China guide head packing

Packing light and warm (remember domestic airline luggage limits of total of 20kg), Many times you’ll be forced to carry your luggage up & down stairs — for instance in subway stations and train stations.  If possible, consider ultra-light 4 way roller suitcase.

Anticipate bringing home (lots of) gifts and shopping.

Bring deodorant — it’s not commonly used in China (a fact which you’ll quickly discover when you find yourself in a crowd!) and therefore the choices – if there are any – are quite scarce.

All the 4/5 star hotels as a matter of course supply international quality shampoos, soaps, combs, toothbrushes, toothpaste, ear buds, etc… So you don’t need to bring as much heavy toiletries.  You also don’t need to bring a hair dryer – every hotel has them.

Remember to bring adapter plugs and any a power converters you may need. Electrical system in China is 220 volts. You MUST bring a camera (unless you have a later model iPhone) — preferably a digital with lots of memory (and a charger!), and prepare to take a ton of photos.

Bring any medicines you need, along with a copy of the prescription.  Bring Aspirin, vitamins, anti-inflammatory, anti-histamines, remedy for diarrhea and antacid. Keep all of them in the original containers. Also bring your medical history (blood group, allergies and known medical conditions along with the contact information for each of your doctors) and keep in your suitcase (and give a copy to your company manager). This will be helpful if you need to see a doctor or become incapacitated. China law 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 days or weeks. Bring all of this in the original prescription container.  The CDC (Center for Disease Control) website has a recommended packing list for China.

Bring color copies of your Passport, Chinese visa and other documents, such as credit card numbers, embassy contact info, etc (also save yours docs on your smartphone)

Bring Ziplock bags–various sizes to assist in packing and separation in your suitcase.

If venturing out of major hotels outside of Shanghai & Beijing, expect to carry your own toilet paper, with a small bottle of hand sanitizer. Non-alcohol hand sanitizer or wipes are best, as Chinese airport security will occasionally confiscate alcohol-based sanitizers. 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 .


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Conveniently sized for inconvenient moments.

Anticipate that you will make friends with many of the Chinese staff / crew  or others.  Some may give you small gifts, it may be smart to think ahead and bring some unique US centric gifts from home with you.

Also, keep in mind that a lot of stuff is made in China (obviously), so you have the option of shopping for most things (particularly clothing if your are a small size) if you need them.  Just remember that many things are fake in China.

Check the climate of your destination, and then see what kind of clothes you require. Anticipate at least a day of rain showers somewhere on the trip, and anticipate snow in the north.

Packing the Right Stuff

China weather needs to be monitored closely, and you need to pack accordingly – in summer months expect incredible heat and humidity, and winter months freezing cold.  Be aware too of the differences in temperatures and humidity from the North to the South, and East to West.  Rain comes in torrents and sprinkles throughout the year, and blazing heat in the south and frigid cold in the north can be quite normal in early Spring or late Fall.

Unpretentious, modest clothing is the norm, but trendy clothes and fancy fabrics are making a comeback. Young people are more interested in wearing Western styles of clothing. The typical Chinese woman wears clothing of very nice style but not revealing or provocative showing too much leg or cleavage. On the other hand, in the summer time, for example, you will often see a traditional Chinese woman wearing a thin cotton dress covering her entire body, however so thin that it is quite see through.

Dressing Appropriately
Take “wash-and-wear” fabrics with you. Warm clothing, hats, thick-soled shoes and sweaters are essential in winter in northern China. Toilets outside the hotels are often “squat” style. Women especially should dress accordingly. To be sure, carry a pack of tissues with you. Women should also avoid shorts, bare backs, low-cut tops and extravagant jewelry.

Quick-Dry Clothes
Washing machines are everywhere in China…driers are not. Don’t bring jeans (unless you absolutely can’t live without them)– they not only take up a lot of real estate in your bag, they take forever to dry.  Quick-dry socks, briefs and quick-dry shirts are great. If you’re traveling around China during the summer, expect to be washing your clothes once a day or once every other day. Hiking/travel type pants (made of synthetic fabrics) are great since they are durable, wrinkle-resistant, and dry quickly overnight.

Clothing Suggestions

Season  Month  Suggested Clothing
Spring Mar – May Western suits, jackets, sports coats, woolen jackets, long sleeve shirts and comfortable shoes
Summer Jun – Aug T-shirts, short sleeve shirts, skirts, sandals, caps, rain wear
Autumn Sep – Nov   Western suits, jackets, sports coats, light woolen sweaters, rain wear and comfortable shoes
Winter Dec – Feb Overcoat, thick woolen sweaters, lined coats; In northern China, cap, gloves and cotton-padded shoes are required

Domestic Checked Luggage

Domestic travel checked luggage allowances varies from carrier to carrier and in some cases, from airport staff to airport staff.  Generally and officially, passengers flying domestically are entitled to a free checked baggage allowance: 40kg for first class, 30kg for business class, 20kg for economy class.  These are TOTAL WEIGHTS amongst all bags.    Maximum 2 bags per person.  Excess baggage charges in China are expensive, and time consuming to purchase and send.

PACK LIGHT!  Therefore plan for 20kg limit, spread over a maximum of 2 bags, and if needed place any small but unusually heavy items in your carry-on.

Note,  ALL luggage will be x-ray screened at check-in for any flight.  I strongly suggest you arriving with one checked bag, and buying a 2nd case in China (there are great luggage markets with incredibly cheap suitcases, knapsacks, briefcases etc.. for sale).  Mark your case colorfully so it’s easy to identify from a distance on a luggage carousel or in a group of 120+ bags.

Carry on Luggage

Even tougher than in the USA, China has stringent policies – no lighters, no liquids (not even a bottle of water), only small amount of toiletries, each under 100ml.  All will be scanned and reviewed.  Laptops need to be removed for separate x-ray.  Unlike USA, shoes and light belts DO NOT have to be removed.

The easiest form of carry-on that can serve you well when sightseeing in China is a backpack/knapsack.  It can be carried easily when climbing the Great Wall, or when you are out shopping. You will want to carry bottles water, tissues, passport, camera, extra camera batteries etc.. so it’s a good idea to think of your carry-on bag as an extension of your clothing everyday for the entire tour.  Similarly, mark your carry-on luggage uniquely so it’s easy to spot in a large group of other bags.

Toby Simkin’s Broadway Entertainment, LLC
dba within China as: 沈途彬商务咨询(上海)有限公司

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