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China Travel Clothing | What to Pack for a Trip to China

Packing China Travel Clothing For Summer, Winter, Spring, Fall

China travel clothing image of Chinese painting on wall of stone museum Haikou Hainan China

Packing for China Trip By Season, Latitude:

What you will pack depends on the season you are traveling in, just as it does in North America or Europe.

What you pack for China also depends on where you are going in China.

Consider this : Hong Kong is same latitude as Havana, Cuba, which is warm much of the year; Beijing the same latitude as Pittsburg PA, which can have really cold winters.

What you  would pack for trips to either of those places would be quite different, especially in Winter.

Summer Travel Pack for China: Summer weather can be sweltering hot and rainy all across the country, except for the far west mountains and dry deserts, so for summer travel, you'll need your lightest weight clothing, and a rain jacket. (Note: Cyclone (typhoon) season in in east and south China is  June- November.)

Spring, Fall Travel Pack for China: Spring and Fall seasons in much of China are the same as in North America, Europe, where weather is usually mild; in the south, it can be humid year round.

I've travelled to China in late summer, mid Autumn, late winter and spring, covering every season but the really hot humid and rainy summer season.

One late summer trip,  though, a cold front moved through as we reached the Great Wall, north of Beijing, and the muggy heat turned to chilly rain and wind. That's when you buy a warm shirt from a market stall :-)

New page added: Pack for Hong Kong (winter).

Winter Travel in China
  • Beijing in winter can be quite cold (below zero, snow);
  • Shanghai, on the ocean, is a bit warmer than Beijing but cooler than more southerly Hong Kong;
  • Hong Kong; can be pleasant or chilly depending on the weather pattern, or the specific time of year. In 2012, Hong Kong had an exceptionally cold winter, with temps dropping to 12 C (54F). Locals were wearing light down jackets and short coats, with boots and scarves. On cloudy days, I was comfortable with a hoodie and light quilted jacket. When the sun came out, I usually had to take off my jacket and / or hoodie as they were too warm for me.
  • Hainan and Sanya are tropical year round.

See China travel information for more China visa and travel details. Here are some China travel clothing tips listed by seasons and by area. And whether you are packing for a one week trip, a two week trip, or three weeks or longer, to China or any other destination, the basic travel packing list is the same.

My basic travel packing tips What to pack for packing Light -- still apply, but I'll outline what to pack for a China trip here.

China Travel Clothing to Pack  | One  Two Three Weeks, Longer

What you will pack to wear on a  trip China depends on the type of traveler you are. Generally for all travelers, choose conservative clothing for all destinations.

If you are touring about, general travel pants and tops are fine. Avoid wearing short shorts (men and women) unless you are on the beach.

Streetwear in China cities is similar to what you would wear in any European, North American or Australian city: Slacks, skirts, blouses, tops, jackets (if weatther is cool).

  • Travel Pants One to wear, two for spares (or one in the laundry), in neutral colors like khaki, black, or dark denim. For Winter travel pants (Beijing, Shanghai), I wore a black fleece pair that looked dressy enough for restaurants, yet were cozy and warm (and didn't show dirt - Bonus!). For Spring and Autumn trips (all areas), I wore black denim jeans (also dressy and forgiving of dirt, but could be dressed up for a night at the opera). Heavy denim is too warm to pack for summer travel in China, or the far south, tropical areas.

    Note: Hong Kong streetwear: Locals were wearing tights / leggings with boots in winter. This may be another pants (bottom) option for you to consider. Wear with a longer top, sweater or tunic.

  • Travel Skirts While pants are by far the more practical to wear, if you prefer a (non-mini) skirt, especially for summer travel, then substitute skirts (in either a print that goes with the tops or in a neutral color) for one or two pairs of pants.

  • Capris / Shorts For summer travel to China, you could substitute one pair of capris, or add one pair of capris to your China travel clothing list, but since they are appropriate for casual wear only, it's more efficient to wear pants instead. (You may think that China tours on a bus are casual, but the stop for lunch could be at a very dressy restaurant, hence capris are too casual.) Leave shorts at home, unless you will be spending time at a resort (like Hainan), as shorts are simply not appropriate streetwear in China.

  • Tops -- blouses, shirts, Tshirts, etc Since tops generally are smaller and less bulky than travel pants, you can easily pack 5-7 or so, depending on bulk. Be sure to lay out your pants, and then the tops you are considering so that you can see if each top goes with each pair of pants. If you have 3 bottoms (pants, skirts) and 7 tops, you have 21 possible combinations, so 21 outfits.

  • Sleepwear / Jammies One pair Tshirt top (can do double duty as outerwear if needed) and pants, or one nightie are enough. Many hotels in China wil also provide dressing gowns. Even if you prefer no jammies at all, plan for unexpected nightime departures from your room, should a smoke alarm go off.

  • Walking Shoes Two Pairs -- One pair sneakers / walking shoes (lace up are more forgiving) to wear on plane (they are bulky to pack in suitcase) for wearing on tours or going out shopping, etc., and one pair of dressier shoes -- I like my black leather slides with a medium wedge heel for evening or hotel and beach. For Winter and Summer travel, waterproof your sneakers. Proper sneakers or walking shoes give better support and surer footing, especially on rough pavements. Slip-on's or slides are good for just running down to breakfast in the hotel, or up to the spa for a massage. Most hotels in China will provide disposable slippers in your room, Bless them!

  • Jacket Wear it for the flight (Jackets can take up too much room in your suitcase). Even for Summer China travel, a lightweight jacket is handy for air conditioned rooms, or sudden storms. For Winter travel, if you are coming from a cold climate, wear your preferred winter jacket / coat, or consider buying a jacket or coat from a charity shop to wear while you are in wintery parts of China, then leave it behind before you fly home. One hotel in Beijing was kind enough to hold our winter jackets for us while we left to tour the south (see China provinces travel story) so we didn't have to carry it with us. If you are travelling on business substitute / allow for business suits (pants and jackets) to be part of the overall travel wardrobe.

  • Rain coat / jacket (one) plus a small fold up rain poncho (look for these at travel supplies stores, or at a Dollar Store or Euro Store), in case of sudden downpours, or out on the water in a boat or for a windbreaker over other clothing. Keep it in your day pack or purse, and even one in your camera bag, so you can get at it in a hurry.

  • Swimsuits, Work out gear Take along at least one swimsuit or bathing suit, just in case you need it. Swimsuits take up little room in your suitase, and they are time consuming to buy when travelling. And often China clothing is sized for tinier Asian figures, so it can be hard to find a western size suit. Take along something to wear over the swimwear for the trip from your hotel room to the pool area. Most large hotels will have a work out room or gym, so if you are planning to use this facility, then roll up something suitable to wear in the gym. Most China tours are fast paced, so long leisurely hours at a pool are rare.

  • Socks, undies etc Basically what you would wear at home. Lightweight if traveling in summer or to a tropical area of China, and long underwear for layering if at altitude or in Winter.

I hope this helps you decide what to pack for your trip to China. Remember, too, your hotel will have a laundry service so you can have your clothes washed and pressed while you are shopping or seeing the sights! And of course, should you find you need something like a light jacket or a sarong, you can buy one at the local market and take home as a souvenir.

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