This post comes courtesy of our content partners at TechNode.
Say goodbye to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and welcome your new favorite apps. Here is everything you will need to navigate your China life.
1. Communication: WeChat (微信)
The app to rule them all, WeChat is the very definition of indispensable in China. This is where you will connect with your friends, communicate with your boss (forget emails), make business deals, flirt, and much more. Just don’t expect too much privacy!
WeChat also makes shopping easier. Its wallet function, WeChat Pay, is so widespread that many are already speculating that China could go completely cashless. You can even use it to pay your bus fare or while traveling abroad.
Unfortunately, the mini apps WeChat are well-known for not working so well in the English version, but the app has other great features, including a myriad of subscription accounts to keep you updated on events and news. Go forth into the world and scan those QR codes!
2. Takeout delivery: Ele.me (饿了么) / Baidu Waimai (百度外卖)
We’ve got your communication needs settled, now it’s time for some food. Food delivery in China is an impressively dynamic and tech-driven industry which means that users have a variety of choices. Both Baidu Waimai and Ele.me also offer supermarket delivery (京东到家 is great for that, too) – you will never have to leave your home again!
3. Calling a car: DiDi (滴滴出行)
Your plan for staying home forever failed? Worry not, DiDi has your back. The ride-hailing app that swallowed Uber China offers regular taxis, a private car service called Premier, and the Express option for carpooling.
4. Renting a bike: ofo (小黄车) / Mobike (摩拜单车)
So you tried to get a taxi and got stuck in one of those traffic jams of epic proportions for which Chinese cities are known? Enter bike rental apps. Mobike and Ofo are the biggest players on the market but there are many other options such as Bluegogo and these dazzling golden bikes equipped with phone charging.
Ofo’s partnership with DiDi means that users can also search for bikes using DiDi’s app. Mobike has a similar deal with a ride-hailing company called Shouqi (首汽租车) but the cities covered by the partnership is still limited. The company also has a mini app integrated with WeChat’s wallet.
5. Paying for stuff: Alipay (支付宝)
To use all of most of these great apps, you will need to set up your Alipay wallet. The difference between Alipay and its arch-nemesis WeChat Pay is that the former one is a standalone app. Among other features, Alipay offers bill payments, hospital registration, and even international money transfers. Unfortunately, the last option is available only to Chinese nationals or foreigners with a Chinese green card.
Alipay also comes with integrated services like Taobao, Airbnb, and Uber and right now it is testing its own mini-apps.
6. Buying anything you could possibly want: Taobao (淘宝)
The king of shopping in China, its majesty Taobao, offers everything from fully functional airplanes to temporary boyfriends. One awesome feature Taobao offers is image search. Just take a photo of the product you want, upload it on the app and give a snarky laugh to the lady at the market who wanted to sell you the same item for triple the price.
While Taobao mostly connects resellers and customers, it’s sister site Tmall hosts brands’ official online stores which is why it is a better solution for searching for authentic products. For quality electronics, check out JD’s app.
7. Travelling: Ctrip / Qunar (去哪儿)
China has so many great places to visit, your bucket list is likely to continually expand. To help you find the best prices for train and plane tickets both for China and abroad, check out Ctrip and Qunar. The apps are practically identical, which could be explained by the fact that the two companies are actually partners. Both of them work with Airbnb’s biggest rival in China, Tujia.
Thanks to its flight tracking feature Fliggy (飞猪), it’s a great app for frequent travelers which are far too familiar with China’s infamous plane delays.
8. Finding new restaurants: Dazhong Dianping (大众点评)
Not a big fan of food poisoning? Neither are we, which is why Dazhong Dianping, the largest restaurant review app in China, comes in handy. This Chinese version of Yelp also offers user-generated reviews of beauty salons, gyms, VR arcades, and more. Many businesses offer online reservations and even coupons and vouchers for discounts. Some of them have even gone viral through the app.
9. Finding events: Huodongxing (活动行)
With 800,000 events and around 4 million tickets sold last year, Huodongxing is the largest ticketing platform in China. The Eventbrite-like platform focuses on professional and networking events, including big conferences.
For live music, theatre, and entertainment, check out Showstart (秀动) and for movies, there is Gewara (格瓦拉) which for some reason found it appropriate to brand itself with a cutesy mascot of Che Guevarra.
10. Finding a home: Ziroom (自如)
Apartment hunting in China’s crowded cities can be a somewhat traumatic experience. As PTSD prevention, Ziroom offers long-term serviced apartments that are becoming increasingly popular among young professionals. Unlike most agencies, Ziroom offers monthly rent payments and bill payment directly through the app. A Ziroom apartment could be the answer to your woes. Unless you find a dead body in it.
Another option is 58 Home (58同城) which is a classic apartment-listing app.
11. Listening to music: Xiami (虾米)
A great thing about Chinese music apps is that streaming is free and even paid content is usually inexpensive. Xiami has a great selection of foreign and local artists. In recent years, the service has decided to add more niche content by featuring emerging musicians with original music.
Xiami is just one of the great apps available on the market and so far the only one which is partially translated into English. Check out other great Chinese music apps.
12. Watching TV: iQiyi (爱奇艺)
The Netflix of China, iQiyi is the main stop for streaming movies, TV shows, and other video content. Much like music streaming services, video streaming in China comes with great prices and a wealth of content. Much like its American peers, iQiyi is also turning to original content production.
For those of you who are missing YouTube too much, Youku Tudou (优酷土豆) is an option to try.
13. Finding your way: Amap (高德地图)
To help you find your date or anything else for that matter, you’re going to need a good map. Amap works as a great replacement to Google Maps and it will be a crucial addition to many apps on this list that rely on location-based services.
14. Being understood: Pleco / Baidu Translate (百度翻译)
Finally, one more truly indispensable app every visitor to China needs is a good dictionary. Pleco is not only one of the best Chinese-English dictionaries available, it also has a free feature called Screen Reader which conveniently enables you to translate Chinese characters in any app on your phone. Pleco also offers useful add-ons such as the Optical Character Reader that lets you scan Chinese texts.
Ever wonder what are all those strange SMS messages you keep receiving from unknown numbers? Baidu Translate will finally reveal the mystery (spoiler: it’s train ticket and “fapiao” scalpers, sometimes pimps).
Images: Yukawanet, TechNode, Zirom, The Rap of China, courtesy of the apps