Travelling to China Checklist: 6 Steps To Prepare Like A Pro

Travelling to China is full of excitement until the reality of preparing and packing sets in. Especially if this is your first time visiting China, you might face a lot of tedious tasks or unexpected incidents.

Whether you are going to teach in China for a year, or just visiting for a short while, this in-depth post will tell you how to prepare your trip to China like a pro.

Excited About Your Upcoming Journey to China? Here’s Your Travelling-to-China Checklist:

1. Start With A Vision Board

travelling to china - Start with An Inspiration Board

We encourage you to create an inspiration board, so you can see all the fabulous things that will be waiting for you!

Fill your board with pictures, quotes, and words, ideally things that will show you everything that you want to explore and experience when you are living in China.

All this information can include the culture, language, food, cost, history, sights, and even the new friends that you will be making.  Imagine having a beautiful itinerary and goals right in front of you before you even step foot on the airplane!

At this state, it’s wise to spend time learning a few key Chinese phrases, facts about Chinese culture, reading travel blogs, they will help give you a head start of your new life.

2. Obtaining Your Visa to China (For ESL Teachers)

travelling to china - obtaining your visa

For teaching in China, you need the work z visa and the documents needed are:

  • Degree certificate
  • TEFL/CELTA/TESOL certificate (or can provide reference letters accumulating to two years’ experiences instead)
  • Background check
  • Passport scan
  • Headshot photo with white background
  • Physical Examination Form (x-ray and blood test is not necessary)

Check out the more detailed guide for the work visa process.

3. Research and Purchase Your Flight

Flights to China

Once you’ve obtained your work visa for teaching in China (or other types of visa for other purposes), it is time to purchase your flight.

The cost of flight to China varies depending on where you fly from. While you can utilize well-known sites like Expedia, we often recommend that you use some of China’s websites because it will be cheaper. There are a few that are available, but our favorites include Ctrip, eLong, and China Highlights.

Each one has customer service representatives that speak English, so if you have any questions at all, they can help you immediately. Of course, you can also go directly to any of the Chinese airline websites to check on flights and prices.

travelling in China

Best time to book the flight to China

As with every other destination in the world, there are cheaper times to fly to China and there are more expensive times of the year!

If you can be flexible with your travel dates, it is best to fly when it is off-season or a non-holiday (especially Chinese New Year!). You can save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars by doing this, which means more money in your pocket later on!

Travelling in China

If you have travelling plans within China, the budget friendly airlines in China are great options when you want to travel from one area to another during your time in the country.

The airlines that you want to consider are Spring Airlines, West Air, 9 Air, China United Airlines, Jiangxi Air, and Ruili Airlines.  These airlines are perfect (and cheap) for those weekend getaways, or longer vacations from teaching.

4. A Serious Packing List for Travelling to China  

packing list for travelling to china'

First and foremost: don’t panic about packing. If you want to keep minimalism, you can.

Also remember that international baggage allowances vary, but you should also consider domestic limitations if you are flying between different Chinese cities. Usually this is one 20kg check-in bag plus a normal carry on.

Below are a detailed packing list for travelling to China (12 essential things you need):


  • Carry your passport with you at all times   
  • Bringing an extra toilet paper roll, a few wet tissues, and some hand sanitizer for your trip 
  • Bring some cash enough for one month’s living  

We recommend RMB 3,000 ~ RMB 5,000 (USD 400 ~ USD 750. Once you really accustom yourself to the life in China, you’ll find yourself using AliPay and WeChat very often.

  • Clothing: keep minimum  

There’s no particular dress code you have to comply but if you are teaching “smart causal” will never go wrong. Practically, if you want your packing stay as minimum as possible, only bring the cloths you need for the current reason.

  • An adapter plug or a power converter for all your electronic devices
  • Practice your chopsticks skills!  
  • A good phrase book with pictures (to point at the Chinese words/pictures, not for learning Chinese).
  • A sense of adventure (free and doesn’t take up any space in your bag).
  • Any medications you may need on your trip as well  
  • Learn some numbers – very useful when bargaining or buying train tickets   
  • Install VPN on your computer and phone at your home country
  • Download WeChat if you haven’t already!  

5. Itinerary in China: First Few Days (For ESL Teachers)

Once you arrive in China, your first few days will be a whirlwind of activities, fun, and excitement!

A warm welcome from the school staff 

You will receive a warm welcome at the airport from your employers/schools in the city where you will be teaching.

Accommodation (temp & permanent)

accommodation in china

Then you will be taken to your apartment, which will be a hotel for the first week until your permanent apartment is ready.

Don’t worry, your time in the hotel will be amazing, and it is nice to see the same friendly staff members each day when you leave and go back to your hotel. They can help you with directions and any other questions that you may have in those first few days.

Usually after the first week, your employer will start arranging your location and a permanent accommodation to live during your time there.

Local tours & Try some local food

try some local food in China

Your first full day or two will be busy, as you take local tours to get yourself acclimated to your new city.

You will see a lot in passing during this time, but do not expect to spend too long at any one destination.  There will be plenty of time for you to go back and visit again in future weeks though!

As you are out with your local guides, we recommend that you follow their advice and try some of the local cuisine. You’ll be surprised at how delicious everything is, and while it is different than the foods you eat back home, you should find at least a couple new favorite dishes.

Teaching Training

Your new teacher training will come next and this normally lasts between three and five days. This is an excellent way to meet other new teachers and learn the ropes at your new school.

You will definitely be tired at the end of each day, but you will see how much good you will be able to do during your tenure there.

As soon as your training is complete, you will need to be prepared to walk into your classroom for the first time and start teaching!

6. Own Your Journey

Once you settle yourself in China, there are much more to discover. Make sure you make the most out of it!

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