If you haven’t been to China before, you’re probably not sure what to pack in your bag.
Most things you need are widely available here, while some things can be harder to find.
In this short guide, I’ll share with you the top 10 things you should remember to bring with you, especially if you’re coming here to study.
Note: China is currently closed to most foreigners due to COVID-19. But I’m optimistic that this will change soon so you can benefit from this list and start packing!
1. Unlocked phone
This may not be necessary if you’re coming to China on a quick little holiday. However, if you’re coming here for a bit longer, like to work or to study Chinese at Culture Yard, having an unlocked phone is the way to go.
This means you’ll be able to use a local SIM card, saving you a fortune on phone data, messages and calls back home.
If you have big feet, don’t forget to bring shoes for different occasions (and by occasions, I mean one comfy, everyday pair and one nicer pair).
Generally speaking, the Chinese have small feet, and you may not be able to find shoes that fit you. Of course, you can order shoes online and get them sent over, but by the time they arrive you may have already left China!
You can refer to my China packing list if you want to know what clothes to bring.
3. Travel adapter
China is not a one-size-fits-all kind of place, and this is certainly the case with power sockets.
If you’re coming to China to study, it’s definitely worth packing an international travel adapter. You’ll be constantly charging up your phone and laptop while studying things like Chinese grammar!
OK, this may sound obvious, but until you get settled into China and work out that most Chinese use apps like WeChat to pay for things, you’re going to need some cash (yuan) to get you through the first few days.
If you’re a last-minute kind of person, you could get it at the airport, but you’ll probably get a better rate if you shop around before you head over. Oh, and apart from WeChat there are some other popular Chinese apps you should check out before you go.
5. Roll-on deodorant
Using deodorant isn’t overly common in China, especially among the guys. That’s why I recommend bringing your fave deodorant from home, and a roll-on one if possible. Why? If your toiletries are in your carry-on bag, some airports may confiscate your aerosol deodorant.
And for the ladies, tampons might be hard to find (Chinese women prefer pads) so pack those as well.
Foreign import shops in China may stock deodorant and tampons, but the selection isn’t huge, so plan accordingly.
Definitely bring your accommodation address! They will ask you for it in the Chinese airport, and you don’t want to look like a deer in the headlights.Make sure the address is in Chinese characters so you can show the taxi driver, too.
Also, have the phone number of your accommodation handy in case there’s an issue with the address – the driver can call the place you’re staying for clearer directions. This might sound weird, but it’s saved me from getting lost on a number of occasions.
Thinking about heading to China soon to study long term? Check this page for tips on apartment hunting.
If you’re on any prescription medications, make sure you pack them in your bag.
The Chinese health system is different to back home, and getting something you urgently need may not be straightforward.
8. Comfort food
Not everyone brings a few fave foods from home, but it’s something I always recommend, especially if you haven’t been to China before.
I always bring some sustaining foods (like nuts) as well as a few little treats I know can’t be found in China. Once I’ve got my confidence up, I then head to the supermarket and start navigating Chinese food labels!
Don’t get me wrong, Chinese food is delicious. I just think it’s wise to come prepared, at least for the first few days anyway.
China is a noisy place. And some people (me included!) can only function properly following a long, deep, and uninterrupted slumber.
I bring these amazing little earplugs from home that can even block out industrial-level noise. Peace.
If you’re going to be studying in China, bring a laptop or at least a tablet. I need a big screen to do stuff, so my phone just doesn’t cut it. Also make sure you get a virtual private network (VPN) so you can access blocked websites in China.
And don’t forget your charger!
Ready to head to China?
I hope I’ve helped with some of the most important things you should remember to bring with you to China, especially if you’re coming over to study.
I think it goes without saying that you’ll also need your passport and visa, but if you do happen to forget to bring these, you’re not going to get very far (i.e. you won’t be leaving your country). But I’m sure that won’t happen to you.
Have an amazingly awesome trip. And good luck packing!
ABOUT THE WRITER
Mike has worked, studied, and traveled in China. He has a keen interest in Chinese culture and loves eating Shanghai-style dumplings. Mike is from Melbourne, Australia.