Top 20 Must Have Apps in China for Travellers and Expats

ByChao Cheng|China Travel


Looking for must have apps in China before your plane takes off?

We've rounded the 20+ best apps in China to make your China travel easier.

A simple guide of best apps that work in China for foreign  travelers. 

Best VPN Apps in China

Best VPN Apps for China

Best VPN For China, One Year Plan Strongly Recommended

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 access your Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter, etc.

I personally tried many other VPNs, and finally decided to stay with ExpressVPN since it is the most reliable one.

  • I can use it on up to 3 different devices at the same time.
  • One VPN client for all your devices.
  • 30-day money back guarantee.
Best VPN Apps for China

Top of PCMag Best VPNs of 2017

A cost effective solution of Best VPNs for China, which is way better than other VPN services.

  • Use it on up to 6 different devices at the same time.
  • One VPN client for all your devices.
  • 30-day money back guarantee.

Money Apps

Send Money to/from China

3. PayOneer

Payoneer 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.

Best Social Apps in China

4. 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.

Payoneer China

Scan to Follow SinoStep

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. Google Translate

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.


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

9. 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.

20 Must Have Apps for Travellers and Expats in China

20 Must Have Apps for Travellers and Expats in China

Best Maps and Navigation Apps in China

10. Google Maps 谷歌地图

Google Maps, Best Maps App in China

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.

Buy a Good VPN

so you don’t need to bother installing other Map Apps.

11. Autonavi Navigation 高德导航

Autonavi Navigation

Autonavi Navigation is China’s most popular in-car GPS with maps iPhone app. Now it supports English language.

12. Baidu Maps 百度地图

Baidu Maps

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!

13. Apple Maps 苹果地图

Apple Maps

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

Best Transport Apps in China

14. Didi Chuxing 滴滴出行

Didi Chuxing

More widely available with bigger market share. Acquired Uber in 2016 and became stronger. It is integrated in WeChat and you can use WeChat payment to use the app.

15. Shenzhou Car (UCar) 神州专车


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.

It had been acquired by Didi in late 2016.

XX. Uber 优步


The fare is a little bit expensive and there are fewer cars, a car rental company with more standard services. One nice point for foreigners is that Shenzhen supports Paypal.

XX. YiDao 易道


It was the most cost effective solution before May, 2017. However, there is big financial issue with the company and no driver would pick you up. My deposit money was dead there.

It has been resumed to work, however it's quite difficult to recover from the previous crisis.

Best Entertainment Apps In China

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.

17. Youku 优酷


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

Best Shopping Apps in China

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!

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.

Best Travel Apps for China

Hotels in China, Air Flight Tickets For China

20. 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.


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

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.

Now, It's Your Turn.

What Are Your Favorite Apps in China? 



About the Author

Chao is recommended by Paypal to bring overseas brands into the China market. Now he coaches business owners to start up and grow their business in China. Author of Sell Online To China, How to Build A Right Website That Works In China, and a series of China Business Guides.

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(4) comments

Michael June 21, 2017

I tried Didi before, but they only accept China bank card, a US bank issued credit card can not be used to call a car service . Any good taxi app you can recommend that accept a foreign bank credit card?

    Chao Cheng June 23, 2017

    Hi, Michael,
    Wechat now supports more International credit card, you can check whether your bank is included in their list.

    Another choice is 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.

    Shenzhen supports Paypal, so you can use it directly.

    My personal experience is better with Shenzhen.

      shahida January 14, 2018

      Hi. I will be going to Beijing next week. I’m wondering if I can pay cash using Didi? Any tips? Thank you

        Chao Cheng January 14, 2018

        There are different services under Didi Chuxing:
        If you are using English version, there are Express, Luxe, Premier, Taxi
        Technically, only Taxi is allowed to use Cash to pay for the service.
        Didi Chu Xing Services
        In real practice, you can give the driver some cash and ask him to help you deposit some money into your WePay or Alipay account and then you can pay. In this way, you can use all the services (Express, Luxe, Premier and Taxi)

        It is a good way to protect yourself from taking high price rides by some insatiable greedy drivers.

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