Before going to China, the thing that I worried about the most was how to prepare. Being allowed only one suitcase and a handbag, I could barely fit in one third of the things I needed to take. Not to mention that I left a lot of things till the last minute, which made preparing a bit stressful! After 6 months in China, I have realised that some of the things I brought with me were completely unnecessary and some that I didn’t bring, I would love to have with me now! Well, that’s life, and packing is always stressful – especially if you’re venturing on a great adventure and decide to live on the other side of the world for a year. So, here are my tips that I hope you’ll find helpful!
1. Prepare in advance
I guess this one is essential. Make sure you read as much as you can about what you can easily hold of in the country you are going to, and what it is impossible to get. Allow sufficient time to plan and prepare. Make a list – this is by far one of my favourite activities since I love planning and organising, but for those of you who do not necessarily fancy doing it, for this rare occasion try and do it! Having to-do/to-pack lists makes life so much easier and can make you much more productive and motivated!
2. Buy medicines & take care of your health
This is crucial before going anywhere. Make sure you have an up-to-date medical check and research the region to find out if you need any vaccinations. Do it at least a few months before – some vaccinations need to be taken in a few doses at different intervals.
3. Apply for a visa
Go to the Chinese consulate or embassy with the documents they ask for (you can easily find what to bring on the relevant websites). For China, there are multiple Chinese visas you can apply for, so make sure you research which one you need. Plan in advance as obtaining a visa takes time.
4. Scan and prepare relevant documents
Prepare all the documents you need and make a few scans of your passport/ID/visa/work permit and other important papers. Keep a few copies with you and leave some at home. They can be a life saver if you lose any original documents, particularly your passport (by the way, losing a passport in China is no fun and will cost you loads of unnecessary stress!). Apart from personal documents such as the one mentioned above, make sure you have your university acceptance letter, too.
5. Airline requirements
Check how much luggage you are allowed to take on board, and make sure you know the size of your check-in and hand luggage. It seems simple and obvious but loads of people forget to do that (myself included!). Different airlines have different requirements and what you were allowed on your flight from A to B in 2001 probably no longer applies now! Weigh your luggage at home first to avoid the hassle of opening your suitcase in the middle of a crowded airport and throwing out your stuff.
6. Don’t overpack
This is what I used to do in the past: overpacking, realising it’s 10kg more than what is allowed, unpacking, deciding what to leave at home, packing all over again. It can be quite frustrating! Think about what you will need the most and what is absolutely necessary and make sure it goes into your luggage. You will never be able to take everything with you and there is probably no point in taking so much! During my backpacking in Asia, I was travelling with a fairly small backpack and took only absolute necessities to go to 3 different countries in the space of 3 weeks. Hard but manageable!
7. Don’t stress!
As stressful as packing can be, at the end of the day it is quite exciting and fun! The things that I always ask myself is if I have my boarding passes, mobile phone, and passport with me – if the answer is yes, then it’s all good! Don’t stress if you forget something, it happened to me multiple times and mostly it was not a big deal because you are likely to be able to buy it once you arrive at your dream destination!
Most importantly, smile and get excited because packing usually means travelling to new places and that always should put a smile on your face!