Pre Great Wall physical examination

Before travelling to China, ensure that your body will perform optimally for the duration of your walk. Read more to see which checks I did before setting off on my walk along the entire Great Wall of China.


This post gives you tips on what sort of medical checkup you should do before your Great Wall hike. The first part is for people intending to do a short hike of the Great Wall In the Bejing and Hebei areas. The second part will give you exhaustive medical checkup tips if you intend to walk the Great Wall for a long time. You can read about vaccinations here (coming) and first aid kits here (coming)

​Short Great Wall walks in Beijing and Hebei

For walks in the Beijing municipality and surrounding areas, your medical checkup will be a lot like for travelling to other countries. As of 2010, China lifted its ban on foreigners with HIV / AIDS.

As the Great Wall in Beijing and Hebei areas largely follows the terrain, you might find yourself climbing more than walking. The toll on your body, particularly knees, ankles and feet will be a lot harder than much of the hiking you are accustomed with. Under these conditions a mild physical disorder can quickly become a serious one. If you have any pains or injuries before leaving for China, have them examined. Do a test walk in the most hilly terrain you can find. Consider bringing knee or ankle supports, walking sticks, pain killers and anti inflammatory medicines.

If you take any prescription medicine, ask your doctor if your medicine is available in China. If not, be sure to bring a stock with you. Remember to bring copies of your prescriptions and a written statement on why you need them. Keep the medicine in the original bottles to avoid any misunderstandings in customs. Bring all your medicine in your carry on baggage in case the checked in luggage is lost or delayed.

Long distance walks along the Great Wall

If you are walking the Great Wall for more than a few weeks, you should consider the following.

Visit your optician. If you use eyeglasses, make sure you have the correct strength. Consider bringing an extra light weight pair - if not to bring on the wall, to have it in a stash in China. Alternatively, you could buy a pair of prescription sunglasses. A copy of your current prescription can be useful.

Visit your optician before leaving to ensure a 20/20 experience of the Great Wall!

I used contact lenses for a whole month at a time. This greatly reduced the amount of lenses I needed to bring. Before leaving, learn how to remove sand and dust in your eyes. The Gobi desert is full of sand, and just a little bit of wind means you are going to get some in your eyes. If you are unsure about this, consider bringing a small lens container and cleaning liquid.

A quick trip to the dentist before leaving home is a good investment.

Visit your dentist. Dental care in rural China is getting better, but you are best off undergoing a proper examination before leaving for the Great Wall. I asked my dentist to give me a clean tooth bill of health for the next one and a half years. She took x-rays and looked for any signs of weakness in my teeth that might cause a problem. Many dentists stock kids give away small tubes of tooth cream. They are a good way of keeping the weight of your pack to a minimum!

Before starting on my walk, I felt some clicking in my knee, and my back hurt now and again. To be on the safe side, I went to a qualified Osteopath that treated them. This was done in conjuncture with a careful exercise plan before starting on the Great Wall. If you have any weaknesses in your walking apparatus, I strongly recommend your seek professional advice before starting on a long walk. This will increase your chances of success greatly, and also reduce the chances of getting any permanent injuries. 

Here you can read about the checkup I did  before walking the Great Wall.