Packing is never fun. It's hard enough deciding what to take a for a vacation, but exponentially difficult to decide what to bring to China when you are moving for a period of time. After living in China and working as an English teacher for many years, I've seen a lot of people come and go; and I've heard many people talk about what they wish they would have brought with them (or what they shouldn't have brought to China). I've also lived in China long enough to know what items are difficult to find in China, or are expensive. So to help others on their new journey as an English teacher, here is a packing list for China.
- Original passport with Chinese visa issued (if needed).
- Color copies of your passport
- 4-5 passport size photos (you need for some nearby country's visa).
How much Cash should I bring to China?
Always carry a small amount of disposable cash on arrival that way it gives you a day or 2 before you need to start looking for an ATM in China. I would suggest no less than ¥500 - £58, $72
What Credit Cards work in China?
If you have access to a credit card, bring one. They are often great if wanting to book/or secure flights/hotels or in case of an emergency.
How much do I need to get an apartment in China?
It is highly recommended to bring no less than ¥20,000 (as most accommodation ask for 3 month’s rent plus deposit upfront) - £2,300, $2,900. For more information about accommodation check out this video
** For more information, check out our complete post about money and ATM's in China here.
Remember to bring an unlocked phone so it can take a Chinese sim card. Try not to use a google run phone unless you have a good VPN (since Google is blocked in China, this could be a real inconvenience for you). Most companies in China now require you to have a smartphone so you are able to download apps for communication and feedback purposes.
If you don’t have one don’t panic! It’s just a recommended item so you can download and watch programs and films in your native language, as most TV’s in china are in Chinese. You could also use a tablet, like an iPad too.
A good VPN is highly recommended in China, since a number of popular websites / applications are blocked by China's firewall. A VPN allows you to bypass that "great firewall of China" and still able to access websites such as Pinterest, Google, Facebook etc. For more information on VPNs click here.
Remember to pack a charger for each item
This is a common looking wall socket in China. Make sure you have a good world travel adapter that can be used in China! (You don’t want to be without your hairdryer in winter, or communication to your family when you first arrive!) Follow the link below to see the top 10 adapters for 2017.
If you’re a lady or male with longer hair, you will want a hairdryer for those winter days in China. (It gets cold!)
You can locate deodorant in many large Chinese cities. However, if you are moving to a more rural area or living outside a major city, it could be difficult to find deodorant. From my experience, deodorant is the most recommended item that other expats have recommended people bring with them to China. So go ahead and stick a few of them in your luggage.
Very slim picking in China, unless you are happy to use men’s razors.
Very hard to find in China! They can be found in Hong Kong, or in only the biggest mainland Chinese cities at very specific expat stores. I recommend to bring a lot with you and take them out of the boxes for better use of space.
Try as hard as possible to bring out a yearly supply (in bigger cities there are western – pricier hospitals) that may be able to get you the pill, but it can’t be guaranteed to be the same one. Your best option is to bring your own.
For any on-going medical conditions you may have, bring out a good years supply, like I mentioned above it may be possible to get depending on the location you choose (do your research carefully, and talk to your doctor at home).
Cold & Flu Meds
We are all so used to drinking those great hot drinks like Lemsip or Dayquil, there is a huge lack of access to these products. China has their own remedies, but they are hardly the same. You may want to bring a little if you are prone to sickness and prefer certain medicines to feel better. Otherwise, you may opt to use the local remedies.
The air in some parts of China is quite dry (especially in winter). The humid southern region is the exception, but even it can get dry in the winter.
Contacts and Solution
Eyes are sensitive to changes, so be careful about using local solutions. You may want to bring your own just to be safe.
Special shampoo for colour hair (specifically if your blonde) also blonde hair dye is recommended, other colours are easy to find.
Any products or shampoos you may need to keep your curls under control.
Remember to research into your location that you will be living in China, because the weather is drastically different around the country. Many places in China experience all four seasons. Pack well, but keep in mind that you do not need to bring your entire closet! There are a lot of clothing stores everywhere in China, and even a lot of international chains, like H&M. So you can always buy more clothes in China if needed. However, keep in mind that larger sizes are very difficult to find throughout China.
Often it’s hard to find shoes over size 9 UK or 9.5 US
It’s difficult to find a bra over a C cup, and near impossible to find anything D or above in China.
If you like different shapes of underwear beyond the standard shapes, bring them with you.
Over the years, I've met so many people living in China who moved from different countries. Each person has something that they miss from home, a type of comfort food or snack, which can be hard to find in China. Below are some of the top mentioned items that you may want to pack with you to give you a sense of home.
England: Cupa soup, Packet food mixes (casserole, Stew, gravy), Tea, sweets, chocolate
Scotland: Sweets, chocolate, and Irun Bru
Ireland: Ballymaloe Relish, Cake/bread mix, and Gravy
New Zealand: Candy and chocolate
Australia: Jade jewelry, and Milo
U.S.A.: Mac n cheese boxes
South Africa: Wine (South African), and chocolate
In case you are missing home and want a cosy night in on the sofa.
Some people struggle to find a new perfect pillow (but if you’re not picky you will be fine).
It’s always great to have a reminder of your friends and family from back home who have supported you on your new adventure.
After years of being in China, this is my recommended packing list for China and what I always tell new teachers bring to China. While your personal needs may vary slightly, this is a good guide to start with. It's also important to keep in mind airline baggage fees, as well as how you will move about when you arrive in China. It may be difficult to carry a lot of luggage with you, especially when riding public transportation in China. So be practical and realize that you can buy some things in China too. It's important to find a balance, and be sure that you bring the most critical items with you to China at first.