I made a list of necessities for your bag when traveling in China because I know how it feels when the weird dish at lunch starts to move in your stomach and the angry sounds coming from your belly aren’t excited butterflies but something much less nicer. Also, China can be quite dirty and hot sometimes, so let’s look at my list of necessities for bringing if you want a nice and pain-free trip (can’t promise anything, but hope it’ll all work out with these things in your bag).
No toilet paper on most public toilets in China (Sometimes in Beijing, Shanghai etc.). Sometimes doors are missing as well. The smaller towns also don’t have walls between the holes in the ground. Basically, the restrooms are an experience. Also, remember to always bring extra for your feet if you’re wearing sandals and you’re just as bad as me with the whole squat-thing.
2. Bring cash
Foreign credit cards can mostly only be used in big foreign fashion shops and big Chinese banks’ ATM machines. You don’t want to get stuck at a street vendor’s bike-shop on the corner buying all his watermelons when realizing that you don’t have any cash and the nearest five ATMs are only for Chinese credit cards. This happens quite a lot if you aren’t in the big cities. The best tip is to look out for Bank of China or get a Chinese credit card. It’s free, but I warn you, the challenge of getting through all the required documents can make anyone depressed.
3. Pleco dictionary on your phone
This dictionary just seems to save my ass every time I’m in an awkward situation not being able to explain my needs. You’ll love it as much as me, especially because if the Chinese can’t understand your accent, you can just press the speaker besides the Chinese word in the dictionary and it’ll say it correctly and all your troubles are gone just like that, great right?).
All train tickets can only be purchased with a valid passport so remember to bring it even if you’re not flying the country. If you’ve forgotten your passport anyway, long-distance bus tickets don’t need it so you can always jump of one of those if you’re stuck.
5. Antibacterial hand gel
The Chinese bathrooms are usually smelly and not very clean. If you are lucky that it’s a clean place, it probably still doesn’t have soap at the sink. Just saying, bring some antigel if you want to feel a bit clean after such a visit.
6. Your address
If you’re new in the city, always bring your address written in Chinese characters. You’ll usually bump into taxi drivers who can’t speak or read a word in English or letters at all (I’ve actually never met a Chinese taxi driver who was able to speak English, even in the international cities of China, btw, I don’t count Hong Kong in this experience, haven’t been around there much). Anyway, with your address you can always get into a taxi and drive home if you’re lost somewhere in town.
Maybe it’s just a personal preference, but I think traveling is a sweaty activity, and I don’t know about you but I can’t stand the smell of sweat unless I’m at the gym, so during hot summer months on the road wearing the same clothes for the fifth day in a row, it’s pretty nice to bring one of those small perfumes you can have in your handbag.
8. Lip balm
If you’re traveling during the cold winter in Northern China, it’s preferable to bring lip balm because the weather at this time is extremely dry for months. You never know when you meet a handsome hottie somewhere right? Always be prepared 😀
My list is made on the basis of my experiences around China. Of course, in the big cities as Beijing and Shanghai, there should be greater chance to bump into soap in the bathroom or a young person who speaks a bit of English but for the rest of the country, it can be really tricky sometimes. I have been in many of these experiences which is why I hope this can help you when you’re going to China for the first time so you won’t run into too much trouble.
Anyway, did I miss anything on my list? If you have any suggestions for an expansion of this list, please comment below 🙂