They Get Around | The Most Useful Apps For China – Travelling or Living in China (20 Apps Listed!)
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Feb 27 2017

The Most Useful Apps For China – Travelling or Living in China (20 Apps Listed!)

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The Most Useful Apps For China – Travelling or Living in China:¬†It’s difficult to know what apps will be useful for China, especially if you haven’t been there before. As when it comes to travelling or living in China, anything to make life easier is usually welcomed with opened arms. ¬†One way of making things just that little easier is simply by downloading country specific apps, and since China is such a large country, with such a large market, it’s difficult to know what the best apps are for China. This fact is compounded even more if you don’t know Chinese. ¬†To make life a little easier for you, we’ve compiled a list of the most useful apps for China, with these apps being applicable to whether you’re simply travelling or living in the Middle Kingdom!



If you’d like more information on China, please check out on of our other detailed articles:

What’s It Like Living in China – Living Abroad Series

The Cost Of Living In China – An Expats Guide

28 Helpful Tips For Travel In China

How To Get A Job Teaching English In China


 | The Most Useful Apps For China |

| Travelling or Living in China |


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Full List of Most Useful Apps For China

  • Wechat
  • QQ and QQ Inernational
  • Tantan
  • Weibo
  • Pleco Chinese Dictionary
  • Learn Chinese Mandarin Phrases
  • Waygo Visual Translator
  • Google Translate
  • Ctrip
  • China Metro
  • Google Maps
  • Didi
  • Alipay
  • Taobao
  • Tmall
  • Waimai Meituan
  • Dianping
  • Air Quality China
  • VPN (Virtual Private Network)


Communication Apps For China



When it comes to talking and communicating in China, this is the app that everybody uses. Apps like Viber and WhatsApp never really took off in China, instead the Chinese messaging app of Wechat is used instead. If you meet somebody new in China, they’ll ask for your Wechat number to stay connected. Wechat can translate Chinese text during conversations if you hold the persons 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. Using Wechat will make your time in China a lot simpler and easier.
Price: Free
Compatibility: Android, Blackberry, and IOS



QQ and QQ International


Once upon a time QQ used to be the dominant communication app in China, however recently things are moving towards Wechat simply because the alternative offers more. However having said that, QQ is still very popular, and is used as an email server for most. This is where the joke of long  and confusing Chinese email address come ll QQ address are a string of 8 to 9 numbers.
QQ also has a feature called QQ groups. Mind you the majority of these groups are in Chinese, with a very small spluttering in English, which is dependent on the town your in. But using the group feature in QQ is a possible way to meet others in the area.
Please note that the original QQ app is only in Chinese, however if you download QQ International it will be in English.
Price: Free
Compatibility: Android and IOS


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.
Stay tuned as Lexi and I have recorded a hilarious video of us using Tan Tan to see who would get the most likes. The video will be uploaded shortly.
Price: Free
Compatibility: Android and IOS


Weibo is a micro blogging app, it’s best to be viewed as the Chinese version of Twitter. The majority of content is in Chinese, but if you can manage to navigate it, than it’s quite a useful tool for understanding what’s happening in China.
Price: Free
Compatibility: Android and IOS



 Translation Apps For China

Pleco 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 so you can hear how the word is pronounced.


Beware though. Even though Pleco can translate small sentences, it doesn’t always have the best of luck doing so. It’s best to use Pleco for single, or several words. For longer sentences I recommend using Google Translate.
Price: Free
Compatibility: Android and IOS

Learn 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 more easier. The app contains some simple phrases on how to greet yourself, transport, and even a few tidbits for ordering food.
Price: Free
Compatibility: Android and IOS

Waygo Visual Translator

This and Google Translate will probably be your go to apps for translation services in China. While Waygo is very helpful, and can translate large texts from signs or menus. The problem is that you can only use 10 free translations per day. If you’d like more, you’ll need to upgrade. I normally jump between using both Waygo and Google Translate.


Waygo can translate text from Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. The usefulness of this app cannot be understated for travelling or living in China.
Price: Free (10 translations per day)
Compatibility: Android and IOS

Google 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. Without a VPN you wont be able to use Google Translate, or any Google product, including maps and gmail as well.


If you can manage to download a VPN, then Google Translate is phenomenal. Google Translate is free, and it can translate large bodies of text from English to Simplified Chinese, or vice versa. It can provide an audio sample of what was translated, it can also translate spoken speech, or have somebody write the character physically with the scribble tool.
While those features are very helpful, the most useful feature in my opinion is the visual translator component. Like Waygo, Google Translate can decode signs or menus from Chinese to English. Incredibly helpful. But once again, you need a VPN in order to use any of these features in China.


