Though Beijing's air quality and seasonal sandstorms bear potential threats of some respiratory illnesses, health levels are generally high, with life expectancy nearing 80. Pharmacies, clinics and emergency centers can be found throughout the city, at many tourist attractions and at large hotels. Pharmacies often stock many Western brand medicines. Look out for the sign "药店" (yaodian), meaning pharmacy. A recommended chain is Golden Elephant Pharmacy (金象大药房).
Beijing has a wide range of medical services encompassing traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine, public Chinese hospitals and international hospitals. Many hospitals provide excellent care, with doctors of both TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) and Western medicine. Examples include the People's Hospital (人民医院) and Beijing Chinese Medicine Hospital (北京中医医院). In Chinese hospitals the important thing is to find someone to translate for you, and be prepared to stand in multiple lines and at various locations, as you make your way through the registration, testing, diagnosis, treatment and account settling procedures. This can be energy-draining and time-consuming. Alternatively, international hospitals with English-speaking staff, advanced treatment and equipment will ease your mind, but they can be very expensive for anyone without good medical insurance.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese medicine (TMC) has a history of more than 2,500 years and still plays an important role in China's healthcare. Most Chinese people, especially seniors, prefer Chinese medicine to Western medicine, as they believe herbs have fewer side effects.
A mystery to the outside world for a long time, TCM has gradually established its name in the international world by fighting some chronic diseases, such as cancer. Increasingly more foreign students and doctors come to China to study TCM, and the new millennium has seen more joint treatment using Chinese and Western medicines. Chinese medicine comes in sachets, liquid form, tablets or as the herb itself. It may look, taste and smell unpleasant, and may need to be taken in large dosages over potentially longer periods, but if your Western medicine is falling you, why not give it a try?
Where to call in emergency
First Aid/Ambulance: 120
International SOS Assistance: 64629100
Peking Union Medical College Hospital 北京协和医院
Hours: 24-hour emergency care
No.1, Shuaifuyuan, Wangfujing, Dongcheng District. (Foreign patient reception is behind and to the left of the main building) (86-10-65295284)
Sino-Japanese Friendship Hospital 北京中日友好医院
Yinghua Donglu，Heping Beikou, Hepingli, Chaoyang District (Foreign patient reception is inside the east gate) (86-10-64222952/1122)
Bayley & Jackson Medical Center 庇利积臣医疗中心
Hours: 8am-6pm (Mon-Fri), 8am-4pm (Sat), doctors on call (Sun)
No.7, Ritan Donglu, Chaoyang District. (86-10-85629998 during working hours, 85629990 out of hours)
Beijing International SOS Clinic 北京国际救援中心
Hours: daily 9am-5.30pm (Chinese and foreign doctors), after 5pm (Chinese doctor only)
Building C,BITIC jingyi Plaza, No. 5, Sanlitun Xiwu Jie, Chaoyang District. (86-10-64629112; 24-hour service: 64629100)
Beijing United Family Hospital 北京和睦家医院
Hours: daily 9am-5pm; 24-hour emergency care
No.2m Jiangtai Lu, Chaoyang District (close to Holiday Inn Lido).
(86-10-64333960; 24-hour service: 64332345)
Hong Kong International Medical Clinic 香港国际医务诊所
Hours: daily 9am-9pm; 24-hour emergency care
9/F, office building of the Swisshotel, No.2, Chaoyangmen Beidajie, Chaoyang District.
International Medical Center (IMC) 北京国际医疗中心
Hours: daily 24 houors
S106, 1/F, Lufthansa Center, No.50, Liangmahe Lu, Chaoyang District.
Beijing Massage Hospital 北京按摩医院
Hours: daily 7.30am-11.45am, 1.30pm-9.30pm
No.7, Baochan Hutong, Xicheng District.
Beijing Tongren Hospital 北京同仁眼科医院
Hours: 8am-12pm, 1pm-5pm (Sat and Sun afternoons off); 24-hour emergency care
No.1, Dongjiaominxiang, Dongcheng District. (86-10-58269911)
Elite Dental Clinic 精致口腔
Hours: daily 9am-5pm
Room 206, Building 2, New Start Garden, No.5, Changchunqiao Lu, Haidian District.
Chinese massage (推拿 tuina) is one of the earliest medical treatments in the world. Dating back over 2,000 years, its earliest form was to rub, press, knead, pound or stamp in order to keep out cold, get rid of discomfort and treat various injuries. Today, it has developed into a practical therapy that involves pressing at certain acupuncture points and/or manipulating joints so as to relieve stress and treat illness. Rhythmic thumping, clapping and pounding over parts of your body are also often part of the experience.
In recent years, blind massage and foot massage have become very popular. Blind massage is usually done by blind masseurs who are renowned for their keen sense of the joints and muscles. And what could be nicer than a foot massage after a hard day pounding the streets? There are establishments all over town which also offer other forms of massage, like Thai-style. One-hand full-body (feet excluded) massages cost about RMB50. But the quality varies, with some places even using fake blind masseurs. One of the reputable locations is Aibosen Blindman Massage (爱博森盲人按摩院 No.11 Liufang Beili, Chaoyang District , 86-10-64652044/64661247 朝阳区柳芳北里11号) where the massage receive rigorous training.
As part of TCM therapy, acupuncture has been used to diagnose, treat and prevent illness for over 2,000 years. It's especially effective for treating a variety of pains and some special needle treatment is claimed to even help you lose weight. Those needles may look scary, but they are actually very safe and you will be surprised to find the treatment quite relaxing. You may feel a tingling or warmth while the needle is inserted.
Acupuncture treatment can be found in many Chinese medicine hospitals. If you visit a private clinic, make sure you check the therapist's license before receiving treatment.
The approval of the World Health Organization has resulted in wider acceptance and practice of acupuncture in other countries.
China has the world's largest population of smokers, so expect to see people smoking in most restaurants and bars, on the streets, etc. Only a few restaurants have non-smoking sections. Places you aren't supposed to smoke in Beijing include theatres, museums, bookstores, libraries, hospitals, public transport and places with "no-smoking (禁止吸烟)" signs. Some people smoke anyway, but they are frowned upon and now frequently asked to stop.
Public toilets in China are almost "squatter-style" and virtually none provide toilet paper. Some pay-toilets (RMB 0.5 per use) have toilet paper you can buy. So always carry tissues or be prepared to buy or borrow. Used toilet paper should not be flushed away, but placed in the basket beside the toilet. Pipework is small and blockages might ensue otherwise.
When asking people "where is the nearest toilet"? most Chinese will understand if you use the phrase "WC" instead of "bathroom". There are blue mobile toilets (RMB 0.5 per use) on the street. Restrooms in large malls, hotels or major restaurants are a good resource and McDonald’s and KFC are always a safe bet. Which door to choose? Many restrooms will have recognizable symbols, but it’s useful to know the characters for men (男) and women (女). Thus, embarrassment can be avoided.