The 5 Best Apps to use in China
If you don’t already know, in China most of the apps and social media used in the Western world is banned. Yep, that’s right. No Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, the lot. So what do you do? Find alternatives!
Who am I to tell you what the best apps to use in China are? Well, after living and working in China for a short while, I believe I mastered how to survive social media (and life) in China.
All the apps in this post are available on Apple and Android – so get downloading!
Do you know any Mandarin? If not, then this is the app you need! HelloChinese is a fantastic app that helps you learn mandarin Chinese. One of the struggles with learning Chinese is the different tones within the language. Words are spelt the same, but because of the different tones, their meanings are completely different. HelloChinese uses speech recognition to help perfect your pronunciation – an absolute MUST when learning a difficult language such as mandarin!
Chinese also has characters, which can be completely baffling for those unfamiliar with them. HelloChinese gets you to practice writing out characters, which is useful when learning them and useful for restaurants, as the menus are in Chinese characters and not ‘pinyin’ which is the Chinese used to teach foreigners, like myself.
HelloChinese is also super fun! You learn through numerous games, and everything you learn is put into bite-sized curriculum. It makes learning enjoyable and teaches you how to hold conversations rather than simply learning vocabulary. Don’t worry if you’re a savvy traveller, the app is free to use unless you want add-ons, making it the best app to use in China.
WeChat is an interesting app and form of social media. It is like a mixture of WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram all rolled into one. You can even use it to pay for things! It is the most efficient way of keeping touch with people in China, and a great way to stay contacted with any new friends you make. You can also get your friends at home to download the app and keep in touch.
Honestly, I’m not sure what else to say other than WeChat is an essential app for keeping in contact with people, so make sure to download it. Plus, its completely free.
How on earth can anyone survive a week, month or year without the likes of Instagram or Facebook?! Have no fear, you can use VPN to use your beloved apps. VPN basically tricks servers into thinking you’re in a different location. Your data is seen as coming from the VPN, rather than coming from you. This way, all the apps banned in China work, as the Chinese servers see the location of the data coming from elsewhere and not from within the country. Honestly, I am no expert in this field, so Google it if you want more information. The most important thing is that by using a VPN you can use your favourite apps abroad, in China or anywhere!
There are thousands of VPN apps out there, free or paid for. Simply find the best one for you. My personal favourite is VPN 360, which I found to be very reliable and free! However, all VPN apps do the exact same thing so you can pick one as you please.
4. Pleco Chinese Dictionary
Still haven’t mastered Chinese? Don’t worry, Pleco has your back. Pleco translates words by using images (such as taking a photograph of a menu for example) handwriting, or simply typing the word in pinyin or English. If you can’t understand a menu, or can’t think of a word, then Pleco will help you. It gives you the definition, character and pinyin so you have everything you need.
Honestly, this app saved me when it came to reading menus – especially before I learnt characters! You’ll never have to eat mystery meat again.
It’s also completely free unless you buy add-ons. A definite bonus for any thrifty traveller.
Last but not least, DiDi is a must for those of us who are more lazy. DiDi is essentially China’s version of Uber. DiDi is easy to use and the drivers are often very friendly and reliable. I left my iPhone 7 in a DiDi and managed to contact the driver, who very kindly drove back and dropped the phone back to me after he had finished his full-time job. DiDi is basically the same as Uber and uses maps to pinpoint locations – brilliant when you don’t know how to pronounce or figure out exactly where you are going.
Again, like all of the apps on this list, DiDi is free. Making it a great addition to your app collection.
Any Other Apps?
Honestly, I didn’t use any other apps. I did attempt to use Baidu which is the Chinese version of Google Maps, but honestly I didn’t like it. Plus, if you use VPN, Google Maps works just fine – it’s amazing how well Google knows China even though its essentially barred from the entire country.
Looking for inspiration to help plan your next trip to China? Check out Roaming Nanny’s post for some adventurous ideas!
Enjoyed this post? Check out my other travel tips, like How to Survive a Festival Abroad.