Technology in China is advancing at the speed of light. Apps for pretty much anything you could desire are on the market, whether free or paid. So where do you even start when looking to download apps for your visit or move to China? Which are the best out of the lot?
Luckily, you’ve stumbled across the perfect blog. We give you a rundown of the top 8 apps in China you have to download.
Why 8 you ask? Because it’s the luckiest number in all of China, but that’s for another day. Let’s delve straight in and find the best apps on the market in China.
1. DiDi (滴滴出行)
In need of a taxi? Then DiDi is a must-download for its convenience and ease of use. DiDi is a top-quality taxi hailing service and a practical system that pretty much never fails. You will rarely be left waiting more than five minutes for a taxi, especially in bigger cities such like Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing.
DiDi wiped out competition from Uber by purchasing them in 2016, and on the back of this released the English version of this app, which is absolutely great. It also allows you to reply to drivers in English, and the in-app translation means language barrier is a thing of the past.
Taxi drivers do have a habit of calling you but don’t let that scare you off. DiDi is a useful app that will make all your travelling so much simpler and the cost is cheap. An hour-long DiDi ride can cost less than a few US dollars.
2. WeChat (微信)
China’s app for pretty much everything, WeChat is an absolute must if you’re moving to China or staying for an extended period.
WeChat is one of China’s many social media’s platforms and we genuinely challenge you to find someone in China who doesn’t use it. You could easily write an entire blog about WeChat and its many uses. What are its uses though? Paying for your groceries, your meal out, drinks, taxi services (DiDi is in built into WeChat), order food for a night in, or connecting with other people around China. That’s barely touching the surface.
We are convinced WeChat will take over the world one day. For now, China is benefiting from its utter brilliance but one day this is bound to spread worldwide.
3. Alipay (支付宝)
China doesn’t do cash much any more. Some places even exclusively just accept phone payments. The world is going in that direction. Having Alipay is pretty essential. You can pay for everything on WeChat but it does you zero harm to have another form of payment if you come up with problems in WeChat.
Alipay requires less clicks than WeChat to pay for something on your phone so many prefer to take this route. Alipay is particularly useful for those that want to use Taobao. This is China’s Amazon (another great app that should be making this list). The platform is run by Alibaba, the parent group of the South China Morning Post.
It is also useful because sometimes WeChat will not connect to your bank card. This is probably due to your English name (a whole other story). Alipay, therefore, is a good alternative.
4. Baidu Maps (百度地图)
What is Baidu Maps? China’s version of Google Maps in a nutshell. China has a version for everything. Up until recently, Google Maps was blocked by the Great Firewall of China. This has now been lifted, but Baidu Maps still works a lot better than Google Maps and is the map of choice for locals in China.
Information is more detailed and the map tends to work quicker. The Chinese really do know how to do things right. A drawback is that unfortunately, Baidu Maps only comes in Chinese so be careful when using it, although you can still navigate it without any problems.
A must for navigating China. You never know when China might pull BaiduMaps in English out of the bag, but until then, it’s still well worth the download.
5. Mobike (摩拜单车)
Want to explore China for next to zero cost? Bike sharing with Mobike is the answer.
Mobike does not require you to leave your bike at a particular docking station. This means that it is hugely convenient. Find a bike, scan the QR code, and the bike is yours until you’re finished and lock it again wherever you wish.
You can find the bikes just about anywhere in the larger Chinese cities. Chinese apps like these are particularly useful for those who do not want to get stuck in traffic. You can weave in and out of the roads and pavements. The app is also useful for those who prefer to travel overground rather than underground.
Rides are generally just a few yuan a go. You pay a deposit before your first ride and sign up with your ID. You’ll also need to link a bank card to it, but once your bike is up and running, you can go and explore China.
6. Pleco Dictionary
If there is an app that has bailed every foreigner in China out on numerous occasions, this is the one that tops the list!
Pleco is a Chinese dictionary in your pocket and is diverse and useful. Struggling for a word? Enter the English into Pleco and you will be given all the possible vocab with a few synonyms. Various add-ons can be bought, allowing you to customise your Pleco experience. One such example is the ability to handwrite a character on your phone. Curious as to what that sign says in the shop window? Whip out Pleco, squiggle the character into your phone and you get your answer.
It’s just one of those apps you have to download and you don’t quite realise why until you’ve come to China.
7. Sherpa’s (美团)
View this post on Instagram
A post shared by Sherpa's Food Delivery 食派士 (@sherpasfooddelivery) on Nov 5, 2018 at 1:56am PST
Picture the scene. You’ve been in China a week and eaten nothing but the staple dishes of rice and noodles. They are great but you just want a juicy burger in the comfort of your home. No subway, no taxi and you’re shattered from either a night of excessive drinking or a day of exploring …
Bringing you worldwide cuisine to your doorstep, Sherpa’s is a lifesaver and hugely efficient. Delivery is on the mark and you’ll always spot a yellow jacket on a bike whizzing through crowds to deliver your food as quickly as possible. Scroll through the endless lists of restaurants and order in minutes. Only the bigger cities benefit from Sherpa’s so keep that in mind when downloading.
China’s number 1 online travel agency. Book flights, hotels, trains and anything else you need inside of China with just a few short clicks. Formally known as CTrip, if you are looking at travelling around China this is always a good starting point.
For train travel, choose your date, time, and which type of ticket you want. After purchasing, you will receive a booking code via email or to your phone. Take this code, as well as your passport to the railway station, and get your ticket. You can connect your foreign card or use WeChat to pay.
Simple, quick and effective. All the attributes you want when booking travel.