What to Pack for China: 30 Essentials for Teachers & Travelers
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Having spent nearly 4 years living and traveling in the country, I feel like I’ve got a pretty good grasp of what to pack for China. Due to being an incredibly diverse country in both culture and environments, there are numerous items that you will need regardless of whether you are teaching in Shenzhen or trekking in Yunnan.
Astrill was the most reliable VPN I used in China by a mile – tons of locations, consistent speeds, and the app was recently improved to boost user experience.
Despite the complications of the Great Firewall, cell service is quite fast and reliable in China. Getting a SIM Card, however, can prove complicated if you need to go into a store in the Mainland. Save yourself the hassle and order one before arriving – it will ensure you’re connected as soon as you touch down and make it much easier to get around. This card is from China Unicom, one of the leading service providers, and be recharged via their site.
Honestly, a portable charger didn’t even cross my mind when packing for China but after spending hours per month using public transportation and trying to ration the use of my devices due to power constraints, it has been one of the best things I purchased while in-country. Save yourself the hassle of finding a good quality charger on the streets – plan ahead and buy one from Amazon – they are cheap and you will use it often.
Big bags won’t for daily use and your back will thank you for something smaller to use on your excursions. Do what I make this the last thing you pack (assuming you aren’t carrying it on) so you can grab it easily without having to unpack everything.
You cannot drink the water in most Chinese cities so a water bottle is really a necessity to save you from having to stock up at the store every time you go out. Most hotels, business, and apartments will have water dispensers and it’s easy to make a habit of topping off your bottle before starting your exploring or commute.
At the risk of having you look like a lost foreigner staring into a guidebook on some random corner, having at least some material to help you get around really is invaluable when planning your trip to China. Lonely Planit is obviously the favorite and I’ve really enjoyed taking notes in mine as well as dog-earing pages depending on the adventure.
In my experience, it’s very rare for people to visit new places and not get some sort of upset stomach either from the food quality or how it’s prepared. China is no exception and I cannot overstate how crucial Immodium is to minimizing misery, especially if you’re traveling on a timeline. Stock up now!
Women in China tend to avoid exertion while on their period, and perhaps this can be linked back to the fact that it’s extremely difficult to find any PMS-related medications in China. If you are prone to water retention or cramps during your period, then stock up on this before moving to China and don’t let your period drag you down.
When eating new foods in China, it’s inevitable that you’re stomach is going to be exposed to some upsets. Hotpot, street BBQ, and oily foods can be triggers for gas, bloating, and indigestion. Thankfully, there is a simple and natural remedy for these symptoms, which is activated charcoal. Two caps and an hour later, no stomach ache or embarrassing farts.
If you find the Diva cup intimidating or just don’t want to change up your feminine care routine, then your next best option, assuming you don’t want to walk around wearing pads, is to pack your own tampons before traveling. It’s as simple as doing the math. If you use one small box of tampons each month and you plan on being in China for 10 months, that is 10 small boxes of tampons you will need to pack beforehand. Here’s an efficient packing tip – take them out of the box and put them into gallon-size ziploc bags. They won’t take much space and you’ll be happy you packed them come that time of the month!
Chinese squat toilets can be difficult for women, especially considering aiming is not one of the top skills women acquire using a western sit-down toilet. That said, women can guarantee no messes by using a female urinary device (FUD) that allows you to pee standing up. These might seem strange, but FUDs also make perfect sense for women who are traveling and may not always have access to traditional or sanitary places to “go,” especially in China. FUDs are perfect for activities such as hiking, biking, climbing, as you can pee discreetly, standing up just like a man. Small bladder + long car rides = No problem! With a FUD, even car emergencies can be solved.
Seriously, if you plan to be anywhere near Southern China during your trip, make sure to pack at least a few dry fit shirts. The winters are mild and the humidity is always present making these shirts invaluable when it comes to feeling cooler during the day. This goes double if you’re a teacher because most schools use their AC sparingly and you will get hot.
Monsoon season is a real thing (mostly in the south) and having a light raincoat that you can carry around will save you more than you know. Bonus points if you’re in the south as it can also serve as a layer during winter thanks to how mild they are!
Ready to Pack for China?
This list is obviously only a sample of what you might need for your time traveling or working in China. Still, it was born out of my 3+ years of experience exploring and teaching in the country (with a little input from my friends) and I’m confident it’s a great foundation for your trip.
If I’ve missed anything you think is useful, please contact us so we can include it! Also, a special thanks to a former teacher over at Test Prep Nerds for helping with some of the products in this list!