When you’re planning what to wear while you’re travelling in China, it’s very important that you’ve got a good idea of what to expect from the weather during your trip.
China is massive and as such the climate can vary between destinations. What you pack for a week-long July holiday in Yangshuo is going to be totally different from the stuff you’ll need if you’re hiking the Great Wall in November.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind no matter when or where you’re going though. Dust storms are common in the interior and north (even in cities), which means you should avoid light coloured clothing or anything you don’t want to get dirty.
While disposable dust masks are for sale everywhere in China, including at the airports, we recommend buying a washable cloth version before your trip as they are better for the environment.
Comfortable walking shoes are also a must for anyone travelling to China, as many of the ancient landmarks and attractions will require you to be one your feet for long periods of time.
What to pack if you’re travelling in China in summer
Generally speaking, if you’re travelling in summer (June, July and August) you can expect it to be hot, hot, hot – no matter where you are. When packing, make sure you've a couple of hats, loose-fitting pants and t-shirts and some long-sleeve shirts for extra protection from the sun.
If you’re travelling in the Chinese interior (Chengdu, Hunan, Xi’an) the summer weather will usually be dry, but if you’re near the coast (Shanghai) or in the south (Yangshuo) you can expect some summer storms. It's a good idea to pack a lightweight raincoat and waterproof shoes if you're in either of these regions.
What to pack if you’re travelling in China in winter
If you’re planning to explore China in winter (December, January and February), you can expect it to be anything from chilly to freezing, depending on where you are. Be sure to pack warm clothes for sleeping (thermals are a good idea), thicker socks and at least two lightweight fleeces (in case one gets wet) even if you’re travelling in the south. Even in areas like Yangshuo, temperatures in January can drop to around 6°C (43°F) at night.
If you’re travelling in the interior or north of China during winter, you should pack all of the above plus a few extra thermal layers, warm gloves, a scarf, waterproof shoes and a warm jacket. Remember that it’s not unusual for Beijing temperatures to drop to -8°C (18°F) in the middle of winter and Xi’an sometimes get snow in January.
What to pack if you’re travelling in China in autumn and spring
Heading to China in autumn (September, October or November) or spring (March, April and May)? Let’s talk layering and how it will be you best friend.
In interior and northern destinations like Beijing and Xi’an, autumn and spring temperatures can swing from mild and comfortable 20°C (67°F) to a cold 7°C (45°F), so packing lightweight items that can be layered up and stripped off as needed is a good idea. You should also include a warm jacket.
There are some areas in the south and on the coast where the shoulder season is mild and pleasant. Yangshuo, for example, gets plenty of days that hover around 22°C (72°F) in spring and autumn and the temperature rarely drops below 16°C (60°F), even in late November. Your best bet is to pack mainly lightweight layers and a fleece just in case you need it.
See our ultimate packing list for a more comprehensive list of items you should bring on your trip to China.
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