Published on:
May 22, 2018

by: Will Perrins

Guide to Insurance for teachers and expats in China

Anyone who has lived and worked in China will tell you that daily life can be a roller-coaster of excitement, dynamism, hilarity and chaos. With that in mind, it’s important to remember to expect the unexpected on a daily basis, and be prepared for any emergencies that might arise.

Holding medical/ travel insurance is an absolute must when teaching in China. Many schools and organizations will offer foreign employees ‘local insurance’ or ‘medical insurance’ as part of their package, however keep in mind that this does not include cover for travel within China or further afield, lost or stolen items and emergency evacuation.  

Opportunity China run a comprehensive travel insurance group policy with Endsleigh Insurance which ensures access to full coverage for medical treatment, travel, lost luggage and more. Here are a few key bits of information on healthcare and risks in China, and insurance policies.

Diversity in Healthcare

China is a country of 1.3 billion people segmented into 22 provinces, 4 municipalities, 5 autonomous regions, and 2 special administrative regions, each with their own interpretations of laws and policies (not to mention culture and history) … if you think that sounds complicated, imagine trying to mould all of this into a single system of healthcare that works to provide the divergent needs of all different provinces in a country so vast.

Medicine and general hospital practice is equally diverse, but public healthcare can be a shock to many coming to China for the first time, particularly in a lesser developed region.

China was one of the first countries to tackle disease and pioneered many groundbreaking techniques in the field of medicine. Don’t be surprised (and be prepared to be open minded about) by traditional Chinese medicine and practices that are still widely used in hospitals and clinics to treat chronic and minor complaints, but for more serious issues and A&E cases then more common western treatments and medicines can be expected.

Healthcare system and Insurance

Many would expect China as a (nominally) communist country to hold a free access health care system, but this is far from the reality. China has a National Insurance Policy which covers around half the population; this policy covers about half the healthcare costs incurred for any treatment, the remainder would be made up from private healthcare insurance.

As a foreigner you will not be entitled to this national insurance contribution and would therefore have to cover the entire cost of the treatment yourself, or be covered through an external provider. You’ll need to check any insurance plan you hold and what level of cost it can cover you up to. Find out more about the levels of health care from the Opportunity China policy by contacting us.


Chinese cities have many hospitals and clinics, operating on a sliding scale of quality and cost.

Western style hospitals operate in larger metropolitan cities, providing an environment catered almost exclusively to expats.

Typically, the local medical insurance policies offered as standard by most schools will only give access to local hospitals.

Consider whether you’re happy with this, or whether you would want to take out external travel insurance policy that would be able to cater for a more Western-Centric style and environment for treatment.



If the worst comes to the worst in China, and an emergency means you have to leave the country with medical support, the repatriation costs can be crippling. Insuring against an event such as this will enable a far greater piece-of-mind for any expat looking to travel to China.

Lost and stolen items and luggage


Important belongings are always concern when travelling, and we all have the best intention to carefully look after them. However, in the fast pace of China it is not unheard of for important articles or documents to go missing, and although China is a very safe country with a strong emphasis on law and order, pick-pocketing and petty theft are still rife.

Having cover for valuable items, particularly when in transit within China or while travelling in other countries during holidays is important for many.



When making the decision to teach in China, you would surely want to see all this vast and magnificent country has to offer. From the Gobi Desert in the North West, to the Longji Rice Terraces of Southern China. Not to mention the proximity of China to other fascinating East Asian Countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Japan and the Republic of Korea.

Most ‘local insurance’ policies in China will only apply to your city of work, therefore if you plan to travel Asia safe in the knowledge that you will be insured during this time, taking out a comprehensive travel insurance policy that covers multiple areas is your best bet.

In summary, it’s important to take into account your preferences and requirements before travelling and teaching in China, and to have an appropriate level of insurance cover for your needs.

To find out more about Opportunity China’s bespoke teach and travel insurance policy, contact us at


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