The great “Wall” of China
In the last 10 years, China has massively grown into one of the top travel destinations whether you’re from the East or West. Being home to impressive architectures like the Great Wall of China and The Forbidden City, it is never too late to book a flight to the land of pandas!
However, as we’ve all seen and heard, adapting to the Chinese way of life might require a bit of effort, especially with major non-Chinese social networking sites banned in China on top of a potential language barrier. Now, take a chill pill and don’t start fretting because we’ve got the 10 MUST-HAVE apps to conquer China like a pro!
1. Speak like a local with WAYGO
This isn’t your average translator! Waygo is an award-winning offline visual translation application that enables travellers to easily overcome the language barrier while exploring China. Unlike conventional character-by-character translation, Waygo lets users translate menu items, street signs and more.
Simply wave your camera over the Chinese characters and with the use of optical character recognition, is able to instantly translate Chinese into English. What makes Waygo an amazing app is also its ability to translate offline (this means you don’t have to be connected to any internet source for the app to work).
It’s time to order dinner like a pro!
2. Get around with Didi Chuxing (滴滴出行)
Say ni hao to Didi Chuxing (or just “Di Di” to the locals) – China’s very own version of Uber. The app is available in both Chinese and English with a user interface very similar to Uber’s. Like most ride sharing apps, Di Di has several different options ranging from “Express” to “Luxe” and we love how the driver’s profile reflects the number of rides he/she has done thus far.
As most drivers are unable to converse fluently in English, Di Di offers an instant translation feature that allows you to type in English while having drivers receive them in Chinese! There are also prepared English message options with common requests you can choose from. How convenient is that?
3. Book your activities and attractions with Klook
Asia’s largest in-destination booking platform carries a wide range of activities and services for the independent traveler. Here is where we get our basic fix for holiday essentials like portable WiFi devices, airport transfers and dining deals.
It is also especially helpful when it comes to half-day tours to locations outside of the city (such as the spectacular Longji Rice Terrace Fields in Guilin) that might require quite a bit of time and energy if you were to venture out on your own.
Klook also offers discounted tickets to key attractions like Shanghai Disneyland. You’ll even get to skip the queues with mobile e-tickets sent directly to your app or email after a successful checkout!
Klook is available in several languages and supports over 30 currencies making it extremely easy for users. Planning a holiday in China has never been easier!
4. Stay digitally connected with ExpressVPN
For the uninitiated, popular social media and connectivity apps like Facebook, Instagram and Gmail are inaccessible via Chinese networks. However, you can circumvent this by accessing these platforms via a virtual private network or VPN.
A VPN works as a secure channel for protecting private web traffic from interference and censorship. It does so by modifying your IP address and in doing so, “tricks” the network into thinking you’re surfing the net from a different country.
There are free VPN apps available but these often don’t come with the security VPNExpress offers. The app also performs when it comes to encryption and speed, allowing you to stream videos and scroll through those Instagram stories without interruption. With different payment plans, it definitely is worth the price!
P.S. A single subscription can be used simultaneously on 3 devices, how great is that?
5. Go cashless with WeChat Pay (微信支付)
Mobile payment has taken China by storm! While most countries are still getting used to cashless payment, China has long overtaken with mobile wallets that do so much more.
As a tourist in China, it is extremely convenient to have WeChat installed. Although it is mainly an instant messaging app, you can also pay for your meals and shopping with its payment function – WeChat Pay! The app contains chat functions, a marketplace and even a “Go Dutch” feature that allows you to split a bill with your friends. Simply launch the “Go Dutch” function (under “Wallet”) and watch as WeChat automatically splits the bill and notifies your friends to pay directly to your account!
How perfect is that when travelling with a group of friends? No more frustrations over calculations and picking up tabs!
6. Never lose your way with Baidu Maps (百度)
Google Maps don’t work in China, but you won’t need it when you have Baidu!
As with most of China’s essential lifestyle apps, Baidu Maps isn’t your regular cup of coffee – we’re talking about a sophisticated map search with a 3D option (yes, watch as your pin drops on the 65th floor of Park Hyatt Hotel where the infamous China Bar sits), public transport routes with accurate waiting times, traffic conditions and even a cool heat map function showing you busy areas within the city!
Drop a pin at your favourite venues and place stars to keep them highlighted on the map as you explore the surrounding area; extremely useful for browsing while taking note of your orientation.
7. Protect your lungs with Air Matters
Air pollution can hit extreme levels in China, especially if you’re in city areas such as Beijing. Though some may not think much of it, inhaling polluted air is extremely detrimental to your health. As such, getting real-time information on the pollution index from Air Matters becomes a daily grind for the locals.
Before you step out of your accommodation, be sure to check up on the area you’re heading to and watch out for the section “Advice for Health”. Do make sure to stock up on face masks because it’s likely you’ll need them most of the time.
8. Become a subway pro with Metro China Subway
This has got to be one of the most useful apps for navigating the public transportation system in China. Metro China Subway has a very simple and straightforward user interface that is all in English!
Take a glance at the different subway lines or obtain travelling instructions when you key in your start and end destinations. It offers all possible routes that can be filtered either by duration or simplicity (the least transfers). It also offers a “Floor Map” function where you can view the blueprint of the selected station; this feature comes in very handy when you’re stopping at an unfamiliar station. Metro China Subway even displays nearby dining options, hotels and more!
9. Find the best food in town with Da Zhong Dian Ping (大众点评)
Nobody loves food as much as we do and we have the perfect dining app! Dian Ping is a platform of user-generated reviews and recommendations of dining places in China – think of it as a Groupon and Yelp all in one! It’s only available in Chinese at the moment but we promise the food is worth the extra effort.
Dian Ping covers over 300 cities with over 1 million shops listed with genuine user reviews. Just like most dining recommendation platforms, you may apply search filters such as location proximity, budget and popularity. Every listing has important information such as its address, phone number, opening hours and if you’re lucky, an option to make an online reservation.
10. Stay updated with the latest exchange rates with XE CURRENCY
XE Currency remains the top pick for mobile app currency converters where you can access live exchange rates, view historical charts and calculate prices. You can opt to download selected currencies so you may use it offline as well. It will be your best friend when bargaining for the best deal on that wonderful pair of jeans.
You’re now ready to conquer China!
Now that you’re all set, the possibilities are endless!