Ultimate List of Apps to Download While in China

It’s difficult to know what apps will be useful for China, especially for those who haven’t been there before. For when it comes to traveling or living in China, anything to make life easier is warmly welcomed.

One way of making things just that little easier is by downloading country-specific apps, and since China is such a huge country, with such a vast market, it’s difficult to know what the best apps are for China. This difficulty is compounded even more if you don’t know any Chinese.

To make life a little easier for those looking to make life just a bit more convenient, I’ve compiled a list of the most useful apps for you while you traverse around the Middle Kingdom.

This list is long, so get prepared to write down a few!

Social and Networking Apps

The-Most-Useful-Apps-For-China-Travelling-or-Living-in-China-1zzWechat

If you’ve been to China in the past 5 years or currently live here, then you most likely know everything (or at least enough) about this app.

For the unacquainted, when it comes to talking and communicating in China, this is the ubiquitous app. Apps like Viber and WhatsApp never really took off in China (due to various reasons).

If you meet somebody new in China, they’ll ask for your Wechat to stay connected. Wechat can translate Chinese text during conversations if you hold the person’s response and select translate, this is what makes Wechat very useful.

On top of Wechats usefulness in translations, if you can manage to connect your bank card to your Wechat account, you can transfer money to other Wechat users, much like Paypal. This means that you can simply scan a QR code to pay for food or events, and no need for actual paper money. You can even pay for hotels and even order food and taxis.

In short, using Wechat will make your time in China a lot simpler and easier.

Price: Free
Compatibility: Android and IOS

The-Most-Useful-Apps-For-China-Travelling-or-Living-in-China-6zzQQ And QQ International

Similar to AOL messenger, QQ used to be the dominant communication app in China, however, Wechat took over because it just offers more.

However, having said that, QQ is still very popular and is mostly just used as an email server. This is where the joke of long and confusing Chinese email address comes from.

Price: Free
Compatibility: Android and IOS

The-Most-Useful-Apps-For-China-Travelling-or-Living-in-China-3zzTantan

This is another app which was made specifically for the Chinese market to replace an existing Western app. Tantan is a dating app and was created as an alternative to Tinder. While Tinder is used in China, Tan Tan is the main dating app which is used in China.

Price: Free
Compatibility: Android and IOS
The-Most-Useful-Apps-For-China-Travelling-or-Living-in-China-2zzWeibo

Weibo is a microblogging app, it’s best to be viewed as the Chinese version of Twitter without Donald Trump. It’s all in Chinese, but if you can manage to navigate it, then you may find it useful to see the latest trends in China.

Price: Free
Compatibility: Android and IOS

Language and Translation Apps

The-Most-Useful-Apps-For-China-Travelling-or-Living-in-China-5zzGoogle Translate

This seems like the most obvious choice to have, and while Google Translate is very useful in China, the problem is that for most it simply doesn’t work. What I mean by this, is that you need a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to access Google Translate.

Price: Free (But need a VPN to use)
Compatibility: Android and IOS

The-Most-Useful-Apps-For-China-Travelling-or-Living-in-China-4zzPleco Chinese Dictionary

Since Google products are banned in China, Pleco is a great alternative. Pleco is a dictionary with both English to Chinese, and Chinese to English translations. Additionally the Chinese translations are shown in both simplified Chinese, and pinyin, while also having an audio component to check pronunciation.

The downside is that pleco doesn’t do so well when translating sentences, even the shortest of ones. It’s best to use Pleco for single, or several words. For longer sentences, I recommend copying and pasting the text in WeChat then translating or just using Google Translate.

Price: Free
Compatibility: Android and IOS

The-Most-Useful-Apps-For-China-Travelling-or-Living-in-China-18zzWaygo Visual Translator

Waygo can be very helpful for translating large texts from signs or menus. The problem is that you can only use 10 free translations per day.

Price: Free (10 translations per day)
Compatibility: Android and IOS
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Memrise

Early last year, Memrise finally completed their mobile platform. This app does wonders for character memorization and expanding vocabulary by focusing heavily on mnemonics and spaced repetition with a clean and easy to use interface. Additionally, Memrise has features that will make your Chinese studies feel meaningful and rewarding.

Price: Free with premium options
Compatibility: Android and IOS

asdfsadfThe Chairman’s Bao

Already have some Chinese under your belt? Take the leap to reading the news with the Chairman’s Bao. Focused heavily on vocabulary and reading, this app will improve your formal Chinese language comprehension. With both vocabulary and grammar explanations, The Chairman’s Bao is a powerful tool to add to your Chinese studies’ arsenal.

