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Planning a packing list for China in summer is pretty simple – bring as little as possible. Especially if you’re going to be carrying your bags around a lot, parts of China will swelter in summer. However planning what to wear in China wont be as difficult as planning how to dress in other Asian countries.
China has a few fashion similarities to the west, with short skirts and shorts not being taboo like they are in some other Asian countries. You can pack to pack a similar wardrobe to what you might wear at home in summer, with a few exceptions that I mention in the packing list for China below.
What you’ll find in this China packing list:
- A little information on weather and seasons
- Advice on what to wear in China (and what else to pack)
- Tips for safety and health
- Popular day tours and where to stay suggestions
When to Visit China: Weather and Seasons
All you really need to know about what to wear in China in summer is that it’s HOT. Oh, and humid. There are a few places in the country where the heat isn’t as bad, such as Jiuzhaigou National park and the Tibetan Planes, but in general expect to sweat at most major tourist attractions.
Seasons in China
- What to wear in winter in China: Winter varies across the country with some places having snowfall and others having mildly cold weather (such as Sanya). Read our article ‘What to pack for winter in China’ for more details. Visit the winter packing list for China.
- What to wear in Autumn in China: Autumn is a great time to visit China. You can expect warmish weather early on in the season, leading onto colder weather as you near the end of Autumn. Bring a jacket if visiting near the end of Autumn, and a cardigan if visiting at the start. View the fall packing list for China.
- What to wear in Summer in China: Light colours and lightweight clothing is a good choice for summer in China. Do as the Chinese do and bring an umbrella to protect you from the pesky sun. Grab a portable fan (like this one here) to help blow the sweat away while sightseeing. Keep reading for more information.
- What to wear in Spring in China: Another great time for visiting China as this is cherry blossom season. At the beginning of spring some lingering cold may be present from winter, but generally the weather should be pleasant. Bring a cardigan, and a jacket if visiting in the first month of Spring. See the Spring China packing list here.
What to Wear in China in Summer
- Pants x 1: Unless you’re going to the far north of China you’re going to regret bringing jeans, or any other kind of heavy pant. I’d bring one pair of lightweight pants, but most stick to shorts and skirts. Ditch pants completely if you need to save space or feel the heat easily – stick to shorts or leggings.
- Shorts and skirts x3: Skirts are quite popular in China with many local Chinese girls wearing short skirts – so if that’s what you wear back home you wont feel out of place here.
- Tops x 3-4: If you’re here for a 3-4 week trip you might want to add a few more, but otherwise 5 tops will keep your pack light and give you enough variation. In China most girls wont show their shoulders, however it’s not considered taboo for foreigners. Although you’ll get more stares showing off your shoulders, you’re going to get stared at a lot anyway, so it doesn’t really matter. I’d easily choose a couple extra stares for a bit of extra breeze on my skin. Bare midriffs and cleavage may push the limits too far though. Bring atleast one top that covers shoulders in case you’re going into a temple which requires it (or to protect from sunburn).
- Dresses x3: Again, short dresses are fine here. Just be wary that Chinese prefer steps to escalators (often present, but powered off), so plan to be walking up steps a lot. Dresses are my top picks for a packing list for China in summer, they’re perfect in the heat.
- Cardigan x 1: Chances are you wont need it, but it’s worth packing just incase – especially if you’re visiting one of the cities not occupied by strong heat and humidity. Get a light one like this.
- Cover up or silk scarf x1: Helpful if going into certain temples and if you’re visiting the beach.
- Swimsuit x1: I very much doubt you’re going to China to visit a beach but if you are (or pick hotels with pools) you will do fine with just one swimsuit. Any type is fine but you may get stared at a little more in a bikini (but its not offensive at all to wear one).
- Sandals x 1-2 (or 1 Sandal, 1 enclosed shoe): Have I mentioned it’s going to be hot? Unless you’re doing something strenuous 1-2 pairs of sandals will be fine, and give your feet room to breathe. If you’re going to the Great Wall, enclosed shoes might be a good idea though. I personally wore sandals at two sections of the wall and was fine, but I think it’d be even better with enclosed shoes. If you can find sandals with foot cushioning even better!
- Underwear & Bras x 5-7: You can easily hand wash these in the sink if needed.
- Hat x 1-2: For sun protection and cute Instagram shots ;). Put your underwear inside the head part of the hat to help it keep it’s shape a bit more in your luggage. See some cute floppy hats here.
