What to bring to China?

Trip Start Jan 30, 2007
Trip End Dec 31, 2011

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Flag of China  ,
Monday, September 8, 2008

People often wonder, what should they bring to China?

My advice: as little as possible.

You can get away with your toothbrush and credit card, but many places in China wouldn't have a clue what a credit card is.

There are some things you might want to bring from home, which you may find difficult to get in China, particularly in smaller places away from the coastal cities.

There's multiple lists at http://gochina.about.com/od/packinglists/Packing_Lists_for_Travel_to_China.htm with lists of what to bring and what to wear.

One rather boring list goes like this:

Files and Documents: Passport, Visa, air/train ticket, ID certificate, destination map (if you have one), travel itinerary, address list
Personal Articles for Use: personal tooth brush, towels, bathing articles, contact lens solution, daily toiletries, comb, sun glasses, suntan oil, shaving items, disinfectant tissues and bandage
Clothing: underwear, night-ware, slippers, one suit of clothes to replace what your wear. For details on what to wear in China, please read Clothing.
Money: credit card, traveler's check, and cash with a little change
Backpack: a sturdy backpack or knapsack (furnished with shoulder straps), a suitcase ( only in case that there are regular luggage-carry services between different means of transportation), a smaller satchel (for carrying daily items and cameras with you when you deposit the larger backpack or suitcase at hotel), a waterproof bag (to keep checks, passport, visa, tickets and other important files)
Others: camera, films, batteries, electrical converter, alarm clock (if needed), a pen and memo pad (to write down something important during your travel), necessary cold, indigestive and anti- allergic medicines, umbrella, etc.

One writer gives this advice for Asia:

Calculator, Jodie Fosters character in Contact talks about numbers being the universal language that will probably be used to communicate with extra terrestrials, let me tell you it works great on this planet as well, from Bangkok to Beijing it is understood, say Casio in a market anywhere in the world, and the trader will know what you mean if you forget to bring yours. Recommended that you get the solar power ones so that you will never run out of batteries and they are more eco friendly as well.

Alarm clock, been to many times that the morning call was missed in small hotels & guesthouses, also you can sleep in airports, train stations and bus stations and you will never miss your connection. If you bring an air mattress and beach ball (I bet you though I carry them for the pool) for the occasions of late flights and cancelled trains. Yes everyone else will be jealous of you especially if you snore like a bear!

Compass, walking around town it will get you headed back in the right direction if you get spun around. Can be used to watch that the driver is not taking you in circles, amazing the amount of travel time you can save in Manila with one.

Multi use electric plug adapters, there are many on the market they make some that you can change to many different pin & plug configurations I carry 7 different ones for all the different countries I have the pleasure to explore. The round 2 prong for 220 KV is the most universal in my opinion. A common adapter will take the American 110 KV without ground as well as 3 pin rounds and 3 blade large 220 KV. If you have all American plugs make sure to get the grounded 2 blade plug adaptor in the states, or you will have a real hard time everywhere, as most countries in Asia are not grounded, and the adaptors are not set up for the 2 pin one blade American grounded plugs.

Camera seems like a natural, but not for this reason. Security if you have a butt head taxi driver take his picture, you will be amazed at the transformation in their manner, also works as a tout warding tool for when you are being harassed by street touts after you have used the 3 No, Thank You, Buzz Off rule.

Immersion Heater amazing all the things that you can make to eat and drink once you have one of these. I always double check that this is in my bag. I bring two on long trips just in case. I use it mainly for coffee in the morning and sometimes for noodles as a late night snack. Most airports have places that you can find a plug, sure beats paying 3 bucks for coffee, or 6 bucks for a sandwich. If you are on a real back packer budget traveler use it to heat the cold water in a splash bathroom to cut the cold a bit. Adventurous Try the handmade Tuna Ala King Veggie Surprise, you'll love it, I promise!

Super Glue I don't know what will break on your trip but from my experience they have fixed shoes, sun glasses, BCD's and held a friends filling in place until we could get him to a dentist, which I might add is not a recommended use, but for him any thing was preferred to the pain. One of Super Glues first uses I've been told, was as a combat medic and M.A.S.H. surgery tool for holding wounds together until they could close them correctly in the rear.

Paper clips, rubber bands and safety pins, OK I cheated they are more than one thing, but they are really small and weigh nothing. Rubber bands for holding wads of money together after the stop at the foreign currency exchange. 100 USD = 766 Yuan, which = 4000 Baht which = 400,000 Riel gets to be a lot of money to hold together, especially if it is big money like Thai 1000 baht notes, or 100 Yuan notes. Paper clips for holding tickets and receipts together in your note book, also for extra passport photos attached to your passport, where they are easy to find. Safety pins for broken zippers and for wounds if you run out of super glue.

Note book and pens for writing down stuff that you are going to need to remember like flight times, phone numbers and words you want to learn like thank you, hello and how much, which I usually don't write down anymore, as I just whip out my calculator. The idea is too have all your data in one place. In China they want the receipts back for everything; you can store them in there as well. I buy the little black books that fit in a shirt pocket and then keep them for after the trips as mementoes.

A sense of humor you will be surprised at the many and varied uses you will get from this magical tool in your travels. Hope to see you using it soon!


Another write lists these things which you might not find in China:

# Deodorant with anti-perspirant Deodorant can sometimes be found in supermarkets or drug-stores like Watson's, but I've yet to find anti-perspirant.

# Shampoo and conditioner You can find some foreign brands such as L'oreal and Finesse, but the formula seems different. If you're picky, bring it from home.

