There are some things you might not have thought before you coming to China. Check the following things to prepare for your China trip.
1. Stock up on deodorants with antiperspirant and sunscreen
Up until quite recently, deodorant was pretty much impossible to find in China. Today, some shops stock the liquid roll-on kind, but this tends to be ineffective in the sweltering summer heats. Before you come, be sure to pack extra deodorant sticks (the rub-on kind) to keep yourself smelling fresh.
Another bathroom cabinet essential: sunscreen. In China, sunscreen is difficult to find, and when it’s available, it’s sold in tiny little bottles and often has some sort of “whitening” formula. You’d think that sunscreen would be more available in a country where advertisements for skin-whitening cosmetics are plastered everywhere!
2. Pack American/foreign cigarettes
Everybody loves a good cigarette here and there, and no place other than China, which produces over 42% of the world’s tobacco, and where over 25% of males love a good smoke. But between 1997 and 2009, the production of counterfeit cigarettes in China jumped eightfold to a staggering 400 billion cigarettes a year! If you don’t mind fake cigarettes, that’s fine. But we know a fake Camel when we taste one.
We recommend buying cartons of American cigarettes to enjoy on your own, or to give as gifts and build some guanxi with the cigarette-loving populace. Make sure you’re familiar with the customs for bringing in cigarettes, though! (http://www.travelchinaguide.com/essential/customs.htm)
3. VPN to access your favorite sites
Not only are Facebook, Twitter, and many news sites blocked, but Gmail and other ubiquitous services like Dropbox are also blocked, dealing a huge blow both to your productivity AND your entertainment. That’s why we recommend investing in a good VPN service before you come to China.
A VPN will help you unblock all the services that are filtered by the government. As a bonus: a VPN can also help you access geoblocked content. Watch Netflix, stream sports online, as if you were in your home country. We like ExpressVPN because it has tons of Asian server locations (Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand) in addition to its global offerings. Pro tip: get set up before you come to China as many VPN sites are blocked in China!
4. Practice Squatting
In most big cities, Western-style toilets are becoming the norm in major shopping areas or tourist areas. But if you find yourself in a Hutong or a tourist site with only squat toilets, you’d better be prepared!
In fact, if there were such thing as the World Squatting Championships, China would win hands down. Chinese people squat while waiting for the bus, eating meat skewers by the roadside, playing with their cell phones.
Join the locals in enjoying squatting as a past-time and practice this centuries-old art before you come here! Once you’ve mastered the technique, you’ll feel confident enough to read the news or play a game of Angry Birds while hovering over the can.
Another tip: many public toilets don’t have toilet paper, so it’s a good idea to always have a pack of tissues on your person.
5. Do you have big feet? Bring shoes!
“You can always buy whatever you need at your destination” is an oft-repeated travel advice on forums and from expert travelers. But mark our words: this advice does NOT apply to people with big feet.
If you have big feet, then make sure you pack shoes for every occasion (dress, casual, running, hiking), as they will be very difficult to find in China. While larger sizes are easier to find than in years past, there are no guarantees.