Yesterday, I discussed what to buy in the US before coming to China for those staying in China long-term. However, many people ask me about what they need to pack for China for more short-term trips of 3 months or less.
China is a developing country with stores just like the US, so you can find anything you need here, but if you want to come already prepared, here are my suggestions:
1. Portable packs of tissues: these come in handy as napkins at restaurants and toilet paper for restrooms because average Chinese businesses do not offer either. I go through about 3-4 packs a week. (There’s no need to stock up too much as you can find packs of 10 tissue packs for about 50 cents in any Chinese mart, but it’s good to have some on arrival).
2. Hand sanitizer: it’s a miracle if Chinese restrooms have soap! Also, you touch A LOT of things in China that A LOT of other people have touched, so some portable Purell is a must!
3. Wet wipes: these ALWAYS come in handy. You can clean your hands, dirty feet or body after a long day walking around dusty or humid parts of China.
4. Tampons: I can’t emphasize enough how hard to find and expensive these are in China.
5. Sunscreen: Chinese sunscreen is not as effective as American brands. Also, many Chinese sunscreens have dangerous, whitening and bleaching chemicals.
6. Chapstick: Beijing and other places in Northern and Western China are ESPECIALLY dry!
7. Basic first aid including: some pain-killers, diarrhea tablets, vitamins, bandaids, anti-septic cream, etc.
8. Deodorant: Chinese people do not wear deodorant and antiperspirant the same way Americans typically do, so don’t forget it at home!
9. Of course, don’t forget your other usual things: Toothbrush, toothpaste, q-tips, contact solution, face wash, shampoo, conditioner, soap, hair accessories, etc.
First of all, do NOT pack anything that would make you cry if you splattered dumpling sauce on or got snagged as someone walked by you on a crowded street. It’s really hard to have nice things in China.
Of course, a lot of clothing options depend on the season and area you’re traveling to in China. In general, most cities in China have distinct winters and summers, so plan according. In Beijing, the winter is pretty cold (coldest is usually 20-30°F or -6-0°C), but the summer gets hot (90°F or 33°C).
Also, if you will be here longer than 10 days, I recommend you only pack 7-10 outfits and hand wash clothes as you go. You can buy a special bar of soap for washing clothes for $1-2 in Chinese markets and wash in the sink.
Example packing lists for a female traveler:
Summer in Beijing: SUNNY AND HOT
— 3 solid-colored short-sleeve t-shirts (preferably not cotton, as you’ll probably be sweating)
— 2 pairs of shorts (one blue jean, one athletic, which can also double as pajamas)
— 2 solid-colored tank tops (which can also double as pajamas)
— 1 skirt or summer dress that can be casual or dressed up for a nicer dinner or show
— 1 nicer cardigan that can be worn over any of the tops or dress
— 5-7 pairs of socks and underwear
— flip flops for shower shoes
— practical but pretty dress flats (to go with dress/skirt on nights out)
— practical walking shoes
— Two real bras and one sports bra (for hiking or sleeping)
— Light scarf that can help protect from sun, cover on chilly nights or dress up an outfit
Avoid: Heavy jeans materials (too hot) and white clothing (WILL get stained)
Winter in Beijing: COLD AND DRY
— 3 solid-colored long sleeve shirts
— 1-2 pair of jeans
— 1 dress or skirt to wear with leggings
— 1 pair of athletic shorts to sleep in (some places in Beijing turn the heaters very high and hot)
— Black sweatpants that can be slept in and look nice enough to wear outside
— 1 heavy, down-feather winter coat
— 1 cardigan to layer
— long underwear
— gloves and hat, thick scarf
— flip flops or other shower shoes
— comfortable walking boots or tennis shoes (no need for flats because it’s too cold)
— 5-7 pairs of socks (including some high socks) and underwear
— two real bras and one sports bra (for hiking or sleeping)
— camera, case, extra SIM cards, charger
— Instant coffee (coffee is not nearly as available as it is in the US)
— pocket knife (useful for opening packages, cutting nails, snipping tags)
— Day bag (preferably a backpack style which is most comfortable for days with a lot of walking)
— coin purse (China uses a lot of coins)
— Smart phone with China-related apps (to be specified in a future post)
Above all, bring a good attitude and energy! China is a mysterious country full of possible adventures.
Go and Do!