# Other hair supplies Again, some products are available but formulas vary from country to country so you should bring your preferred mousse, gel, hairspray, etc. with you.

# Moisturizers

# Sunscreen Its availability is limited and only in certain SPF factors.

# Insect repellent I haven't found any local brand that's very effective.

# Tampons Pads are widely available but tampons are only available at expat supermarkets in limited supply.

# Medications Many similar medications are available in China but you don't want to have to spend time trying to figure out a local pharmacy when you just want some aspirin. Bring allergy, headache, nausea/diarrhea, birth control and other medications with you. See also this handy First Aid Packing List for travel to China.

# Vitamins

# Shoes If you have the time or the need, you can have just about any piece of clothing tailor-made for you but shoes, if your feet are large, will be hard to find.


A blogger recently returned from another trip gives this advice on how to overcome some of the culture shock:

1. A Fan
Depends on where you are, a hand held fan is actually quite usefully. Most of the time in China, you spent a lot of time in a rather small bus and certain times of the year it can be very hot. Air con in China seems to be rather a foreign object and this fan is useful. I was lucky i brought this to Hainan. The weather was steaming hot there and the buses -even hotter. Without this, i would have actually fainted from the heat. Note: It is also very useful if you have come out from a rather smelly loo- you want to fan away the bad smell from your face! p/s: the hand model is my lil bro.

2. Vapor Rub
I learnt after my first trip how useful this can be. Chinese toilets - smell. Most of them. There are those rare ones in Lijiang that smell of roses but most of them smell. Apply some of this on your nose before entering the toilet. Helps alot rather than holding your breath. Also, since it is very hazy and smokey in China, this helps as well if you start sneezing like i do.

3. Good walking shoes.
One walks alot in China. Besides the long bus rides, there will be long walks up hills, down hills, around a village, up and down streets... So you need a good pair of shoes. Crocs are good as well but make sure your toes are covered. In case you are in a smelly and wet loo, you don't get splashed. Ok, ok i am obsessed with smelly loos.

4. Bring Lacto-5 and Carbon pills.
Chinese food can be rather oily and if you have stomachs that don't take too well, Lacto 5 is something you need. And it really helps. Never go to china without these two. You never know what you eat might come back out. Looking for toilets is an issue here so it is always to be safe and sorry.


An American teacher produced this list:

What to bring
1. Clothing unless you are petite. The department stores are full of clothing but since the local people tend to be smaller than Westerners, you may have trouble finding your size. You can find a local tailor who will copy your clothes.
2. Spices for Western style cooking. For instance, vanilla, basil, oregano, black pepper, thyme, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice, cranberry sauce. Mixes for chili, tacos, salad dressings, etc. in foil packets are a good idea.
3. Decaffeinated coffee if you drink it. Coffee brewing equipment (not electric), as instant coffee is all you can get.
4. Holiday items. Artificial Christmas trees are available but Halloween, Thanksgiving and Easter are not celebrated.
5. Reading material. There are few English language books and magazines available. Subscribe to your favorite magazines before you come.
6. Portable computers and printers are just appearing so bring yours from home. Desktops and office size printers are readily available. Computers are all PCs. Few Macs and accessories available. Cartridges for the most common printers are available, as is other computer-related equipment. (ed., see computer hints messages)
7. Videotapes of favorite films. You can buy VCRs in international format here that will play US (NTSC) tapes. (ed., see Can I play that tape in China?
8. Deodorant. The Chinese just do not use it. Other personal care items are available in local and international brands. Bring hair coloring if you use it, as the only color here is black.
9. Don't bring small appliances such as hairdryers, irons, etc. Instead buy in China to get 220 volts. You can buy truly universal appliances here that are not sold in the US such as irons you can use with any current as well as video and music disk players that convert from DC to AC (110 and 220)
10. Good short-wave radio such as Sony or Grundig. If your housing complex does not have a satellite dish with Star Network or CNN, the Voice of America and BBC will be your main source of international news.
11. Small gifts for Chinese friends and associates. Calendars with photos of your hometown or local area, US commemorative stamps, small items with US or local logos on them. Avoid expensive items.
12. Multiple copies of snapshots of you with family and friends at home. If you give a personal photo, you are on your way to making a friend. The Chinese love to get to know you in this way.

Linell Davis


One website for teachers has this advice for what to bring:

1. bath mat
2. favorite toothpaste
3. first aid supplies
4. good skin lotion
5. sun screen
6. chalk holder
7. Rechargeable Batteries
8. laptop with DVD
9. board games
10. family photos
11. magazines for class
12. Hand Sanitizer (Germ-X)
13. American dictionary
14. Holiday stuff for 4th of July
15. Holiday stuff for Christmas
16. Holiday stuff for Easter
17. Holiday stuff for Thanksgiving
18. Roget's Thesaurus
19. small gifts from my state or country
20. thick socks
21. lots of underwear
22. stain stick for laundry
23. more music
24. long underwear
25. digital camera


And how about what not to bring?

Things You Don't Need to Bring to China

These things can be Purchased in China Inexpensively

1. Toilet paper
2. Laundry soap
3. Clothes pins
4. Stationery
5. Mailing envelopes
6. 110 Volt appliances
7. Clothes that need Ironing
8. Heavy clothes (weight)
9. Kleenex
10. Umbrella
11. Sports Equipment

from http://www.paulnoll.com/China/Teach/teacher-not-bring.html

Do you have a list? Or do you just get together everything the night before and try to stuff it into your backpack or suitcase?
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