Whether travelling to China for the first time, or an expat, there are mobile apps that we consider essential apps for getting around in China. From messaging your friends, to travel, even to paying for your daily coffee, here are our essential apps for getting around in China.
WeChat is China’s no.1 messaging app, however it is so much more than that. It is a combination of Western apps Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram and much more. You can utilise it for almost anything, sending friends messages, audio and video, ordering food, booking flights and hotels etc.
One incredibly useful feature that WeChat offers is its ability to translate text through the messaging system. All the messages sent through WeChat can be translated (not always accurately) into Chinese and English, which can be helpful when navigating around. If you’re staying in China longer than a couple of weeks, it is a must have.
Alipay / WeChat Pay
In most countries in the West, cash and credit / debit cards remain king. However, China is moving further towards a cashless society as the two mobile payment platforms now reign supreme. One is Alipay, a smartphone app that was invented by Taobao, an online platform backed by the e-commerce giant Alibaba. The other is WeChat Pay, a service of the WeChat app, a product of the social media giant Tencent.
Using either of these two payment methods is the easiest way to pay for things in China. The cashiers will scan the QR-code on your phone, it is as simple as that. It is important to keep in mind that you can only connect these mobile payment apps to Chinese bank cards. If you are just travelling, it may be simpler to use cash.
If you’re stuck with no taxis in sight, then DiDi is exactly what you need. It is the taxi hailing service app of choice in China, and if you have used Uber, it is very similar. No matter what time of day, it is easy and convenient to hail a taxi to drive you anywhere with the DiDi app. The app can also automatically translate English into Chinese, so don’t worry about communicating with your driver.
Baidu Map / AMap
Chinese map applications trump Google offerings in China, even if you have a VPN. Therefore, we would recommend downloading a Chinese map application, and the best are Baidu Maps or AMAP. They are accurate, up-to-date, and reliable for travelling around the whole country. The app will show you the easiest and quickest routes for getting where you need to be.
Want to explore China on bike? Then Mobike is one of our top apps for you. Mobike is a bike-sharing application, allowing you to get around cities without getting stuck in traffic. Bike sharing has taken off in China, and you will see bikes scattered across every major city. Signing up for the app is free, but it requires a picture of you holding your passport to verify your identity. When verification is complete, find a bike, scan the QR code to unlock it and take it for a ride. Make sure you remember to lock it when you are done though, with the app costing 1 yuan for every 15 minutes of usage!
Dazhong Dianping is the largest restaurant review app in China, and can come in handy when in a new city. The Chinese version of Yelp offers user-generated reviews of beauty salons, gyms, VR arcades and so much more. Many restaurants offer online reservations and even coupons + voucher codes for discounts.
We hope these apps help you get around China and allow you to travel round seamlessly. However, should you wish to utilize your language skills, read our blog on giving directions in Chinese, which will help you read a map and pinpoint landmarks!