101 Things You Should and Should Not Bring With You to China

I know it’s a long list and I don’t by any means encourage you to bring lots of stuff. Different things are important for different individuals. Use this list as a reminder so you don’t forget things. Remember always travel light, bring as little as possible, and save the space to bring lots of goodies back from China!

  1. Valid passport.
  2. Chinese visa.
  3. Other legal documents that show you are allowed to enter and stay in the country.
  4. A photocopy of all your legal documents. So you can carry these with you when touring.
  5. Air itinerary and schedule.
  6. Your drivers license.
  7. Travel Insurance and its receipts.
  8. Copy of your medical history.
  9. Medical and Security Access. This is a MUST HAVE. I recommend International SOS.
  10. Address of your destination in China (Both in English and Chinese if possible).
  11. If you had to submit a invitation letter for your visa, bring that letter with you.
  12. Your hotel reservation.
  13. Important contact information. Most of the times, people don’t use their home country cell phones in China because the surcharge is very expensive. So if that’s something you are planning on doing, then write down the numbers you need from your cellphone, that way you can conveniently to make a phone call from China by using a phone card.
  14. A local map. If you are traveling on your own and planning on taking public transportation or walking, this is quite important to have.
  15. Pocket tissue. This one you actually don’t have to bring it from the US, but make sure you have it handy while you are in China. It’s weird but in most of the public bathrooms (except upscale restaurants or hotels) they don’t provide toilet papers.
  16. Credit Cards. Visa and MasterCard are common to use in China.
  17. Traveler’s checks. Don’t keep your receipts at the same place with the checks.
  18. Some cash in Chinese Yuan and in US dollars. Even though most of the plazas and big restaurants now accept credit cards (not all of them accept international credit cards though), but the bargain shopping areas, street food stands, taxis, ticket offices etc., only accept Chinese cash. Also, try to avoid airport currency exchange, they definitely have the crappiest rate. Go to your local bank and ask for your options.
  19. Deodorant with anti-perspiration. This is quite hard to find in China, especially in the small cities. The place I can think of that carries such thing is the supermarket named “Watson’s”
  20. Razors. Back in 2005 when some of my foreign friends came to China, we looked for shavers everywhere and could not find them anywhere! Things might have changed, but just in case, bring your own.
  21. Shaving cream.
  22. Shampoo and conditioners. I use Pantene, and even though this brand is everywhere in China, but I feel the quality is different. It’s definitely more watery and my hair feels drier after using the Chinese brand. So if you are picky with your hair, bring your own.
  23. Sunscreen. You can actually find lots of sunscreen protection lotions in department stores and supermarkets. But the SPF factor and other functions are limited (SPF doesn’t go as high as here in the US). Tanning sunscreen is defiantly not available since everyone tries to keep the skin white.
  24. Insect repellent. The brands in China are mostly oil based and quite inconvenient to apply. If you go in the summer, of course depends on where you are, you’ll probably need it for mosquitoes.
  25. Medicine. Even though the Chinese pharmacies do offer western medicines, it’s definitely a good idea to bring your own! Especially make sure to bring your prescription medicines, antibiotics, diarrhea medications, birth control, pain reliever, and anti-bacterial ointment.
  26. Dental floss. I know they are available in China and people do use them. But don’t expect they’ll be guaranteed available next to the tooth paste section in any grocery stores.
  27. Mouth wash. Same as above.
  28. Tampons. You can find them in some supermarkets but quite limited. So bring the brand you prefer. Pads are readily available everywhere in China.
  29. Your own clothing, underwear and socks. You will find bargain priced clothing items in China, if you are a tall or wear extra large in the US, then sizes you find in China would most likely be too small. Unless if you go to a tourist-friendly shopping plaza such as the Silk Market in Beijing. Women with larger breasts make sure to bring your own bras.
  30. Big suitcases. From my experience, people who come to visit China usually ended up buying another suitcase because they bought too many things during their visit. Things are cheaper and unique, so make sure to bring the biggest baggage you can find, and pack light on the way to China, so you leave plenty of empty space to bring things back. One thing to note though, if you are taking domestic flights within China, be careful with the weight of your baggage. Just like in the US, international flights allow a much heavier weight for check in baggage. Domestic flights usually only allow you to check in one baggage up to 20 kilograms in weight.
  31. Backpack. It’s convenient especially if you walk around everywhere. For girls, just bring your own purse.
  32. Shoes. Get some comfortable and reliable shoes so you can walk, hike and run in them. For the summer, bring a pair of sandals as well. Also if you consider your feet are big, then you probably won’t find your shoe size in China.
  33. Electric converter. Voltage in China is 220. Computers, cellphones and cameras don’t need the converter because they are universal voltage. Check the back of your electronics to identify which ones needs the converter for.
  34. Your home country cellphone. If you are from the US and your wireless carriers are AT&T or T-mobile, bring your cellphone and cellphone charger with you. Before you do that, call your phone company to ask them if you can unlock the phone. I did it once with T-mobile, it was easy and fast (you might have to finish your contract first). When you arrive China, all you need is to buy a Chinese sim card (cost about ï¿¥100 for the card with prepaid minutes in it) to replace your original sim card. If that’s not an option for you, you can also find an old modeled Nokia cellphone in China for around US$10.
  35. Your laptop. Though there are many Internet cafes in big cities in China, and the cost to get online per hour is very cheap. If you want to use Skype or get online comfortably at your hotel, then bring your own.
  36. Ethernet Cable.
  37. International Travel Plug Adapter. There are cases that the outlets in your hotel room doesn’t fit your plug for your computer. It’s very affordable to get something like this, you’ll need it in the future when you travel to other countries.
  38. Your embassy’s contact information in China.
  39. Your camera. Bring the charger, most of the camera chargers can be used worldwide without any electric converters.
  40. USB connector for your camera.
  41. Extra memory cards. Just in case if you take too many pictures and don’t have enough place for storage.
  42. Camcorder.
  43. A small handy Chinese dictionary.
  44. A Chinese phrase book. Just in case if you got lost and need to look for the bathroom;)
  45. Allergy supplies. In a foreign country, you never know what you’ll be allergic of.
  46. Umbrella.
  47. Alarm clock.
  48. Skin care products. China has all the major brands such as Clinique, Lancome, Olay and Estee Lauder. But if you buy them from the Chinese department store, they are so much more expensive than you buy them in the US. I guess it’s the tax that raised the price so much higher.
  49. A pencil and a memo pad.
  50. If you are traveling with a baby, make sure you bring all the baby stuff. Such as diapers, wipes, baby food and medicine.
  51. Multi-vitamins.
  52. Toothpaste. According to the FDA, some Chinese toothpaste could be dangerous to your health.
  53. Calculator. Could come handy for currency exchange and bargain when shopping.
  54. Super glue. In case if something falls apart during your trip.
  55. Coffee. Most of the coffee you find in regular supermarkets are instant coffee in China. So if you are big on drinking coffee and don’t want to spend too much money in Starbucks. Then bring your own coffee maker and lots of ground coffee.
  56. English magazines, novels and books. There are English books in the big Chinese bookstores, but the choices are very limited.
  57. Hair coloring. If you DIY, you’ll only find darker colors in the supermarkets. You can get all sorts of hair colorings in salons though.
  58. Moisturizer.
  59. Hand Sanitizer.
  60. U-shaped pillow for the long ride on the plane.
  61. Mp3 player and charger.
  62. Business cards.
  63. Your home keys. This is so embarrassing, but one time I left my home keys in China and could not get back in my apartment for a while after arriving the US.
  64. Plastic Zip-Loc bags. You’ll need to put small sized lotions in there for airport security.
  65. Sunglasses.
  66. Jet Lag remedy. Jetlag can be annoying, sometimes it takes up to one week to feel completely adjusted and normal again. If you are doing a trip less than a week, than I highly recommend you consider this option.
  67. Back up batteries for your electronics.
  68. Reusable grocery bag or plastic bags. In big cities, now you have to pay for plastic bags in supermarkets and grocery stores.
  69. Some gifts if you have friends or a host family to visit.
  70. A smile 🙂
  71. Hats.
  72. Ear plugs. When you are on the plane for a long time and hope to get some sleep. This really helps.
  73. Contact lenses and solution.
  74. English Movies and DVDs.
  75. Tic Tacs. I love them and couldn’t find them in Beijing.
  76. Favorite snacks from your home country.
  77. Appetite to eat delicious Chinese Food.
  78. Cereal. China has very limited choices.