Price: $7-10 USD/month
Compatibility: Android and IOS

0x0ss-85Chinesepod

Chinesepod is great for those wanting to study conversational Chinese by topics and scenarios. Chinespod goes above and beyond to explain the culture behind the language and breaking down each word and dialogue for the listeners in a way that is easy to digest and start putting into practice.

Price: First month is 99 cents, $30 USD/month after
Compatibility: Android and IOS

1200x630bbSkritter

Both therapeutic and challenging, Skritter is an app that uses spaced repetition to teach you the correct way, stroke by stroke, to handwrite Chinese characters. To not waste too much paper, this app great for those wanting to step their Chinese game up by learning how to handwrite characters.

Price: $15 USD/month
Compatibility: Android and IOS

The-Most-Useful-Apps-For-China-Travelling-or-Living-in-China-17zzLearn Chinese Mandarin Phrases

Another great, little app to have in China. The app has a quite a few basic phrases and an audio component for each phrase as well. This will help make your initial days in China all the easier. The app contains some simple phrases on how to greet yourself, transport, and for ordering food.

Price: Free
Compatibility: Android and IOS

Travel/Accommodation Apps

The-Most-Useful-Apps-For-China-Travelling-or-Living-in-China-9zzCtrip

When it comes to booking anything in China related to travel or accommodation Ctrip is the app. The only thing you can’t book on Ctrip relating to travel and buses.

Ctrip covers both domestic and international flights, high speed and slow trains all across China, along with accommodation in any city in China. You can pay for purchases using either an international card or Union Pay.

Price: Free
Compatibility: Android and IOS

agoda-e1494583761641Agoda

Agoda is one of the world’s fastest-growing online hotel platforms. Today, Agoda offers hundreds of thousands of accommodation options around the globe with service and support in over 40 languages.

Price: Free
Compatibility: Android and IOS

u=2844793193,3887160095&fm=27&gp=0.jpgMetroMan / China Metro

Catching the metro in any new city can be a little daunting. Thankfully these apps take some of the stress out of the equation by planning routes for you. Simply type in the name of the station your starting at and your final destination, and the app will select the quickest and easiest route for you.

Price: Free
Compatibility: Android and IOS

The-Most-Useful-Apps-For-China-Travelling-or-Living-in-China-10zz Google Maps

Once again in order to take advantage of any Google product in China,- you’ll need a VPN. Most maps which you bring up on Baidu (the Chinese Google) will be in Chinese, so it makes it a little difficult planning routes and sight sighing when you can’t read the map to begin with.

Google Maps has the name of the major sightseeing locations in English and Chinese, along with hotels, and metro stations.

Price: Free (need a VPN to use)
Compatibility: Android and IOS

app-Baidu-MapsBaidu maps

Since Google (and therefore Google Maps) is blocked in China, this is the best way to properly navigate around town. However, you need to be able to type in Chinese!

The app works the same like Google Maps, which lets you calculate directions. However, Baidu Maps makes it possible to check accurate bus schedules and even shows you approximate prices for taxis.

Price: Free (Only in Chinese)
Compatibility: Android and IOS

The-Most-Useful-Apps-For-China-Travelling-or-Living-in-China-8zzDidi

Since Uber isn’t available in China, instead there is the app called Didi with a new English interface. However, the drivers will most likely not speak English.

The app works much in the same way as Uber and is a great way to guarantee a taxi during peak hour times, or if you’re in a place where there aren’t too many taxis.

Price: Free (Only in Chinese)
Compatibility: Android and IOS

asdasdsaOfo / Mobike

Since last year, bike sharing has grown explosively. For foreigners wanting to take advantage of China’s biking sharing platforms, you will first have to upload a picture of your passport and one of yourself holding it.

After uploading these photos, you will be prompted to make a refundable deposit of 200-300 RMB before being able to unlock the bikes.

To ride the bike, open the app and scan the QR below found just below the bike seat. You will be charged .5 RMB every 30 minutes until you lock the bike (lock is found on the back wheel).

Price: 200-300 RMB refundable deposit + .5 RMB every 30 minutes of use
Compatibility: Android and IOS

Finance, Shopping And Food Apps

The-Most-Useful-Apps-For-China-Travelling-or-Living-in-China-12zzAlipay

Like Wechat, Alipay is another app which you can use to pay for most things in China with. Using Alipay you’ll be able to pay for just about anything, from restaurants, taxis, shopping, groceries, movie tickets and plenty more.

The app isn’t essential for getting around China, and you can certainly pay for things without it. But it does make things easier.

