Essentials for China trip

To follow up on shoenista’s very good and comprehensive post… I haven’t found many UK/HK plugs in china unless you’re right next to the border, so I would take an adapter if you’re from the UK and going into China.
Most of the food that suppliers will take you to will be quite safe. Many factories are run by Taiwanese or Hong Kong owners and they will be more paranoid about the food quality than you, so western or chinese food - it’s likely to be ok. When you’re out on your own… well… good luck! You should always drink the bottled water (even though it’s reported that 60% of the bottled water is fake - it’s tap water repackaged!) But at least that’s 40% less contamination you’ll be drinking than always drinking tap water. You will see signs at most reputable places warning to not drink the tap water.
china bargains: many bargains aren’t. most electronic devices are cheaper in the usa. The very cheap electronics in china often demo, but don’t work. I know people who bought ipod clones, memory sticks, etc which were demo’d with a computer, but obviously faked to some degree because that’s the last time they were seen operational.
custom clothing is cheaper than the usa if you have time for that, at about the same price as off-the-rack on sale in the usa for equivalent quality. Knock-off brands of bags, jackets, shoes can be found – some are really bad and some are ok quality. If you don’t know how to assess, you probably won’t come out ahead.
If you are flying a usa carrier then my hit rate is about 50% of the time the entertainment system doesn’t work. Certainly can agree that you should take your own tools and keep them together. I haven’t had any problems with intentional theft, but it’s easy to loose things… Unlike shoenista, I find that taking a couple of silver color sharpies is pretty useful for marking up product samples.
Don’t carry very many liquids on your carry-on. On short trips I always try to sneak the toothpaste by, but it gets taken. Your calipers run a high risk of getting taken if they’re in your carry-on.
You should also get used to taking small tissue packs around since paper towels are non existent, and in some of the lower end places, the same for toilet paper. Whenever I forget to carry these, I regret it.
FYI, Hong Kong is generally more developed/advanced/expensive than most western cities, so you should have few problems there if you have time to find stores. Unlike the usa, mostly there are small shops and you won’t find a home depot. Particularly in hardware or design supplies - some things that are relatively easy to find in the usa are not so easy to find there. (Such as stainless steel screws, plastic gluing epoxy, bondo, etc… These are all ‘specialty items’ which can be quite hard to find.) On the other hand, if you need a cartier watch or an armani suit, it seems there are dozens of stores…
Visiting factories in china has many parallels to visiting factories in mexico. Besides not drinking the water, the environment can be a little down and dirty. In some places you can find walmart or B&Q, but in most areas, you won’t find off-the-shelf supplies very easily.

my essential china/taiwan trip packing includes-

Work Supplies-

  1. print outs of all the specs and designs. packed in a binder in my luggage. just in case my laptop dies, have no internet connection, or they cant find something on their end.
  2. files of all the spec on my laptop.
  3. files of reference shoe pics on my laptop
  4. files of reference costing info on my laptop
  5. pantone color guide
  6. pens, pencils, permanent markers in black, blue and red (fat for coloring in colorway samples to mockup changes), silver marker for marking on pullovers
  7. masking tape, extra wide
  8. exacto knife. super wide kind that can slice through a TPU outsole
  9. liquid paper in the pen form to draw on pullovers
  10. correction tape for notes (i do almost all my notes by hand, then give a copy to the factory).
  11. stapler for attaching swatch samples to review notes or stapling together a hacked up sample
  12. double sided tape. works for some swatches that cant be stapled
  13. vernier calipers
  14. radius gauges or a print out from illustrator with different diameter circles
  15. tape measure (got free from last maker) to help measure last bottoms and stick lengths
  16. metal ruler
  17. calculator
  18. lighter (usually pulled from huge stash you can get free from KTV the night before)
  19. digi cam
  20. batteries and charger for camera
  21. laptop and charger. (although i find you can save some weight by buying a charger locally- have the fty help) then keeping it at the
  22. international adapter (they have some great multi country ones in the nuance-watson electronic shops in HK airport)
  23. cell phone and charger. sometimes also get a local SIMM card and/or additional phone for local calls.
  24. gifts for fty sometimes can be good if a new customer. best is whiskey for the guys and chocolate for the office girls. some taiwanese also seem to appreciate things like european cheeses you cant get in asia.
  25. business cards. one note- everyone in asia is a manager of something. depending on your position even recommend print your own “unofficial” ones that show you at some sort of manager level.
  26. frequent flyer cards help lots and can get you into lounges if you have a enough status are a godsend
  27. cut up shoes and samples help loads in trying to explain something to a fty developer


  1. tylenol or advil.
  2. Ipod and adapter and dock
  3. headphones. i dont have the noise cancelling ones, but swear by the apple in ear types.
  4. company credit card
  5. print out list of important office numbers just in case.
  6. used to carry 2 boxes of nutrigrain cereal bars for in between food and for those days that meals are too strange
  7. RMB. and USD. many hotels and shops in China dont take HK or EUR
  8. wet naps. like someone mentioned, lots of restaurants dont provide towels and even so, ftys can be very dirty
  9. HK - China ferry schedule (you can get a pocket one at the terminal, or print from online
  10. 3 prints of my schedule kept in carryon, in my luggage, and with my passport
  11. photocopy of passport just in case

  12. high tolerance for alcohol
  13. practice in chinese drinking games
  14. comfy clothes. china aint no fashion runway
  15. familiarity with chopstick
  16. basic chinese always helps too. counting to ten, a few colors, glass, chopsticks, food, rice, icecubes, hello and goodbye plus a few other niceities goes a long way


I have to admit that these days I often go to china much lighter than indicated above. Besides the clothes I’m wearing, I always take:

  1. cell phone that works in china (you can buy HK or dual HK/China prepaid sim cards and chargeup cards at 7-11 in hong kong. also, most mobile plans are limited to the usa unless you call the carrier and enable international roaming, so you might want to do that before you leave the usa.)
  2. digital camera
  3. measuring tools when I have specific things I plan to check.
  4. laptop as needed, otherwise printouts and cds of files.

if staying more than a day:
4. compact clean clothes

I used to take more or will for longer trips as per Richards post, but I’m getting lazier. For a few days, i can fit everything in a messenger bag (including laptop.)

Samples of what you want – whether fabricated parts, material samples, assembly techniques, or whatever - are worth a lot in simplifying the communication and can save you a lot of aggravation. Don’t assume that they will know what you mean when you reference a common object in the usa. Also, regarding communication… - “yes” does not mean yes. It does not even mean “I understand”. It’s more like “I acknowledge that your lips moved” but that’s about it. Make sure that people repeat back to you what they understood and what they will do as the next step.

Unlike what an earlier post mentioned, you can only get cash from select ATM machines in China. My experience has been that most cash machines are local china banks only. At immigration there are sometimes international cash machines. But I’ve been in the situation where I needed to take a 30 minute taxi ride to the nearest int’l ATM machine because none of the nearby ones would take an int’l card. When they do work, the exchange rates at the machines are usually much better than at the foreign currency exchange booths at the airport.

Pick up some hand sanitising gel at Heathrow on your way out, too - very handy, sometimes theres no soap in factory bathrooms.

Great thread going here…

Additional tidbits-

Take a printed itinerary. You will need it going from the ferry in Shenzhen to the HK airport. This almost tripped me up.

Try to drink sparkling water- hard to fake that.