Eight Must-Have Applications When in China

We all use our smartphones daily and presumably this will be true if you travel to China as well.  There are some applications on your smartphone that you will use frequently in China, and some that you will discover are actually a necessity.  We get into routines and comfortable with applications’ functions, and I had an initial discomfort of learning a number of new apps, but later discovered their great value.

Here are eight apps that you should download and use when in China:

Chinese Applications

1. WeChat

WeChat is a free application that you will use every single day in China.  It is used for messaging, calling, and even has a social media aspect. It is akin to any other messaging app, with audio and messaging, built-in emojis, and group chat functionality.  I found WeChat to be extremely useful when I was in China, as I was to able to message my friends and even pay for items at stores or at street vendors through the app with QR code technology.  If you have a Chinese bank account, simply link your card to the app and you are ready to easily shop!


2. DiDi

DiDi is the Uber of China.  It is super convenient to order a ride if you do not want to take a taxi or there are no taxis around you.  I found that riding with DiDi was a little better than taxis, since taxis are metered and often more expensive.  The user interface is very similar to Uber, as you can also split rides with other users. Also be prepared to almost always speak to the driver on the phone, the driver will call you to ensure your location and pickup, so be prepared to speak Chinese!  You can alternatively message the driver through the app to ensure a proper pickup and even pay the driver in cash if you prefer to.

3. Ofo & Mobike

Both Ofo and Mobike are very convenient bicycle-sharing applications.  In China, I would walk on the sidewalk, find an Ofo or Mobike, scan the QR code with my phone, and then the bike unlocked and I was ready to ride!  Within the app, there are the fees for riding, but they are very cheap prices, most of the time around fifteen cents for each ride! Of course, you want to be cautious when riding bicycles especially in a foreign country.  In major cities, there are separate bike lanes in the street going in the same direction, but you have to always be cautious of other bikes, mopeds, and bicycles sharing the same lane.

4. Taobao

Taobao is the perfect application for all of your shopping needs.  You can practically find any item that you desire on Taobao, which is also a website.  I have used Taobao to purchase cheap clothing, shoes, and accessories in the past, and the items were shipped right to me!  You can easily have items shipped to any location in China, including your school or university shipping center. It is the best site in China for cheap, online shopping, and you can always find great deals.  However, this may not be the best idea for buying gifts for others, as it depends on what it is you are buying.

5. Ctrip

If you are planning on travelling within China, Ctrip is the application for your travel needs.  Through the app, I compared flight prices from one city to another and purchased my flight tickets.  Through Ctrip, you can also book bus tickets and even hotels. Ctrip is very convenient for purchasing your tickets, and they are usually the cheapest prices out there!


6. Amap

If you are looking for more local commuting routes and updates, consider Amap you Apple or Google Maps.  Well, in China you will most definitely need to find your way to your destination, and Amap is the perfect solution.  With basic functions just like Google maps, you will never get lost if you use this app. I used this app every day in China, as it is also great for providing locations, authentic reviews, and recommendations, in addition to directions.

7. Xiami

Want to listen to music in China?  Xiami is the best application for listening to music and watching music videos.  Think of it as Youtube, along with the functions of Spotify. I love this app because I was able to listen to my favorite English-speaking artists, but also discover new and amazing Chinese artists!

8. Pleco

When in China, you will want to practice your Mandarin.  Pleco is an amazing application for learning new Chinese words, with a focus on self-learning.  You can simply type in an English word, and learn the Chinese character, stroke order of the character, related words, and even sentences using the word!  Additional capabilities include being able to bookmark words you want to save for later, and a built-history that allows you to look back at previous words.  I found this app to be extremely helpful for a daily practice of Chinese and I could even translate from Chinese to English too!

I can say that with the usage of all these applications, my life in China became much easier.  In some ways, it was even easier than life in America, as I was fascinated by the widespread use of QR code technology.  I was amazed at how easier and faster it made daily activities, such as paying for items at checkout and grabbing an Ofo or Mobike.  

For me, there was not a huge adjustment to using these apps, since they all have equivalents that would be used in America for example.  To this day, I still use WeChat and Pleco in America. I love to keep in touch with my friends in China through WeChat and practice Mandarin even more with Pleco.  These are not all of the applications you will find yourself downloading in China, but these are eight essentials, making for an easy transition to life in China!

Interested in learning more about life in China? Check out my Five Customs You Should Know When in Public in China!