How to Pack for a Trip to China

China is a very interesting and thrilling place to visit. These are a few key things that you need to be sure to bring with you, and some tips that can help you along your way.


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    Bring all the necessary documents you need to travel in China. Don't forget your passport with all necessary visas, and your international airline tickets.
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    Carry your passport with you at all times. It's required by Chinese law. Keep a photocopy on hand, too, in case the original gets lost. Or, upload a scan to a place you can access.
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    Arrive prepared in China. Though there is shopping on every street corner, many of the things you may be used to may be unavailable to you in China. Bring toilet paper as most restrooms will not provide it. Plan ahead by saving leftover partial rolls of toilet paper, in advance of the trip. Each time you have a partial roll left, place this in a baggie and toss it into your suitcase. Six to eight small rolls will last a family of four through a two week trip. Five-star hotels will always have western-style toilets and toilet paper. Most larger airports will have at least one western toilet in the lavatory as well. Take only a key to your house or a car key with you. Leave all others at home.
    • You need your own toilet paper, especially if you are traveling by train.
    • These toilets are only available in the 'country-side', not in the metropolitan areas in China.
    • You can buy toilet paper in China. It's not expensive.
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    Bring Pepto Bismol and Immodium chewables. Water quality in China is very poor and you may develop slight intestinal problems if you use tap water to brush your teeth, or if you eat vegetables which have not been cooked after having been rinsed in tap water. Chew two Pepto Bismol tablets before your meal to help prevent intestinal troubles.
    • Again, only in the country-side places, not in the 'metropolitan' areas.
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    Bring any other medications you may need on your trip as well.
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    Bring clothes according to the season when you are traveling. China gets hot and rainy in the summer, and very cold in the winter. Bring plenty of clothes, but remember you can always find a laundromat to get your clothes washed, or use the laundry service at your hotel. Beware, however, some laundry places use detergent that can irritate sensitive skin. Having your clothing dry-cleaned instead will avoid this problem.
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    Dress the part. The standard dress for most places in China would best be described as "smart casual." If your tour involves some formal occasions, bring along a formal suit or dress, too.
    • China is somewhat like the USA. Summer in the south is very hot and humid, and winter in the north is cold and dry.
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    Be careful not to get any water in your mouth when you shower. It tastes normal, but could easily make you sick. Always brush your teeth with bottled water.
    • In small cities, bottled water that was filtered with cheap nylon filters is still being sold. Buy name brand bottled water in big supermarkets.
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    Consult your physician(s) or a travel clinic in advance of travel. Your doctor or health-care provider will determine what vaccinations you will need, depending on factors such as your health and immunization history, areas of the country you will be visiting, and planned activities. Be sure to have your prescriptions filled before your trip. China requires that you present a letter from your doctor indicating the need for the use of any psychotropic medicines you might be taking. Bring antibiotics and any other prescriptions you will have to take during your travel. Count enough for your days of travel, plus a few spare pills. Bring all of this in the original prescription container. The Centers for Disease Control also keep an updated page on health information for travelers to China.[1]
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    Write the contact information for each of your doctors on an index card. Take this with you during your day trips in case you have a medical problem, and need to call home.
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    Stock a hip pack for each member of your party with a small roll of toilet paper, and a small bottle of hand sanitizer. Non-alcohol hand sanitizer or wipes are best, as Chinese airport security will occasionally confiscate alcohol-based sanitizers (especially in Guangzhou). Enclose also a granola bar, some cough drops, and some gum, if you'd like. These will come in handy as you travel around town. Include a flashlight since electrical blackouts can happen at any time, and you might find yourself in a dark room.
    • Remember that you are in China and not anywhere else! In bathrooms in China, to reduce the amount of waste used in the area there will most likely be no toilet paper so carry around lots of tissues. Tissues can also be found in local markets for only about 1-2 Yuan.
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    Take traveler's checks, and some cash, as credit cards are not accepted by many restaurants and shops. Bring a security pack or money belt which will allow you to keep any return flight or train tickets and your traveler's checks, credit cards, and or cash, safely attached to your person, underneath your clothes. This way you can keep essential items safe if there is no safe in your hotel room.
    • The major banks in big and medium size cities have ATM that accept foreign ATM debit cards.
    • In small cities, some banks would not even exchange your USD for RMB.
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    Other things you may need: deodorant (cant be found even in big cities), raincoat and/or umbrella, hat, sunglasses & sunscreen (depending on the season and your destination), insect repellent, converter (power adapter) if you have one or if it's necessary for you to have one. If you are a woman, bring your own feminine hygiene products.


