In order to conserve space, it might be convenient to converse with your roommate before departure and plan to share common items. For instance, one student may pack a hairdryer and the other shampoo and soap. The tour buses you will be taking might be smaller than charter buses common in America so the less luggage the better, not to mention you want space to bring back all those souvenirs!
Luggage for international flights is limited originating from the states is limited to 50 lbs/bag and is usually limited to two bags. However, international flights originating outside of the U.S. limit bag weight to 44 lbs/bag (this includes China Eastern). Keep this in mind when packing to avoid extra baggage fees.
AIFS will need to store baggage for the group during portions of the trip. They will not take baggage that is not locked so be sure to purchase a bag lock (must fit through both zipper heads) if your luggage does not already have one.
Souvenirs accumulate quickly so it might be beneficial to pack an empty bag. Just pack it in with the rest of your suitcase on the trip over and as you buy things you can pack them in the empty bag.
- Band aids- for blisters or any other slight cuts or scrapes
- Pain reliever- for any sore muscles or back/head aches from those long travel days
- Anti-diarrheal caplets- the food will be different and some stomachs take a day or two to adjust
- Sun screen- you’ll be out in the sun for periods of time while sightseeing
- Bug Spray- mosquitoes might be thick at the Hongyashan reservoir, but you shouldn’t need too much for the rest of the trip
- Asthma medication- some cities in China have smog and air pollution (especially Taian), bring appropriate medications or inhalers if you feel this will be an issue
What to Pack
- Layers- The climate is similar to Lubbock so it is likely to be cool in the morning and evenings and warm during the day. Light layers that you can stuff in backpacks or tie around your waist are nice to have on hand.
- Jackets- A heavy coat probably will not be required, however a fleece or windbreaker will be convenient for your river cruise in Shanghai.
- Shorts- Many countries frown upon shorts but we had no problem wearing them to sightsee, just be mindful the length is not offensive
- Pants- One pair of jeans and one pair of khaki/dress pants would be a good idea for any shows/dinners you may attend; or girls a dress or skirt would work as well.
- Shirts- T-shirts and other comfortable tops are fine for most days
- Hat/Sunglasses- good for bad hair days and keeping cool
- Comfortable shoes- walking tours are common
- Camera- be sure to have plenty of memory/film
- Chargers/batteries- China uses 220V 50 Hz voltage and plugs that accept Type A, common Type 1, and some Type C plugs; a plug converter might be beneficial if batteries are not an option
- Laptop Computer- based on personal preference, it is something else to keep up with and may potentially get damaged, but is handy to download your pictures and pass time in airports and on bus rides
- Calling Cards- you are able to use calling cards, however some hotels will still charge for phone use per minute; another option is an international cell phone or internet calls (SKYPE is an excellent program for this)
A couple more things
Keep in mind you might not want to carry enough clothes for 15 days with you. Most hotels will have dry cleaning/laundry services and you can always wash things in the sink.
Some accommodations will offer irons, but it is always a good idea to pack items that don’t wrinkle easily as you will often be staying in hotels for one night at a time.
Like in the states, hotels often have available towels, shampoo, soap, and many time toothbrushes and toothpaste. Bring some travel size portions of these items for backup along with any other items you can’t live without (i.e. shaving cream, face cleanser, contact solution, etc.) You’ll need a small amount of clothes soap as well (if you plan on rinsing things in the tub or sink).
You will be served authentic Chinese food while on your trip. Most of the food in China is freshly made that day as refrigeration and other storage techniques are too expensive. You can expect fresh fruit (cherries, watermelon, tomatoes), eggs, cucumbers, rice, soups, poultry, and fish (beef is not common and when served is often salted). Tea and beer are the usual beverages and milk is served steamed and is a luxury (again as refrigeration is uncommon). Be expecting most liquids to be warm and your glasses to be considerably smaller. There will be American fast food chains such as KFC and McDonalds at various points along the way, but if you are concerned about adjusting to the cuisine feel free to bring snacks. Oatmeal packets are convenient as hot water or water boiling devices are often found in hotel rooms. Granola bars, beef jerky, tuna packets, and peanut butter crackers are also good options. Remember you will be lugging your suitcase around with you so be aware of things that might crush or melt.
There will be ATM’s at airports, some hotels, and in most cities you will visit. It is recommended that you withdraw money you feel you will need for a few days at the airport when arriving in Shanghai. This way you will avoid conversion fees that money counters charge and you will always get the current conversion rate. Before departing, it may be a good idea to call and notify your bank that you will be leaving the country so your debit/ATM card can be activated for international transfers. However, be prepared for ATM’s in smaller rural areas (especially on you tour of the Hexi corridor) that are not linked internationally and thus may not allow you to withdraw funds. Larger stores such as the pearl/jade markets and Wangfujing Street in Beijing will accept major credit cards, but it is better to deal in Chinese currency when bargaining with street merchants and at the Yu Yuan Garden market in Shanghai. You may convert money at the PEK airport in Beijing to the USD, but you must have your last ATM receipt in order to exchange funds!
It is a good idea to keep smaller bills separate from larger bills either in separate pockets or in a small coin purse. This enables you to remove approximately the correct amount of money when paying without exposing larger bills. A coin purse is convenient because you will accumulate a lot of coin currency along the way and it helps keep them all in one place. Another precautionary measure is to make a copy of the credit cards and debit/ATM cards you are planning to use and leave the copies with a responsible individual at home; if something is lost or stolen it will be faster and more efficient to contact the respective company from the States.
Your passport is very important to keep close at hand along your journey. American passports bring a high price on the black market and you must have one to enter/exit the country. It is recommended to purchase a bag that fits under clothing either around your neck or under your waistband that has zipper pockets to hold your passports, credit cards, debit/ATM cards, and other important items. Also make two copies of your passport and give one to your roommate and one to Dr. Hopper. This will help with identification should something happen to you or your passport.