How to Find a Western Pharmacy in Beijing

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Downtown Beijing is in the massive Chaoyang District.
Downtown Beijing is in the massive Chaoyang District. (Image: View Stock/View Stock/Getty Images)

Beijing, where you find the ancient homes of emperors at Forbidden City and modern skyscrapers looming over international hotels and restaurants, has four Western pharmacies commonly used by English-speaking expats living and working in China’s capital city. The signs outside these pharmacies are in Chinese and English.

Beijing United Family Hospital

Beijing United Hospital is a large, modern, Western-run facility with English-speaking staff located in the same neighborhood as most foreign embassies. This hospital in the city’s Chaoyang District, which is more than 180 square miles in size, has a large pharmacy that stocks prescription medicines and imported over-the-counter (OTC) medicines. This is a full-service hospital with a pharmacy open 24 hours a day.

China-Japan Friendship Hospital

China-Japan Friendship Hospital was the designated medical center for the 2008 Olympics and became the base for national emergency response teams in 2011. This 24-hour Chaoyang District hospital has an English-speaking staff and full-service pharmacy.

Beijing International SOS Clinic

You also can find a pharmacy that fills Western prescriptions and provides OTC products at Beijing International SOS Clinic. Like Beijing United and the China-Japan friendship hospital, you also may access dental services at this Chaoyang District hospital. The hospital and pharmacy is not open 24 hours a day, but the emergency room never closes.

Puhua International Clinic

Puhua International Clinic in Beijing’s Chaoyang District has a pharmacy that stocks imported prescription medications from the U.S. and other Western countries. Puhua, like the pharmacies at Beijing United, Japan-China and International SOS, accepta certain Western insurance such as Aetna, Cigna and MetLife. If you have a health insurance policy that covers your medical needs in foreign countries, ask an English-speaking staff member if your insurance is accepted.

Beijing's Watsons Stores

For OTC medication needs such as headache and stomach remedies as well as common personal care items, Western-style Watsons is a popular chain in Beijing. Many items, from cosmetics to M&Ms, in the store have familiar names to U.S. shoppers. The stores have layouts similar to those at U.S. drugstores such as Walgreen’s. You can find Watsons at most big shopping malls in Beijing.

Getting to the Pharmacy

Because of its size, navigating Beijing’s Chaoyang District may seem daunting to a newcomer. Most taxi drivers do not speak English, which is why a common purchase when first visiting Beijing is a Beijing Taxi Guide. These little flipbooks with spiral bindings can be purchased at large grocery stores and tourism offices. Inside are categories for stores such as Watsons, major tourist attractions and Western-style hospitals and clinics. Below the English-language words are the descriptions and directions in Chinese. Simply show the page you choose to a taxi driver. You also may use these books when traveling by Beijing’s subway system. Show the page to a subway officer, and the officer (or another traveler) can assist you in finding the right subway line. All subway signs are in Chinese and English. Some small Chinese pharmacies carry a few Western medicines. At the city’s largest hotels or university campuses, you usually can find someone who speaks English. If you're willing to trust the person, ask her to translate your prescription or name of an OTC product to Chinese on a piece of paper to show to a neighborhood pharmacist.

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