Wechat started life as a chat app (hence the name) but soon evolved into something much bigger. Most of the population from your students to their Grandparents have a wechat account and it’s the best way to stay in touch with people. It also has a wallet function, which you can use to buy almost anything and to send money to your friends. Alongside all of this, you can use it to book tickets, play games with your friends, follow the news and almost anything you can imagine.
Alternative e-wallet: Alipay
Didi is the ride sharing company that acquired Uber in China and is a must for getting around especially after the buses and subways stop for the night. With Didi you can book official city taxis, uber-style drivers and also ride sharing in cars heading the same direction as you. They also offer generous vouchers for new users and super users offering money off rides.
3. Mobike / Ofo
Sticking to the transport theme, Mobike and Ofo are China’s 2 biggest bike sharing apps. Chinese sidewalks are filled with Mobike and Ofo bikes and these are often the fastest way to get around short distances. Just download the app, sign up for an account (with your passport), link your wechat or alipay, pay a small deposit and you’re ready to go. At the time of writing, a 3 month pass on Mobike cost 5RMB.
4. 大众点评 (Da zhong dian ping)
This app requires you to know some basic chinese but once you can navigate it, it’s invaluable. This is the Chinese Yelp. You can find reviews with pictures of everything to do in your city. If you want to find out where to get the best noodles in your area just type in 面条 to see a list of noodle restaurants ranked by popularity. They also offer the occasional free meal to users who rate 4 or more places a month.
5. 饿了吗 (e le ma?) or 美团 (Mei tuan)
These are the most popular take out apps in China and they deliver meals to your door in about 45 minutes. You’ll see 饿了吗 delivery people out on their electric bikes at all hours of the day in all-weather dodging in and out of traffic to get your food to you warm. Modern-day heroes.
6. 微博 (Weibo)
Weibo is one of the most popular Chinese social media sites and is where you’ll get all the latest gossip, news you don’t see on the central TV stations and all the Chinese memes. You’ll get more out of it once you can read a little Chinese but ask your Chinese friends and colleagues to follow you on Weibo and send you all their funny panda videos.
7. Pleco and Memrise
Pleco is the go to Chinese dictionary and one most favoured among the Chinese learning community. The free 'lite' version works perfectly for everyday use but they also offer a ton of add-ons for the serious Chinese learner.
Memrise is, from my perspective, the best app for learning Chinese characters. Built by memory experts, they offer a unique learn, grow and review model forcing you to stay on top of your characters. They also make good use of score boards so you and your friends can compete to see who are ‘growing’ the most words.
8. QQ Music
This is China’s biggest music app – comparable to Spotify. It has almost everything bar some really obscure bands. You can ‘like’ songs and albums; ‘follow’ artists and create your own playlists. You can also link it to your Nike running app.
9. 京东 (Jing Dong) or 淘宝 (Tao Bao)
Don’t blame me but say goodbye to your salary. Jingdong and taobao are China’s biggest shopping apps and you can find almost anything in their marketplaces from cute panda hats all the way through to private jets. Once you’ve linked your wechat/alipay to these apps you can order things at the click of a button. I even order my daily groceries on JingDong.
10. 高德地图 (Gao De Di Tu)
This is a map app optimized to work in China. It’ll show you where to get the bus and where to get off, help you navigate the subway system and even show you when to take a mobike or when to just walk it.
Think we've missed any? Add a comment below!