What Should I Pack?

Clothing and shoes

Pack these according to your destination’s weather but be aware that all countries have seasons. There may be rainy and humid periods in Asia and South America so be sure to pack for these. Check out the weather throughout the year online. 

Middle East

Cultural and religious sensitivity.

If you’re going to the Middle East (UAE and Qatar are popular destinations), you will need summer clothing but it must cover your shoulders and knees. This is especially important for females but also respectful dress is expected from males. In Saudi Arabia, you’re expected to cover most of your upper arm above the elbow and down to the calf at least. Most countries in the Middle East (certainly UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain and others) don’t expect you to cover your head if you aren’t Muslim. Even in Saudi, I didn’t cover my head.  These clothing rules apply when you are in school and out in your leisure time in an Islamic country, even if you work in a British, American or Australian curriculum school with expat children, there will still be a sizable number of colleagues and parents who are Muslims. The dress code is usually smart casual but check the policy on this. The parents are paying fees in these private schools so a level of professionalism is expected. Also note that the Middle East has seasons, with an extremely hot summer in the middle of the year (40-50 degrees Celsius) and a very nice climate in the winter (in the 20s Celsius) where you can go out and do things much more comfortably. I was surprised to find out that it drops to teen numbers in Riyadh! Don’t forget also, that your destination country will have shops and you’ll be able to buy things there. Remember if the shopping malls have familiar brands from your home country, these imported items will be more expensive than if you bought them at home.

Universal plug adapters

Probably a good idea to get a few of these and the universal kind (with every plug type on one unit) is very useful. You might move countries after your contract and go somewhere else (as I always say ‘Once an expat, always an expat!’) You’ll then need different plugs, plus there are exotic holidays you might now go on in close-by destinations so they’re always useful. 

Home comforts

You might become a little homesick at the beginning so it’s a good idea to pack some of these as items. One idea is snack foods which might not be readily available in your destination country. Expats often like home-brand chocolate bars, crisps/chips etc. Also, other items such as photos are fine to take but don’t over-pack on these as you won’t have the space. Make sure they’re small things. Remember it won’t be long before you’re settled into your new way of living and have made new friends. Then you won’t need to rely on home comforts so much.

Teaching resources

If you’re an experienced teacher, you might want to bring some resources you’ve made, to save yourself from having to make them again. You might have some tried and trusted activities you’ll want to do again and you’ll need specific resources for these. Space in your luggage is precious, so if you can bring electronic versions, do so. If you’re in China, Google Drive is blocked. In this case, put them on a USB. Check out the internet censorship rules in your destination country. Remember the rule of laminating – if you’ll repeatedly use it – laminate, if you won’t, don’t.

Travel documents

Don’t forget your passport needs some validity left on it, as it’s easier to renew your passport in your home country and you might not be back for several months. Check there are pages for the visa stamps and stickers. Your new workplace should organise a visa if required and a flight for you – usually free or reimbursed. Have originals or copies of your qualifications, and your contract available. 


Buy some local currency when you’re still in your home country and take it with you. This will tide you over as you won’t get paid for a few weeks. There are some countries where buying their currency in your home country is difficult. Take US dollars in this case. You can also use credit/debit cards to buy things and to take money out of the ATM. My advice is to have some local cash before departure if you can. 

An unlocked phone

Ask in advance about getting a local SIM card. You may be asked to pick one up at the airport when you are met, or you’ll be taken to get one. You’ll need this as otherwise you may get stuck with roaming charges. WhatsApp calls don’t work everywhere, so check online as some web-based telecommunications apps are banned in some countries.