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Healthcare in Vietnam
Practical Advice

Healthcare in Vietnam

Vietnam’s public healthcare system only covers about 30% of the population. This means that many Vietnamese have to use private health care.

Hospitals in Vietnam

Hospital Symbol

The quality and accessibility of health services differs considerably on whether you are in the city or in rural areas. The majority of hospitals and clinics are located in the larger cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Public hospitals in Vietnam are not the nicest of places due to a general lack of funding by the government in the health sector. Doctors and nurses tend to only speak Vietnamese so communication may be difficult.

However, private hospitals in Vietnam are a completely different story. With doctors and nurses usually speaking English and the quality of the hospital being much higher. This is usually the preferred place for travelers and expats alike.


If you are in Vietnam and need to get to the hospital as quickly as possible an ambulance may not be the best idea. Ambulances can take a long time to arrive so it is recommended to try and get in a taxi and take yourself to a hospital as quickly as possible.

Changes to healthcare

Vietnam is aiming to improve its health care system to public system which covers all citizens. Following the trend of nearby Thailand, Vietnam hopes to be able to provide a public health care system in the not too distant future.

Individuals, however, will still be able to add on additional private healthcare should they wish to do so.

Ho Chi Minh City has a wide selection of different private and international hospitals on offer.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), basic health indicators are better than those of other developing countries in the region with similar per campita incomes. By 2013, there were more than 11,000 health communes, and 1,040 hospitals.

Although Vietnam’s health status has improved over the years, it has still a long way to go. Vietnam still has three problems to solve. First, more Vietnamese are diagnosed with some sort of chronic disease and increases the cost burden. Second, the big difference on quality and accessibility of health services between urban and rural continues to be a big problem. Last but not least, overcrowded hospitals. This a big issue due to long waiting lists for surgeries.

Health Issues

By taking some basic precautions, people who are traveling to Vietnam can minimize the chances of experiencing a visit to the hospital.

Drinking tap water in Vietnam is not recommendable, even having ice in the drinks at restaurants and bars. In this case it is better to buy bottled water.

Temperatures in Vietnam can soar so sunburn, sunstroke and dehydration are significant problems for new arrivals.

Common diseases are tuberculosis and malaria. It is recommended to have all basic vaccinations up-to-date.

The boy who receives vaccination

Chengdu Blogs, Cultural, Qingdao Blogs

What to do if you become ill in China

The different climate, food and general way of life in China can make it much easier for you to get ill here than in your home country. Whether you get food poisoning, a common cold or something more serious, being ill in China can be a daunting experience!
Firstly, it’s important to understand that there are no health centers in China. If you have an illness which you need treatment for you have to go straight to the hospital. However that’s no reason to panic! At the hospital you will receive the same sort of treatment you’d normally receive in a health center back home.

China is famous for its ancient medical practices. Chinese medicine has developed over thousands of years and is rooted in the ancient philosophy of Taoism. Today it is frequently used alongside Western medicine in Chinese hospitals and clinics. It involves the use of herbs, massage and acupuncture to treat a wide range of conditions.


Many people feel that Chinese medicine is an affective form of treatment and it is becoming increasingly popular amongst Western nations. However, Western medicine is still widely available in China. It’s easy and inexpensive to buy painkillers, throat soothers, and other types of medicine in local Chinese chemists.

InternChina has simple processes for you to follow if you become unwell in China. If you become ill whilst in Zhuhai, we recommend that you first call the Zhuhai Office Manager (Morgan Dolan) and then go to the hospital. InternChina will arrange for someone to go to the hospital with you and give you advice on what the best sort of treatment would be. At the hospital you should go straight to the 5th floor where you can gain access to a VIP section. Here you’ll have English speaking doctors who’ll be able to assist you.


In Qingdao, InternChina is in good contact with a local hospital called Cham Shan Int’l Medical Center. The doctors and nurses at this hospital speak good English which means there shouldn’t be any language barriers. Before going to the hospital, interns are encouraged to phone the Qingdao Office Manager (Jack Fairhead). InternChina can then send someone to accompany you to the hospital and find the appropriate medicine and help translate any Chinese medical terms.

Chengdu has experienced rapid globalization and a sharp increase in foreign trade. Therefore it’s not surprising that there are numerous hospital’s which cater for the needs of foreigners and supply Western treatments. Much like in Zhuhai and Qingdao, if you become ill in Chengdu we advise that you first contact the Chengdu Office Manager (Jenny Hofmann) and then go to the hospital. This way InternChina can arrange for someone to meet you and help you with your problem.

Interested in an internship in China? Apply now to InternChina by sending your CV and cover letter

Cultural, Travel

Visiting a Chinese hospital

So last week some of the Zhuhai interns decided to spend our Wednesday evening go-karting at an indoor track in downtown Zhuhai. Little did I know that this fun activity would result in my first visit to a Chinese hospital!

Image Source: Panoramio

It wasn’t a big accident – I was stuck against the tyres and Dina came crashing into me at full speed. But the whiplash effect that I got that night was so discomforting and painful that the next morning I decided to go and get myself checked out.

I must admit I was quite dreading that hospital visit. Even though I’ve lived by myself in 3 different countries for the past 4 years, every time I get sick or hurt all I want is for my mom to be there with me. Now I was on my own, with very few words in my Chinese vocabulary, feeling like I was going to cry every time I bent my knees or tried to turn my head. Yet I gathered up my courage and managed to get myself to the Zhuhai People’s Hospital. Our French office manager here at InternChina in Zhuhai knows the local hospital well, and this was his advice: go to the 5th floor, pay the 50 RMB (around 6€) for VIP service and they’ll find you someone who can speak English. True enough: even though the nurses’ English wasn’t that extensive, they helped me fill out all the forms, took me to the cashier to pay, and stayed with me the entire time I was there.

