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.
In my packing list below, you won’t find any links to Amazon products or unnecessary things like overpriced backpacks.
It’s just the essential stuff you need to make your trip to China a raging success.
And I hope you like all the little travel tips along the way (I’ve been to China a lot!).
1. Passport and visa
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.
Yu-what? Yuan is Chinese money. One yuan is like one dollar or one pound (though the conversion is much 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.
It’s also a good idea to be all cashed up for the first couple of 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.
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.
Trust me, life in China without WhatsApp, Google, Gmail, Google Maps, Instagram and Facebook (the list goes on) is horrible.
4. International power adapter
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.
So, make sure you pack an international travel power adapter. And don’t forget your own chargers!
5. Medication for both ends of your body
Chances are you’re going to feel a little queasy 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 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. 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. Travel insurance
Leading on from number 5, don’t arrive in China without adequate travel insurance.
The Chinese medical system is not the same as back home. Medical costs may be required upfront, and English may not be spoken in the hospital.
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
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.
You should also pack face masks. They’re needed at the airport for COVID-19 and high pollution days in China.
8. Hygienic stuff
You won’t find toilet tissues in public toilets in China, so bring a small stash.
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.
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.
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
This 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 lightweight travel clothes line (it has a hook on the ends).
10. Hotel address in Chinese characters
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 it 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
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.
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.
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 the 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.
You can refer to my ultimate packing list for China for lots of details and checklists. 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:
- Tips for your first trip to China – Fiona’s guide for newbies
- What not to do in China – I wrote this one to ensure you have a smooth trip
- Food you shouldn’t bring to China – the title says it all.
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.