Wondering what to bring on your trip to China?

China is a modern country and you’ll be able to find practically everything you need there.

However, there are exceptions, and it’s easier to bring some things with you rather than hunt them down in the middle of your vacation.

Trust me, I’m a seasoned China traveler!

So, here is the essential stuff you should take to make your trip a raging success. (I think number 10 is my best tip, but I’ll let you be the judge.)

By the way, if you’re looking for a comprehensive packing list for China with all the bells and whistles, go to this page instead.

1. Passport and visa

Chinese visa

Your passport and visa are the absolute essentials. Image by i viewfinder on Shutterstock.

Call me Captain Obvious, but I have to start with the most important thing – your passport and visa. You ain’t getting very far without them!

Seriously though, put a photocopy of these essential documents in your bag and keep a photo of them on your phone.

This way, if the unthinkable were to happen and you lost your travel documents in transit, Chinese border officials may be a little less unforgiving.

If you’re confused by Chinese visas, read this page.

2. Yuan

Chinese 20 yuan notes

Bring some cash with you. Image by Saelanlerez on Shutterstock.

Yu-what? Yuan is Chinese money. One yuan is like one dollar or one pound (though the conversion rate is different).

Don’t come overloaded with cash – 20,000 yuan is the limit – but do arrive prepared with 1,000 yuan at the very least.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve arrived in China and the taxi driver’s electronic payment terminal is miraculously out of order.

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Besides, Chinese people (or merchants) rarely use cards these days. Instead, they use payment apps on their phone like WeChat Pay and Alipay.

It’s also a good idea to be cashed up for at least the first few days so you don’t have to worry about finding an ATM straight away.

Try to get notes in low denominations if you can. It makes things so much easier.

3. VPN

china vpn to unblock internet

You need to download the VPN before you leave your country. Image by Ivan Marc on Shutterstock.

If you’re like most travelers, you’re going to want to use Wi-Fi in your hotel room in China. Otherwise, you could be in for a huge phone bill shock when you return home!

All the major foreign websites and apps are blocked when using Wi-Fi in China, so you’ll need a virtual private network (VPN) app to access them.

Take a read of my China VPN review for the ones that work, or go straight to my preferred one here.

Trust me, life in China without Google, Gmail, Google Maps, Instagram and Facebook (the list goes on) is horrible.

4. International power adapter

universal power adapter

This gadget is priceless. Image by Paralaxis on Shutterstock.

China’s electrical sockets are unique. In my travels across the country, I’ve seen every kind of combination possible.

Officially, China’s electricity supply runs at 220 V and uses angled two- or three-pin plugs. This is the same as Australia and New Zealand.

New, modern hotels are usually fine and cater to foreign travelers from America and Europe. But it’s not always the case, and you don’t want to be left high and dry (or risk blowing a fuse!).

So, make sure you pack an international travel power adapter/converter. And don’t forget the chargers for your devices.

5. Medication for both ends of your body

woman with stomach pain

You might get an upset stomach in China. Image by Sora Shimazaki on Pexels.

Chances are you’re going to feel a little queasy at some point in China, even if it’s just for a few hours after that big bowl of dumplings you devoured.

I recommend bringing something to stop you from vomiting and something to stop your diarrhea. The latter is by far the most important in China, where traveler’s tummy is a real issue.

If you do happen to get sick in China, beware the dreaded squatty potty.

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The public ones are usually gross, and being stuck in a cubicle will probably make you feel a lot worse! Stay in your hotel room if you can.

I’d also bring along some general pain relief tablets and, of course, any meds that you can’t live without.

6. Comprehensive travel insurance

Chinese hospital

Things can go wrong when you travel to China. Image supplied by Kim Ooi.

Leading on from number 5, don’t arrive in China without adequate travel insurance.

Medical costs can be very high in China, and payment is required upfront.

So, if something were to happen, would you be able to cope – both mentally and financially – if you didn’t have cover?

Get a China travel insurance quote.

7. Protective stuff

Colgate dental floss

I always bring my trusty Colgate dental floss to China! Image supplied by Mike Cairnduff.

Make sure you bring deodorant to China. Local guys don’t use it so it can be hard to find.

Dental floss is a bit easier to find, but I don’t like the stuff you get in China. It’s like fishing wire so I always bring my own.

If you’re going to a warm city or anywhere in China in summer, you’ll need sunscreen. Chinese sunscreen often has whitening in it, so best bring your own.

