Travelling to a country so far and so different from home can be quite a shock to the system, no matter how prepared you think you are! China is like a whole other world compared to England, filled with exquisite food, magical places and thrilling experiences – but it’s definitely worth doing your homework before you hop on that (long-ass) flight. If you’re just visiting for a week or two, here is a quick run downs of the ultimate best haves for your trip.
Things to take with you:
First and foremost, of course, is your visa. You won’t get very far without one of these bad boys plastered in your passport. The visa process takes around a week to complete (four working days for standard service, or three if you pay for express service), and costs between £150 and £200, depending which service you pick. Chances are, you will just need to apply for a tourist “L” visa with a single entry, unless you are planning on leaving and re-entering at any point to visit another nearby country.
China has the majority of our favourite social network sites blocked, so if you’re wanting to Google anything, update your status, Tweet about your adventures, post that awesome holiday selfie or check your emails, you’re going to wanna download a VPN on your phone before you head out there. I would advise doing your own research on VPNs just before you travel as the free ones come and go as they get shut down by the government, and I would also suggest download a couple just in case the one you put all your trust in fails you as soon as you arrive in China (which is what initially happened to me!).
Depending where you go in China, be prepared for s l o w internet on top of all the blocked sites. If you’re in a major city, there’s plenty of free Wifi around in coffee shops, restaurants and shopping malls, so you can hook up to one of those when you’re out and about without roaming data, but nothing beats a trusty guide book. When my best friend and I were in Beijing, some of the best restaurants we went to were thanks to my guide book, and they always have handy road maps, subway maps and some useful phrases which can end up being an absolute life saver. Sure, some places we tried to find didn’t actually exist anymore, but it was still fun exploring the streets. Apart from the Beijing book, I found all of these books in charity shops for less than £2 each. They are not the most recent editions, by any means, but y’know, I’m pretty sure the Great Wall hasn’t moved since my 2008 edition was published!
Don’t make the same mistake that I did and think you’ll be fine without it. You won’t. If you’re visiting during any of the warmer months, just take a bottle with you. I’ve been home a month at the time of writing this and the bites on my legs only completely faded about a week ago. If you only use one thing from this post, please let it be this. Just trust me and take bug spray, please.
Many parts of China experience semi-tropical rainfall (and let me tell you, it really is something else) and parts of the East coast experience summer typhoons, so definitely take a decent raincoat with you. If you’re going during the summer, get a super light weight type one because otherwise you’ll end up dripping in sweat instead of rain.
Talking of summer, it may rain a lot but it’s always insanely hot. The past few weeks Shanghai, for example, has been experiencing temperatures in the 40s. Now, you can very easily buy sunscreen out there, so taking your own sunscreen is mostly advise I am directing towards anyone who is anything like me, aka a pasty white girl who burns just thinking about the sun. I saw suncreams in stores up to around factor 30, but as an avid factor 50+ wearing, it’s just safer to be prepared!
Tampons seem to be much less of a thing in China, as with other Asian countries, so if they are your sanitary product of choice and you’re going to be in need during your stay, remember to take a supply with you! Most convenience stores stock pads, although you may not find recognisable brands. In the major cities, there probably are places where you can purchase tampons, but it’s better to be safe than sorry!
Things to buy when you get there:
There are plenty of things which you can pick up sooo much cheaper in China than in the UK – just remember your baggage allowance for the flight back! Korean beauty and skincare products are huge at the moment, and many Korean stores have branches in China, so if you’re looking for sheet masks or any other magical lotions and potions, pick them up whilst you’re there and save on crazy postage fees! Look for Nature Republic, Etude House, Innisfree or Mamonde for all your skincare and make up needs (and for giant EXO cut outs… I mean, what?).
Also accessories like sunglasses, umbrellas and flip flops can be purchases super cheap, so you can be covered for pretty much any weather!
Any essentials I’ve missed off my list? What are you other travel must haves? Let me know in the comments below!
All photographs used in this post were taken by myself and all rights are my own.