I struggled to pack for China, constantly rearranging piles of “Yes,” “No,” and “Maybe” clothing, shoes, toiletries, and miscellaneous items that I was convinced could come in handy. But now that I have gone through the complete agony of boiling down all of my worldly possessions to the items I thought I would need over the course of my fourteen weeks here in Chengdu, there is no reason for you to have to endure the same torture. This is why I decided to comprise a list of what to pack and what to leave behind (you’re welcome). A couple of weeks ago I posted a blog detailing what should accompany you on your journey, while this installment includes what ought to stay back home in the U.S. Like my last list, this post is focused on the odd/unusual/easy to forget items, as opposed to the obvious (don’t pack your X-Box or other gaming devices and leave your skateboard at home – unless of course you cannot live without it and do not trust Chinese skateboards to get the job done/you cannot ride a bike). It should be noted that these lists are based on studying in Chengdu during the spring semester and that I identify as a female, so these lists are bound to differ for males, or anyone choosing to study here during the fall. Nonetheless, anyone traveling here for an extended period of time should be aware that contrary to what all of the “top” travel guides will warn you, many foreign products ARE available here. So, without further ado…
Leave it Behind
- Shampoo and Conditioner: Unless you use fragrance-free or salon-brand hair products, you do not need to lug them to China, taking up much-needed, precious space in your luggage. They sell all the same brands here and they cost almost the exact same price. Same goes for body wash and a loofa. Razors on the other hand, are more expensive than they are back home.
- Toilet paper: No matter how many blogs you read, books you peruse, and horror stories you hear, China does sell toilet paper. And it’s cheap. Perhaps it isn’t the 2 ply Charmin or Angel Soft you’ve grown accustom to in the U.S., but it’ll get the job done, I promise.
- Toothpaste: A super-sized tube of Colgate toothpaste cost me approximately $1.50 the other day, so there is no need to bring more than a travel size tube with you to China.
- Button Up Shirts: For boys who wear a size small or medium in America, you do not need to pack more than one or two button up shirts because they are incredibly affordable here. I’m talking $8-30 for a quality collared shirt!
- A Winter Jacket: It was only cold the first 1-3 weeks while we were in Chengdu this spring semester, so packing a jacket would be excessive. Plus, a nice men’s puff coat runs approximately 150 RMB ($25 USD), so if you aren’t worried about fitting into Chinese sizes, there is no need to pack a warm jacket. But definitely bring multiple light jackets (rain jacket, jean jacket, sweater etc.)
- Boots: Again, it wasn’t cold for very long here, so packing UGGS or similar winter boots would be unnecessary. That said, combat boots will come in handy (plus they are trendy here).
- T-Shirts: For females who generally wear a size extra small-medium in the U.S., you will find an abundance of cute and extremely affordable shirts here in China. You can purchase a cute t-shirt for $10-20 and a nice blouse for $20 or less in Sanfu or a number of other local chains (they also have a GAP and an H&M at the Raffle City mall, located 1 metro stop or a 15 minute walk from campus).
- Phone Chargers: Bring 1-2, but you can purchase iPhone 4 or 5/6 chargers in a multitude of colors for $3 at a local electronic store!
- Camera Tripod: If you are a serious phototgrapher and plan to get some good shots of the city, you need not worry about bringing a tripod because a middle level one costs 65 RMB (a little more than $10) and a really nice one costs 130 RMB (a little over $20). Those were purchased at Computer City, located across the street from Raffle City, 15 minutes from campus on foot.
- Reading Materials: Don’t get me wrong, you should bring along some nice reading if you generally read in your spare time, but there is no need to bring six novels. I made that mistake and am now regretting it because I am only here for one more month and I haven’t even completed one book!
- School Supplies/Notebooks: First off, most of your professors here will allow you to use your laptop to take notes. But for classes which require you to have a notebook (i.e. Chinese language), you can purchase one at any of the various stationary stores scattered around campus. A soft cover notebook with beautiful cover art will run you about 15 RMB ($2.50), whereas a nice leather bound journal will cost a mere 35 RMB (a little more than $5) at the same store. School supplies can also be purchased in such stores at extremely cheap prices (i.e. pens, pencils, highlighters, sticky notes, pencil cases, erasures, scissors, tape etc.)