Female Packing List for China in Winter: December, January, February
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After living in China for just over two years, I have gotten a feeling for what to pack for China in winter. Like most large countries, the temperatures vary, with some parts receiving heavy snowfall, and others with none at all.
Hence what you’ll need to pack for winter in China depends heavily on what region you’re visiting. This China packing list for winter focuses on moderate winter, but if you’re visiting the north or an area where there’ll be snow the entire trip, I’ve added some extra items in for you below.
This packing list for best suit a 2-4 week trip with an emphasis on keeping your baggage weight down. Hotels can often arrange laundry for you if needed.
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What you’ll find in this Spring China packing list:
- Weather & Season (quick) information
- Advice on what to wear in China in Winter (and what else to pack)
- Safety and health tips
- Brief overview of sightseeing ideas and where to stay
When to Visit China: Weather and Seasons
In cities where the pollution is bad, skies can tend to take on a grey colour, while light winds and rain may occur. In other areas the crisp breeze is welcome and the skies still hold some appeal, such as in the southern areas where the winters are less fierce (Guilin).
In the far north such as Harbin, where snow is common, winter adds a white blanket to the city along with snow activities for adults and children alike.
Seasons in China
Incase you’re actually visiting China in a different season, I’ve linked packing lists for all four seasons below.
- What to wear in China in winter: Coats, scarfs and gloves will be your best friend regardless of where you travel.
- What to wear in China in Spring: Spring is a great time to visit China with a mild temperature throughout the country. Prepare yourself just incase for warmer or colder temperatures basing on what end of Spring you choose to visit. If visiting mid to north China in early spring bring a jacket or scarf just incase. If visiting in anywhere other than the north in late spring (entering summer), ditch the heavy jacket entirely. Click here to see the China spring packing list.
- What to wear in China in Summer: Bring lightweight fabrics and wear as little as possible. A light cardigan will be the only outerwear you need. See the China summer packing list here.
- What to wear in China in Autumn: Like Spring, Autumn is a great time to visit the country due to moderate temperatures. November can get very chilly though, so if you’re visiting in the tail end of Autumn bring a warm jacket. Click here to see the Autumn / Fall packing list.
What to Wear in China in Winter
- Pants x 2-3: Jeans or another type of warm pants will serve you well here. If you’re going to the far north invest in pants made for cold weather, especially if you plan to spend time in the snow.
- Leggings x 1-2: In the south you will be able to skate by with leggings under a dress if teamed with a coat. Otherwise they’re a good option to wear around the hotel room.
- Dress x 2: Pick dresses that keep the heat in. You should pair this with the leggings. If dresses aren’t your thing add an extra top.
- Tops x 4-5: If visiting the North make sure these are long sleeved and/or warm.
- Cardigan x 1-2: Layer it underneath your coat, or for slightly warmer days.
- Coat x 1: Pick a color that goes with everything you’ve bought – black is a personal favourite of mine. If you have the room bring a second however these do tend to take up a lot of space and a chunk of your weight limit.
- Scarf x 1-2: These are also easily bought in China if you need extras.
- Boots x 1: One pair should do, two if you have space left in your suitcase. Make sure they’re appropriate for snow if that’s likely at the time of your visit. Make sure they’re suitable for hiking if you plan to hike.
- Socks x 4: Or socklets basing on the temperatures expected.
- Underwear x 7 / bras x 5
- Gloves x 1-2: Also easily found in China but bring atleast one pair from home to get you started.
- Beenie (woolen hat / tuque) x 1-2: These are quite popular in China. I’d advise bringing atleast one from home and buy some cute ones while on your trip.
What to Pack for Winter in China: Other Items
Make up & Toiletries
- Toothpaste and toothbrush: However nearly every hotel in China will give you a free set in your room.
- Normal makeup: Whatever you normally put on your face. Don’t forget a compact makeup bag like this one.
- Moisturizer: Keep your skin hydrated (if you have room).
