Travelling to China for work can be a pickle for first-time visitors. Not only do you have to observe the etiquette of Chinese business—from buying gifts to minimising hand gestures—you also have to prepare for the country’s quirks.
These quirks are often commonplace across outside cosmopolitan Shanghai and Beijing, and range from weather conditions to pollution and sanitation problems. The good news is you can pre-empt some of these with a comprehensive packing list.
Here are 8 items you must bring along on your business trip to China.
🔌 Travel adapter and power converter
Mainland China uses a variety of power plugs and sockets: types A, C and I.
Here, electricity runs on 220V and 50Hz, similar to what you might find in Europe and Australia. If the standard voltage in your home country is between 220-240V, devices like laptops, tablets, cell phones and cameras should not be an issue.
However, travellers hailing from America or Canada who are used to 100V-127V will need a voltage converter in China. This will also come in handy for female travellers who prefer to bring their own curling iron and hairdryer overseas.
As a general rule of thumb, always check the small print on your plug for compatibility.
🔋 Power bank
The simple act of using your phone in winter can be a real pain. Sometimes you have to remove your gloves and watch your fingers go numb while searching for directions. Other times, your battery mysteriously goes from 80 percent to zero in a matter of seconds.
Winter in China can be as drastic as -47.8°C in cities like Harbin, and the cold can drain your phone’s battery at an exponential rate. If you rely heavily on Google Translate and navigational apps like Baidu in China, a power bank will save you from being stranded.
Or, to prevent being out of juice entirely, you could keep your phone in a warm place, like a coat pocket with a heat pack in it.
🧥 Winter wear
The extreme weathers in China calls for a solid wardrobe of down jackets or coats with layers of thermal wear in it. If winter wear is expensive in your home country, you can do as the tourists do and buy them at wholesale prices in China.
When packing jumpers and bottoms, it’s also important to note that while many accommodation types are equipped with washing machines, dryers can be elusive. If you’re travelling for long enough to do laundry, remember to pack clothes made of quick-drying materials, like nylon and polyester, in place of cotton.
🧴 Moisturizing supplies
It goes without saying that your body dries out much more quickly in winter, leaving you with cracked lips and flaky complexion. If you have sensitive skin, you may even start experiencing itch.
To combat winter skin, always have lip balm and enough moisturizer for you to lather on generously every morning and night. This locks your skin’s natural moisture in, and keeps you looking fresh and feeling comfortable.
While you catch up on your beauty sleep, you can also combat dry air in hotel rooms. Keep the customary glass of water on your bedside table, but top it off with a nifty, travel-sized humidifier.
😷 Face mask
In any other wintry destination, a face mask may protect your nose and mouth from the blistering winds. But in China, it serves an additional purpose: to shield you from polluted air as you navigate traffic jams and construction sites. After all, it’s no news that China’s big cities are constantly shrouded in smog.
While you can easily get face masks for cheap off Taobao or streetside stores, those from pharmacies and drugstores will fare better against the 300-500 air quality index. The last thing you want is to fall ill on a work trip!
🧻 Sanitation toiletries
Public toilets in China come with a bad reputation. You’d be surprised that even in metropolitan cities, sanitation standards can be poor. On top of that, most of them don’t offer toilet paper, soap or hand towels.
While this doesn’t call for stuffing the hotel toilet paper into your handbag, you can certainly make nature calls more comfortable by carrying tissue papers, wet wipes and a small bottle of sanitizer at all times. Those unused wet towels from the Chinese restaurant earlier may just be a lifesaver.
The piping hot dumplings and succulent sausages are to die for, but even though your taste buds may approve of the street food and exotic delicacies in restaurants, they could spell trouble for weak stomachs. Bringing activated charcoal pills will allow you to indulge with peace of mind, though we’d still advise against eateries with dodgy hygiene standards.
Apart from charcoal pills, we also recommend bringing your preferred painkillers or allergy medications. Drugstores in China stock them, but they may not be familiar to your constitution.
For instance, under headache medication, Ibuprofen is more widely available than Acetaminophen. Reading and translating labels is the last thing you want to do when in distress.
In the big cities of China, construction is rife and public transport can be chaotic. If your hotel is near a building site or has poor sound insulation, earplugs (or noise cancelling earphones) will help you to sleep better.
When you’re on a long train ride from Shanghai to Suzhou, accompanied by screaming babies and commuters speaking at the top of their voices, these will also help you to catch some shut-eye. Snag a pair from the flight attendant en route to China!
Do your homework
China is a hotspot for business travel, but it’s a destination that requires extensive research, on top of the usual passport validity and visa requirements check.
For starters, arming yourself with a VPN before leaving is crucial to overcoming the great firewall of China. Apps like WeChat and Baidu are their equivalents of Facebook and Google Maps, and will help you get around the city with ease.
Much homework has to be done, but resources like this packing list will have you covered. Now off you go for a smooth and productive work trip (read: peking duck pilgrimage)!