If you want to find your way around China, meet the locals, and sample the culinary delights the country has to offer, you’re going to need an app or two. No doubt you’ve invested significant time and effort into getting your language skills up to speed, but there’s so much more you’ll need than that. Getting a taxi, hiring a bike, shopping, even finding the best places to eat can now all be done from the palm of your hand.
To make things nice and easy for you we’ve handpicked 8 of the best to give you plenty of food for thought. Just what you need when you want to enjoy every second of your time in China like never before.
WeChat is the WhatsApp of China
No list of apps you need when you visit China would be complete without WeChat, so what better place to start? It’s the messaging service used by just about everyone who’s online in the world’s most populous country, which in itself makes it a powerful tool for getting things done when you are over there.
You can also post your activities and ‘events’ as WeChat calls them so that your friends and loved ones can see what you’re getting up to on your travels. If you want to be able to practice your written Chinese and have an active social life while you’re in China, look no further than WeChat.
WeChat in Chinese is 微信 (wēi xìn).
DIDi gets you a taxi with the click of a button
If you want the ultimate in on-demand travel, nothing quite compares to hailing a cab. The problem is the unwritten rules for getting someone to stop and pick you up differ from country to country, and they can be something of a mystery to those visiting China for the first time. If you don’t fancy braving it in the multi-lane traffic in the hope that someone sees you, DIDi is China’s answer to Uber. It also comes with an English language version if you don’t quite have the confidence in your Chinese to get you to the right destination.
DiDi in Chinese is 滴滴出行 (dī dī chū xíng).
Baidu Maps helps you get from A to B
If you’ve tried using Apple maps and you want something that’s a little more focused on the local environment and up to date, look no further than Baidu Maps. It comes complete with the very latest street views — vital when you’re visiting a country that’s growing at such a rate — and even displays all of the Chinese characters for each site. Perfect if you want to be able to navigate any of China’s stunning cities with ease whilst also getting to practice your reading skills.
Baidu Maps in Chinese is 百度地圖 / 百度地图 (bǎi dù dì tú).
MetroMan helps you navigate the huge subway systems with ease
No matter which city you visit in China, you’re going to come face to face with one of the huge topological maps that seem impenetrable the first time you see them. If you know the iconic London Underground map that’s loved the world over, you’ll be in for a bit of a shock when you see the sheer scale and complexity of the Chinese equivalents. They seem to expand for as far as the eye can see, have more colors than the rainbow, and are littered with sidelines and diversions that can leave you scratching your head.
To make things simple, MetroMan allows you to plot your route out just as if you were using a satnav in your car. Just what you need when you want to make the most of the local infrastructure.
MetroMan in Chinese is 地鐵通 / 地铁通 (dì tiě tōng).
Alipay allows you to buy anything without having to worry about card issues
The world of contactless phone payments is still in its infancy in the West, but it’s all the rage in China. WeChat Pay is a popular option used by the locals, but as they’ve already had an entry on this list we thought we’d focus on Alipay.
It’s a great little app that allows you to leave your cash safely at home in your hotel room so you can travel with the peace of mind that your money is always secure. It works much the same as Apple Pay (without going too far into the technical details) and all you need alongside the app is a Chinese bank card. If you’re traveling for an extended period of time this would be well worth looking into in advance.
Alipay in Chinese is 支付寶 / 支付宝 (zhī fù bǎo).
Mobike allows you to rent a bike and go and see the city
Cyclists are often seen as the scourge of the roads in the West, but in China they are everywhere you look. If you want to get out and about for minimal cost and effort, cycling is the way to do it. The roads may look a little chaotic and haphazard at first, but that’s just because you need to find your feet and learn a few small differences in the way road users behave.
Mobike bikes are dotted all over most cities in China, and all you need to do to hire one is scan the relevant QR code in the app. The bike will then unlock, your account will be charged, and you’ll be free to head off on your next adventure. Ideal if you want to take the hassle out of cycle hire.
Mobike in Chinese is 摩拜單車 / 摩拜单车 (mó bài dān chē).
Ctrip ensures you never miss out on new things to do
With a country the size of China it can be all too easy to spend your time in one place and never think to leave. Everything is so big and expansive that you’ll never get bored, but will you really get a true feel for the country if you don’t experience a few different cities?
That was the thought that led to the creation of Ctrip — the app that allows you to plan a multi-city trip from the palm of your hand. You can think of it as your very own travel agency through which you can search for accommodation, book tickets, organize transfers and package deals, and even see location-specific recommendations. Ideal if you want to get more out of your travels than ever before.
Ctrip in Chinese is 攜程 / 携程 (xié chéng).
One of the things that people struggle with the most when they visit China is the food. That’s not to say it’s not delicious (it is), it’s more about having the confidence to find new foods night after night. If you’re the kind of person who always seems to unintentionally find a couple of favorites and go to them over and over again, only to wish you were somewhere new, try Baidu Waimai.
As China’s answer to Deliveroo and Uber Eats, it allows you to order anything you could think of direct to your door. You can order, track, and make payments through the app, and then have the luxury of enjoying fresh food from a different restaurant every night.
Baidu Waimai in Chinese is 百度外賣 / 百度外卖 (bǎi dù wài mài).
Now that you’ve heard all about the amazing apps that will revolutionize your time in China, all you need to do is start downloading them. Once you do that, you’ll be ready to jump on a plane armed with everything you need to explore what one of the world’s most beautiful countries has to offer. Have a great trip!
This guest blog post comes from Kristin Savage, who nourishes, sparks and empowers using the magic of a word. Along with pursuing her degree in Creative Writing, Kristin was gaining experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in marketing strategy for publishers and authors.