12 Useful Apps for Those Travelling to China

Internet censorship is still a big deal in China and if you ever head there without preparations, you would find that may of popular websites and apps you frequently use such as Google, Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp and Youtube are blocked upon arrival. The Great Firewall of China can prove to be really troublesome, so here are 11 useful apps that can make your China travels a more comfortable one! 

1. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is probably one of the best VPN services so that you can access all the popular websites and apps such as Google, Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp. ExpressVPN is reliable and straightforward to use, and probably one of the few VPN that actually works. On signing up, up to three devices can be linked up to VPN. For short-term users, ExpressVPN offers a 7-day free trail. Furthermore, if you are disappointed with the service, there is a 30-day money back guarantee clause.

2. WeChat

WeChat is THE dominant messaging app of choice in China. As Whatsapp and Telegram are blocked by the great firewall of China, any new friends you make would ask to be added on Wechat. Besides voice and text messaging, WeChat has a whole host of other functions such as ordering and paying at restaurants and even selecting songs at a KTV.

3. Baidu Maps

China’s answer to google maps, Baidu maps is a navigation app offered by Baidu and provides GPS navigation for locations in China. The app has very comprehensive information and shows landmarks train stations and many more. If you don’t use a VPN, Baidu maps is the best solution for navigating around China. The only issue one might face is that it is only available in Chinese.

4. Dianping (大众点评)

Dianping is an app by China’s largest restaurant review website in China. Dianping provides independent consumer reviews for not only restaurants, but hotels, bars, gyms and any more. Dianping comes with a whole range of functions including making restaurant reservations, take-outs and coupons, most visitors to China would use it for the reviews. Here you can find the best rated restaurants and attractions in your area and you can filter out results according to your preferences. One nifty function is that each restaurant would have its own list of best-sellers rated by consumers. The only issue users might face is that it is only available in Chinese.

5. Metro China Subway

A really useful app for navigating China’s public transportation system. Fully updated, the best thing is that it is available in English! Plan your routes and get fare and time information just by keying in your start and end destinations. The app can be used offline as well so fret not if you don’t have an internet connection.

6. DiDi Kuaidi

Didi is an app that provides public transportation services. Having bought over Uber in China, it has the main market share for ride-sharing services. Not really applicable to travellers on short trips to China as the app requires a China phone number, but if you are intending to stay for an extended period of a few months, Didi would be essential.

7. Ele.me(饿了么)

Ele.me is a platform that provides food delivery services in China. Unlike Foodpanda and Ubereats here, delivery in China is really cheap and convenient. The only catch is that a China phone number and either WeChat Pay or Alipay is required. Another essential app for an extended stay.


Unlike a conventional translation app, WAYGO provides visual translation that lets travellers overcome language barriers easily. Simply use your phone’s camera to scan over Chinese characters and the app uses character recognition to translate Chinese into English. It’s best used for translating food items on the menu! More importantly, it works offline as well!

9. Pleco

Pleco is a Chinese dictionary app that is very useful if you are visiting or staying in China. You are able to type out words in English and Pleico would translate it to Chinese. There are even voice pronunciations to help you with it. With the help of Pleico, it isn’t that hard to communicate with locals that do not speak much English.

10. Air Matters

Air quality in some of China’s larger and more industrial cities such as Beijing and Shanghai can get really bad sometimes. Protect yourself by checking on the real-time air quality before stepping outside. Make sure to have some face masks on hand for days when the air is really bad.

11. TripAdvisor

For non-chinese users, TripAdvisor is without a doubt essential for travelling to China. Probably the most popular travel app in the world, TripAdvisor provides reviews from fellow travellers all around the worlds. TripAdvisor may have limited information regarding lesser-known Chinese cities as most locals use the next app, Dianping.

About the Author:

Martin H.
Always open to new experiences, he never says never. On the lookout for his next great adventure.


  1. Owen May 29, 2018 at 4:18 pm - Reply

    This is useful. Especially the VPN to bypass all great firewall. Do you know of any free VPN?

    China really has a Chinese version app for everything huh!

    • Martin H.
      Martin H. June 6, 2018 at 1:11 pm - Reply

      Hey Owen, most free VPNs no longer work in China. If you are visiting China I suggest using ExpressVPN as they have a 30-day money back guarantee if you are dissatisfied with their service. I contacted their customer service and they were pretty efficient in handling this.

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