- Tissues: You can buy these practically anywhere in China but grab a travel sized pack to start with for entry, especially if you’re going to a colder area or not used to winters (Australians take note).
- Tampons: While you’ll have no trouble finding pads in China, tampons can be hard to find.
- Cold & flu tablets: If you have room bring western cold and flu tablets, especially if you’re partial to getting sick in cold weather. You can get medicine at chemists in China (mime a sneeze) but you’ll get the Chinese version of the medicine which some feel isn’t as strong as western medicine.
- Chinese heat packs: You can find these in chemists in China and they’re quite cheap. They’re self heating adhesives that you can stick to your body on cold days. As a bonus they’re also used to put on sore muscles.
- Camera + 2-3 batteries + charger. I use the Sony a6500 + 19mm f/2.8 and would 100% recommend it. Remember the cold will make you go through your batteries faster, so bring more than normal especially if going somewhere with a temperature in the minuses.
- 2-3x 8 or 16gb memory cards: It’s better to spread your pictures out across memory cards incase one gets broken or lost.
- Phone + charger
- Portable battery charger / power bank. Incase you’re phone dies when you need it, having a portable charger is always handy and they’re pretty cheap. Note: if you fly internally, or when you leave China, customs will take these from you. I haven’t had any problems getting them into China though, it seems to just be a rule enforced by Chinese officials if you get onto a flight in China.
- Adapter for plugs so you can charge your electronics. I personally love this one – see price.
- Photocopies of important documents such as your passport. Leave one at home with friends or family and one with you (kept in a separate spot to your passport).
- 2+ bank cards. NEVER travel to a foreign country with only one bank card as there are times where it may get stolen, scanned (and then cancelled by your bank), overdrawn, not accepted or eaten by the machine. This has happened to me multiple times.
- Backpacks: It’s always a little harder to pack with winter clothes, so if you’re over the airplane weight limit wear the coat and boots when you check in. You can take them off once you have your boarding pass and add them back into your carry on. I’d recommend a pack in the 65L–70L range (go the larger size if packing more than one pair of boots and / or jacket.
- Suitcase: Beware that China is notorious for it’s escalators not being turned on, so you will likely have to carry this up and down flights of stairs. You are unlikely to get assistance with this unless you’re on a tour. See some options for a suitcase here – keep your luggage weight under 10-15 kilos.
Where to Stay in China
- Budget: The Kaidehua International Hotel which is near the Temple of Heaven, is a budget bargain. See the latest prices here.
- Midrange: My pick for midrange is the Park Plaza Beijing Wangfujing with restaurants and a beauty center on site. Find more information here.
- Luxury: The New World Beijing Hotel (see latest prices here) or the Wanda Vista Beijing (see the latest prices here) are my picks for luxury in Beijing. It’s so hard to pick though as there are so many good hotels. Both offer stylish rooms and swimming pools.
- Budget: The dorms at the Phoenix Hostel Shanghai-LaoShan are super cute and hence my recommendation for backpackers looking for a hostel. Find more information here.
- Midrange: Close to the popular shopping street Nanjing Road, Campanile Hotel Shanghai Natural History Museum is my pick for travelers wishing to stay in the centre of the city. There seem to be two branches of this hotel in the city so make sure you get the right address for your taxi driver! See the latest prices and address here.
- Luxury: With a super cool pool and great views of the skyline, Andaz Xintiandi Shanghai is my choice for luxury. Find more information about the hotel 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 so you’ll be close to the city sights. 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 to see prices for hotels in other cities in China. Click here to see the website.
Don’t Forget to Pack Travel Insurance | China Winter Packing List
I personally use World Nomads so that’s the company I’m recommending:
- Customer service is great and the staff are helpful
- I’ve claimed more than once and are happy with the claims process.
To see how much you’ll be paying for a trip to China in winter, check out their price estimator here (click here)
Packing List for China in Winter: Safety and Health
China is comparatively safe to many countries in the west, if not safer, in many ways. Things are much less likely to get stolen by Chinese people while in China, and apart from the tuktuk drivers in the big cities of Shanghai and Beijing, taxi drivers are normally quite trustworthy.