I also recommend packing face masks.

While masks are no longer mandatory, a nasty flu or wave of COVID-19 can hit China at any time, and they can come in handy in crowded places.

You could also invest in a high-quality mask if you’re concerned about air pollution in China.

8. Hygienic stuff

Chinese sanitary items

Could you choose the right sanitary item for your needs? Image supplied by Kim Ooi.

You won’t find toilet tissues in public toilets in China, so bring a small stash.

Of course, toilet paper is readily available across the country, but you don’t want the hassle of looking for it on Day 1 of your tour.

(By the way, if you’re planning a trip, check out these awesome tours in China.)

If you’re a bit of a germophobe like me, bringing hand sanitizer to China is a good idea. Again, public toilets are basic in China and there’s usually no soap to wash your hands.

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And, for the ladies, while finding them in China isn’t a problem, pads and tampons are a little different and will be wrapped in packaging with Chinese characters.

You won’t know what you’re buying so bring your own from home if you’re fussy or don’t want any surprises.

9. Clothes line

Chinese clothes line

I do what the locals do and hang up a line. Image by Mirko Kuzmanovic on Shutterstock.

This one is for the budget travelers.

A travel clothes line is one of the best things you can bring on your China vacation. No, I’m not messing with you.

You can get your clothes laundered in all the big hotels in China. However, the price can be exorbitant, depending on where you’re staying.

If I know I’m going to be in the one place for a while, I wash my underwear in the hotel basin and hang it on my travel clothes line (it has a hook on the ends).

Easy peasy.

10. Hotel address in Chinese characters

Hostel directions written in Chinese

Have directions like this ready to go. Image supplied by Mike Cairnduff.

If there’s only one takeaway from my list on what to bring to China, it’s this: you must have your accommodation address (e.g. hotel, hostel) on your phone in Chinese characters.

I always have it written down too, just in case my phone dies or I can’t bring up the information.

Without it, your taxi or Didi (China’s Uber) driver won’t know where to go. The name of the hotel may not be enough.

Plus, a lot of Chinese airports empty out at night and it can be hard getting help.

11. An open mind

Chinese girls with foreign guy

Appreciate the different culture. Image supplied by Nicholas McKay.

OK, this is a bit of a cheesy way to end this list. But jokes aside, if you don’t have an open mind then China probably isn’t for you.

You’re going to experience things in China that you’ve never experienced before.

Some things will gross you out (like the food), some things will annoy you (like the spitting), and some things will be so strange you’ll just want to join in (like putting your feet in a fish tank).

Just remember that you’re in a foreign country and there are huge differences in the culture. I’ve written a massive guide on Chinese culture if you want to dig deeper into that.

What about a guidebook or phrasebook?

We’re not living in the year 1998 anymore.

As long as your phone is all charged up (don’t forget your international adapter) and you’ve got a VPN, you can use Google to look up things and translate.

What about clothing?

Pack what you would normally pack for the season and weather you’re expecting. Comfortable walking shoes are the most important thing.

Please refer to my ultimate packing list for China for lots of details and checklists. It’s perfect for those who like to be super-organized!

Where to from here?

If you want more helpful advice for your trip to China, I recommend reading these articles:

If you have any questions at all, please ask me below. I enjoy answering them.

Have an amazing trip!

I hope you liked my article on what to bring to China. Now, take a read of what not to bring to China!

Main image credit: Paralaxis on Shutterstock.

FAQ about what to bring to China

Should I bring chocolate to China?

Bring your own if you’re fussy as the range in Chinese convenience stores isn’t great. But you will find Hershey’s and Snickers everywhere.

Should I bring cash into China?

Definitely bring a little cash as it makes things easier at the start while you settle in. The maximum is RMB20,000 or any foreign currency equivalent to US$5,000.

Should I bring foreign currency into China?

You can (limit US$5,000) but it’s easier to bring Chinese yuan (RMB) as that’s what is accepted everywhere.

Should I bring a camera to China?

Unless you need to take professional photos in China, just use your phone or bring a cheap digital camera to save you the worry.

Can I bring alcohol to China?

You can bring 1.5 L of alcohol without incurring customs duty. If you like strong liquor, wait until you arrive in China where the local baijiu is cheap.

Can I bring a bible to China?

You can bring a personal bible, just don’t bring a whole bagful or spruik your religion.