It is important to highlight the fact that in China there’s Internet censorship. What does that mean? It means that you are not able to use most of the web pages or apps that you are used to. Which are the most known and forbidden apps? All Google derives like Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps, Google translate, etc. plus Facebook, Instagram, and so on. As a consequence, I will write below a list of the essential apps when being in China:
WeChat or 微信Wēixìn in Chinese is quite similar to Whatsapp and Facebook. You can chat; make calls and video calls, share music, documents, photos, links, location, live-location, etc. Moreover, like Facebook, you can also post in your profile.
- Why Wechat in China?
You can pay almost everywhere with WeChat Pay. That is, you are able to pay in shops, taxis, restaurants, etc. Besides, you can purchase train tickets, plane tickets and even pay your light or telephone bills. Surprisingly you can also make money transfers. It’s such a useful app. Therefore, I advise you to download it if you want to get rid of paying with cash, especially if you are going to stay in China for something else than tourism.
- Wechat QR code
You can scan or be scanned in order to pay, get paid, or add friends. It’s easy. For example, the vast majority of taxis have their QR code hanging on the rearview mirror. You just have to scan it and chose the amount you have to pay. Then, immediately the driver receives the money.
Youku or 优酷Yōukù in Chinese is the alternative to Youtube. It is one of the top-rated video-sharing websites in China. Users of this video hosting service are able to view, search and share music, movies, documentaries, etc. Generally, you will find Chinese content but you can even find music from your country. Actually, I could find some hits from Spanish singers; even they are not internationally famous.
Baidu is the Chinese version of Google, or at least I consider it such as. It is such a really convenient browser if you are not using VPN or your VPN is not working well enough. This happens, unfortunately, quite often…
Pleco – Chinese Dictionary
Why a dictionary app instead of a translator app? I went to China in order to learn Chinese plus the fact that I am a translator so I totally refuse to use a translator as a way to interact with people. I prefer to use a dictionary in order to get the meaning of the words that I don’t understand. That’s the way you learn. That’s the way I learned. Also have in mind that, again, we need to use a VPN if we want to have access to our old friend: google translate.
Amap – Google maps (VPN)
It is really important to have a map app. Amap is a Chinese app and obviously, everything is in Chinese. It’s really good the fact that every place is written in Chinese because you just have to show it to the taxi driver or whoever you want to ask, and they will explain to you or take you there. If you have a VPN, obviously you can use Google maps, but most taxi drivers won’t be able to know the place, because they don’t know English. As a foreigner in wherever country, you must be always aware that some people might try to trick you. Therefore my advice is to have both apps in order to always know where you are and where you are going to.
Meituan is an app to order food or, at least it is what I used it for. Believe me; you would love this app. It is so easy to use. You just search for the food you would like to eat, you order it, you pay and in 30 minutes -1 hour, you have your food at home. It is awesome. The fastest restaurant delivery was McDonald’s (30 minutes), also the delivery was the most expensive one, which was 9 RMB (1 euro…) They were 24 hours open, while other restaurants used to close by 9 pm. Yep, I used to eat burgers at whatever time.
Taobao is like Amazon or Aliexpress. You can find everything in that app. It’s like a cybernetic Bazar. EVERYTHING is there. If not, I would even dare to say that it definitely doesn’t exist. Let me highlight the fact that I even bought Spanish ham over there, and it was delicious. Taobao has special days, like 11.11, when we all get crazy and buy lots of stuff. Surprisingly, it arrived all so fast, the latest one was in 1 week. I highly recommend having Taobao on your phone especially if you are food homesick; I bet you’ll find some food from your country.
It is by all well known that pollution in China is a big issue, as it is also in other countries and also in big cities. If you want to be aware of the pollution levels, this app is really useful. It is scary when you see that is a high level of danger to go out some days. Then, in order to avoid these risks, you can use a mask for example.
It doesn’t matter if you want to live in China or if you are just traveling around. You must use a currency converter if you want to be aware of the amounts that things cost. Of course, you can also do the math, but personally, I prefer to use an app that tells you the current amount.
Didi is a similar service as Cabify or Uber. It’s an easy app to use and such a useful service. During my experience in China, I barely used Didi’s because all the places I used to go were nearby. I also used to take public buses which were about 2RMB each trip, really cheap. Even that, it is highly recommended to have the Didi app. If you are a numerous group of friends or a numerous family traveling around China, Didi also offers the possibility to hire bigger cars.
And… until here my opinion about the indispensable apps to have when you are in China! I am pretty sure there are better apps, more recent ones, and of course, Chinese people may use other apps. But as a foreigner who doesn’t know Chinese at all, I think those were pretty dope and convenient. Also, I suggest that if you live in a city in China where there is a metro, use the app. It will be much easier to go through the subway of the town.