Life in China Made Easier: Apps


Living in China can be quite a challenge but luckily with today’s technology, information is abundant and with that information the possibilities are endless. The app market in China is flourishing, with anything from movie ticket apps to taxi apps. However, majority of these apps are only available in Chinese. What apps are available for expats to make life easier in China? We go through our list below.

If you have never heard of WeChat, I’m sorry to tell you but you might have been living in technology exile for the past few years. No need to worry though, we will get you up to speed. In China, WeChat is the go-to chat app. While living in China it is nearly impossible to avoid having to use WeChat even if you aren’t a social butterfly. Many Chinese colleagues prefer to communicate through WeChat because of its convenience even though it’s mixes social and professional life together. Thankfully there are privacy settings to allow you to control what others see.

There are a million chat apps out there (most likely) that all allow you to Chat with your friends, what makes WeChat so popular? WeChat allows you to do many things other than chat and that is where the real value lies. With WeChat you can connect your bank account directly to your account, which allows you to make mobile payments for situations when you do not have cash. For example, you can purchase movie tickets on the go, order a taxi, send a friend(s) money, or buy plane, train or bus tickets. 

Additionally, many other social media providers from abroad like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Line all face troubles in the Chinese market with complete or intermittent blocking of services. Unless you prefer to use a VPN at all times, your only true option for “uninterrupted” service is WeChat.

If you plan to call home often or just simply need to place a lot of international calls, Skype can be a great option. Skype is available for both desktop and mobile devices and features chat, video, audio, and international call features. Skype also is completely unblocked in China, so it is also a great option.



Love to use Uber in your home country? Well, luckily for you Uber is alive and well in China. Just load up the app and it will automatically find your location in China. You have the choice between the following list of vehicles: Black, UberXL, uberX, People’s Uber and UberCHOPPER. Yes, you read that correctly you can order a helicopter to take you to your next secret mission or opulent party or maybe both if you are James Bond on a budget. 

Shanghai Transportation (Chinese)
If you prefer or have to use the bus and can read Chinese, this app is great for giving information on how long you will have to wait until the next bus comes. The app is not as accurate for bus arrival times but at least it gives you an idea of how long you will have to wait before you embark your next sardine can on wheels.

Bon App! (formerly Indulge Smart)
Ever heard of Yelp or Urbanspoon? Well, Bon App would be the Shanghai version of these apps. Bon App! not only let’s you know which restaurants and bars are near you but it also has a dedicated section for deals. Bon App! also does a great job with it’s community based review system. This review system will give you a good idea of what the restaurant is really like, as you will see both positive and negative reviews.

If you haven’t heard of Youku, that’s completely fine as Youku is more or less a copy or should I say substitute for YouTube. Youku pretty much operates the same way as YouTube but the major difference being it’s content. You can find and watch TV shows and movies from abroad for free on Youku(When in Rome, Right?). To be able to use this app however, you will need to be able to read a little bit of Chinese. To find a show or movie in the app, English can be used as it still registers. Just be prepared for the 30-60 seconds of loud, mostly repetitive ads before each show or movie.

Pleco is a great Chinese to English (or vice versa) dictionary to have on your phone in China. The app features many features like optical character recognition that allows you to scan Chinese characters through the app to provide a definition for you. This is especially convenient for when you want to look up the meaning of a Chinese word but do not even know how to type it into your phone. This app also has downloadable German-Chinese and French-Chinese dictionaries.

Airbnb is the world’s largest accommodation provider and that because of that, it makes it easy for expats to find places to stay while traveling in China. Need to find a cool place to rest while traveling through Yangshuo? No, problem Airbnb can help you with that. Just make sure to do extensive research and check reviews to ensure that the listings are real.

Ctrip is one of the largest, if not the largest travel accommodation company in China. Ctrip thankfully, offers many of the same services that it provides to their Chinese market they also provide to their foreign market. This means that their website and app interface will be in English. With the Ctrip International app, you will be able to book both places to stay and flights. 


Other Chinese Apps
For those who can read and type Chinese.