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China Travel: Packing List Essentials And Travel Tips

By Edited Dec 28, 2015 4 8

So You're Heading To China?

If your planning on traveling to China for a vacation, business trip or even a long term stay, more than anything else, you will need to be prepared. Traveling to China is not like heading to other countries in the world. It is extremely different in just about every way, you can't even begin to imagine. Until you actually experience it for yourself, it's difficult to get a grasp on what kinds of things you are likely to encounter, but I can assure you, everyday that you stay in China, will certainly see you faced with a challenge or obstacle to "get over", be it physical or mental.

Peoples habits and customs, the transportation, the weather, the air, the water, the public facilities, the crowds, the language etc... the list is a long one. It's all these things and more that make China a challenging place to visit. But it's these difficulties combined with the wonders of China, that will certainly ensure that you have an adventure of a lifetime. It seems that China is a place that people often love with a passion or hate with every ounce of their being but if you embrace every moment, it will quite likely change you forever.

China Globe
If you want to see exactly what kind of adventures you can expect, I recommend you pick up a copy of "CHINA Survival Guide". Full of all the information you need to see about exactly what you are getting yourself into and the survival skills you will need to handle all situations that come your way.


Food Glorious Food

If you're not the kind of person who adapts to different situations easily, you're probably going to find visiting China a little tough. You're going to have to constantly remind yourself of these two "p" words... persistence and patience. You will need an abundance of both.

One thing's for sure, when visiting "The Middle Kingdom", you will get to try some of the most delicious, authentic Chinese cuisine, like nothing you've ever tasted before. We're not talking your local takeaway up the road kind of Chinese food, the Chinese restaurant in my hometown in Australia is very good but it tastes nothing at all like the food you will find in China. Different regions have different local cuisine, so it depends on which part of China you will be visiting, as to which tasty food you will get to try. 


Travel Tip : If you find yourself in a region of China that has a passion for spicy food like Sichuan (Szechuan) - home of the Panda's. Take some yoghurt to the meal with you, it's great for putting out the fire in your mouth. I have also found that jam is even more effective for stopping a burning mouth, throat and stomach, but you may have a little more difficulty tracking that down to carry around with you.

Unfortunately ordering food in China can be a big ordeal. The names of Chinese dishes have absolutely nothing to do with what they actually are. It can turn into a bit of a guessing game as to what the dish is, that has turned up on your table. "Chopsticks Culture : Your Photo Guide To Exploring Chinese Cuisine" for kindle, can assist you in what the dish is and exactly how to order it.

China Survival Guide

Chopsticks Culture: Your Photo Guide to Exploring Chinese Cuisine
Amazon Price: Buy Now
(price as of Dec 28, 2015)
Have a look to see exactly what you're about to put in your mouth, then again maybe you don't want to know!

Dining Setbacks

Lets look at one common situation that occurs when it comes to eating. You sit down for that huge, mouth-watering Chinese banquet that lays before you... but you're not exactly a Mr Miagi when it comes to using chopsticks. In many places they don't have knives, forks and spoons and if your stay is for a reasonable time frame...well...you're going to starve. Did you know that even Chinese people get cramp in their hands from using chopsticks. A big part of the China experience is eating the local food in the local fashion, armed with your chopsticks... but if you're not exactly used to the art of eating with two sticks, I highly recommend you carry around a small portable spoon and fork set. You're not going to need the knife because they don't eat big pieces of steak and meat (that is unless you go to a western style restaurant and in that case they will have a full set of cutlery for your use). If you're visiting China, you're not going to spend too much time eating western food though... are you?

Travel Tip : If you're a guest for dinner in China, don't completely empty your bowl. If you do empty your bowl it is quite rude. To the host it means that they haven't fed you enough. So no matter how delicious...don't do it. It has to be said though, getting a chance to empty your bowl would be a fine thing. There always seems to be a host sitting close by and when you are not looking, they will keep adding more and more food back into your bowl, making sure you eat your fill.

Portable Spoon,Fork and Knife set

Zelco Mangia 3 Piece Set
Amazon Price: $16.50 Buy Now
(price as of Dec 28, 2015)
Fantastic looking travel spoon, knife and fork set. Perfect to carry around for emergency "need food" situations!

When You've Gotta Go


After you've enjoyed eating the amazing Chinese Cuisine and sampling  Pijiu (beer) or the Baijiu (white Chinese spirit) *warning - Baijiu is not for the faint hearted or casual drinkers among us) chances are you will be looking for a place to relieve your somewhat bloated stomach. 

Finding countless numbers of horrific "Chinese Toilet" stories online is really not  difficult. This country has a history of squat toilets, and whilst nowadays it has become more common to find western "sit on toilets" around China with more ease, it could well be that you really are not going to want to use them. When you see that the chinese people have still used them like a squat(drop toilet)... but kindly let you know by leaving their footprints all over the seat, you may just prefer to use the more common squat toilet facilities.

Disposable portable toilet bags for whatever business you may need to do sound like a brilliant idea, however, because they have some water absorbing crystals in them, I'm not too sure about how customs friendly they may be when you have to go through the airport, however, for the girls I found the reusable "Lady Elegance P EZ Female Urinal". I think is something that will make your stay in China, much more pleasant. 

Travel Tip : Nothing will prepare you for country toilets. It really is a good idea if at all possible, to find an alternative. Whether you are in the city or the countryside, always carry a small pack of tissues with you as most toilets in China do not supply toilet paper.