- Sunglasses x 1-2: As an added bonus this helps to draw less attention to yourself (although you’ll never truly blend it).
What to Pack for Summer in China: Other Items
- Make up & Toiletries:
- Don’t let the heat scare you off bringing make up but be aware that some of it might melt off. You’ll want a makeup bag that is affordable and compact, like this one.
- Bring your basics such as toothpaste, toothbrushes and deodorant, but if you need to save space nearly every hotel in China gives you free toothbrushes and paste. Even the cheap ones, and if you by some small chance find a hotel that doesn’t, you can buy one at Walmart or the chemist cheaply.
- A small medical kit with dehydration sachets and headache medicine is a good choice. You will regret not bringing western medicine if you get sick here – Chinese medicine is different. So Americans, pack your Toms and ibuprofen!
- Tampons: these are hard to find in China (but pads are plentiful).
- Camera + 1-2 batteries (I’d recommend 2). Plus your camera charger. I personally love the Sony a6500 + 19mm f2.8 (landscapes) or 35mm f1.8 (portraits) combination.
- 2-3x eight or sixteen GB memory cards. It’s better to take multiple cards and spread your photos across them incase you damage or loose one of them. This way you don’t loose all your photos.
- Note: Portable chargers will get confiscated on flights here (you may be fine flying in though). I’d suggest buying a cheap one and testing your luck coming in (should be fine), but expect it to be confiscated the next time you hop onto a flight. However as long as you get it into the country it will be helpful to charge your electronics on the go. Worst case scenario you spend $10 and it gets taken off you (there are no other consequences).
- Ofcourse you’ll need to pack an international plug adapter for China to charge your devices.
- Phone charger + phone
- All else:
- Photocopies of important documents: leave one copy at home, and one with you but kept separate to your originals.
- Atleast two bank cards. Please note that only certain brands of Chinese banks accept western cards, look out for the Mastercard or Visa symbol. You shouldn’t have too much trouble finding one, but just a warning not to get worried if the first 1-2 ATMs (bank tellers) you try don’t accept your card. Multiple bank cards also protects you if one card gets stolen, lost or damaged.
- Suitcases: Ah China, the land of escalators that aren’t powered on. I got pretty good at lugging a 20 kilo suitcase up and down flights of stairs. But seriously, if you’re using public transport you’ll probably have to carry it up and down stairs (don’t expect anyone to help you). See some options here.
- Backpacks: Perhaps a better choice, however they’ll add extra heat to your body in the summer sun. Regardless of the type of luggage you choose, try to keep it under 15 kilos. I’d recommend a 65 litre like this one.
- For trains in China you can store your luggage above your seats (Sometimes people were nice enough to put my 20k suitcase up there – so the shelves can carry a lot of weight).
Where to Stay in China | China Packing List
- Budget: For a pretty cheap double or single room, I recommend the Kaidehua International Hotel which is close to the Temple of Heaven, and a short taxi ride away from the bus station to Jinshanling Great Wall. See the latest prices here.
- Midrange: For a midrange hotel the Park Plaza Beijing Wangfujing is a decent choice with luxurious looking rooms with a hair salon, beauty center and a few restaurants on site. Find more details here.
- Luxury: There are so many good luxury hotels to choose from in Beijing, but I’m going to reccomend either the New World Beijing Hotel (see latest prices here) or the Wanda Vista Beijing (see the latest prices here). Both offer stylish rooms and swimming pools.
- Budget: Featuring some super cute dorm bed stairs, The Phoenix Hostel Shanghai-LaoShan is my choice for backpackers looking for a hostel. See pictures and more information here.
- Midrange: Close to the popular shopping street Nanjing Road, Campanile Hotel Shanghai Natural History Museum (that’s a mouthful) is in the main part of the city. There seem to be two branches of this hotel in the city so make sure you get the address for your taxi driver! See the latest prices here.
- Luxury: With a super intriging swimming pool (I’m not quite sure how to describe it) and excellent views of the surrounding city, Andaz Xintiandi Shanghai is a great choice if you can afford it. Find more information about one of Shanghai’s best hotels by clicking here.
- Budget: Dreams Travel International Youth Hotel is a decent option for backpackers looking for a dorm. It’s in the centre of the city and includes air conditioning (vital if you’re visiting in summer). Dorms beds start from $7 a night, see more information here.
