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[How To:] Deal with Emergency Situations in Shanghai

A handy list with the most useful numbers and links for when things happen
2023-04-14 12:00:00


The number to call for an ambulance is 120. Operators speak some English or will find you someone who does. However, if you can move, you may want to hail a cab as there are some serious drawbacks to ambulances in Shanghai. Ambulance staff are not trained to give medical attention and service can be slow.

You also have to pay them once you reach the hospital. There is a waiting time for ambulances to arrive and once they do, they don't enjoy much right-of-way on Shanghai streets.

You usually have to tell the ambulance staff which hospital you want to be taken to. Here's our essential guide to Emergency Rooms in Shanghai.


  • Ambulance, 救护车 jiu hu che
  • Emergency Room, 急诊室 ji zhen shi
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Death or Jail

All consulates maintain emergency numbers, which are generally manned 24 hours per day by a duty officer. They provide services related to deaths while abroad and can advise on the process of obtaining death certificates, police reports, visa cancellations, and the other minutiae related to someone passing. They also provide consular services, often including lists of English-speaking lawyers, to those who the Chinese authorities have arrested.

Here's what happens if you die in Shanghai.

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In case of a fire, dial 119. The operator will be able to find you an English translator if you need to give your address and details.


  • Fire, 火灾 huo zai
  • My house is on fire, 我的房子着火了wo de fang zi zhao huo le
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Mental Health

Lifeline Shanghai (6279 8990) provides a free, confidential, and anonymous service in English for people in crisis. Telephone volunteers will listen, support, and assist you to clarify options and choices for yourself, though do not go as far as physical intervention.

Here's a list of English-speaking clinics in Shanghai that run mental health departments.

Here's SmartShanghai's Essential Guide to Mental Health in Shanghai.

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The number for the police is 110. Operators speak basic English and have translators available to help with taking details of cases. Police response time is usually fast though the resolution of disputes is strongly geared towards mediation and cash compensation and may leave something to be desired. For complaints, police reports, and anything official, you will likely be asked to go to your local police station. If you don't know where it is, ask a nearby security guard.


  • Police station, 派出所 pai chu suo
  • Robbery, 抢劫 qiang jie
  • Theft, 盗窃 dao qie
  • Rape, 强奸 qiang jian
  • Car Accident, 车祸 che huo
  • Fight, 斗殴 dou ou,
  • Compensation, 赔偿 pei chang

Here's what happens when you get arrested. If you need a lawyer, check our directory of English-speaking lawyers here.

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Shanghai Calling Center

The Shanghai Call Center is a free 24-hour hotline that provides translations between 10 languages and Chinese. It was created by the government for the 2010 World Expo but has stuck around because it's so useful. They can assist in both emergency and non-emergency situations with phone translation (pass-the-phone-to-the-other-person) and are a great resource for all questions about Shanghai, big or small. In an emergency, they can help you communicate with the fire department police or ambulance staff.

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Lost Keys

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This How-To guide is work in progress, we are constantly updating it as we receive new information. We rely on readers like you (yes YOU). If you find this guide useful please help us improve it by adding comments in each step or by clicking the "Verify" link if you find the information provided to be correct.