Planning a trip to China but not sure what you need to pack? I’ve put together this guide to help you. Whether you’re visiting Guangzhou, Beijing, Huangshan, Shanghai or beyond, this guide will help you understand what you need to pack and help you be prepared.
What to pack
You’ll need to pack season appropriate clothing, of course, so check the weather forecast and see what you’re up against. We visited in May/June and found it really lovely and warm, but not stinking hot. I packed shorts, t-shirts, long skirts, strappy dresses and a few light layers. This guide may also help:
- March to May: Jackets, jumpers and sports coats, woollen jackets, long sleeve shirts.
- June to August: T-shirts, short sleeve shirts, skirts, sandals and rain gear.
- September to November: Jackets, jumpers and sports coats, woollen jackets, long sleeve shirts.
- December to February: Overcoat, really warm sneakers and lined coats, gloves and beanies.
I found a lot of men stared at me because I look so different to what they’re used to seeing, which made me really uncomfortable. This meant I mostly wore clothes that covered me up, like jeans and long skirts, and tended to avoid anything with straps. I also wore a hat every day so I could hide my face when the staring got to be too much for me.
You will definitely need comfortable footwear, so pack a few pairs of shoes that you can happily spend all day in. I recommend packing at least two comfy pairs to switch between because even the most comfortable pairs of sneakers start to hurt a bit if you wear them for three or four days in a row.
Great Wall gear
If you’re planning on visiting the Great Wall and are serious about walking it, you’ll need proper, comfy workout gear or Kathmandu-style gear and really comfortable shoes. It’s no joke. Don’t underestimate it. We wore jeans and converse and only walked a few hundred metres of it. We were exhausted and uncomfortable immediately.
Pack your beloved brand-name essentials like cosmetics, electric toothbrush heads and feminine hygiene products. Also, pack your environmentally friendly products and products for sensitive skin, as it may be difficult to get your hands on these while you travel. Don’t waste money on travel minis, use refillable 100ml bottles.
Major cities have plenty of ATMs and specific ATMs will accept foreign cards, but just remember you get charged a fee every time you withdraw, so it’s better to plan your budget ahead and take out what you need in fewer transactions. You’ll also need to notify your bank you’re going to China or they’ll think you’re a fraudster and freeze your accounts. No dumplings for you.
You’ll definitely need sunglasses, a hat and sunscreen with high SPF to protect you from the sun’s harsh rays. Remember, sunscreen is only as good as its user and it’s up to you to reapply during the day to ensure you don’t get burned. Remember, cloudy days mean U.V rays! Find Sunscreen here.
Buy a bottle of good quality insect repellant and use it regularly, this is more important for remote or rural areas of China, but still very important. It’s also really important you visit your doctor before your trip and let them know where you’re going so you can get any medication or immunisations you may need to protect you. Find Bug Spray here.
Uh oh, I hate to be that tourist, but hand sanitizer is essential no matter where you are, even if you’re in your hometown. You never know when you’ll unexpectedly touch something sticky, hairy, wriggly or gross, so be prepared and have some hand sanitiser with you. I found myself really wanting to use it after I’d been on public transport, just because of the huge volume of people using the system.
You can’t go to the shop and buy a box of muesli bars to stick in your backpack for a day out, so if you’re the kind of person who loves to snack, bring some with you. There are loads of shops selling beautiful fresh fruit though, which helps you stay healthy while you travel.
I pack a little medicine bag full of essential medicines like cold and flu tablets, hay fever/allergy medicine, ibuprofen, paracetamol, tums and Imodium. I got a bit sick from the smoggy air and because I can only speak a little bit of Chinese, had a tough time explaining what I needed. That said, the lady at the corner store was really helpful when I acted out my symptoms. You should also definitely pack your prescription medicines and anything special you may require, like a Ventolin inhaler for asthmatics. Find Medicine Bags here.
Pocket packs of tissues tucked into a bag will come in very helpful at public toilets. Whilst there is no shortage of T.P in China, there are some public toilets which run out of the good stuff due to the high volume of people using them. Don’t be a victim, be proactive. If you’re a germ-a-phobe, I recommend packing a bottle of hand sanitiser which can be used, with a tissue, to sanitise a toilet seat.
There is pollution, so think about packing a medical face mask. You can buy material ones in China too if the medical ones make you feel weird. Everyone else wears them, so don’t worry, you won’t be out of place. I didn’t wear one was we had great weather and didn’t experience much pollution.
I’m not sure what it was about the climate, but it dried my skin out like crazy! I had to buy cracked heel balm it got that bad. I really recommend packing moisturiser for your body, thick moisturiser for your hands, lots of lip balm and a pumice stone or cracked heel balm. Find Moisturiser here.
Packing hacks and tips
A few tips and tricks to help you hack your packing!
If like me, you travel with a laptop, an iPhone, cameras and a GoPro, then you’re going to need more than one power point. By one powerpoint converter and take a power board with multiple plug-ins on it. It makes life so much easier! Find Power Boards here and Find Power Converters here.
Stash some eco-friendly bags and reusable sandwich bags in your luggage, they come in so very handy for storing dirty shoes and clothes as well as bars of soap, wet swimwear or leaky toothpaste tubes! Find Eco-Friendly Reusable Bags here.
I use Tupperware or similar hard plastic containers to put all my toiletries in. This ensures no leaks will destroy my clean clothes and makes it really easy for me to grab my toiletries in one easy swoop, keep them together in the hotel and makes re-packing easier too. I also use a small container for all my jewellery and another one for electronics like adaptors, cords and chargers. It keeps me organised and stops me from losing things! Find Storage Containers here.
Put dryer sheets in your suitcase to keep your clothes smelling good throughout the whole trip. If you don’t have dryer sheets, a few drops of essential oil on a tissue, laid flat in-between layers of clothes, works wonders. I also have a little bottle of spray which instantly freshens up clothes, it’s from The Laundress and it’s amazing! No musty smelling clothes for you, my friend. Find Dryer Sheets here.
Good quality luggage
Bags tend to get thrown around quite a bit and it’s worth investing in good quality luggage that can stand a good punch and lock securely. A good quality suitcase with a strong lock should be good enough. When we stay in hotels, Matt and I always lock our valuables in the safe when we go out and, anything that doesn’t fit in the safe gets locked inside the suitcase or goes out with us for the day. Find Good Quality Luggage here.
Useful travel resources for your China trip!
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Phoebe is a travel writer and photographer with a love for storytelling and making people laugh. Matt is a videographer and photographer with a passion for the great outdoors and big adventures. Together we inspire big adventures through our guides, videos, vlogs and photographs. Find out more about us here.