We surely won’t knock your socks off saying that most useful apps are just unavailable in this part of the world. In the majority of cases that means being blocked by the Chinese government.
Got used to your Apple Pay, Google maps, Uber and Instagram?
Well, forget about these and 10,000 other services! Being a tourist or an expat in China will demand great adaptation skills on every level.
Technology is the first step. Since you can’t just literally forget about the most helpful apps, we’ll show you a way to get around.
We’ve already prepared a list of the very best apps to use in China with links and explanations. Good for both expats and someone going on vacation. Enjoy!
VPN: Top Downloaded Apps for Travelers
Remember to get one before your trip to China. Otherwise, no social networks, no Youtube videos, and no Google!
A VPN is the solution: your traffic is encrypted and you get to surf on the Net, using a virtual server from a different country. To make it short, you bypass all restrictions and live a normal life.
This is why these are the most downloaded apps in Asia!
We suggest paid plans because free ones tend to contain LOTS of ads and the speed is far not that good. Plus, free offers don’t guarantee full protection, so your activity might be detected.
One of the top 10 apps you can rely on.
This service is completely secure and efficient against the Chinese Firewall. It works on all kinds of OS, including Android, iOS and Windows.
So it’s perfect for someone willing to travel to China and stay there for some time.
There is a free 7-day trial so that you could see if the quality meets your expectations.
Here is another option, a little less costly! It offers great protection and is among the most downloaded apps for iPhone.
Another perk is that the connection speed is stable and high, with no traffic limits whatsoever.
This one is among the fastest popular phone apps, it has recently got an award for that!
The quality is decent and the pay is far below some other VPN services. According to the clients’ reviews, Ivacy works really well in Asia, which is essential!
With this one not only can you use Instagram in China, but also watch Youtube videos, preparing for your class, and stay in touch with your family.
Top Mobile Apps for Air Quality
Clearly, these are must-have phone apps!
Levels of air pollution in big cities like Beijing can be very high.
This is why many people wear masks and have special apps on their devices.
This can save your health and your money.
Foreigners living in China make air quality checks a daily routine.
This way you can decide whether to put on a regular mask, something with better protection or walk out barefaced!
Here are the best apps to use in China.
This one used to be called the China Air Quality Index. It has been specially designed for use in Chinese cities.
Nowadays it includes lots of European and USA destinations, so it’s really helpful for travelers.
The app is free and contains plenty of useful information. A premium account costs only 99 cents/year.
Here is another international app to download before traveling to China.
It’s as good as the previous one. Plus, it’s widely used by locals and Americans living in China.
Best Map Apps
In fact, if your VPN is strong enough, you can stick to Google maps China!
If you want a backup plan, an offline map would be a great option.
Many people suggest switching to offline mode with Google maps, but sometimes you just can’t do that (due to technical problems, apparently)!
Here are two useful apps for foreigners.
If you do know some Mandarin, then go for Tencent maps or Baidu (with no English version so far)!
However, that’s unlikely, so we’ll just stick to English-speaking apps only.
You probably know this one.
One of the best apps for traveling worldwide – totally free and very detailed.
That’s just perfect for weekend trips or outings in your city.
The only thing is to have enough free space on your phone and download all regions beforehand.
Plus, you can indicate new objects, places or changes on the map while you travel to help others.
China Travel Guide
Planning to stay in a big city?
This one has a nice interface and offers useful tips for traveling to China, like what to see, where to eat out, etc.
However, this app by Triposo may not be as good for someone in a rural area or smaller Chinese towns.
This one is as important as maps because metro is crucial in Chinese life.
This metro trip app will tell you when a station is open, how to get where you need. It also shows you an approximate time for every trip.
Best Translator Apps to Use
Remember, no heavy dictionaries or phrase books in the baggage!
If your Mandarin level is close to zero, then all you need is a good Chinese to English app. No need to download an English-Chinese dictionary because it’s of no use in real life!
In fact, with VPN access, you can survive with Google tools alone, but we’d advise downloading offline software as well. Just in case, you know.
The best translation app that doesn’t require the Internet!
It’s free and outstanding offering offline text translation, speech and picture translations (on information boards or street signs).
