Consider moving to China this year?
While finding a job is a time-consuming and important part, packing your things can be even trickier.
In fact, China is very unlike Western countries. There are certain things you just won’t find at local stores.
And these are basics, like hygiene products or pieces of clothing. Those, who have already traveled here, know the differences.
If it’s to be your first time, then our checklist is a total must-read before relocating to China.
Knowing what to bring with you and what to avoid, might save you lots of time and make the moving less stressful, which is crucial.
Are you ready to learn what to pack for a trip?
What to Bring when Moving to China for a year
What?! And not just for the first couple of weeks, we suggest packing a whole year supply of these in your baggage!
The thing is it’s one of the traveling essentials that are not to be found in the country.
Chances are you might not buy it even in big cities. Seriously!
The Chinese people do sweat, but they don’t have a strong smell due to genetic peculiarities.
Plus, perspiration is not socially embarrassing here – people believe it’s a natural process, good for skin and immune system.
There is only about 10% of the population, interested in this kind of product and you will be among these.
Loads of Toilet Paper or Tissues
They sell it in Chinese shops, no worries! Why is it on the list of things to bring when traveling to China?
The problem is, there is a shortage of toilet paper in public places. In rural areas, they won’t even provide it.
So everyone has to carry some paper tissues or a toilet paper roll with them all the time! Plus, it’s handy in trains and during trips, because you never know…
Prepare in advance by stocking a few unfinished rolls of paper while still in your home country.
Or you could just buy some travel toilet paper.
Toilets and public transport are the kind of places, where sanitizer is needed very often.
You might want to wipe your toilet seat before using it. Or apply some on your hands before lunch.
This makes it one of the very essential traveling items.
We advise to take a few bottles, because you’ll need this a lot and might not have time to find some at local stores.
Many teachers say they use sanitizer during the day because there are so many people around and way too many contacts.
Handrails and doors sometimes feel sticky or unpleasant. Especially in summer.
Attention! Opt for non-alcohol products, otherwise, border officers might confiscate them (e.g. in Guangzhou).
Urination Device (for Women)
We are back to the toilets again. Another thing to know when traveling to China is that many of the traditional ones don’t have a seat. It’s basically a hole in the ground.
While most men don’t care, it might feel weird for Western women.
If you don’t have the habit of squat peeing or simply don’t enjoy it, consider a urination device.
It’ll let you do your thing faster and without having to sit down or squat.
It’s cheap and there are lots of them to buy on Aliexpress or Amazon. Anyway, put it on your traveling checklist.
Tampons (for Women)
Just like deodorants, tampons are not easily found in shops here. Buy a few packs of your favorite ones before moving to China.
Many foreign women living in China complain about tampons because they are not only rare but smaller in size.
Plus, there are not many brands available.
Local women prefer pads. They believe tampons might be invasive and dangerous; so many shops just don’t sell these.
If it’s something you can’t live without, put them on your list before traveling to China.
Your passport is CRITICAL while in China.
You need it, along with your visa in order to register with the local police, who will periodically check your apartment to make sure no additional residents are living there.
You will also need a driver’s license or official ID to open your Chinese bank account.
Some of the Chinese banks have relationships with banks in other countries.
If possible, try to open an account with one of those banks to save money on bank fees.
We won’t advise you to put it on your packing list for moving, because it’s useless.
You can’t take a bottle on a plane, but remember to buy some quality filtered water upon arrival.
Drinking and even rinsing your mouth with tap water might cause diarrhea or minor troubles. Unfortunately, Chinese water is of low quality.
Don’t buy any cheap bottled liquid either, because it won’t help.
Another of the basic tips for traveling to China: don’t swallow water while taking a shower and use bottled one for brushing your teeth.
Insect Repellent Spray or Wristband
Since the region is quite humid and temperatures are high, there are many mosquitos.
If you are traveling to China in spring or summer, don’t forget to put a tube of repellent in your luggage.
You might also buy colorful wristbands if you don’t have time to apply cream or spray every morning.
According to reviews, these are as effective as the latter, but won’t leak in the baggage or cause allergy.
Sockets in China are different from European or American ones, so a converter would be a great idea if you are taking a laptop, a smartphone or any other devices with you.
Adaptors are to be found in local shops, but bringing one in your bag is useful.
Put it on your trip checklist. It will save you extra hours of searching for a store and useless expenses, as these things tend to be more expensive there.
Plus we don’t always have time for shopping on the day of arrival, right?
Visiting China for the first time can cause lots of stress, especially with little things like mobile devices, SIM cards, Internet, etc.
Here is a typical question we keep getting: Should I take my phone to China? Of course, why not!
But don’t forget to have it unlocked by your provider so that you could insert a Chinese SIM. Otherwise, it won’t work.
If you can’t, then don’t worry and leave your phone at home.
They sell decent Huawei devices for as little as $200 with a camera and great functionality.
It’ll surely be a smart investment for anyone moving to China.
Do you know that Youtube and many social networks are blocked in China?
They have analogs, but as an ESL teacher, you’ll need full access to the Internet.
Videos, movies, and authentic English audio files are the basis of a successful TEFL class.
That’s why a quality VPN is among the essential travel items.
We discourage our clients from using free services, as there is no guarantee of speed and access to all prohibited sites.
