Top 20 Must Have Apps in China for Travellers and Expats

Top 20 Must Have Apps in China for Travellers and Expats

We’ve rounded up the 20 best apps in China to make your life easier.

Mobile Internet is revolutionizing the way we travel, and this is more true for travellers and expats in China.

Best Apps in China

No.1 Find a VPN


1. Express VPN Best VPN For China

Some apps don’t work in China since they are blocked by the GFW.

It is a must to use Best VPNs for China to use your Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter, etc.

Money Apps


2. PayOneer  Send Money to / from China

Payoneer is a quick and easy solution to receiving payments worldwide. Payoneer also gives you an alternative way to pay people directly without ever going through a third party payment service.

Once you receive payment(s) of $100, you will receive a $25 reward.

Language Apps



3. ChinesePod Mandarin Learning podcast

ChinesePod is the longest-running Mandarin Learning tool.

With over 3,500 audio and video lessons at six different skill levels there is something to study for everyone.

Sign Up and Get 100 Free Lessons

Best Deal! Get a $50 off promo code for the Annual Subscription 


Google Translate app logo

Google Translate

4. Google Translate

While many Google services are blocked, Google Translate is working petty well in China.

Thought it is not always 100% accurate, it is useful for looking up how to say simple sentences especially as it shows the Pinyin as well as the characters for Chinese.

5. ChineseTrans  Chinese Translation Services 

For serious Chinese document translation, You need a human translator, or a professional translation service provider.

1 Minute instant Quote

Chinese Translation You Can Count On

  • Fluency: Your customers understand them well
  • Search & Visibility: Your content will rank high and easy to be found
  • Results Oriented: Your content sells and  will drive conversions
  • Consistent: Your brand is consistent in different places
  • Communication: We build conversations with customers
Pleco Chinese Dictionary Logo


6. Pleco Chinese Dictionary

This is one of the top Chinese/English dictionary app that covers 130,000 Chinese words and includes 20,000 example sentences with pinyin.

It is perfect for those who want to learn Chinese but also for tourists who need to translate words or phrase from English to Chinese.

Social Apps

Wechat (微信) app logo

Wechat (微信)

7. Wechat (微信)

This is the top one and recommended for you to get in touch of your local Chinese friends, or other expats in China.

Nowadays, weChat ID is more popular than your phone number in China.

This Chinese developed app has become one of the world’s most popular mobile messaging and social networking platform.

Send text, voice messages, photos, and make phone and video call to friends no matter where they are, for free.

Users can post status and share photos and links on their “moments” timeline, through a feature similar to Instagram and Facebook.

With the huge active user base in China, WeChat has become a marketing platform with all kinds of possibilities. Enterprises are setting up official WeChat accounts to do wechat marketing.

Weibo (微博) app logo

Weibo 微博

8. Weibo 微博

This micro-blogging app is the Chinese equivalent of Twitter and is a good way to keep up to date with what’s going on in China.

Since most content is in China, You may need to know some Chinese.

QQ app Logo


9. QQ

If you have a QQ number, then this official app from Tencent is the best way to use it online.

Though Chinese people prefer using wechat now, most of them still use QQ as an alternative social solution and many QQ groups are still very active.

People in China normally do not use Skype, WhatsApp, etc.

20 Must Have Apps in China for Travellers and Expats

20 Must Have Apps in China for Travellers and Expats (Photo by Chao: Century Avenue, Shanghai)

Best Maps and Navigation Apps

Autonavi Navigation (高德导航) app logo

Autonavi Navigation 高德导航

10. Autonavi Navigation 高德导航

Autonavi Navigation is China’s most popular in-car GPS with maps iPhone app.

Now it supports English language.

Baidu Maps (百度地图)app logo

Baidu Maps 百度地图

11. Baidu Maps 百度地图

Since Google (and therefore Google Maps) is blocked in China, this is the best way to properly navigate around town.

However, you need to be able to type in Chinese!

The app works the same like Google Maps, which lets you calculate directions. However, Baidu Maps makes it possible to check accurate bus schedules and even shows you prices for taxis!

Apple Maps (苹果地图) app logo

Apple Maps 苹果地图

12. Apple Maps 苹果地图

Apple Maps in China is becoming solid after IOS 9 released in 2015. And the map data is licensed from AutoNavi.

Google Maps (谷歌地图) app logo

Google Maps 谷歌地图

13. Google Maps 谷歌地图

Google Maps is the best comprehensive maps service throughout China, as it is fully available in English and makes it easy to navigate around even if you don’t speak the language.

As for now, this google-powered service is blocked and cannot work in China without VPN.

