So you’re all set and ready for the big plane journey abroad.
You’ve got your ticket, applied for the perfect English teaching job overseas and been accepted. Got your visa, got that weird feeling in the pit of your stomach — a combination of excitement and absolute dread.
But it’s happening.
You are going.
But wait… what to pack? What to take with you to Brazil, Italy, Russia, Thailand, China, wherever?
There are so many items that you could buy when you arrive, but often that list grows and grows until it reaches twenty things that you have to go shopping for after you land.
No need to do that to yourself. Instead, pack all the essentials and you are giving yourself much less stress.
I have outlined below the ultimate list of things you should take abroad.
Let’s get right into it straight away.
Seems obvious but it would surprise you how many people forget to pack this one thing they need to get on the plane.
You’re not going anywhere without your passport so make sure it is somewhere safe.
There are some great passport holders that you can hang around your neck. Might be a good idea if you are forgetful.
Yes, you are going to another country to start a new job. You will get paid.
But that may not happen for a month after you arrive in the place. You will absolutely need some ‘Arrival Money’.
Just take enough to get you through the first month and you should be fine.
Take a credit card or two if you have them too. Credit cards are much safer. But you will still need some ready cash for day-to-day expenses.
You should be able to open a bank account as soon as you arrive. Ask someone in your school to help you with this. Then deposit any cash you take with you in the bank.
This is one of those things that people always assume they can buy when they arrive. Getting items like deodorant in the local supermarket back home is easy. Then you arrive in the tiny little town where you will teach for the next year and you find there is no such thing as deodorant anywhere to be found.
It is best to take stocks of the following items:
Deodorant can sometimes be difficult to find. It depends where you are. But if you are going somewhere hot, you will probably need it.
Going into your first class after arrival and sweating and stinking the place up is not a good first impression.
Bear in mind that if you are going to any Asian country, most local people can smell a western person a mile off.
So deodorant up.
You can buy cosmetics in most large towns anywhere in the world but it will be different to the cosmetics you use back home. The brands may be different but also the colour and style may be different from what you are used to.
And of course everyone brushes their teeth around the world but why not pack some toothbrushes and toothpaste anyway? It hardly takes up any room so you might as well take some with you.
Same for hair shampoo and conditioner.
Taking tampons I think is common sense. Why would anyone want to be caught short without those? Also in Asia, as far as I know, I think most women prefer to use pads and not tampons. Take supplies if you prefer tampons.
Same with condoms. Better to be safe. Local brands could be made of inferior rubber. Not exactly the drama you need if you get lucky at the arrival lounge.
If you are on a regular prescription for any meds at all, you need to stock up.
Take enough supplies with you and any necessary doctors’ notes/letters/prescriptions to show the airport authorities.
If you have a doctor’s prescription from home, it can often be quite a simple procedure of getting more of your medication at the local hospital. But things vary from country to country (and city to city too) so check on any ESL forums to see what other teachers’ experiences are in the place you are going to.
Walking through customs with eight boxes of meds and no certification for it at all could easily result in it all being confiscated.
This really depends on where you will live abroad.
I knew a guy who left Brisbane in the middle of December where the temperature was bouncing around 30° centigrade and arrived in Harbin in the north of China where the temperature was minus twenty.
All he had in terms of warm clothing was a sweatshirt.
That is just very poor planning.
It only takes a small amount of research to figure out what clothes you will need in the destination of your choice. Then pack accordingly.
I would advise taking the following clothing items.
When you arrive at your new destination there is a very strong likelihood that you will do a lot of walking. It is probably the best way to discover the new town or city you are in — plus you will not have access to your own set of wheels.
It is worth taking a sturdy pair of walking shoes or sport shoes. Shoes that you feel comfortable walking in for miles and miles.
Take a few pairs of underwear with you. You might find that underwear could be difficult to find in the right size, especially if you are in Asia.
Smart Shirts/Formal Wear
Many schools require their teachers to wear nice smart shirts and ties for men and formal office wear for women. Rather than leaving this when you arrive, it is well-worth buying half a dozen white or blue shirts and taking them with you. And buy a tie too while you’re at it.
Or you might have to wear the stupid joke tie you bought in the local night market with a giant fish on it.
Take Adequate Other Clothing
If you are going somewhere that has icy winters then take enough winter sweaters and a thick coat. Take socks too.
If you are going somewhere that has 37-degree temperature all year round, pack shorts/t-shirts.
If you are taking a computer, make sure it is running smoothly and doesn’t need any updates or repairs before arrival. Finding computer repair places can be relatively easy in most parts of the world, but it may require language skills which you will not have on arrival. So it might be a good idea to have your computer checked before leaving.
After you arrive and you find an apartment to rent your landlord may have internet hooked up. If not, ask someone at your school how to do it and where to go. It is usually very simple to arrange.
Computer Cables and Leads
Make sure you have all the leads, wires and chargers too. Do not travel to some backwater town and end up using dodgy fake computer parts or some local brand. Not good for your computer.
Take your phone and phone charger with you. You will absolutely need this when you arrive. Ask your school about local mobile phone services. One of the local teachers should be able to advise you. This is usually very easy to set up.
One thing you will absolutely need is an adapter plug. Buy one of these before you leave. Yes, you can get them in the country you are going to but do you want to run around looking for one in the first 24 hours you are there?
Four-way Extension Cable
It is also a good idea to take a four-way extension cable too. That way you can plug in your adapter and charge your phone, run your computer and whatever else at the same time. This will save you a lot of hassle.
Also, get a VPN service before you leave the country. They are cheap and in some countries absolutely essential. Without one, you will be largely cut off from the rest of the world.
You should get digital copies of all the following items. You may be asked for copies of something or other by your school, your landlord, the local police station, the local authorities or your housing management. Have digital copies of everything that you can then hand out with a smile. No stress, no bother.
Degree and any other certificates (originals)
Bank Account Details
You might need copies of these things for literally anything at all. So go prepared.
And that should cover most things.
As with teaching in the class, preparation is everything. Do not be that person who is running around town two days after they arrived trying to stock up on all those last-minute items they forgot to buy back home.
It only takes a little care and planning to make sure your arrival is smooth and totally stress-free.