What to Wear in China

Haikou, Hainan province, February

Haikou, Hainan province, February

Zhouzhuang, Jiangsu in March

Zhouzhuang, Jiangsu in March

The Great Wall of China, in June

The Great Wall of China, in June

The Forbidden City, July

The Forbidden City, July

The Great Wall, July

The Great Wall, July

Tiananmen Square, in July

Tiananmen Square, in July

Beijing streets in September

Beijing streets in September

Visiting the Forbidden City, Beijing, October

Visiting the Forbidden City, Beijing, October

The Forbidden City in October

The Forbidden City in October

Chinese village, October

Chinese village, October

Snow at the Forbidden City, November

Snow at the Forbidden City, November

Dujiangyan Gate, Chengdu in December

Dujiangyan Gate, Chengdu in December

A Message From Helen



I want you to have an amazing vacation. That's why I started WhatToWearOnVacation.com,
to help you pack with confidence and stay safe, secure and comfortable.

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General Style Tips

  • Opt for neat, tidy and clean conservative clothing.
  • The Chinese people appreciate it if you dress up and you will rarely find a Chinese woman older than a teenager in jeans.
  • Our advice is to pack casual, lightweight layers that aren't too revealing. Light cotton clothing that is easily washed and not too delicate is ideal.
  • light wool is a good choice to wear against your skin as it naturally helps to regulate your body temperature. It keeps you warm in the cold, wicks away moisture when it's hot, and doesn't retain odours - even after prolonged wear.
  • You can purchase almost any kind of clothing in China although the sizes are far smaller than Westerners are used to. When buying Western brands expect to need a couple of sizes bigger than you might at home (and do try things on before you buy). If purchasing from street vendors you may struggle to find sizes to fit.
  • Bright colors in general are popular, and especially red which is considered lucky.

What Shoes To Pack

  • A good pair of comfortable walking shoes and stylish flats are highly recommended. We love Hotter shoes, for total comfort along with style.
  • Don't expect to buy shoes in China - the average Chinese person has far smaller feet than the average Westerner so you may not find any to fit.

Clothing Tips for Women

  • Trousers are a must, since many temples will forbid entry to women wearing skirts.
  • For Westerners we would advise you to pack enough underwear, as Chinese women are a lot smaller and even their large size is small by Western standards.
  • If you are taking swimwear opt for a one-piece rather than bikini to avoid being stared at and feeling vulnerable.
  • Pack one smarter outfit for more formal dinner invitations or if you have plans to visit the opera or concerts.
  • And a versatile pashmina will keep you warm, act as a modesty cover and will 'glam' up any outfit when you need it.
  • For business, women can wear pants- and skirt-suits, or a dress - are all acceptable business attire.

Clothing Tips for Men

  • Avoid wearing green hats, as the Chinese are very superstitious and there is a saying that if a man wears a green hat then his wife has cheated on him!
  • If you are in China on business then wear a suit but not a tie, or if it's very hot then tailored shorts are acceptable.
  • For great versatile travel jackets with multiple pockets including RFID security options, we love the SCOTTeVEST range.

Pack for the Weather

  • In the winter (December, January and February) most parts of China would be cold, especially in the north. Our advice would be to wear layers. Padded jackets are a great buy in China (but bear in mind the sizing will be smaller than you are used to).
  • For travel during the rainy season of May, June, July and August, a light raincoat is recommended.
  • Take your sunscreen (we love the Riemann P20 range for 10 hour protection) for summer months (June, July, August) as it's difficult to buy and you can't be sure of the quality.
  • An umbrella is useful protection against both sun and rain, but buy one when you get there - they are readily available and cheap.
  • We love the Weather+ app - it gives an accurate 6 day forecast for day and night, which when you're planning from home is really helpful. You can keep all the places you've been to too - a nice way to remember your trip :) Download for iPad/iPhone or Android

Regions of China

  • China is a huge country with varied climates. In general, the north is cold and dry in winter. In the south, summer is very hot and humid. So what to wear really depends on where and when you are visiting.
  • Bejing, Xian and Shanghai are very fashionable and have adopted Western fashion, but leave shorts and revealing tops at home.
  • In the countryside dress is far more reserved so do keep covered.
  • If visiting The Great Wall there is a very good chance of rain, because it is so high. You may like to take a light raincoat and umbrella, but if you forget you can easily buy a disposable plastic overcape for the equivalent of $1. They may not be that attractive but lots of people wear them. Also wear comfortable shoes with good grip, as it can get slippery in the rain and sections of the wall are very steep.
  • In the north in the cold weather you will find houses and hotels all have central heating. However in the south of China this is not the case, and houses and even hotels can be freezing cold and humid so everything feels damp and very cold.
  • What to Wear in Beijing
  • What to Wear in Shanghai

Other Things To Pack

  • Whilst most things are readily available dental floss and deodorant aren't, so be sure to pack plenty.
  • Pack toilet paper and hand sanitiser; even in smart malls and restaurants bathrooms in China aren't great and rarely will you see toilet paper or hand washing facilities. In the countryside they are even worse - so be mentally prepared!
  • Also take your own medicines e.g. Paracetamol because you can’t buy regular Western medications in China.
  • With flights, transfers and delays there will be plenty of time spent sitting around, so we'd suggest you take a Kindle or e-reader to pass the time
  • A bag or soft-sided rucksack is a more practical option than hard cases when traveling around the country, and using packing cubes can help to keep your belongings tidy whilst compressing the volume too.
  • Combine your main bag with a day sack or shoulder bag that will carry your sightseeing essentials.
  • Look after your mobile phone with a phone bunjee - it protects against loss, theft and damage.
  • To use electrical gadgets you may need a travel adapter plug, and also a step down voltage converter if your devices are not designed for the local voltage (220V).
  • Don’t drink or even brush your teeth in tap water. Consider taking a Water-to-Go Filtration Water Bottle.
  • Avoid paying unexpected baggage fees - use an accurate luggage scale to ensure you keep within the weight allowance. Don't forget to leave room for souvenirs on the way home! Look for porcelain (particularly from Jingdezhen), embroidered silk slippers or silk pyjamas.
  • You will need to show your passport for many things including most tourist attractions and buying train tickets, so we suggest you carry it at all times - a passport bunjee will keep it safe.
  • The internet is very restricted by the Great Firewall of China, and you will not be able to access anything Google related. This may mean you need to set up a new email address to keep in contact.

Last updated 16 December 2016.

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Pack Light

  • Less luggage to carry
  • Save time packing and unpacking
  • Save money on baggage fees

Pack Right

  • Respect local cultures
  • Feel comfortable and confident
  • Suitable outfits for all occasions

A Message From Helen



I want you to have an amazing vacation. That's why I started WhatToWearOnVacation.com,
to help you pack with confidence and stay safe, secure and comfortable.

Advice You Can Trust

The information provided was useful indeed, I really liked the checklist you guys compiled. I will definitely recommend it to my friends.

- Tiisetso, South Africa