China is a shopper’s paradise in terms of cheap pricing overall, but some basic necessities that you use back home may be unnecessarily expensive or impossible to find in the Middle Kingdom. If you’re on your way to China in the near future, don’t forget these items:
1. First aid
Pack prescriptions and basic medicine such as aspirin, stomach medicine, anti-histamines, vitamins and other over-the-counter remedies. There are lots of pharmacies in China but almost none of them carry products in English or have staff who speak English. Stores like Watsons might have some vitamins and other imported items, but they’ll be super expensive.
2. Contact lenses, solution and extra eyeglasses
You should be able to find these items in China eventually, but the product details may be unreadable in Chinese and you don’t want to take any chances of damaging the window to your soul.
3. Hair products, antiperspirant, and sunscreen
International brands use different formulas in different countries based on that nation’s hair and skin needs. Most skin products in China will contain some type of whitening cream and other chemicals. It is quite difficult to find natural and organic skin products at a reasonable price so pack in advance.
Most Chinese don’t wear antiperspirant so it’s not sold everywhere. You’ll be able to find it but it won’t be as cheap as it was back home. Sunscreen is essential as you’ll be outside quite a bit in China since you won’t be driving everywhere like you did back home. However, you won’t need to bring sunscreen if you plan to protect yourself the way Chinese women do: with a parasol and facekinis.
4. Application Photos
If you’re planning on staying in China for a longer timeframe, bring up to 20 two-inch photos with a white background of yourself which you’ll need for renewing visas, starting a new job, medical checks, etc.
Larger shoe sizes over 38 (US 8) are hard to find in China. Be kind to your giant foreign elephant feet and bring enough comfortable shoes with you.
Bring one or two adapters for all of your electronics. If you buy an all-in-one world travel adapter that works in any country, you’ll save yourself a lot of hassle for future travel. If you forget to pack it, the Beijing and Shanghai airports sell them for around 120rmb ($US 20).
7. Pocket tissues.
Most public bathrooms in China do not stock toilet paper. Bring your own tissues whenever you leave the house to be on the safe side. Of course, you can buy tissues in China; however, some people with delicate noses and other areas find that Chinese tissue paper is not as soft as it is back home.
If you are bigger than a US size 6 (EU 38, UK 10), you might consider bringing plenty of clothing as you’ll have a tough time finding larger clothes of good quality and fit. For the ladies, long nylons are especially difficult to find. Most nylons in China seem to be made for those who are shorter than 165cm.
In order to access Facebook, Twitter, Google, Hulu and a whole host of other foreign websites, buy a VPN for $5 a month. There are many to choose from such as Witopia or AceVPN. Set this up before you leave home as these two websites are (not surprisingly) blocked in China.
10. Your favorite snacks
Cereal, gummy bears, pancake mix, chocolate and many other foods you love can be found in most large Chinese cities at stores such as Carrefour or Jenny Lou’s, but you will spend a small fortune on them. Bring a few of your favorites in order to help satiate feelings of being homesick without breaking the bank.
11. Diploma, passport, visa and other official documents
Some jobs and certain types of China visa renewals will require your original university diploma. Check ahead of time if you really need to bring this valuable document or not.
Bring at least USD$500 in cash just in case you have any trouble transferring over money from your home country to your new China bank or it takes your company longer than expected to pay you your first paycheck or internship stipend. Exchange the money into RMB at your local or Chinese bank, not in the airport, to save on fees.
If you have the above twelve items upon landing, your stay in China will be much easier. Also make sure you have international health insurance and that you have recently been to the dentist so that you don’t need to bother going in China. Now get packing and enjoy your time in China!
If you have questions about additional items to pack for your Gi2C internship in Beijing or Shanghai, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.