Planning to travel to China on business? Load up your cellphone with these indispensable mobile apps for China visitors, and get access to vital information and navigation tools for your trip.
Downloading these apps before your arrival in China will smoothen your journey; remember that your regular Gmail, Facebook, and Twitter apps will not work in China without a VPN.
In fact, Chinese apps let you do more. Mobile-savvy Chinese consumers use mobile apps for not just social media and information, but all kinds of financial transactions you could think of, from splitting your bills at restaurants to paying a water bill.
1. Equip Yourself for Business Meetings with These Mandarin Language Apps
Unsure about which Chinese business phrase to whip out during a meeting? Help is here.
Hello Chinese Words (Business) and Business Mandarin Chinese on Android help non-native speakers of the language to navigate their way in business and everyday conversations. Powered by a computerised voice that reads out the Chinese business vocabulary with an accurate pitch, they help you learn on the move and communicate more effectively with your Chinese speaking peers.
Baidu Translate has iOS and Android apps that also feature a powerful translation function. Use your camera to take photos of any object or text you see, and let the app help you to translate its name in both Chinese and English.
2. Book all your travel needs in the palm of your hand
Travel apps in China work similarly to Tripadvisor and Expedia’s mobile apps, with the usual hotel and flight booking capabilities. With a few clicks, you can also book famous local tours, gift cards, WiFi routers, cruises, rental cars, and long-distance train tickets for inter-province travel on Ctrip, Elong, Lvmama, TongCheng, Alitrip, Qunar, and other apps.
Although agency-booked group tours have been Chinese travellers’ traditional preference, booking direct on apps is popular with young family and individual travellers who skip the middleman and save some RMB.
3. Cycling apps: the last-mile solution
China’s unwieldy road traffic has made bicycles popular once again. Unlike in the past, however, Chinese commuters now use bicycle sharing apps to locate and ride shared bicycles.
Bicycle sharing apps have their supporters and detractors because of parking woes. In China, however, they aim to solve your last-mile problem of long walks between a subway station and your destination.
4. No Uber or Grab? Didi your way around town
Didi Chuxing ( (滴滴出行, also known as Didi Dache) and Kuaidi Dache (快的打车) are China’s answer to Uber and Grab. These taxi-booking apps for travellers lets you communicate directly with your driver via voice messages as he or she navigates towards you.
Beat the snaking airport taxi queues by booking a Didi ride from an airport to your hotel. You may also choose to book your ride for an immediate ride or to travel at a scheduled time in the future.
Pay with your WeChat Wallet when you arrive at your destination, or with cash and a tip if you wish. We will tell you more about WeChat in a bit!
5. Navigate like a pro with Baidu Maps
Feeling nervous about getting around a Chinese city without Google Maps? Have no fear — Baidu Maps is here.
Zip about downtown with this useful navigation app. Similar in function to Google Maps (unavailable in China), Baidu Maps (百度地图) helps you to navigate your way around your city using its GPS-powered 2D and 3D maps.
Only available in the Chinese language in China so far, the app also provides a street view function for selected Asia-Pacific cities and countries.
6. Mobile bookings made easy with Dianping
As a busy business traveller, you can’t waste your time queueing for hours at a popular restaurant. This is why you need apps like Dianping.
Offering a multitude of services — from making a restaurant reservation to booking a beauty salon treatment – Dianping functions like a mobile concierge service. You may even get a ticket for a gym or swimming pool entry with this handy app.
With integrated user reviews and star ratings, users can see what locals thought of their experiences at Dianping outlets. Be astounded at the range of experiences and items you can buy on your phone in your Chinese city, and benefit from the Chinese locals’ post-purchase feedback.
7. Let the hongbaos fly: Alipay and WeChat Wallet
A third-party online payment platform founded by Alibaba Group in 2004, Alipay (支付宝) offers meal delivery, online grocery shopping, movie ticket booking, restaurant ratings, online shopping deals and much more. To use the e-payment services of this app, simply authenticate and buy Alipay credits with your Chinese bank account and card.
Its competitor Wechat Wallet (微信钱包) also requires a similar authentication process. New to China? Not a problem. Pay a Chinese friend in person and ask them to transfer the money back to you as Wechat Wallet credits.
Once activated, these apps allow you to pay vendors in online and physical shops, settle mobile phone, water and gas bills, order taxis, or do some in-app online shopping.
If you are feeling generous towards your Chinese co-workers, you can send them virtual Wechat Wallet hongbaos (or red packets) with lucky money to your office chat group. That’s a sure way to make your hosts love you.
There is one catch though. Many of these apps do not have English versions, or may have English versions with limited features, offers, or products available.
However, asking a Chinese colleague to demonstrate how they use apps may help you in future situations. With practice, you will soon be confidently paying for everything and travelling everywhere with China’s favourite apps!
Book your next trip to China direct with us, and enjoy a complimentary room upgrade and late checkout!