Price: Free
Compatibility: Android and IOS

The-Most-Useful-Apps-For-China-Travelling-or-Living-in-China-11zzTaobao

Taobao is one of the largest marketplaces in the world. You can buy anything and everything, from clothes and food tocomputer, and even pets (though pets are best not bought through Taobao).

The best part is that is normally cheaper than in the stores and you will have it shipped straight to your door, sometimes even on the same day you ordered it!

Price: Free
Compatibility: Android and IOS

The-Most-Useful-Apps-For-China-Travelling-or-Living-in-China-13zzTmall

While Taobao is awesome, and you can find just about anything on there. The problem is that it does have quite a few fake products on there, so it can be a little hard to know whether or not the thing you’re purchasing is legitimate. Because of this there is a solution and that is Tmall.

Only registered sellers of brand products are allowed on Tmall, so you can shop on Tmall with confidence knowing what your buying is not fake.

Price: Free
Compatibility: Android and IOS

The-Most-Useful-Apps-For-China-Travelling-or-Living-in-China-15zzJD.com

For the same reason of wanting to use Tmall, JD.com offers the same thing mostly for electronic products. Jindong uses the same certified products as Tmall does and is strongly recommended for electronic products.

Price: Free
Compatibility: Android and IOS

The-Most-Useful-Apps-For-China-Travelling-or-Living-in-China-16zzWaimai Meituan

Waimai Meituan is a delivery service app with a range of products on it.  You can order meals, drinks, and even fruit and vegetables as well as any household groceries to be delivered to your address.

The app is in Chinese, however, you’ll be able to navigate simply using the pictures. The delivery will bring the items straight to your doorstep for only the small delivery cost of around 3 – 4 RMB, which is less than $1USD.

Just be prepared to answer the phone if the delivery person calls!

Price: Free(to browse, no free food!)
Compatibility: Android and IOS

app-DianpingDianping

Dianping works in a similar way as Yelp does! It offers reviews on food and restaurants, and can even suggest and find restaurants around you. This app also has the location of each restaurant in Chinese to show your taxi or didi driver.

Price: Free
Compatibility: Android and IOS

Entertainment Apps (games, music, movies, tv shows)

267971NetEase Music / QQ Music

Easy to navigate, both platforms offer a range of genres and artists for you to explore. If one app doesn’t have what you’re looking for, just switch to the other!

Price: Free
Compatibility: Android and IOS

u=1963498268,2881322402&fm=27&gp=0Tencent video / Youku / RenRen Shipin / Iqiyi

These four apps are some of the most popular for streaming and downloading movies and tv shows. Luckily, most will be free to access.

However, for more recent movies, you can either pay a small fee of either 15 RMB a month or pay individually for a VIP movie ranging from 1-5 RMB.

RenRen and Youku are the best for T.V. shows while Iqiyi is great for finding movies.

Price: Free with the option for monthly VIP membership and one-time transactions
Compatibility: Android and IOS

111315231110023125Wangzhe Rongyao  王者荣耀

Since Tencent owns Riot Games, the Chinese tech monopoly known as Tencent was able to recreate League of Legends (LoL) and bring it to a mobile platform. It is one of the most popular mobile games in mainland China.

Price: Free (with in-game store)
Compatibility: Android and IOS

timg.jpgCiji Zhanchang 刺激战场 / Quanjun Chuji全军出击 

In China, Player Unknown Battlegrounds (PubG) was also brought to the mobile platform. Unlike Wangzhe Rongyao, you will find this game under many different names. The two listed above are the most popular.

Price: Free with ingame store
Compatibility: Android and IOS

101746806Douyu.tv

A popular streaming platform focused on video game streaming. A lot of features on Douyu.tv is identical to that of Twitch.tv. It hosts an array of streamers and games as well as official channels streaming tournaments.

Price: Free with VIP and sub options
Compatibility: Android and IOS

General Apps 

The-Most-Useful-Apps-For-China-Travelling-or-Living-in-China-7zzAir Quality China

Although pollution is not a big issue in Shenzhen, it’s no secret that the air quality in China isn’t the best in the world. This free app tracks the number of fine particles (PM 2.5) in the air and rates the air quality within most cities in China, even some of the smaller cities as well.

Price: Free
Compatibility: Android and IOS

recommended-expressVPNVPN (Virtual Private Network)

Having a VPN is hands-down the most useful app to have on your phone. You’ll notice a lot of apps and website don’t work in China since they are blocked by the Great Firewall. It is a must to use to access your Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, etc.

ExpressVPN is the recommended VPN by a majority expats as it has been the most reliable VPN over the past few years.

Price: $9-13 USD/month
Compatibility: Android and IOS

 

Did I miss anything? Share it with us in the comment section!

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