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Top Must-Have Apps in China

A top five list of apps that every foreigner in China will find handy


Top Must-Have Apps in China

A top five list of apps that every foreigner in China will find handy


When coming to China, some people think that reading an article about Chinese culture in Wikipedia is enough to help you better adjust to life in here. But they are wrong … With recent developments of technology and internet, having the right apps will actually help you a lot more than you think. Without further ado, here is a list of applications that every foreigner needs on their smartphone.


Wechat is the most popular social network platform in China. Even if you are not a fan of posting your pictures or looking at other people’s profile “moments,” Wechat is much more than that. The instant messaging app not only lets you send texts and audio messages, but it also scans QR codes for new contacts. A few years ago, when wechat was not as popular as now, people used to ask first if you had eaten that day, but now the question is “do you have wechat?”
Note to students: whether you are language student or doing a bachelor degree in the university, having a wechat account helps you with studying – sometimes teachers send important information about class via wechat groups.


Online dictionaries

Whether you are an advanced speaker or you are just learning nihao, having an online dictionary on your phone is very important. When choosing an app, be sure it matches your Chinese language ability. Some prefer dictionaries with “most-used” phrases, some prefer chengyu (four-character phrases), and there are even a few apps that can take a picture of the word and get you the translation in case you do not know how to read it.

Recommended: Pleco



For those who are into chengyu, recommended: Chinese Idiom


Air Quality Indicator

There is no doubt about how polluted Chinese air is – there is even a new term “airpocalypse” that totally describes the air quality situation in Beijing on bad days. Having it on your phone will help you decide whether you need to wear a mask for the day. This app is not only for those who stay here for a long time period, and it really shows that you are not a newcomer.


Baidu Maps

Since Google Maps is no longer much use in China, Baidu Maps is a very handy application. It not only shows where exactly you are on the map, but it truly can save you a lot of time, while looking for a place. Baidu Maps shows you all the routes that you can take from one destination to another, it shows you direction and distance if you are walking, shows you the closest subway station if you are taking the tube, and it shows you all the bus stations with routes nearby, in case you are taking a bus. If you are lost and do not know where to go or where exactly to get off the bus, the indicator on the map moves with you, making it even more convenient. If you are looking for a place to eat or shop it will show you all the restaurants or malls nearby, and there is even a function where you can draw a circle on the map, and all the possible restaurants and shops will be in sight. You may need basic Chinese for many functions however.



Just few years ago the list of websites blocked in China wasn’t really long. Sure it contained everyone’s favorites, Youtube and Facebook, but now the list is getting longer and longer. Those who hesitated about downloading any VPN app sure changed their mind after Google and Instagram were added to the “black list”.

Recommended: Astrill


 Image courtesy of Yahoo