Transport Apps

Didi 滴滴出行 app logo

Didi 滴滴出行

14. Didi 滴滴出行

More widely available with bigger market share.

Shenzhou 神州专车 app logo

Shenzhou 神州专车

15. Shenzhou 神州专车

The fare is a little bit expensive and there are fewer cars, a car rental company with more standard services.

Uber 优步 app logo

Uber 优步

XX. Uber 优步

Uber has been a revelation for many of China’s big cities. Uber drivers in Beijing and Shanghai are generally friendlier than normal taxi drivers, and will be more patient with you (in order to get the 5-star rating following your ride). Payment gets taken off your international card as per usual, it’s very simple and cheaper than using normal taxis.

Didi, Shenzhou and Yidao

You can choose other apps providing similar services.

You are able to call taxi drivers nearest to you and make them to pick you up.

It had been acquired by Didi in late 2016.

Yidao 易道用车 app logo

Yidao 易道用车XX. Yidao 易道用车

Currently the most cost effective solution.


Dianping 大众点评 app logo

Dianping 大众点评

16. Dianping 大众点评

Just like Yelp for China. Hundreds of restaurant reviews, including features like showing highly rated restaurants near you.

This app offers you a similar service to Yelp! providing you with a range of reviews, descriptions and locations of restaurants, bars, accommodation around China.

Dianping also has a feature that show highly rate restaurant around your current location.

Youku 优酷 app logo

Youku 优酷

17. Youku 优酷

“Youku” offers you a great selection of Chinese, Korean and foreign dramas, movies and other TV shows for free!


Taobao 淘宝 app logo

Taobao 淘宝

18. Taobao 淘宝

Taobao is one of the largest marketplaces in the world. You can buy anything and everything, from clothes and food to computer, pets and even real helicopters. The best part is that is normally cheaper than in the stores and you will have it shipped straight to your door, sometimes even on the same day you ordered it!

Tmall 天猫 app logo

Tmall 天猫

19. Tmall 天猫

Tmall is a trade site based on Tаоbао platform, operating on B2C system (business-to-consumer). Such trade model assumes the seller must be a legal entity (be an organization, an official manufacturer or a registered brand) offering their goods and services to end consumers – individuals.

For opening a shop on Tmall, the legal entity needs to provide all appropriate documentations to confirm reliability, genuineness and the real fact of existence of the organization, company, manufacturer or brand.

This approach eliminates the risk that an unscrupulous seller with products of dubious quality will trade on Tmall.

Taobao guarantees that all goods on Tmall are official and authentic.

On each seller’s page, you can see certificates of quality and compliance.

Tmall has become one woman’s antidote to crowds, counterfeits and poor-quality products.

Travel Apps: Hotels in China, Air Flight Tickets For China

20. Agoda

Agoda is one of the world’s fastest-growing online hotel platforms.

Today, Agoda offers hundreds of thousands of accommodation options around the globe with service and support in over 40 languages. Operations have been set up in Singapore, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo, Sydney, Hong Kong, and Budapest, and an additional presence can be found in major cities across Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and the Americas.

Book Your Hotel in China!


a leading online accommodation booking website with properties ranging from international chains and all-inclusive resorts to local favorites and bed & breakfasts, together with all the information needed to book the perfect stay.

Special apps for mobile phones and tablets can also be downloaded enabling customers to book on the go with access to 20,000 last minute deals. LP is an affiliate of Expedia, Inc. (NASDAQ: EXPE).

Deals of the Day in China 


22. Booking B.V., part of the Priceline Group (Nasdaq: PCLN), owns and operates™, the world leader in booking accommodations online. Each day, over 1,200,000 room nights are reserved on The website and apps attract visitors from both the leisure and business sectors worldwide.

Established in 1996, B.V. guarantees the best prices for every type of property, from small, family-run bed and breakfasts to executive apartments and five-star luxury suites. Truly international, is available in more than 40 languages, and offers 1,243,979 active properties in 227 countries and territories.

Chao Cheng

China Market Expert Expert, Senior Partner at SinoStep
Author of Sell Online To China (Your Opportunity in China’s Booming Cross-border eCommerce Market) andHow to Build A Right Chinese Website That Works In China.

Cheng Chao has extensive expertise in China market entry, global translation & localization, cross-border business development, and global digital marketing.

Chao founded ChineseTrans, where he led a team of senior linguists to establish ChineseTrans as the market leader in professional Chinese translation services.

Since 2011, Chao has served as the managing director of SinoStep, a consulting agency helping foreign investment enter into the China market. Backed up with a strong team of China business consultants experienced in different sectors, Chao has successfully introduced dozens of overseas brands into the China market, established their operations in China on early stage and adapted their businesses to the China market.

see Chao's Bio

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