China is such a large and diverse country with such variation that it would be difficult for me to tell you exactly what to pack. You might be in Shenzhen in the scorching summer sun, or Harbin during an ice cold winter. Naturally, the savvy traveller that you are, you’ll check the weather conditions for your trip and pack accordingly. It is always good to know the items that are nigh impossible to find or incredibly expensive to purchase once you’re in, so here’s a list of things you should definitely consider packing to make your trip the best it could possibly be!
Deodorant, but specifically Anti-perspirant.
You may be able to find limited brands (like Nivea or L’Oreal) of deodorant at an incredibly inflated price in more metropolitan areas of China, but anti-perspirant seems to be almost non existant. Make sure you stock up on this before you leave, especially if you’re heading somewhere rural.
Personal photos of you with family and friends.
This may seem a bit strange but aside from the obvious avoiding homesickness by having personal snaps close by, you can also give these to the new Chinese friends you meet. This is considered a very nice, personalised token for your new friends, so they can get to know you better.
Make-up is more expensive in China than in North America or Europe, so stocking up on concealer in particular should serve you well. If your skin tone does not match that of the average Chinese person, also consider stocking up on foundation and perhaps eyebrow pencils (if you have blonde, or red hair in particular).
Sunscreen is incredibly hard to find outside of major metropolitan centers like Shanghai. Often times when you do find sunscreen it has ‘whitening’ agents in it, which are awful for your skin. Make sure to come fully prepared with any sunscreen you may need for the duration of your trip, and if you’re staying long term, see if you can find a friend back home who could ship you more when you run out.
Books, or better yet, an e-reader.
English Language books are a pain to find in and outside of major cities. When you do find them, the selection is slim and the prices can be high. Bringing lots of books with you isn’t always the best choice when you’re trying to consider baggage wait, so bringing a few key titles or loading up an e-reader before you go is your best bet if you like to read.
I’ll keep this one brief, but suffice it to say, they’re expensive and hard to find. The only real brand you can purchase in some supermarkets and drug stores are O.B without applicators. Similar to sunscreen, stock up and have a friend who can ship some out to you if you’re planning on staying a while.
Large clothing and shoes (and by LARGE, I mean…)
If you are anything above a size 8 for women’s clothes or a men’s medium, bring everything you’ll need for the entirety of your stay, and possibly look into online stores that ship to China. For shoes, anything above a women’s size 7, or a men’s size 8 will be tricky to find. I’ve had fabulous luck with asos.com, which has both men’s and women’s fashions and free shipping! Try to keep the cost of your orders below 100 USD though, or you might find yourself paying duty on your purchase.
A few handy things you might not have considered:
Vick’s Vapor rub is a lifesaver in stinky bathroom situations (believe me, there will be many of those) or when trying to fight off breathing problems in heavily polluted areas (I’m looking at your Beijing!). While you may be able to find this in select pharmacies, it may prove more of a challenge than you think. Another great thing to carry with you is non-alcohol hand sanitizer, as alcohol hand sanitizer will often be taken away from you at airport security, especially in Guangzhou.
Want to see how good your Chinese actually is before jetting off? Why not try one of our level tests?