Smartphones are more common than rice in China. Apps like WeChat have now become an everyday part of life for people here, and as an Ambassador it’s important to utilize all the tools you have available. Here’s a list of the most important apps to have in China:
WeChat is a must-have app, and is crucial to communication in China. Not only is its Chinas #1 texting app, you can also use it for a multitude of purposes, like: online banking, calling a taxi, step counting, conference calls, connecting to wifi, and more. You’ll soon get familiar with stickers and QR codes. WeChat is essentially a combination of Instagram, instant messaging, Facebook, and then some.
Sometimes you will run into a sign or menu that is only in Chinese. When this happens, you’ll need a way to translate it, and Pleco is the best app to do that. Simply use Pleco’s camera feature or draw the character strokes, and have the text translated. Or do the opposite when you forget a Chinese word, and search for it using the English translation. This app has saved me many times from going hungry at Chinese-only restaurants.
If you live in a city with a subway station, the Metro Map app is an effective tool to figure out where you’re going. You can look at the subway system, or isolate your departing and arriving stations; the app will tell you how to get there, and give a travel time estimate. Even though many subway systems us both Chinese and English, this app can help keep you from getting lost and take the most direct route.
Rent-a-bike companies have developed and expanded rapidly in China, and OFO or Mobike are the two most popular companies. Simply enter in a bike number or scan a QR code to gain access to cheap transportation throughout the city. Once you’re done riding it, you can simply drop off the bike for another person to use it.
Google Maps (a WeChat map alternative)
Odds are, Google maps is already on your smartphone. If not, be sure to download this app because it stands as the best GPS app even in China. I have used Google maps to find most of my locations throughout Shanghai, and it has always been a great help.
Sometimes the air in China can be a bit dicey, so AirVisual is a fantastic app to use if you’re worried about air pollution. AirVisual provides a forecast for the air quality in the city you are in, allowing you to plan your day accordingly.
If you’re planning to take a trip to a different area in China, Ctrip is a great choice. Ctrip claims to find the lowest fares for flights, trains and hotels in China, which is a great way to save money. It doesn't always have the lowest-prices, but has an easy-to-use interface for trip research.
With over 400,000,000 users, Alipay is one of China’s leading apps to e-transactions. Similar to WeChat pay, Alipay is a simple way to pay for things in China. Taxis, supermarkets, and other services accepts WeChat and Alipay, so this form of transaction can be found nearly everywhere.
MeiTuan 美团 (or alternatively, Sherpa’s)
MeiTuan is an app that allows you to buy local consumer services and products through and app and have it delivered right to your address. Delivery is something to take advantage of in China, as its generally cheap and doesn’t require you to tip the deliveryman. MeiTuan is all in Chinese, so some Expats choose to use Sherpa's on their browsers instead to order things.
VPN App (Betternet, Turbo VPN, VPN Proxy Master)
China has a tight rein on the internet in China, however westerners generally use VPNs to get around the Chinese firewall. What a VPN essentially does is relay your location making you appear in a different country, allowing you to access all the websites that you can normally access. VPNs are a great way to get back in touch with people through sites such as Facebook and Snapchat.