This one is a real life-saver in faraway villages in China, where an English speaker is a rare bird! It could be helpful in class, too.
Ready to learn the language?
Pleco is there for you! It’s an English to Mandarin dictionary, where you can both input pinyin or draw the character to see English translation.
You can also download the Pleco Chinese dictionary for PC.
Another free option with a familiar interface.
Photo mode is for paid plans, but text and audio translations are available to everyone.
You are offered a few versions of translation every time, which is so handy with Chinese.
Chinese Apps for Shopping and Payments
Although, we are all used to Apple Pay, once moved to China, you get to adapt.
They just don’t offer this possibility in most stores. Forget about most digital wallets and services.
The Chinese have theirs instead. As of now, there are 2 best apps to use in China when you go shopping – WeChat and Alipay. Having these on your phone will surely make your life easier.
Along with Aliexpress, it’s among top China shopping apps.
Basically, it’s an e-wallet, like PayPal, which lets you pay your bills, buy things and order food or whatever you want.
Unfortunately, there is no English version, so you might need a friend to help or spend more time, translating everything manually.
No foreign bank cards are accepted either.
There is no special financial app – it’s barely a function within the popular social app WeChat.
In order to pay for your groceries or a restaurant check, scan a special QR code.
Good news, that there an English Wee chat app download available. No need to struggle with Mandarin!
You may have heard about Aliexpress, well, the Taobao English app is similar. It’s a shopping app with thousands of online stores.
Music and Chinese Movies Apps
Again, with a reliable VPS provider, there is no need to look further.
Keep on watching your Netflix series, listening to Apple or Google music.
However, if you want to explore new services, here are a few best Chinese apps to get.
It could be helpful for foreigners, who wish to learn some Mandarin.
A highly recommended Chinese music downloader and online service.
It’s actually more popular than some Western analogs, rated #3 on iTunes. No wonder – there are over 210 million active app users per month!
It enables you to watch videos, interviews with stars, KTV, listen to popular music and even download tunes to your device.
Youku and Toudou Movies
Want to see what Chinese Youtube is like? There is a lot of Chinese content like dramas, mini-series and shows, but also the latest American movies.
A Baidu streaming video platform with the latest dramas, cartoons and movies. Nowadays, it’s probably the most popular app of the kind.
Chinese Food Delivery Apps
In here it’s all for and about food, right? Here are a few apps to order tasty meals while you’re traveling in China.
Hungry? Order very traditional and tasty Chinese food through this app. Nearly 53% of locals use it regularly. New users get gift packs!
This app is among the best useful apps in English. Plus, it offers supermarket delivery, which can be really handy! There seems to be a problem with its Android application at the moment, but you can still use the site.
If you prefer fancy cuisine, then download Enjoy for your China trip. Through this app you can order food or reserve a table at an exquisite restaurant.
Taxi in China
Although they do have Uber, most locals still prefer Chinese apps. Plus, international companies are not always present in smaller cities.
This is an extremely popular Chinese car service. Good news, there is an English version!
Need some exercise? Rent a bike through this app. The interface is foreigner-friendly with an English version. It’ll totally work for a European or American traveling to China.
Chinese Apps for Hotel and Ticket Booking
What to know about traveling to China? Life is dynamic in here, everything changes quickly and you need to be proactive. In terms of traveling it’s about booking your stay and ticket well before the departure. Otherwise, there might be none left.
These best apps to use in China will help you have the most comfortable and cheap seats wherever you go.
Ctrip is one of the very best apps for hotels and train ticket booking. It works very fast and is very enjoyable, especially since the interface is in English.
This multilanguage app lets you find the cheapest accommodation in tourist Chinese cities. Chances are, there will be Western commodities and English-speaking staff.
Chinese Chatting Apps
Since platforms like Tinder or Facebook are blocked in China, there are local ones to replace them.
You remember this app ? Originally, it was for commuication. It’s similar to Facebook. You can chat via the application and use Wechat translate in case you don’t understand.
Are you a Tinder addict? Try Momo! It’s as good. Unfortunately, this Chinese chat app doesn’t have any translations into foreign languages.
In case you are fluent in Mandarin or already have some friends, this instant messaging app is what you need. Check it out, QQ is a top Chinese chatting app.