Plan it all ahead, so that you could test the service and see if everything goes smoothly.
Plus, a prepaid VPN will cover both your phone and laptop activity, so you won’t feel any restrictions.
Medicine + Doctor’s Prescription
Consulting your doctor is among the first steps to do. If you have any special health condition or have to take pills, ask for a prescription and tell the doctor about the trip. You might as well need immunization.
Buy a supply of necessary medicine in advance as it might not be available in Chinese drugstores.
How to pack China for moving if you don’t have health problems?
- Lots of Immodium pills or something against intestinal troubles;
- Activated charcoal;
- Cough syrup and drops;
- Preferred nose drops;
- Something against headache;
- Antihistamine pills.
This will help you in most cases. For more serious illnesses you’ll have health insurance and will go to see a local specialist.
Shampoo and Moisturizers
Winters tend to be dry and affect skin and hair very badly. Summers also do, in a different way.
In either case, quality shampoo and some moisturizing cream can do wonders.
The problem with local shampoos is that they’re designed for thick dark hair and may not be good for blondes and redheads. Plus, it might take months until you find the ideal product.
Cosmetics are necessary things to carry while traveling. To save some space, switch to solid shampoo. It’s as good as liquid one, but there is zero chance of accident leaks and stains on other things in your baggage.
Passport Pouch and Cash
Petty crimes are not rare, especially in airports, railway stations, and on the subway.
As you’ll have to carry your passport every day (it’s a government requirement), think about a special pouch.
It’s worn under a shirt, so chances of losing papers are close to impossible.
It’s a great China travel tip. Cash and credit cards can be put in it as well.
Attention: not all ATMs accept foreign cards, plus there is a problem exchanging USD for RMB in small cities.
As you are moving to China for a year, it’s wise to plan the whole thing ahead and get enough cash before your trip.
Scan the passport and visa and make a few copies in case you do lose it. Otherwise, the renewal will take ages.
Clothing and Shoes
How to dress in China? Smart casual clothing is the ideal option.
If you are going to work with small kids and walk a lot, then take some sport apparels as well. The important part is to feel comfortable.
Rainfall is frequent here. Opt for waterproof shoes and take a few pairs of comfy sneakers and sandals, as you’ll move a lot during the day.
As for clothes, it depends on the region: in Beijing, you’ll need proper winter and autumn coats and hats, while in Shenzhen you’ll wear t-shirts all year round.
Before visiting China, buy new underwear and bras (for women): it’s hard to find big sizes in local shops.
Even though not all Chinese are small, somehow, most of the clothing is!
Many brands are overpriced, so there is really no need to pay more; some items are regularly counterfeited.
What Not to Bring when Moving to China
In China, it’s not about modesty, but more about light skin.
Both men and women prefer long sleeves and pants, the elderly carry an umbrella at all times.
It will be easier for you to fit in if you remove your short skirts and tops from your travel item checklist.
What to wear in China then?
Simple t-shirts, smart casual shirts, pants, and relatively long dresses are the best. Avoid extremely bright colors, too.
Like this, you won’t attract thieves and will blend in with the locals.
Apart from the short shorts, there are two other types of clothing on the ‘do not travel list’:
- Natural fabrics;
- Big items.
Why? Because there are no dryers around and the apartments are tiny!
These will dry for weeks, plus you’ll have lots of trouble organizing it all.
Even though it’s not possible to switch to nylon for every piece of clothing, it’s worth a try at least with jackets and pants.
Typical prints, mottos, and safari or military-looking items are a bad idea.
This might lead to misunderstanding and unnecessary explanations with the police. As a foreigner with no or little Mandarin skills, you might easily get in trouble.
In this connection, khaki might also be among colors not to wear in China, but it depends on the style.
Also, don’t dress in black and white exclusively, as these colors are associated with funerals and mourning. Opt for darkish shades of grey and blue instead.
Bikinis (for Women)
Moving to China’s coastal cities or planning to escape there for a weekend?
Forget about revealing 2-piece swimsuits as most of the women opt for modest one-pieces here.
It’s rare to see a young woman wearing bikinis on the beach and might lead to sexual harassment.
Elder people wear very conservative swimsuits. If you don’t want extra attention, follow their lead and prepare in advance.
What to pack on a trip if you are an English teacher?
In fact, textbooks, no matter how useful they seem, are just unnecessary bulk.
Chinese schools will provide you with teaching material, so there is really no need.
If you enjoy reading, opt for an e-reader. It can contain more books than you can put in your luggage.
Plus, you’ll easily download more at any time.
Expensive Electronics or Jewellery
Laptop, e-reader, smartphone… Isn’t that all you can possibly need?
Don’t put expensive cameras and tablets on your travel checklist.
Golden rings and other valuables are also better left at home. Over-dressing is badly seen anyway.
The risk of being pickpocketed, losing these items or breaking them on the way to China is huge.
The probability of needing extra jewelry and devices is relatively small. So what’s the point?
Planning your trip and making a checklist before you travel to China can save you time upon arrival and reduce stress.
Knowing exactly what you’ll need and what to expect can make your life easier.
We hope this article helped! If you have any more questions about moving to China, feel free to leave a comment or email us directly.