- Midrange: The Grand Dorsett Chengdu is a nice hotel which gives lots of value for the price. The hotel offers breakfast and a sauna – click here for the latest prices and pictures.
- Luxury: For those with a bigger budget look towards The Temple House (see the latest prices here) or Niccolo Chengdu (click here for more details). Both hotels have a fresh vibe to them and an indoor pool.
All other cities:
- Check out the Hotels Combined website for more options, and hotels in other cities.
Don’t Forget to Pack Travel Insurance | China Summer Packing List
While getting getting travel insurance is probably not the most exciting thing you’ll do while planning your trip, it is kind of essential. Travel insurance is invaluable if you get into an accident while overseas, and can also provide funds for lost or stolen items. I personally recommend World Nomads travel insurance because:
- Ir’s the company I use for all of my travels
- I’ve been through the claims process multiple times and was always happy with the outcome.
- You can purchase it at home, or abroad, which is handy. Most companies will not let you purchase insurance unless you’re on home soil.
- It’s priced well for the level of coverage you get. Remember to always check what you’re covered for prior to buying. Most insurance companies will offer the same coverage, and exclude similar things – but please read the terms to ensure you know what’s covered so there’s no surprises.
Side Note: As someone who has lived in China for 2 years I can say that China is pretty safe theft-wise. However the roads can be very dangerous as drivers can be irresponsible, so if nothing else get coverage that covers you for accidents.
I don’t mean to scare anyone by saying that. It’s still unlikely you’ll get into an accident on the road, but the risk is much higher than back home. I would not recommend driving in China, but if you do be extra alert and watch out for unexpected things other drivers may do.
Packing List for Summer in China: Safety and Health
China is one of the safest countries I’ve ever been to, and theft is pretty low. A couple of points.
- Transport: I wouldn’t trust tuk tuk drivers in big cities, but apart from that most taxi drivers are trust worthy. One thing to be aware of is that it’s common in China for more than one passenger to hop in the taxi at one time. It’s quite normal there, but if this makes you feel uncomfortable just wave your hands in a no like fashion if your driver pulls over to pick someone up – he’ll get the hint (or atleast the other passenger will).
- Theft: While I wouldn’t purposely be reckless, China has a low amount of theft. I’ve left my keys in my scooter numerous times only to realize when I came back to it 4 hours later. There’s normally a lot of security around the tourist sites (and a guard lurking around the malls) so it’s a very safe country to be in.
- Manner: Consider buying a cheap PM2.5 mask from the chemist to save you from the pollution. If you write PM2.5 down and show it to the chemist clerk, or take a picture, or motion a mask on your face, they’ll probably understand what you want.
- General safety: Be diligent on the roads, crossing roads, or just anytime you’re outside. I don’t mean to perpetuate stereotypes but don’t expect Chinese drivers to be attentive. Always be alert when crossing roads even when lights are red for cars.
- If you get in an accident: Find a police officer or guard, bystanders may not wa
- Visit two nearby water towns (day trip): If you’re into photography, or staring at pretty scenery and Chinese architecture you’ll want, you’ll want to see the traditional water towns near Shanghai. You can find more details here.
- A private full day city tour: See more details and see prices here.
- Day trip to Hangzhou: Hop on this day trip to beautiful Hangzhou to see the tea plantation, experience a tea tasting ceremony and cruise along the famous West Lake. Find more information here.
- The Great Wall sections can be a little hard to get to on your own as transport can be unreliable. If you want the ease of a tour the following day tours take you to Badaling (see tour details), Jinshanling (see more info) and Mutianyu (see latest prices). I’ve been to the first two and preferred Jinshanling which seemed less touristy, but both were awesome.
- Giant Panda & Leshan Giant Buddha Statue Day Tour: See more information here.
- Longsheng rice terraces and minority culture say tour: These are some of the most picturesque rice terraces in China but can be a little difficult to get to on your own. This day tour takes you there and back with ease from Guilin. Find more details here.
- Yangshuo and Xingping town with (watching) cormorant fishing. If you love photography you’ll want to see the cormorant fishers in XingPing. Find more details by clicking here.
- Li River cruise and Yangshuo day tour: Easy trip from Guilin to see all the major sites in the area. See more information here.
- 3 day Longsheng rice terraces and Li River sunrise photo tour: This is the tour I would do if I knew about it when I was there. This tour sounds amazing for photographers, let me know if you try it!