When I travel around China I don’t travel light. And I’m not talking about the weight of my suitcase after days with tempting shopping opportunities. I am talking about the bag that always hangs on my shoulder when sightseeing and exploring sites and places. It might be heavy, but it’s worth it!
First of all it is filled with the obvious things: Wallet (or wristlet) with cash and credit card, a camera or two, mobile phone, a copy of my passport and visa and band-aid in case of blisters.
Then I have the following check-list:
1.5 packets of Kleenex
You will never regret having enough paper in your bag. Obviously for all the toilets without paper, but also useful for the restaurants without napkins, the runny nose that comes from moving between air condition and the blistering summer heat or sightseeing during cold winter days. Furthermore they can also be used to polish shoes that get very dusty after a day walking around and can be traded for money and other valuable goods by people who weren’t smart enough to pack their own.
2. Card with the name of the hotel in Chinese
Don’t expect the taxi driver to know the English name of the hotel or understand your pronunciation in Chinese. With this card you can purposely get lost, leave your tour group any time and go out for a drink at night knowing you’ll always get home safe.
You can find food everywhere in China, I’m sure that if more than two people gather somewhere there will be someone selling something that can be eaten. Only problem is that the snacks available might not be what you crave just then. I know that I need something else than sweet hot dogs on a stick, dried beef, pickled vegetables or preserved eggs to keep my blood sugar up. Bring from home or buy at supermarkets nuts, crackers, western chocolate, dried and fresh fruit. Sightseeing in China can be exhausting, so it’s important to keep your energy level up.
4. A bottle of water
Of course you can buy water everywhere, but it so important to stay hydrated I always make sure I have a bottle in my bag. During summer temperatures can reach high 90s and in the big cities the pollution and dust make your mouth dry. Since running water is scarce at many Chinese toilets, having water to wash hands is good if you forget #6.
5. Chewing gum
Mostly because I personally like to chew gum now and then, but I do recommend it for those who like something sweet after a meal, as the Chinese seldom serve other desert than fruit. Chinese food often leaves an unusual taste in your mouth, and you might want to freshen up.
6. Anti-bacterial wipes or gel
I am not really that afraid of bacteria and I seldom get sick when I am in China, and that’s not because of anti-bacterial overuse. But when I think of every pair of hands that have touched the bank notes I am counting (and what those hand have touched before touching those money) or the watery soap available at restaurant toilets I always make sure it’s in my bag. Then I can continue to eat with my hands, if needed.
7. Lip balm
Especially during winter, because the air in northern China is so dry. I always have a couple in different bags and jackets, mostly because it can be hard to find them in shops when you need them. Of all the things than can go askew on a China trip, cracked lips are not going to be one of them. And remember you will be in so many photos, might just as well look good!
Bonus tip: If you are not too fond of green tea or need your coffee fix after a meal, remember to pack instant coffee and tea bags. Few Chinese restaurants have black tea or serve coffee (and if they do it is extremely overpriced), but they always have hot water. My friend Elisabeth never travels without her own french press pot and freshly grounded coffee. That way she stays happy and alert and also gets a lot of new friends among the other tourists wherever she goes.
What is always in your bag when you travel? Please share – it could be a lifesaver!