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

Travel/Accomodation Apps For China



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 are 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 or a Union Pay.
The app is available in both English and Chinese.
Price: Free
Compatibility: Android and IOS

China Metro


Catching the metro in any new city can be a little daunting. Thankfully this handy app takes 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 easiest route for you.
The app works for most cities in China from Shanghai, Beijing, Nanjing, Hangzhou, and Guangzhou. It even works for cities which aren’t on the mainland like Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Price: Free
Compatibility: Android and IOS


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



Since Uber isn’t available in China, instead there is the app called Didi. Unfortunately the app isn’t available in English, but if you can get a Chinese speaker to connect your card and run you through the app, it really is quite forward. 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 your in a location where there aren’t too many taxis driving pass.


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

| The Most Useful Apps For China |

Shopping And Food Apps For China




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






Taobao is huge in China, it’s the Chinese eBay. In fact Taobao and Alibaba on singles day in China (the 11th of November 11/11) is one of the biggest trading days in the world, if not the biggest. ¬†This app is more applicable for those who’ll be in China for a longer time period as you’ll need to have time for the items you order to reach you for shipping. It should be noted shipping in China is usually quite fast and only a few days most.
Taobao is known to have everything, and anything. So if you have a hankering for some Western packaged food (chocolates, crisps), than there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find it in China.
Price: Free
Compatibility: Android and IOS



While Taobao is great, 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 you’ll be buying the legitimate product or not. Because of this there is a solution and that is Tmall.


Only legitimate sellers of brand products are allowed on Tmall, so you can shop on Tmall with confidence knowing what your buying is real and certified and not a fake.
Price: Free
Compatibility: Android and IOS


For the same reason on wanting to use Tmall, offers the same thing for electronic products. While it is possible to buy electronics and camera gear from Taobao (which is where I bought my camera lens), thorough research needs to be conducted before doing so. offers the same certified products as Tmall does and is strongly recommended for electronic products.
Price: Free
Compatibility: Android and IOS

Waimai Meituan


This is my new favourite app for use in China. It is simply amazing, and changes seriously changes living or travelling in China. Waimai Meituan is a delivery service app with a range of products on it.  You can order meals, drinks, and even fruit and vegetables to be delivered to your address.
The app is in Chinese, but if you can someone who speaks Chinese to link your international or Chinese card to the app, you’ll be able to navigate simply using the pictures. The drivers will bring the items straight to your doorstep for only the small delivery cost of around 3 – 4 RMB, which is less than $1USD.
Price: Free (In Chinese)
Compatibility: Android and IOS



Dianping works in a similar way as does Yelp! It offers reviews on food and restaurants, and can even suggest and find restaurants around you. If you happen to find something which tickles your fancy, simply show a taxi driver the address.
Price: Free
Compatibility: Android and IOS

General Apps For China

Air Quality China


It’s no secret that the air quality in China isn’t the best in the world. Whether you call it pollution, smog, or fog, either way it isn’t good for your health. This free app tracks the amount 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.


The app not only tells you what the air quality in the moment, but it also tells you what it was in the previous 12 hours. Additionally if you’d like further information on an area, the app can also tell you the avergae air quality per day for the past month.
Price: Free
Compatibility: Android and IOS

VPN (Virtual Private Network)

If there was one app which I’d recommend as being the most useful as an expat, or simply a Western traveller in China, it would be a VPN. Growing up in the West and coming to China, you’ll quickly learn how reliant you are on Western products, apps, or websites.


The problem is that most of the social media platforms which you use back home are banned ¬†in China, and you won’t be be able to access them without a VPN. If you type in the address for Facebook or Google directly, all that will happen is that the request will time out.

With a VPN you’ll be able to access Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, Youtube, Google, Google Translate, Google Maps, Gmail, and even Skype. On top of those some websites which you visit may just be banned for some unknown reason. A VPN really does make living or getting around China all the more easier.

Price: $8 – 13 USD per month
Compatibility: Android and IOS

The Most Useful Apps For China РTravelling or Living in China

The Most Useful Apps For China РTravelling or Living in China

What did you think of our article ‘The Most Useful Apps For China¬†– Travelling or Living in China?’¬† Were there any apps you feel as though we missed or should add? Let us know in the comments section below. Also if you have travelled to China before, how did you find it?

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