Living in China, it’s easy to take for granted how easy life is thanks to the rapidly evolving mobile app market. There’s just about an app for everything to help make a life a little bit more convenient. Below is my selection of commonly used apps that provide various services including ordering food, online shopping, and easy to use mandarin dictionaries to guarantee a bit of ease as you settle into your new life in China.
Alipay is one of the two most-used online payment apps—the other is WeChat pay. Almost everything can be paid by Alipay once you get your bank account linked: ordering food, booking train or flight tickets, or paying the electricity bill… It’s truly life-changing! Besides this, without Alipay, there is no Taobao.
Sadly, air pollution is still a problem that haunts Beijing from time to time. As such, getting real-time air quality information from Air Matters becomes a part of the daily routine for people living in the city. This app informs you when to wear a pollution mask as it monitors the PM2.5 concentration in the air at any given moment.
Sherpa’s provides a food delivery service but only works with top quality restaurants, which means a less wide range of options compared to its Chinese-language counterparts but mainly consists of western-friendly selections. Sherpa’s couriers are trained to ensure a quick, courteous, and correct delivery. Currently, it is only available in Beijing, Shanghai, and Suzhou. They also have an online website for convenient access.
Pleco Chinese Dictionary
Pleco is probably the best offline Chinese – English dictionary. It integrates dictionaries with an amazing amount (over 110,000) of frequently-updated entries and example sentences with Pinyin, document reader, flashcard system with fullscreen handwriting input, and live Optical Character Reader (OCR). It also includes audio to help your pronunciation and displays stroke order diagrams showing you how to draw each character.
Metro China Subway
Metro China Subway might be the most helpful metro app that provides accurate metro maps and information, route plans that include time and fare information. No network connection needed. It covers most big cities in China such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Nanjing, and Tianjin. As subways grow and become more popular and more convenient to use, this app is a must-have.
Ctrip is loaded with everything you need for going on a perfect holiday—flight and train tickets, hotel reservations, and even whole holiday packages according to your budget. You can narrow the search results for hotels with handy filters such as price range, city districts, and facilities, and reviews from verified hotel guests will help you make a better choice. For flight bookings, you are also able to find cheap flights by filtering the price, duration, departure, or arrival.
Dianping, which is essentially China’s answer to Yelp, offers guides for living and entertainment including restaurants, hotels, cinemas, and bars, through basic information and an interactive comments section. You can check the app for the reviews and recommended specials before you choose a restaurant, helping you and the family to avoid unpleasant surprises. Additionally, paying through the app usually grants you a discount. (Chinese-only)
XE Currency Converter
All the world’s currencies at your fingertips! XE not only provides live exchange rates and charts, you can also set an XE rate alert to monitor your currencies for immediate notification. Live rates are refreshed each minute for every world currency and precious metal. It’s necessary especially during times when currencies drop and appreciate often.