China has its own unique Internet and ecosystem of apps. Many people arrive in the country for the first time and realize that their favorite apps like Facebook, Google, Instagram and WhatsApp are blocked in the country.
To make the most of your visit to China, we highly recommend trying the following apps. These apps will make your life a lot easier in China!
1. VPN – just like home
Many popular western websites like Google, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are blocked in China. It is very inconvenient and frustrating, especially if you’re on a business trip.
To have a smooth Internet browsing experience just like at home, we recommend you to download a VPN before your visit to China. It’s a lot harder to download a decent VPN once you are in China so it is best to get everything set up properly before your trip.
Based on our experience in China, ExpressVPN is easy to use and offers a fast and reliable connection, where some other VPNs may be banned. You can find out more about the app here. They offer a hassel-free 30-day money-back guarantee so you can try it out and see whether it works for you.
2. WeChat – the all-powerful app
WeChat is the no. 1 app to do anything in China. People use it to communicate with colleagues and stay in touch with friends and family. Its wallet function is used to pay for taxis, meals, book train tickets or pay for other services. Basically, it is a must to download this app.
While the basic instant messaging function is available to all, it is trickier to set up the WeChat wallet function if you don’t have a Chinese bank account.
To unlock this function, launch the WeChat app and then ask one of your friends who already has a WeChat wallet (in Chinese RMB currency) to send you a WeChat red packet.
Open the red packet and you will be prompted to link it with a bank/debit/credit card. Enter the card details (it can be a non-Chinese one) and your WeChat wallet will be activated automatically.
Now go to ‘Me’ and then ‘Wallet’, and you should be able to see the money that your friend just transferred you.
However, without a Chinese bank account, you won’t be able to transfer money from your payment card to WeChat or withdraw your WeChat money.
The easiest way to top up your WeChat wallet is to give cash to one of your Chinese colleagues or friends and then ask them to transfer the equivalent amount to your WeChat wallet.
Once you’ve got it set up, you can live like a local and your experience in China will be transformed completely.
3. Didi Chuxing – similar to Uber
If you are someone who value the convenience offered by Uber or other similar car hailing apps, then you should download Didi Chuxing. Didi Chuxing basically works just like Uber (interesting fact: it acquired Uber China in 2016) and it has an English version.
To use Didi, you will need a Chinese mobile number. It is a good idea to get a Chinese sim card at the airport. Most of the sim cards do not expire and you can easily top it up online.
Once you have downloaded the Didi app, you can sign in using your mobile number. When booking your trips, you will be asked to pick a payment method. You will not be able to use your WeChat money in this case as the Didi app requires users to link it to a Chinese bank account. When prompted, you can select ‘cash’ and pay the driver cash at the end of the trip.
4. Youdao Translate – popular translation app
A good translation and interpretation app is essential for travelling in China. As we mentioned earlier, Google doesn’t work in China. Therefore, if you don’t have a good VPN, Google Translate will not work during your visit.
Youdao Translate is a good alternative to help you communicate with local Chinese people. It supports text, audio and camera translation. You can even use it offline by downloading the offline package in advance.
Besides using booking.com, airbnb, agoda and expedia, it’s worth looking up Trip.com as well to find a good bargain for your trip to China.
Trip.com is a brand owned by Ctrip, which is the second largest online travel agency in the world. Ctrip also owns Skyscanner. Trip.com is a good travel-booking app for finding a good bargain. Because of its relationship with Ctrip, it has an extensive database of hotels, train tickets and car rentals in China.