Before You Leave Home
There are some things you simply won’t be able to do from Beijing. Many personal hygiene items are especially hard to come by here, so be sure to pack plenty before you leave home.
1. Unlock your cell phone -- Sure, you can buy a mobile phone once you get to Beijing, but if you already use a GSM phone in the States, call your wireless provider and ask for an unlock code to use your phone with a China Mobile SIM card. While you have them on the line, be sure to ask if your model is GSM-900 compatible.
2. Visit your doctor -- If you take prescription medication, carry your pills in a bottle with your prescription clearly marked. Expect to get sick at least once, so ask your doctor what he or she recommends for dealing with stomach issues.
3. Bring a copy of your eyeglass prescription -- I dropped $300 on a backup pair of glasses before leaving home, only to find a similar pair here for about $15. I bought a pair of glasses and a pair of prescription sunglasses for 110 CNY each at the Silk Market. Some of my colleagues have had issues with the smog, so eye drops may also come in handy.
4. Load up on deodorant -- We take it for granted in the States, but deodorant simply isn’t available for purchase here. With hot weather and long workdays, you’ll be glad you remembered to pack some.
5. Pack some Purell -- Almost as important as deodorant, I reach for my hand sanitizer several times daily -- It’s especially handy when you want to munch on tasty street food and there isn’t a sink in sight. Grab plenty of the pocket sized and larger containers, and pack extras for friends.
6. Bring plenty of business cards -- They’re very important in China, and if you haven’t done so already, have your cards printed in both English and Chinese. Many Chinese don’t read or speak a lick of English, so your cards will be useless if not also written in Chinese.
7. Buy a Slingbox -- These clever contraptions broadcast your cable television signal to your computer over the Internet, allowing you to watch American TV from anywhere in the world. The Slingbox Pro includes a built-in cable tuner, so there’s no need for a cable box.
8. Duplicate your passport -- Bring both hard and soft copies of your passport and visa. Be sure to snap a picture of your passport and email it to yourself before you leave, so you can prove your identity in an emergency. Also consider leaving copies with a relative so they can fax it to your hotel if necessary.
9. Don’t forget your OIAC -- If you’re coming to cover the games, pack your Olympic Identity and Accreditation Card in your carry on, and email copies to yourself as well. The card acts as your visa and is very difficult to replace if lost or left behind.
10. Buy some guidebooks -- The only guidebook I use on a daily basis is the Eyewitness Travel Beijing Pocket Map & Guide -- but I’d be lost without it. The subway and city maps are a necessity and the book is small enough to carry in my pocket. English guidebooks are very difficult to find here and will likely be out of stock once Westerners begin to invade the city.