I never enjoy packing for a trip overseas- there’s always the constant wonder of: “did I over-pack?”, or “am I forgetting something?” After overhearing some friends talking about the ‘must-have’ items for their trip here to Beijing, I thought it would be good to have a quick post highlighting some things that we were glad to bring over, or wished that we had stuck in our suitcase.
Starting off with keeping your health in check, it’s recommended that you bring a small bag of basic medications such as Aspirin, Tylenol, Pepto Bismol, Imodium, NyQuil/DayQuil, band-aids, and Neosporin. It is possible to get most of these drugs (or local forms of them) in Beijing, it’s best to have a small stash ready for when you need to use it. It’s no fun trying to run around Beijing looking for medication when you’re already feeling under the weather.
I want to say that it isn’t a huge issue regarding finding hygiene products here in Beijing, but then again, I’m a guy and I use pretty much anything that I can find, as long as it gets me clean. I have heard that specific western skin products and lotions aren’t available here though, so if you have specific dermatology needs, then it’d be best to bring your lotions from back home.
One thing that does need mentioning though, is that dental floss is somewhat hard to find in the local marts. So unless you are fortunate to have a BHG supermarket or Carrefour close by your apartment in Beijing, it could be hard to come by.
Another seemingly common item for westerners, that (unfortunately) isn’t commonly available here in Beijing are deodarants and anti-perspirants. It’s quite a pity that this isn’t a cultural norm here, since the summer heat brings out the worst odors in the crowded public transportation systems in Beijing.
It’s fine to pack light regarding clothing, since you can always pick up more attire here if needed; you just won’t find your usual Gap, Banana Republic, J. Crew, etc. stores here- though Beijing does have it’s Gap equivalent called Uniqlo.
The seasons to be aware of in Beijing are summer and winter. The summers are swelteringly hot and humid, so you’ll want to make sure to pack short and t-shirts; but the winters are frigidly cold, so you’ll want to make sure to pack one set of base layers, and outer layers. You can purchase thermal under-layers almost anywhere here, and if you’re not planning to be in Beijing for many winters, you can also pick up cheap knock-off winter gear at the fake markets (YaShow [雅秀 ya3xiu4] and Silk Street [秀水街 xiu4shui3jie1]) that will last you a year or so. However, if you’re going to need something to last you through several winters, it’s best to pick up a good jacket or outer-layer back at home, since many of the brand name stores here are marked up considerably.
Something that also needs mentioning, however, is that size labeling here doesn’t match up with size labeling in the US, so be sure to try on whatever you’re wanting to purchase. Also, US extra-large sizes and tall-and-long sizes aren’t easy to come by here either. Note that this also applies to large shoe sizes. You have been warned.
Electronics and Internet:
The general rule about electronics is: “all (name-brand) computers and electronics (MP3 payers, cameras, phones etc.) are marked up by at least $100USD [and smaller electronics, marked up by respective amounts]“, so purchase whatever electronics you need from home, though you can also head over to Hong Kong to make any electronics purchases as well if you’re already planning to make a trip there.
If you’re a Facebook and Twitter addict, and must have access to these social networks, getting set up with a VPN is the way to go- you can still purchase your VPN after you arrive in China, though it would be wise to start reading up on some of the services available. Three of the popular VPN services are: Strong VPN, WiTopia, and Invisible Browsing VPN.
Two books that I would recommend to help you hit the ground running when you arrive, are the Insider’s Guide to Beijing, and the Mandarin Phrasebook.
Also, get plugged in with other Beijing expats at: theBeijinger, Chinese-Forums, and City Weekend Beijing
That’s got most things covered. If you think that we’ve missed anything out, please do share with the rest of us in the comments!