  • The internet in China is censored. You cannot access Facebook and YouTube unless you have a proxy service.
  • Make sure you know what you're eating and how well it's been cooked. In places like Wangfujing market in Beijing, sometimes many of the snacks aren't cooked thoroughly. Drink beer whenever you're in doubt about the kinds of foods you have eaten - it will help digest whatever is not appropriate in your stomach...but don't overdo it.
  • Even cheap hotels have a water heater at each floor kept at 207F for drinking. You have to cool the water in a clean bottle before drinking it.
  • Pay attention to how much cash you have with you. It is a good idea to keep enough to get a taxi back to your hotel. All major airports will have ATMs, so get the money once you arrive.
  • Spend some time with a map and get to know the places you are staying or will be visiting. It will help you get your bearings before wandering off into the city. If you have a small hand-held GPS, you'll be even less likely to become lost.
  • Decide where you want to go, and do research before you leave. Know the general weather for the season and location you will be. There's nothing more miserable than being dressed for the wrong weather. Also, it is important that you dress conservatively. Long pants and nice shirts and tops are good.
  • Read several histories of China to make the sights more comprehensible. Bring your guide books with you so you can read them on the airplane and in your hotel room so the information will be fresh in your mind.
  • Find a cassette language course, or bring a translation dictionary. While it is important to understand some Chinese, don't stress, just know the basics, enough to get you by. Keep in mind, though, that most Chinese people, outside of employees at 5-star hotels/restaurants and shops that cater to foreign tourists, will NOT be able to speak English. (aside from "hello!!") So, if you want to venture off the beaten path, learn some key phrases. Also, ask someone at the hotel you are staying at if they could write down, in Chinese, the places you wish to go during the day. That way, if you have a taxi driver, you can show them where you want to go. If you are staying in the urban areas, chances are high that you'll be able to communicate OK in English.
  • The cell phones in China use different frequencies than the ones in the USA. Only a quad band phone is usable in both countries. Only a countrywide sim card meant for countrywide use is good everywhere in China.
  • Know where to find your currency collection places. It is not possible to obtain Chinese currency outside of China. So you will need to know where to access major hotels and big banks in the big cities so that you can cash the travelers' checks or credit card when needed.
  • Always carry a business card of the hotel where you are staying. This way, no matter what happens, someone will be able to get you back to where you want to be. Just in case of emergency, it would also be a good idea to bring a copy of you passport with you and leave your real passport locked in the safe at your hotel.
  • Prepare for your trip by making a print with all the hotels you will visit in Chinese characters (use the Chinese website for this or Google translate). This will help the taxi drivers. They very rarely speak English. Before going sight-seeing, have the concierge at your hotel write your destination in Chinese characters for the taxi driver.


  • Make sure the taxi driver uses the meter, this way there is less chance of being cheated. Be careful!
  • In major cities, be wary of giving money to the poor. If you give money to one, others will almost always follow and ask for money too.
  • In small cities, some of the bottled water was filtered with nothing more than cheap nylon filters. Buy name-brand bottled water in big supermarkets.
  • Chinese culture is unique, and sometimes comes as a shock to outsiders. Don't be the obnoxious tourist! People will be more willing to help you if you aren't stubborn.
  • Counterfeit currency is a huge problem in major cities such as Guangzhou.[2] Be sure to have some smaller bills with you if you are planning to go shopping. Try to avoid paying for a very small purchase with a large (100 Yuan or greater) bill. Be careful of scam artists who will take your legitimate 100 Yuan note, swap it for a fake one when you aren't looking, and then hand it back to you while telling you that they will not accept your counterfeit currency. Do not, under any circumstances, exchange money anywhere except your hotel or a bank.
  • Many people that will try sell you accessories like toys, bags, watches, etc. in places such as Nanjing Road and the Pudong District. Beware as most of these things are fake and overpriced.
  • It is always safest to buy water bottles than to drink from fountains.
  • Be aware of pick-pockets, as you should when in any big city or foreign country. Have a short chain connecting your belongings to yourself. In crowded areas, such as train stations, wear your backpack/purse on the front of your body, instead of on your back. Use carry-on locks on your zippers. Wear your wallet in a chest pocket. Dress in black formal attire, and look around as if sizing people up for a fight (if you're a man) to intimidate thieves. If you're a woman, you're SOL since most Chinese do not consider women dangerous or intimidating.

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Categories: China | Travel Packing