Jobar International - P Ez Travel Urinal For Women, Spill Proof & Reusable
Amazon Price: $360.00 $3.20 Buy Now
(price as of Dec 28, 2015)
TravelJohn-Disposable Urinal (6 pack)
Amazon Price: $12.40 Buy Now
(price as of Dec 28, 2015)

Keeping In Touch

Chinese woman

If you want to cut out global roaming costs on your mobile or smart phone, you will need to buy a Chinese SIM card to put into it. This is not a difficult process, and you can go into one of the Chinese providers such as China Mobile or China Unicom to set it all up. My parents were recently here for one month. We picked up a SIM including 100 MB of data for a smart phone for the price of 150 rmb , that's around $25 AU.

What you don't want to do is lose your original sim or memory cards, it's really easy for this to happen. I'm a frequent traveller and I'm always misplacing my sim card in the process of changing from one country to the other. You put them in your wallet and the get damaged, you put them in your carry on luggage and they get lost. They easily get misplaced or destroyed, so I recommend keeping them safe and sound in a SIM card wallet.

Travel Tip : For purchasing a SIM card in China you will need your passport with you.

Memory Card Carrying Case - Black (Generic)
Amazon Price: $1.80 Buy Now
(price as of Dec 28, 2015)
Don't lose your Sim or memory cards when you swap to a Chinese sim card for your holiday. Keep them safely stored in this awesome little carry case.

Portable Power

Still on the subject of phones. Our smart phones have become an extremely useful travel companion. We can download all kinds of wonderful travel apps, language apps, maps, book hotels etc ...the problem is that when we are on the road traveling, we often find that the battery just won't go the distance. To make sure that you don't get stranded on the roadside keep your travel companion powered up and ready to keep on going, with a portable rechargeable external back up battery pack. Wonderful for long boring journeys when you want to get some gaming time in, listen to or read a book or relax and watch a movie.

What Was That You Said?

Chinese sight seeing

Last but definitely not least, we can't ignore the language barrier problem. China is not really the easiest of places to get around if you don't have any idea about the local language. There is not much in the way of good English signage, and you don't often meet many Chinese people who are willing to converse with you in English, so, you really need to get some Chinese language skills under your belt. There are many apps available for android and iPhone with regards to translating phrases and words. Chinese is one of the most difficult languages to directly translate into English, so I don't particularly recommend using any form of smart phone translator or electronic translator, at least not to rely purely on one anyway. I've mentioned Pimsleurs Mandarin Chinese before in another article of mine about China and I'll say it again. In my eyes it is by far the best course in spoken Chinese Mandarin that you can find. It won't teach you to read or write, but it will teach you to listen and speak. There are many modules available depending on how much you want to learn and how much you want to spend. If you are just planning a short holiday in China, I recommend not burning a hole in your wallet and going for "Pimsluer Quick and Simple Chinese" or the "Pimsluers Conversational Mandarin Chinese"

If you're planning on moving to China (for a job) or  really want to throw yourself into learning the language, buy the complete course you won't be dissapointed. I've found that you can get this on audible so if you've got kindle, you're all set. If you go with the audible kindle option you can bulk buy the course at around $130 per module (There are three modules) or you can buy each unit of about 5 lessons for around $5.00 each

I'm not affiliated in any way with Pimsluers technique, but I really can't recommend it highly enough.

Travel Tip : Make sure you download a good English to Chinese dictionary onto your smart phone. Most of them come with a speech mode, so if you really want to ask for something it becomes less of a hassle. I find they are much more reliable than the translating apps or machines. 

Mandarin Chinese: Learn to Speak and Understand Mandarin Chinese with Pimsleur Language Programs (Pimsleur Quick and Simple) (English and Mandarin Chinese Edition)
Amazon Price: $19.95 $11.23 Buy Now
(price as of Dec 28, 2015)
Great for as it says...Quick and Simple Mandarin Chinese. Make your holiday less stressful by learning the basics.
Pimsleur Chinese (Mandarin) Conversational Course - Level 1 Lessons 1-16 CD: Learn to Speak and Understand Mandarin Chinese with Pimsleur Language Programs
Amazon Price: $49.95 $17.00 Buy Now
(price as of Dec 28, 2015)
You can't go wrong with learning the Pimsleur way. It is the most effective technique for learning spoken Chinese and improving your listening skills.

The Final Word

China is an amazing country, full of interesting places, delicious food, ancient history and will be an experience that will fill you with many stories to recount to your friends and family. You will speak of your adventures, hardships, unbelievable moments, share your disgust, boast about your mandarin speaking skills and share the moments of pure wonder about everything that makes China, well...China.

Fenghuang boat


Mar 15, 2013 4:34am
i've been looking into going to china for a while and this is a great guide. Thanks!
Mar 15, 2013 4:56am
Thankyou very much for taking the time to read and comment, I really appreciate it. Good luck with your plans to come over to China!
Mar 15, 2013 11:35am
Nice article! It looks like you've covered all the most essential things to get started.
Mar 15, 2013 5:18pm
Hiya JestMe, thanks for dropping by and reading. Actually it's when I have visitors here to see me that I get to see the things they struggle with most. That's what I based the contents on.
Mar 17, 2013 8:26am
This is a good list of essentials - especially the cutlery set if you don't use chopsticks.
Mar 17, 2013 8:30am
Jade Dragon, the comment is timed perfectly as I sit here writing an article on the art of eating with chopsticks ;-) Thanks for reading and posting. I really appreciate it!
Apr 4, 2013 6:36pm
Sounds like you like living in china, different to here that's for sure, and you have given a good description for people thinking of traveling there. They will also be more prepared by taking their spoon and fork.
Apr 4, 2013 6:49pm
Hi eileen, yeah living in China has it's ups and downs. Spoon and Fork is definitely a good idea for the chopstick uninitiated...but in saying that it doesn't take long to pick up. Thanks for the comment :-)
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