Photo by bobby hendry on Unsplash
SRS China Packing Guide
Thinking about what you will need to live abroad for a semester or year can be daunting, especially if you have never visited the place where you will be living. No need to fear! This packing guide will help you know what are the essentials, and what you can leave behind.
News flash! (At least for me it was!) Xi’an has seasons. It will be hot. It will be cold. And then there are about two weeks of spring and two weeks of fall which are just about perfect!
Summer wear: Bermudas, capris, jeans, pants, skirts, and summer dresses are all fine. As far as tops, t-shirts are great. Thick-strapped tank-tops are okay, especially for sports. Bring a light coat because it does rain in the summer. You can buy your umbrella here for cheap. You can re-wear clothes for a couple days here before washing them, which cuts down on how many you need to pack.
Avoid choosing clothes that have low necklines, show midriff, or shorts that are too short. China’s traditional culture generally doesn’t approve of immodest clothing, and people may categorize you in a way you don’t want to be categorized. No one wants to be that foreigner…
Leave the bikini at home. If you have a chance to swim, girls in China wear one-piece suits. Boardshorts are okay for guys. Don’t forget a hat and sunglasses!
Footwear: People walk or bicycle a lot, so comfortable walking shoes are important. You may also want to bring some sturdy sandals.
Winter Wear: As a native San Diegan, winter just meant I changed from flip-flops to converse for a month or two. My first winter in Xi’an was an eye-opening experience.
It starts getting cold at the beginning of November. In China, coal heating starts November 15. Since houses are made of concrete with little insulation, it can get pretty chilly inside before the heat turns on.
Layering is key. You’ll need long-underwear, thick socks, some flannel or fleece, a warm hat, gloves, and a good outer coat. It is possible to buy a high-quality down outer coat for about $60–80. Boots and other things that take up a lot of space can also be bought here, but if you wear a large shoe size, it can sometimes be hard to find a good fit.
Footwear: You can survive with regular shoes as long as you have warm socks. Winter boots are a blessing though!
2. Hygiene/Health Needs
Shampoos, conditioners, soaps, shaving creams, etc. can all be purchased here, so save space in your luggage. However, I do recommend bringing deodorant and razors from the States. As for feminine hygiene products, pads are available everywhere, but tampons are not, so bring what you need. Life hack: vacuum seal tampons in bags to save luggage space.
You’ll definitely want to bring some sunscreen and insect repellant (mosquitoes mostly). Sunscreens here contain whitening creams, so just stick a bottle in your checked bag.
Bring any prescriptions that you need from the States. It would be good to have a mini medicine cabinet with your preferred ways of dealing with: headaches, diarrhea, gas, common cold, insect bites, sunburns, minor cuts/scrapes. You can get most western medicines at the hospital, but that’s a unique cultural experience that you may wish to avoid.
Bring your laptop and a mainland China adapter. A USB drive would also be very helpful. Bring things that you like to do with people. For example, a frisbee, a (deflated) football, games, cards, etc. These can help you make meaningful friendships.
Small trinkets or postcards from your university or hometown are great to give as gifts to your friends when you leave. You’re allowed to bring a Bible. If you are not a US citizen, don’t forget to bring your green card. Bring a refillable water bottle that can be filled with hot or cold liquids.
Many western snack foods and drinks can be purchased here (for a marked-up price). You might consider bringing your favorite granola bar or something. It can be nice for a day when you’re really just craving something from home or aren’t feeling well. I like to bring those McCormick seasoning packets to make fettuccini or tacos. They’re like 99 cents at Walmart and worth every penny!
4. Don’t bring
Things here tend to get dirty, lost, or stolen, so plan accordingly. Lots of times, people buy a lot of souvenirs here and end up leaving behind some of their old stuff. It’s best to pack light. Cell phones, computers, and small electronics can be charged here without a problem (though 3 pronged computer plugs will need an adapter), but hair-dryers and high-voltage electronics won’t work here.
You can google items that are banned from being carried into China. Aside from those, I would also recommend not bringing the baby blanket granny knit for you before you were born or anything that has deep sentimental value. If you just can’t sleep without granny’s blanket, then at least bring it in your carry on and not your checked bag. 😉
In List Form
- Shorts (knee length or close to that)
- Socks and underwear
- Long pants or jeans
- A sweatshirt
- A light rain jacket
- Closed-toed comfortable walking shoes
- Modest swimsuit
- Sun hat
- Long underwear
- Fleece or flannel shirt for layering
- Warm hat
- Outer coat
- Toothbrush and floss
- Insect Repellant
- Feminine hygiene products
- Any prescription medications you take
- A first-aid kit with basic health supplies (see above)
- Refillable water bottle
- Laptop and charger
- Mainland China adapter
- Mobile phone (preferably unlocked) and charger
- Frisbees, games, etc.
- Musical instruments (optional— take at your own risk!)
- Small gifts to give to your local friends
- Green card (if applicable)/Student ID/Health insurance card/Bank card