Health & insurance
The occasional avian- or swine-flu outbreak notwithstanding, health conditions in the region are good. Travellers have a low risk of contracting infectious diseases compared with much of Asia. The health system is generally excellent. The mosquitoes that carry dengue fever are present in Hong Kong, so it's worth taking antimosquito measures (and to prevent bites in general; especially in summer). If your health insurance doesn’t cover you for medical expenses abroad, consider supplemental insurance.
Before You Go
Visitors without a Hong Kong identity card can use public hospitals by paying private market rates, which are multiple times the normal rate. Check the Hospital Authority website (www.ha.org.hk) for exact fees. However, if you have the appropriate supporting documents, many private health insurances reimburse these fees.
A health-insurance plan with international coverage may allow you to receive inpatient medical and certain surgical treatments in Hong Kong, but do check with your insurer about coverage of outpatient services, ie services that do not require overnight stay in hospital.
There are no required vaccinations for entry into Hong Kong, unless you will be travelling to the mainland or elsewhere in the region.
In Hong Kong
Mosquitoes These are prevalent in Hong Kong. You should always use insect repellent during warm and hot weather, and if you’re bitten and have a bad reaction, consider using antihistamines.
Centipedes Lamma is home to large red centipedes, which have a poisonous bite that causes swelling and discomfort in most cases, but can be more dangerous (and supposedly in very rare cases deadly) for young children.
Wild boars & dogs Wild boars and aggressive dogs are a minor hazard in some of the more remote parts of the New Territories. Wild boars are shy and retiring most of the time, but are dangerous when they feel threatened, so give them a wide berth and avoid disturbing thick areas of undergrowth.
Snakes There are many snakes in Hong Kong, and some are deadly, but you are unlikely to encounter any. Still, always take care when bushwalking, particularly on Lamma and Lantau islands. Go straight to a public hospital if bitten; private doctors do not stock antivenene.
Hong Kong tap water conforms to World Health Organization standards and is considered safe to drink, though many locals prefer bottled for reasons of flavour and prestige.
The standard of medical care in Hong Kong is generally excellent but expensive. Always take out travel insurance before you travel. Health care is divided into public and private, and there is no interaction between the two.
There are many English-speaking general practitioners, specialists and dentists in Hong Kong, who can be found through your consulate, a private hospital or the Yellow Pages (www.yp.com.hk). If money is tight, take yourself to the nearest public-hospital emergency room and be prepared to wait. The general enquiry number for hospitals is 852 2300 6555, or visit www.ha.org.hk.
Hospitals & Emergency Rooms
In the case of an emergency, all ambulances (999) will take you to a government-run public hospital where, as a visitor, you will be required to pay a hefty fee for using emergency services. Treatment is guaranteed in any case; people who cannot pay immediately will be billed later. While the emergency care is excellent, you may wish to transfer to a private hospital once you are stable.
Hong Kong Island
Prince of Wales Hospital Public.
- Pharmacies are abundant; they bear a red-and-white cross outside and there should be a registered pharmacist available inside.
- Many medications can be bought over the counter without a prescription, but always check it is a known brand and that the expiry date is valid.
- Sanitary pads, tampons and condoms are widely available in pharmacies, especially Watson’s and Mannings, and large supermarkets. Birth-control pills are available over the counter in pharmacies.