Packing List from China Volunteers Perspective
From Peace Corps Wiki
This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in China and is based on their experience. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that each experience is individual. There is no perfect list! You obviously cannot bring everything we mention, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. You can always have things sent to you later. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind that you have an 80-pound weight restriction on baggage. And remember, you can get almost everything you need in China.
• SmartWool socks ("Thick socks are good for the winter. Knee socks feel warm.")
• Good cotton underwear (If you are wedded to certain undergarments, bring them. If not, they are available here.)
• Two-three pairs of khakis ("Or all purpose pants, but don't be afraid of color, variety. Khaki could get old.") and two pairs of comfortable pants for leisure and travel (one pair of jeans and one pair of pants with zip-off legs)
• Four to six business casual shirts (men should have at least one shirt with a collar that can be worn with a tie)
• One dressy outfit (a sport coat and a tie for men, a dress/skirt for women) for induction and banquets at campus
• A good raincoat (a light raincoat, since it rains more in the summer) "Yes!"
• Two pairs of long underwear (light/medium) "Yes! You will live in these for several months."
• Winter coat, gloves, hat, and scarf ("I brought a down coat and was so glad I did. Alternatively, you can have down coats made here.")
• One or two heavy wool sweaters
• Two to four long-sleeved shirts for layering
• Shorts for sports/leisure
• Two to four casual shirts for travel/leisure (shirts with a little spandex are great since your clothes will stretch out)
• Pantyhose or tights (thick cotton or wool tights are important if you plan to wear skirts or dresses in the winter)
• Easy-care skirts (not too short, at least knee-length), and maybe a wool skirt for winter
• One or two short-sleeved or sleeveless dresses (no spaghetti straps) for summer ("Chinese women tend to wear dresses and heals. That doesn't mean you need to, just a heads up.")
Note that good shoes are available in China, but only in smaller sizes (up to size 8 for women and up to size 9 for men).
• One pair of sneakers (brand names are available locally, but at American prices)
• One pair of teaching shoes (sturdy, comfortable, warm for winter)
• One pair of sturdy sandals (leather is recommended) to wear in the warm season
• One pair of waterproof hiking boots
• One pair of dress shoes
• One pair of “kick-around” shoes
Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items
• Deodorant (can be difficult to find in China)
• A three-month supply of any prescription drugs you take (to have while the medical office orders your medication)
• Contact lens solutions (available locally; note that the Peace Corps does not recommend wearing contact lenses, but most Volunteers who choose to have been able to wear them. You should still bring two pairs of glasses)
• Any special makeup, facial soaps, or lotions you might want ("You might miss your favorites.")
• Tampons (hard to find in-country)
Most cooking supplies are available in-country, including eating and cooking utensils.
• Spices: basil, thyme, sage, or other Western seasonings you use (can be purchased in Chengdu, "but you generally have to buy in large quantities" and are nice to bring if you have favorites)
• A nonelectric coffeemaker if you drink coffee (available locally but American prices); a French press is a good alternative and can be bought in Chengdu and at some other sites -- "I would say no need. We bought a French press here." "The trickier thing is ground coffee."
• Baking pans and measuring cups (if you love to bake and want to buy a toaster oven in Chengdu—or maybe a former Volunteer left you one—you might need some supplies!)
• Locks for travel and to keep valuables secure in your residence "I wouldn't worry."
• Money belt or neck pouch
• Sleeping bag that packs small for travel/warmth in winter
• Swiss army knife or Leatherman tool
• Watch (durable, water-resistant) "All over China."
• Camera, filters, and extra lens cap; batteries are available locally but may be difficult to find
• Small gifts such as stickers, stamps, coins, maps, key chains, etc.
• Headlamp (great for travel and working in the dark when you need both hands)
• Duct tape
• Musical instruments if you play (also available locally at fairly reasonable prices)
• Stain stick for laundry (your clothes will get filthy, so bring a few)
• Earplugs (for the loud 6 a.m. wakeup call on campus)
• Fitted sheets and pillowcases (schools provide sheets, but they are not fitted); perhaps flannel for winter "Flannel sheets are nice!"
• Pictures of clothing from catalogs if you plan to have clothes made
• Games such as Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, Taboo, Scattergories, and chess
• Lonely Planet or Rough Guide to China "You can also buy pdfs of Lonely Planet on line."
• Mandarin Chinese phrase book "PC gives you a dictionary and language training. We never used ours."
• Checkbook (note that checks written from your U.S. bank account can take 40 days to clear at the local bank) "I would leave this at home with someone who could send off checks if necessary. The need to write a check in China seems little to none."
A key chain with a small flashlight attached
• Copies of your diploma and teaching certificates (universities may ask for these) "I think this is required packing by PC."
• Calendar (hard to find here)
• Picture frames (also hard to find; if you like frames for your family pictures, etc., bring some) "I wouldn't waste the space."
• Documents from home (if you are considering a future move, such as graduate school, etc. It will make your life much easier if you bring certain documents or copies from home [e.g., GRE scores, an unofficial transcript]; if you own a house and are renting, bring a copy of your lease, and if you may sell your house, pack a copy of deed information)
• Laptop "Yes!"
• iPod or MP3 player, CDs, speakers "You can buy all this hear. We brought iPods and bought speakers here."
• Contact information for former employers, references, schools, election office (to request an absentee ballot), bank
• Hard and electronic copies of resume
• Checkbook and ATM card tied to account "If you are B of A in the States there's no fee to use your ATM with China Construction Bank."
• Credit card "Helpful for international travel and online bookings and purchases."
• Power of Attorney
Books to supplement those assigned by the college.
These might include: • The ESL Miscellany: A Treasury of Cultural and Linguistic Information: New 21st Century by Raymond C. Clark (Pro Lingua Associates, revised edition 2004)
• High school history books
• Books about your city or area
• Children’s books (the pictures can be useful)
• Books about U.S. holidays or customs
• Literature anthologies
• General references like a world almanac
• A writing and grammar handbook
• Activity books for English conversation and environmental classes
Note: Books are really heavy to pack. The Peace Corps Information and Resource Center (IRC) is a great resource, as well as the Book Aid International program. Many reference materials are also available online. It may be more effective to bring a flash disk with your favorite handouts and lessons, and to print those things in-country. Family and friends can also send books from home if needed.
• Pictures or slides of your family, hometown, and “typical” America (supermarkets, schools, street scenes, historical sites, weddings and other celebrations)
• World atlas and maps of the world, United States, your state, etc.
• Restaurant menus, job application forms, sales announcements, product catalogs, college brochures, recycling handouts, and sightseeing brochures to use in classes
You may consider having some things, like heavy and bulky winter clothing, sent to you after you have arrived at your site, or you may consider bringing funds to purchase clothing (depending on your size). The key is to bring what you love and don’t bring too much!