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Transport and Healthcare in Shanghai

So you are about to join the ranks of the many expats living in Shanghai? While a fascinating time awaits you, expat life in China can be challenging for newcomers to the country and its culture. Let InterNations guide you through what to expect of Shanghai, from transport to health and education!
At night, colorful lanterns illuminate the streets of Shanghai.

Metro and Tram

Apart from city buses, the Shanghai smart card covers several other means of transport as well. The relatively new Zhāngjiāng tram has its terminal near Zhāngjiāng High-Tech Park in Pudong, where quite a few foreign-invested enterprises from the field of technology operate a branch office. Another showpiece of Shanghai’s modernized public transport system is the Maglev (Transrapid) train from Longyang Road Station near the 2010 Expo Center to Pudong Airport.

Shanghai has an underground network as well. The 14 lines of the Shanghai Metro boast the distinct advantage of having English announcements and bilingual signs at their various stops. On the downside, the metro can become almost as crowded as the buses.

Crowds on the bus or metro attract a lot of “wandering hands”, i.e. passengers that grope and feel up women standing next to them in the throng. To avoid such instances of sexual harassment, expat women may prefer taking a taxi. With the sole exception of some unlicensed cabs, Shanghai taxis are mostly reliable, safe, and still affordable.

To learn more about the many modes of urban public transportation in China has to offer, read our Extended Guide article. It covers various transportation options, including buses, trains, and taxis.

Health Precautions

First of all, a good healthcare plan is essential for life in China. The government-funded healthcare system, introduced in the late 1990s and expanded to include foreign employees as of October 2011, will not meet expatriate needs. Therefore, expats need either an international health insurance policy or cover for private medical care from a Chinese insurance provider.

Also make sure that you know which diseases are prevalent in the Shanghai area before you leave and get familiar with their symptoms. At the moment, such diseases include hand-foot-mouth-disease among children, rabies, Japanese encephalitis, and – though to a far lesser degree than you might fear – avian influenza. Dengue fever and malaria become more of a worry in southern regions. You should also take a first-aid kit, a supply of prescription medication and contraceptives when packing your bags for Shanghai.

Hospitals and Doctors

If you are looking for a doctor or dentist in Shanghai, you should know that it is customary in China to go and see a doctor at a clinic, not at their individual practice. Your local consulate may have a list of hospitals as well as dental clinics with Western standards and medical staff fluent in English or your own national language. Some consulates invite a doctor from your respective home country for office hours on a regular basis.

Recommended hospitals include, among others, the Shanghai East International Medical Center, the Shanghai United Family Hospital, the Parkway Health Medical Center, or the Huashan Hospital. You can find a list of recommended medical facilities with English-speaking staff and Western-style pharmacies via the US Embassy.

In the case of serious illness, major surgery, prolonged treatment, or pregnancy complications, however, it might be advisable to go to Hong Kong or to use of a repatriation insurance policy and return to your home country.

In an emergency, you should call 110 (police), 119 (fire) or 120 (ambulance). For such situations, it will come in handy to have an emergency form with Chinese translations of important phrases such as xuyào y liàng jiùhùche (we need an ambulance) or xinzàngbìng (heart attack). If you are unable to communicate in Chinese, you can also phone the 24/7 Shanghai Call Center (96 22 88). Its staff can help as an interpreter over the phone.

China's hospitals vary in service and type, from expat clinics and hospitals with VIP wards, to local hospitals. Find out all about hospitals in China from our Extended Guide.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

David Thyne

"At the first Shanghai Get-Together I met several American expats. I am very grateful that they shared their experience with me."

Diana Anhaus-Brey

"It is just so easy to find other international people and global minds with InterNations. I didn´t know there were so many in Shanghai."

Global Expat Guide