Often being prepared and taking the right items with you can make the difference between an experience you would rather forget and an incredible holiday. Here are 10 items that I found to be indispensable for travel in China.
1 – Ebook reader
They take up very little room in your backpack, you can download books while on the road, carry a whole library with you AND swap books with fellow travellers. An ebook reader is one those unconditional must have live saving items for travel in China. Ideal for when you are stuck on a train for 30 plus hours from Beijing to Guangzhou, waiting for a plane at Shanghai’s Pudong airport or chilling out at one of Suzhou’s classical gardens.
If your ebook reader can use external batteries, take them. Try to have at least 10 hours of battery life.
If you don’t know Chinese and rely on sign language and pained facial gestures, you may end up with roast dog instead of pork dumplings or directions to the local police station when you desperately need a toilet. When you just need a few words of Chinese a Chinese dictionary is a life saver.
3 – Paper reading material
Ebook readers are great but there will be times when your batteries are flat or you are on a plane taking off/landing or in customs queue where electronics are not allowed. For these kind of situations, a tattered novel or magazine are great to have as a back up. Also good if your ebook reader has an unforseen accident and goes to digital heaven.
A travel nightmare is a night in a dorm or on a sleeper train when one of your companions keeps you awake and drives you insane with the most ear shattering snores. Instead of lying there fantasizing about smothering them with their drool soaked pillow, pull out a set of ear plugs, carefully insert them, roll over and sleep like an angel.
Also great when you have the misfortune of sitting next to a screaming infant on a long haul flight. Plug them in, pull a few faces at the squalling tot, smile at their suffering parents, sit back and enjoy the flight.
5 – Tissues
Most Chinse public toilets have no toilet paper. Yeah, I know, pretty horrible and something that glossy travel brochures and websites forget to mention. So how do avoid being caught with your pants down in a very awkward situation? ALWAYS take at least one pack of pocket tissues with you. They are also great for cleaning chopsticks and cups in less savoury restaurants, cleaning up accidents and for helping out with the screaming infant sitting next to you on that long haul flight.
A durable heat resistant water bottle will make your travel in China a lot more comfortable and minimize your dependence on environmentally unfriendly bottled water. All Chinese trains, train stations and airports and most hostels and hotels will have hot water dispensers where you can top up your trusty water bottle. A word of warning: never top up your bottle with tap water while in China. Always use boiled water.
7 – Money belt & zip lock bag
Losing your passport and cash in a foreign country a traveller’s night mare and when you travel in China using train stations, budget accommodation and eating at restaurants, a money belt is the only way to be safe and avoid this nightmare.
You will often need to wear your money belt under your clothing while sleeping, hiking and flying so make sure yours is comfortable. They are not water proof and my last passport was destroyed from water damage so keep your passport in a tough zip lock bag inside your money belt.
8 – Roll on insect repellent
Mosquitoes and other creepy crawlies can be annoying and gorgeous travel spots such as Hangzhou’s West Lake are home to swarms of them. A good insect repellent such as tropical strength Aeroguard will keep blood sucking parasites (the insect ones) at bay.
To avoid problems with airport security and hand luggage, make sure you take bottles with less than 100ml. 50ml bottles are ideal.
9 – Flip flops or Thongs
Ideal for showering in grungy shared hostel bathrooms, hanging out on one of Sanya’s glorious beaches and killing bugs in Hong Kong’s Chunking Mansion. Chinese are not big on using thongs in public so try to avoid wearing them off beaches or outside your hostel.
A pocket torch is ideal when you are trying to pack or unpack in the dark in a crowded dormitory late at night, on a train with the lights out or when you are staggering down one of Beijing’s dimly lit hutongs trying to find your hostel after a good night out.
What else would you pack with you for travel in China?