Safety in Beijing
Despite its size, Beijing is a very safe city, and violent crime is extremely rare. However, tourists are often preyed upon by cheats and touts, who attempt to pull a number of scams on tourists. Be especially cautious in the inner city, around Tiananmen Square, and on the tourist-crowded routes to the Great Wall.
On the other hand, fears of scams have led many travelers to be overly dismissive of Chinese people who approach them. Many Chinese are tourists in their capital for the first time as well and they are genuinely curious about foreigners and may just want to practice their English and get a picture with you. Being asked to have your picture taken is very common and there are no known scams associated with this. Be friendly but don't feel pressured to go somewhere you hadn't planned on going in the first place. If you are outside the tourist areas then your chances of being scammed drop dramatically.
Chinese people are very friendly to travellers and expats in general; seeing through a scam requires the same common sense as travelling anywhere in the world. Beijing scams are not particularly innovative or brutal in world-wide comparison, and as long as you keep your wallet out of sight, you can always walk away without fear of violence or theft.
Be wary of fake money. You may observe Chinese people inspecting their money carefully, and with a reason: there are a lot of counterfeit bills in circulation. The most common are 100's and 50's.
Traffic can be crazy in Beijing, and reckless driving is fairly normal. People honk all the time. Honking is not usually considered rude. It is simply another way to indicate that the driver is there. Be prepared for drivers to violate traffic laws even to the extent of going in reverse on highways to back up to a missed exit or driving on a sidewalk. Also expect occasional road debris (a piece of wood or torn out tire) to be laying in the roadway. Pedestrians should be very careful crossing the street: People will generally stop for you, but they will honk. Keep an eye on the locals and cross with them — there is strength in numbers.
Free emergency telephone numbers:
Fire alarm: 119.
Medical care: 120.
These three telephone numbers are valid in almost every part of China.
Tap water in Beijing is generally not safe for drinking. Locals always boil the tap water before they drink it, and you should too. Hygiene for cooked food is generally not an issue. Chinese people place a lot of emphasis on the freshness of their food, so any food you eat is usually cooked to order. However, be wary if you plan to eat cold or raw dishes.
Air pollution and Smog has traditionally been a big problem in Beijing like any other big city in China. Car exhaust, coal burning, and dust storms from the Gobi desert combine to make some of the worst city air on the planet. Winter is the worst time as the cold air creates an inversion layer and traps the pollution in the city. In 2013, Beijing was in the news for a sudden spike in its smog. The air quality was "beyond index", which can be fatal to those who are sensitive to air pollution.
There are many hospitals in Beijing, but the public hospitals that most locals visit are generally not up to the standard that foreigners from Western countries are used to. In addition, it is unlikely that any of the doctors or nurses would be able to communicate in English. Ambulance services are unreliable, and in the event of an emergency, taking a taxi is usually much quicker.
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