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So you’re heading to China soon? Looking to find the best apps for travelling in China?
Whether you’re moving there or just travelling… these 10 best apps in China will be your life-line there.
10 Best Apps for Travelling in China
DiDi is China’s version of Uber. It’s the easiest way to get around as a foreigner. Taxi’s are typically cheap, starting at less than 10 RMB (£1/$1.31) for a 10-minute journey. DiDi allows you to enter your pick up point and destination prior to starting your journey, avoiding the difficulties of trying to explain this to the driver. It also has a messaging service that automatically translates the driver and your responses.
Be sure to download the English version. You may need to switch your phone’s app store to the Chinese one. You can input a foreign card and foreign number to create an account. Meaning it can be used, even if you’re not living in China. It is the best app for travelling in China.
As you may know Facebook and WhatsApp are blocked in China. Instead, WeChat is the main messaging/social media app… and it’s pretty awesome! If you meet fellow travellers, they will most likely use WeChat. Furthermore, it has an automated translation function in the app allowing you to make Chinese to English translations. It definitely makes a list of top 10 apps in China.
Asides from social purposes, it has various other functions. The best of which is the wallet function which allows you to pay for everyday items and purchase train/plane tickets and hotel rooms. China has now largely moved to a cashless system due to this. Please note, to use this function you need a Chinese bank account.
Alipay is another payment platform similar to WeChat. It is predominantly used for payments. If you’re living in China and have a Chinese bank account, this is a must have. However, if you’re travelling through, you can skip this one – it’s definitely not as vital as some of the China apps listed here.
Meituan is the most popular food delivery app in China! It has everything on it, from local Chinese food to Starbucks and McDonalds. The minimum order spend is usually 10 to 20 RMB ($3/£2) with delivery costing as little as 2 RMB ($0.3/£0.2).
Additionally, it’s acceptable in China to order food to hotels/hostels and bars that don’t serve food. So even if you’re travelling through China, Meituan is a must use app for China. Especially for those nights when you want to stay in and room service is too expensive!
Please note – It’s only in Chinese! I recommend using a translator to order.
5 Microsoft Translator
The vast majority of people in China cannot speak English. Therefore, if you do not speak Chinese, it is important you have an excellent translator app. I recommend Microsoft Translator as one of the best apps for travelling in China.
It translates photos, allowing you to translate restaurant menus with ease. It does not need a VPN to work, which is the reason I recommend this app over google translate.
As mentioned above, many websites are blocked in China. To name a few, these include Google, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. Therefore, if you’re travelling through China or living here, a VPN is one of the best apps for travelling in China. A VPN allows you to ‘change’ your location, so you can continue to access these services.
I recommend using ExpressVPN or Astrill (I currently use ExpressVPN). Download one before arriving in China as it can be difficult to do so when here.
Please note, during political events and on other occasions, VPN’s are often blocked. Try to make sure you’re not completely reliant on it – such as downloading an alternative to google maps and using Microsoft translator instead of a google based one. This is, unfortunately, a harsh reality of living in China.
Again, one for those living in China. Think of it as China’s answer to Ebay and Amazon. You can buy pretty much anything on here, and at a very reasonable price. Be aware though, many products are fake so if you care about buying real projects don’t use Taobao. However, most fakes in China are to a high-quality for a reasonable price.
This is easily one of the top apps in China. Be careful: it’s easy to spend too much on it!
Trip.com is very popular travel website in China. Locals use it to buy tours, flights, trains and tickets for tourist attractions. Because it’s available in English, it’s the best service for foreigners to use when booking trains and flights in China. It avoids the translation issues that come with booking directly through the Chinese websites.
Trip.com does charge a small fee for bookings, however, especially if you can’t speak Chinese, it’s worth it. Furthermore, buying tickets for attraction before arriving will save you money.
This is one of the best apps for China.
One of the major issues of living in China is the pollution. Especially, in the big cities like Shanghai, Beijing and Chengdu. After using this app, I was shocked to find out that the pollution on a good day in Chengdu is four times worse than a bad day in London!
When visiting or living in China, I recommend downloading the app to monitor pollution levels. I’ve been using Air matters in Chengdu for the last 7 months. It’s a great way to see when the air quality is severely unhealthy so I can avoid going outside or use a mask.
I highly recommend keeping track of the pollution with this great app in China.
While you’ll find some restaurants on Tripadvisor, it’s not that popular in China. Instead, Dianping is the most common review site. It tracks your location easily allowing you to find nearby restaurants with good reviews. Unfortunately, the app doesn’t come in English which can make it difficult to use. However, it will load up your location so you can look for nearby restaurants with good reviews.
Tips for best apps in China
- To download some of these apps you will need to change the location of your App store to China.
- Download them before you enter China as some App stores (google play store) are banned in China.
- Don’t forget to think about general apps for travelling.
The great Chinese firewall
Remember, certain apps in China are blocked due to the great Chinese firewall. These include:
It’s crucial you download a VPN before you leave for China.
These apps are essential for life and travelling in China. However, there are many other useful apps for travelling in general. If you need any more information about any of them, please feel free to contact me.
Need help planning your trip?
Where to visit:
Here is a list of the top places I recommend visiting and why:
|Place||Location||Why visit it?|
|Huangshan||Anhui Province (3 hours from Shanghai)||The most beautiful mountain range you’ll ever see.|
|Shanghai||Shanghai||Awesome city, with stunning skyscrapers.|
|Beijing||Hebei Province||The Great wall of China + Forbidden city.|
|Chengdu||Sichuan Province||Famous for pandas – check out more about life in Chengdu here.|
|Suzhou||Jiangsu Province||The ‘venice of the East’. Beautiful water towns and traditional Chinese gardens.|
Booking your trip?
The best search engine for flights is Skyscanner. Although check the reputation of any companies you book flights through here.
Fancy a tour?
If you don’t want to travel alone and fancy booking a tour, I highly recommend Intrepid Travel.
Insurance is essential any time you leave your home country. I recommend True Traveller if you have any pre-existing conditions – including mental health.
If you have no pre-existing conditions, check out World Nomads.