Things you SHOULD NOT bring

  1. Hairdryer. Unless your hairdryer can convert to different voltage. Most of the hotels provide hairdryers in the room.
  2. Iron/steamer. Again most of the hotel has these. If you need your own, it’s cheap to buy one in China.
  3. Weapons. That is an absolute NO.
  4. Bicycles. It sounds funny but some foreigners actually have tried to check their bikes in at the airport. You can defiantly find a pretty good quality mountain bike in China for around US$20 or so.
  5. Any illegal drugs. This is very serious, if you are caught to carry or sell any in China, you’ll be in big trouble and your home country might not be able to help.
  6. Anything that can be politically sensitive to China.
  7. Live animals. If you are thinking to travel with your pet to China, DON’T! I have a dog and I did lots of research to see if I could ever bring her back Beijing, it’s not impossible, but it’s way too complicated. First of all, there isn’t really a document clearly states the rules on this one. I even called the airport in Beijing, they all had different answers. All I know is you’ll have to leave your animal in the airport for a few weeks for them to check. You’ll have to pay lots of money and your animal will suffer in the cage for a long time. The worst thing is if there is anything that doesn’t look right, they have all the rights to send your animal back immediately or kill it.
  8. Plants and soil.
  9. Insects.
  10. Food.
  11. Lots of cash exceeding the legal limit.
  12. Cashmere, dry clean clothing. It’s a hassle to find a dry clean shop in China,
  13. Bedsheets.
  14. Towels. If you are the type of person brings your own towel anywhere you go, then sure, bring it.
  15. Toilet papers.
  16. Mailing envelopes.
  17. Social security card.
  18. Clothing that writes bad things about China in Chinese (or in other languages)!
  19. Military clothing. Can cause unnecessary misunderstandings.
  20. Tea bags.
  21. Valuable jewelries.
  22. Soy Sauce.
  23. Purses without zippers or closed top. There are thieves in China just like anywhere in the world. You should be extra careful because it can be crowded in China, especially if you are going to a sightseeing spot with lots of other tourists. Always carry your purse with the zipper zipped and in front so you can see.
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