Traveling in China, well, living in China especially, you’ll realize how a smartphone means a lot here. Let me tell you. You can just take your phone out then you’ll survive for the whole day. It’s very convenient here to do stuffs with you phone. So check out these 8 important apps that you need in China. Download it quick!
You all know that China blocks a lot of foreign apps and sites such as google, facebook, etc. The first thing you have to get for sure if you wanna access all of these are by downloading VPN. I’m not gonna explain what VPN is, you can check wikipedia for the technical stuffs.
What I wanna tell you is which is the best VPN to use in China. Basically it really depends on your need. If you don’t mind to browse stuffs on internet only, you don’t use it that often, or you don’t mind the speed, you can get the free VPN apps. Well, a lot of free VPN apps had been blocked as well so..I can recommend you free VPN that you can use. Psiphon provides free services for your mobile or PC. Again, since it’s free, it might work well or maybe stop in the middle.
There’s another browser for computer or laptop that I’ve tried and it works pretty alright called Epic Browser. Basically it’s like Mozilla, or Google Chrome but it has the support to change your server in different locations.
Okay, let’s say you really need a good VPN to access google or you work a lot using your laptop. You definitely need to pay for a good, stable, and fast VPN. I’ve tried Express VPN that’s being said to be one of the best VPN out there. Sadly, the performance in China is a bit disappointing. So, which one should you use? I highly recommend Astrill VPN. Most of my friends, expats, they’re using Astrill.
You can choose monthly plan or yearly plan depending on how long you’ll stay in China. Best bargain for sure is yearly plan. Once you purchase it, you can use the account for your phones, and laptops.
Forget whatsapp. Everyone uses Wechat in China. It’s like all in one app, basically you can do everything in this apps. The main function of this application is for chatting or social messenger app but it’s far more complex than it. You can create group, you can post photos on the feed, you can transfer money, you can pay to the shop just by scanning the QR code.
Wechat Pay is the most powerful feature because you don’t have to carry your wallet anymore. Just a simple click and you can buy stuffs in a store or online. You have to connect your card to use Wechat Pay. I’m not sure for now if it’s possible for foreigners to use Wechat Pay since you have to connect bank card in it. I read in the news that soon the users can connect foreign card (Visa/Mastercard) to this app.
Inside this app you can also share news and blogs. They have something called official account. Let’s say, a cafe has its official account and they can share latest news or promotions to you if you subscribe to them. Another cool thing in Wechat is the “Mini Programs”. It’s like an app inside an app.
You don’t have to download each apps for instance, you download an app for food delivery, another app for booking flight. All these apps you can search it anyway in Wechat Programs. However, you need to be able to read Chinese. Wechat is definitely one of the important apps that you need in China. Here’s my favorite mini program in Wechat:
1. Meituan Waimai: For food delivery
2. Dazhong Dianping: For finding information about restaurants nearby
3. EnergyMonster: For portable power bank
4. Didi: Ride hailing application
5. Rail and Flights: For checking or buying train or flight tickets
Alipay is also a mobile payment like Wechat Pay but it’s owned by different company, Alibaba. The reason why you should download this app is because you can also use Alipay to open the blue sharing bike, Hello Bike. In China, you can see colorful bikes on the street where you can unlock and use it. I use Alipay to open Hello Bike and each month I pay around 15 kuai for unlimited use of the bike.
If you love shopping from Taobao, the biggest e-commerce platform in China. You gotta use Alipay for the payment as well. Alipay announced that it has opened its platform for foreigners with “Tour Pass” program. Check here on how to register and use Alipay in China without Chinese Bank Account.
Didi is the ride hailing app in China, similar to Uber or Grab. As I mentioned before, you can find Didi in Wechat Mini Programs. However, by downloading Didi you can choose to have English version of it which makes it easier for you.
5. Baidu Maps
I personally prefer to use Baidu Maps in China. It’s more accurate, also if you’re taking public transportation it can show you which bus number to take or which metro line to take. The only problem is it’s in Chinese, so for the first timer it can be a bit overwhelming I would say. The trick with Baidu Maps, when you zoom in the map, normally they will have special icon for the main tourist attraction. Click it, and the picture will show up.
6. Baidu Translate
Most of the people recommend Pleco for the translation app. Pleco is convenient as it can be used offline. However, I prefer to use Baidu Translate even though you need internet connection. Pleco translates word by word, as for Baidu Translate you can copy a full paragraph and translate it.
Qunar is a online travel agency app where you can book flights and accommodations. I found that buying flight tickets from Qunar are sometimes cheaper than Ctrip. However, Ctrip has the advantage of English version. I normally just compare both of the apps and see which one is cheaper. To book hotels in China I still use booking.com most of the time.
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The last important apps that you need in China is Taobao. This app fits you more if you’ll live in China for a while as a student or expat. Taobao is the holy place for shoppers. It’s cheap, you can find anything in this app. I think 80% of the things that I bought in China was from Taobao. I even bought my daily needs such as toilet paper, soap, any things that I need in Taobao. Sometimes you just don’t know where to buy certain kind of stuffs. You just have to search in on Taobao and they’ll send it to your place in 2-3 days.
That’s the important apps that you need in China. Which one have you got? Any other apps that you think is useful? Comment below!