural and urban regions. Cities like Beijing and Shanghai offer Chinese hospitals with world-class care and have excellent specialist services. However, rural regions may have very basic or even essentially non-existent health services.
Traditional medicine has been practiced in China for more than two thousand years. It is often practiced alongside Western techniques and treatments, though not always harmoniously. Few practitioners are equally competent in both fields. In rural areas, health care options are often limited to only traditional medicine, which includes herbal remedies, acupuncture, and acupressure.