I was taken to the Physical Rehabilitation Clinic, where the doctor asked me what had happened. After struggling to explain what go-karting was (she thought I’d been in a real car crash!), I managed to describe my symptoms to her while the other patients and their families listened attentively, though I’m pretty sure they couldn’t understand what I was saying. She then examined me all the way from my neck to the end of my spine, and wrote everything down on my patient booklet.

All I wanted was to make sure I didn’t have a serious injury, so I asked her if I could get an X-ray. I was also secretly hoping she would prescribe me some painkillers, give me a neck brace and send me on my way. But she said the X-ray wasn’t really necessary, that my spine was just a little bit twisted and all it needed was some straightening out. Her prescribed treatment was this: a shot for my muscles, a massage with hot compresses, some acupuncture and a bone cracking. The shot was painless, the massage felt quite good, the acupuncture felt strange but much less scary than I’d imagined (it was my first time getting acupuncture), and the bone cracking hurt at that moment but I immediately felt the improvement.

She told me to go home and rest, keep my body warm and drink lots of water, and come back the next day if I was still hurting. I heeded her advice and took it easy the rest of the day. The next morning I was still sore but not nearly as bad as I felt the previous day. I was too lazy to go back to the hospital but as I continued to feel better the rest of the weekend, I realised it wasn’t really necessary.

Now it is Tuesday and I feel as if nothing had happened to me. It’s funny to think that sometimes we are so convinced that the way we do things is the right way, that we don’t even open ourselves to other options. I don’t know what kind of treatment I would have been prescribed had I been in Mexico or the UK, but I am certain that the one I got was exactly what I needed. So thanks, Doctor!

Want to have new and exciting adventures in China? Apply now or send us an email for more information.

How-to Guides

Going to a Chinese Hospital

No-one likes getting ill, particularly not in a foreign country. The idea of going to a Chinese hospital is quite a scary one: hundreds of people, stress, queues, Chinese, injections are just a few of the worries that come to mind.

InternChina – Hospital

The Chinese medical system has both private and public hospitals. In lots of cities, including Qingdao, they have hospitals which are specifically for foreigners where all of the doctors speak English. These are usually more expensive than a Chinese hospital, but are still relatively cheap; the international hospital in Qingdao costs about 20 RMB a visit, the Chinese hospital about 5 RMB. Most hospitals practice a combination of both Chinese and Western medicine, and offer a full range of medical services such as check-ups, x-rays, operations, MRI’s etc. In Chinese hospitals doctors often won’t speak English, but will probably have a good command of vocab so can give you a vague explanation of what is wrong!

A week after falling on my knee and no sign of recovery, I succumbed to my pain and decided it was about time I visited my local Chinese hospital in Qingdao. If you need to go to hospital, there is really no need to worry! I will try and give you a simple explanation to try and make the whole process slightly easier for you. I have to say when I went I had absolutely no idea what was going on.

Common Hospital Procedure

If you have a serious problem call 120 – this is the medical services emergency number! If it is less serious and you are visiting the hospital yourself, then make your own way there.

InternChina – Ambulance

Just a quick point, I advise finding a Chinese friend to go with you. Unless your Chinese is very good it is quite hard to work your way around a hospital and the whole process can be very confusing! I went with my host family Mum who was extremely useful…

1) Arrive at the hospital and register (挂号 - gua4hao4). This involved paying 10 RMB, giving them my name and phone number. They then gave me a little card that was used for everything to follow. You say what is wrong with you, and they will tell you where you need to go and who you need to see and give you a ticket. (You can find some cracking “chinglish” in some hospitals – see below)

InternChina – International

2) This ticket will have a number on it, so when you find your area you wait until your number appears on the screen. Sometimes it is best to go straight in and show them the ticket, doctors often have time for us poor injured foreigners!

3) Get the doctor to check whatever is wrong with you! In a Chinese hospital it is common to have the waiting room in the same room as the check-up room, so you have very little privacy. Fortunately, I was only having a check up for my leg (!).

4) They then tell you what you need to do next, be it further check-ups (检查 – jian3cha2), surgery, or medicine (yao – 药4). Whatever they say you then need to go back to the place you first registered, give them your card and they will then ask you to pay for whatever you need next. For me this was then an MRI scan which set me back 850 RMB, but if it is just medicine it is much cheaper.

5) If it is medicine you are getting, you then head over to the medicine area ( quyao 取3药4),and they will give you whatever you have just paid for. Then head home, do what the doctor advised and hope it will get better!

6) If you need further check-ups, you then go to the check-up area (x-ray clinic, MRI area etc.) and they will give you a date and a time to come back.

7) After you have had this check-up you get your results and go back to the initial doctor who will then give you a diagnosis.

This may all seem quite confusing, but there are lots of people around who tell you what you need to do. Just make sure you don’t lose the card they give you when you first register as they ask for this at each place and it holds all of your records on it!

I was surprised at just how quick the whole process was. I had fears of queuing for hours, but in fact didn’t have to wait at all. The doctors were very helpful, explaining exactly what was wrong in both English and Chinese and giving me good advice about what to do next. It is definitely much better to go to the hospital and see what is wrong than just hoping it will get better on its own. Cheap prices and limited waiting times make it much more appealing than an English hospital (it wasn’t even as dirty as some people make out, it was in fact very clean).

I have to say my main advice would be to not get ill, but if you do then hopefully this should give you an idea of how the hospital procedure will work.

For those of you who don’t speak any Chinese: There are also international hospitals and clinics in most Chinese cities! And if it is really important, someone from InternChina will accompany you to the hospital. Don’t worry, it’s only half as complicated as it sounds…to do an internship with us: Send us an email to or apply through our website!