Whether you’re visiting as a traveler or planning to live and work in China, there are a few essential apps you should always have on your smartphone – some distinct to China, and others you’ll be surprised you can use over there. You might also be shocked about what you can’t access. Much of China still has a Facebook and Twitter ban, so many apps have been developed as an alternative the blocked social networks.
From travel to entertainment to instant messaging, here’s the top apps you need when staying in China.
The #1 most important app you need in China – everyone has it. Stay in touch with friends in or out of China, as long as they have the app, when you’re in a Facebook-blocked area of the country. WeChat, also known as Weixin, is a multi-purpose social media app is the undisputed most popular Chinese app, with an astonishing 980 million monthly active users according to Wikipedia. It combines WhatsApp-style chat features with photo uploads and hundreds of mini-programs including games and shops.
Uber is no longer available to Chinese visitors (at least those who can’t read Chinese or have a Chinese bank card) since it was bought out by Didi, a rival platform that works in basically the same way. Hail a ride via the app just as you’d normally do with Uber, except it’s available in English and accepts a variety of payment methods. The app’s interface is very similar to Uber’s, so no confusion there. Get around China quickly and easily with Didi.
This addictive shopping app is one you’ll see many people browsing when they’re not using their phones for chatting and snapping photos. Shopping is a favorite Chinese pastime, which this app has enabled by being super easy and having millions of shopping options – quite like a Chinese Amazon.
This simple and convenient money transfer app allows family to send you cash when you’re getting a little low, as long as you have a Chinese bank account. The list of accepted Chinese banks is long, so don’t worry about your account not being compatible. Your family can transfer you between $20 and $3,000 per week. It’s by far the quickest and most secure method of sending funds between the US and China – find out more on their website.
This radio app allows you to sync to stations across China – choose from entertainment shows, music, audiobooks, opera, comedy, and other mediums. It’s perfect for those interested in Chinese popular culture and music, or who want to brush up on their language skills.
YouTube is another global social network platform that has fallen victim to China’s blanket bans. Luckily, Tencent Video is here to fill the online-video-platform void. Live stream TV shows, live stage shows, soap operas, TV games, and more – it’s a one-stop entertainment hub, great for people living in China.
Newbies to China will obviously need a helping hand with their language once in a while. Many Google services are blocked in China; but helpfully for travelers, Google Translate mostly works, though the translations it gives are sometimes sketchy at best. Still, better to attempt to make yourself clear when traversing new cultures.
This beginner’s Chinese language app has a free or upgraded version and is a savior for people not yet fluent to learn the basics. Quickly pick up how to read signs, menus and anything else you’ll need to know day to day. The app facilitates both typing in pinyin (Chinese characters converted into Roman alphabet script) or drawing Chinese characters. It’s essential for anyone wishing to read and write fluently.
China Travel Guide
This navigation app will help you find your way in areas that don’t support Google or Apple maps. It lists attractions with reviews too, like a kind of Maps-come-FourSquare for China. Use it to plan your route for days out. It can also handily be used offline.
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