There are some apps that are simply essential to leading a normal life in China. The Chinese population has become heavily dependent on technology in its everyday life. And you will be expected to adapt to this if you don’t want any weird side-looks and exasperated cashiers.
Here are our suggestions on what your phone should come equipped with before you land in China:
The famously dubbed Chinese Firewall is very real and very effective. While it may not affect you every minute of every day, it will affect the way you use the internet. It is essential to have a VPN. A virtual private network (VPN) is a technology that creates a safe and encrypted connection over a less secure network, such as the internet. Not only is your internet surfing made safer, but it also bypasses China’s internet censorship and enables you to use all your favourite app (YouTube, Twitter, Facebook etc.)
VPN's are difficult to get hold of once you’re in China, so be prepared and download one beforehand!
Here is a link to all the VPN’s available to you, both paid and free.
WeChat is probably China’s most downloaded and used application. Not only is it the most common way of communication; both text and call, but it is also a means to purchasing items. WeChat pay, alongside Alipay, are commonly used to pay for goods and services, more so than cash and bank cards. It is also used to scan QR codes for events and information and used to share Moments, keep up with friends and transfer money between users. WeChat's Mini Programs also allow you to order at food stores and beat the queue, book cinema tickets and book flights and hotels. Suffice to say, WeChat is essential.
As previously mentioned, Alipay is used to pay for goods and services. Why have two apps that perform the same function? But there will be days when you will come across a vendor that only accepts either or. Be prepared and have both in hand. Furthermore, you can be afford certain discounts and coupons with Alipay that would not come across otherwise
DiDi is the most commonly used taxi app in China. It is available in most cities. This app enables you to book a taxi to your destination without going through the awkward fumbling you might otherwise go through trying to talk to a taxi driver. Furthermore, it also eliminates the uncertain waiting by the street corner for the off-chance available taxis drive by.
Ofo / Mobike
Another way to get about wherever you are is by cycling. Share bikes are a phenomenon that has exploded over China and is found in most if not all the main cities. After placing a 199 Yuan deposit, which is refundable, you are free to scan and unlock and bike you come across. Most ride are would cost you either 1 Yuan or nothing at all.
Make getting between your destinations even more convenient. Don’t forget to research and find our what the commonly used share bike app is in your destination.
Ele.me / Sherpa’s
These apps are essentially takeaway apps. Depending on how good your Chinese skill is, Ele.me is the most commonly used app in China for cheap and fast takeaway. If you’re anything like most working individuals, cooking at home can be tiring and time consuming and the odd takeaway here and there is more than welcome. With most stores only requiring a minimum of a 20 Yuan spend and 4.5 Yuan delivery charge, you’ll find yourself ordering more than not. The app also allows you to order all sorts of things - pharmaceutical needs and miscellaneous items. If it can be collected off a shelf, it can be purchased on the app.
Sherpa is for those not yet confident enough to use Chinese apps. Or for those looking for specifically Western Cuisines.
Google maps is useful and gets people by. But if you want more accurate route planning and address searching, consider downloading Baidu Maps. Despite it being in Chinese, the app is easy to navigate. Copy and paste the Chinese address of wherever you’re going and follow the often-animated directions. Furthermore, not needing a VPN allows you to search faster on Wi-Fi or data and retain a longer lasting battery life.
Another one for those more comfortable using Chinese apps – Dianping. Looking for a hair salon? Somewhere to eat? Disney Shanghai tickets? This is the app for you. Using rating and reviews from other users, you can discern the best and closest restaurant to you. You can also plan pampering days out based of message parlour prices and services.
A lot of you are possible travelling to China by yourself and without knowing anyone here already. This app helps you find gatherings around you depending on your interests; whether it be film, cooking, sports or just a simple bar get-together. It’s a great way for anyone to make friends and join interesting activities.
Have any more suggestions? Let us know!
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