The internet can be a life saver when you’re abroad, especially when you move to another country. It may be restricted, but there are also many apps that can make your travel life easier when in China!
There are plenty of both free and paid apps that you can download in China. You might need to use an APK file if you have a Chinese phone that doesn’t have Google Play installed. Either way, don’t panic that you’ll feel isolated in China without technology that you’re used to.
Check out our list of the apps you won’t want to live without once you start living in China!
This is our favourite paid VPN service, although there are plenty others that our friends swear by. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, and it means that you can bypass the Great Firewall of China. Hooray to being able to watch Netflix and keep in touch with everyone at home on Facebook!
*Since July 2017, there have been reports of VPN apps being removed from the Apple store. You should still be able to install them via your devices own VPN settings anyway though.
Most Chinese people use it as a form of social media, but you can also pay retailers, and even order taxis through it.
Similar to WeChat, AliPay is popular for paying for things. You can send money to your friends easily, and pay your bills. Think of it like the Chinese version of PayPal but without the shocking fees!
You’ll probably be thinking about practising your Chinese if you’re planning on staying a while, and this app is super helpful for everyday words and phrases.
The free version offers so much that you’ll be pretty confident in either speaking Chinese or at least recognising the sentences in no time!
Another language app, this time you’ll want this if you’re more serious about learning Chinese.
It’s set up like a little quiz – you get taught the new vocabulary and then you’re tested on it!
Some questions and multiple choice, some use images, and some ask you to write the pinyin (yes, including tones!) from memory!
It’s an amazing app that will really get your Chinese learning started.
If you’re not that bothered about learning Mandarin, then just download Google translate (before you arrive or once you’ve already got Astrill!).
There are other apps that work offline, but we found Google to be the best.
Make sure you have the file on your phone or tablet before you set off into the streets of Beijing though!
This is a great app for using the subway system. Beijing isn’t the only city they serve, so have a look if you’re visiting Shanghai or even Bangkok!
You can select your origin station, and your destination, and then find out the easiest way to get there, how long the journey will take and how much it will cost.
If you would rather take a taxi, then by all means flag one down. However, the Chinese Uber equivalent has just updated its app to provide an English version!
You can request a Didi car, which is private and pay a little bit less, or stick with a standard yellow and green taxi if you’d prefer to pay by the meter.
They usually arrive in minutes and have already accepted the job so won’t refuse to take you if you’re heading out of the city like some cabs do!
This company is a hugely popular estate agency. A flat with them will typically include a smart TV, Wi-Fi, a decent air-conditioning unit and modern furniture.
They can help you download the app once you’ve signed a contract, and then you can easily see when your rent is due and pay it as you wish.
There will almost always be a time when you need to convert prices quickly, and XE is a perfect way to do that. You can also add in multiple currencies and compare them, which is especially helpful if you’re travelling to many countries and need to organise your finances!
Sometimes waiting to sign into your VPN and loading up Google Maps can be a pain, so download Baidu instead.
Baidu is China’s biggest search engine, so naturally it is a popular choice to use when looking for a map. It’s in Chinese which can be problematic, but it’s handy for working out where you are or where the nearest subway station is!
This may sound like a strange suggestion, but everyone needs clothes, right!? China is renowned for making small clothes, so if you usually shop in the Tall section, or have a waist large than a doll’s, you might want to order some clothes in.
ASOS deliver to China and it only takes five days if you choose the express option.
The Amazon of China! These are actually two different online shops, but they do the same thing.
You’ll hear people ask if someone knows where to get a certain item, and the response will almost always be one of these online giants. The delivery is fast – sometimes same day!
You can buy anything from camera gear, to cat food, to foreign make up brands here, but beware of random sellers who might be scamming you. It’s often best to buy directly from Taobao/JD shops.
Recently, there have been literally thousands of bikes popping up all over Beijing. Yellow bikes, orange bikes, blue bikes, gold bikes … the city is just a rainbow of colours right now!
This is because there have been companies like Ofo and Mobike renting them out for 2RMB/£0.23/$0.30 per journey. You download the app and add your deposit (around 200RMB).
Find a bike – they are usually piled up outside subway stations or outside shops but you can also find random ones left in the middle of the pavement! Scan the QR code to get the code for the lock, and then you’re in!
Once you’re finished, tell the app that your journey is over, and leave the bike where you want (within reason!) It’s great because you don’t have to find a bike station to leave it when you’re done, and they’re so cheap too!
You can always find cheap flights on Ctrip. It offers hotel rooms and train tickets too, and is China’s largest online travel agency so you’ll be able to find a great deal whenever!
You can also track your flight on the app and get updates on which gate you need to go to.
The one you really don’t want to need, but do! This is especially important for northern cities like Beijing, where the pollution often covers the city in thick smog.
You can check the AQI levels for the past 24 hours as well as the past 30 days, so you can look for patterns.
It’s always good to be prepared for the weather, so you can dress appropriately (read: wear a mask when you leave the house!) and plan fun things to do indoors if it gets too bad!
This list of apps is sure to help you when you move to China! They’re ALL free too, so you can download away without worrying about spending extra – not that it isn’t cheap to live in Beijing anyway!
Have you used any of these apps in China? Are there any others than you couldn’t live without? Let us know in the comments below!
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