Here are some tips:
- Taxi drivers are generally trustworthy however there are a few quirks. In China it is generally accepted to have multiple customers in one cab. I’ve done it many a time and have never had any problems. If you’re driver pulls over to let someone else in and you’re not comfortable, wave your hands in a no-like-fashion and say no. They should get your gist.
- Be wary of tuktuk drivers though, especially in big cities as I noted above. Ask your hotel what price is reasonable and confirm multiple times with driver before hand. I’ve personally had trouble with taxi drivers and tuktuks in Beijing. I made sure I had lots of small notes though so could give them the exact amount and just left the car.
- In saying that if anyone ever causes a problem for you make a scene. Embarassment avoidance is a massive thing here so if someone tries to corner or harass you, do as the Chinese do (when they’re unhappy) and cause a scene. People are unlikely to come to your aid, but the person harassing you will loose face and likely back down
- Theft is less likely to happen in China based on my experiences but keep an eye on your belongings.
- In winter the pollution can get a little bad, consider buying a cheap PM2.5 mask if you walk past a chemist. Keep an eye on pollution levels for the city you’re in and wear accordingly. ‘PM2.5’ written down on your phone (or miming a mask) should be enough for the chemists to understand you want a mask.
- General safety: Be careful when driving or walking out in China, the road safety standards are quite different to what we have back home. If you have to cross a busy road wait until a Chinese person near you crosses and keep pace with them if there are no traffic lights.
- If an accident happens, bystanders may not help you. Make sure you have someone you can call or the number for emergencies, or if possible try and find a nearby policeman or store owner.
Popular Day Tours
Incase you haven’t planned your exact route in China I’ve added a list of a few of my favourite things to do in China during winter.
Two things to note about traveling in China in winter:
- Yes it is possible to travel China independently without Chinese, but it is a little difficult. As I’ve learnt in my travels here that while English is heavily taught in China, it’s difficult to find someone who’s willing to speak it with you. Unless you are an experienced independent traveler you might want to try day tours to visit certain attractions.
- If you’re visiting sights in the snow be very careful, especially at places where you can fall like the Great Wall of China (notorious for slips in winter). Safety standards are not the same as they are in the West and locals can be reckless. Be sensible, don’t always copy what the locals do (unless they’re crossing a road), and be safe.
Now that that’s out of the way, I’ve picked a few day tours to give you ideas on what to see and do in the major tourist cities.
- Ride a bike through Shanghai trying food and seeing sights as you go. For more information click here.
- Afternoon and evening highlights tour: If bike riding is not your thing this tour also takes you to the main sights and includes a cruise on the Bund and a chinese dinner. This would be my pick as Shanghai, and especially the Bund, looks incredible at night. See prices here.
- Day trip to Suzhou and Zhouzhuang water towns. The watertowns in China are gorgeous little towns that make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. These two are easily done as a day trip from Shanghai with this tour. See prices and more information here.
- Hitting all the main sites in one go including Tiananmen Square, the Summer Palace, the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven. If you don’t want to deal with taxi drivers or the Beijing subway this is a great option. See more details and prices here.
- Hiking the Great Wall of China. If you’re looking for transport or a tour for the Great Wall you can find more details for Jinshanling (prices here), Badaling (prices here) and Mutianyu (prices here) sections of the wall. If there’s snow, I would think Jinshanling would be the best option for safety reasons, or Badaling.
- This is the tour I would have done if I knew about it when I was in Guilin, a 3 day sunrise photography tour of Longsheng rice terraces and the Li river. See prices here (and yes, Guilin is still beautiful in winter).
- Yangshuo cormorant fishing photo-op and Xingping ancient town tour. See more details and prices here.
- Yangshuo city tour and Li River raft ride: half day tour hitting the best sites of the area. For more information and prices click here.
Want To See What A Snowy Day In China Looks Like?
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