Tap water in Shanghai is safe for brushing teeth. However, it contains a high concentration of metals, so you should buy bottled water to drink. It is available at every corner store—look for FamilyMart, Kedi, AllDays, and Watsons—bottles start from Y1.50. Make sure that food has been thoroughly cooked and is served to you fresh and hot; thoroughly scrub all produce, especially before eating it raw. Shanghai's polluted air can bring on, or aggravate, respiratory problems. If you're a sufferer, bring a mask from home; 3M’s N95 masks can be purchased inexpensively in the United States.

The most reliable places to buy prescription medication are the 24-hour pharmacy at the ParkwayHealth Medical Center or the Shanghai United Family Health Center. During the day, the Watson's chain is good for over-the-counter medication, but has limited selection; there are dozens of branches around town. Chinese pharmacies offer a fuller range of over-the-counter drugs and are usually open later; look for the green cross on a white sign. Pantomiming works well for things like band-aids, ace bandages, and cough medicine, so do not feel embarrassed to use hand gestures.

There is almost no violent crime against tourists in China, partly because the penalties are severe for those who are caught—China's yearly death-sentence tolls run into the thousands. Single women can move about Shanghai with little to no hassle, though as in all major cities, handbag-snatching and pickpocketing do happen in markets and on crowded buses or trains.

Shanghai is full of people looking to make a quick buck. The most common scam involves people persuading you to go with them for a tea ceremony, which is often so pleasant that you don't smell a rat until several hundred dollars appear on your credit-card bill. "Art students" who pressure you into buying work is another common scam. Avoiding such scams is as easy as refusing all unsolicited services—be it from taxi or pedicab drivers, tour guides, or potential "friends." Simply put: if someone is offering you something, you don't want it. It is not considered rude to ignore them.

If your passport is stolen, contact the U.S. Consulate immediately; consular officers can arrange an emergency passport for you and guide you through getting a new Chinese visa.

Shanghai traffic is as manic as it looks, and survival of the fittest (or the biggest) is the main rule. Cars will turn right on red, right into you. Beware of buses, which make wide turns and regularly ignore pedestrians' rights. Likewise, watch out for scooters, which will speed through lights and wildly turn corners.


United States Consulate (8F, back side of Westgate Mall, 1038 West Nanjing Rd., American Citizen Services, Jing'an, Shanghai, 200040. 021/6433–6880; 021/6433–3936 after-hours emergencies; 021/3217–4650 citizen services.

Emergency Contacts

Fire (119.)

Parkway Health 24-Hour Line (021/6445–5999.

Police (110; 021/6357–6666 Public Security Bureau Division for Foreigners.)

Shanghai Ambulance Service (120.)

Medical Services

Huashan Hospital (Foreigners' Clinic, 15F, 12 Wulumuqi Zhong Lu, Jing'an, Shanghai, 200040. 021/6248–9999 Ext. 2531 24-hr hotline.

ParkwayHealth (Shanghai Centre West Tower, 1376 Nanjing Xi Lu, Room 203, Jing'an, Shanghai, 200040. 021/6445–5999 24-hr hotline. 2258 Hongqiao Lu, Hongqiao, 200336.

51 Hongfeng Lu, Pudong, 201206. 021/6445–5999.).

Shanghai East International Medical Center (150 Jimo Lu, near Pudong Da Dao, Pudong, Shanghai, 200120. 021/5879–9999 or.

Shanghai United Family Hospital and Clinics (1139 Xianxia Lu, Changning, Shanghai, 200336. 021/400–639–3900 appointments; 021/2216–3999 24-hr hotline.

Postal Services

Post Office (276 Bei Suzhou Lu, Hongkou, Shanghai, 200085. Shanghai Centre, East Tower, 3F, 1376 Nanjing Xi Lu, Jing'an, 200040. 105 Tianping Lu, French Concession, 200231.)