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The Top 15 Apps for China Travelers

Apps are revolutionizing the way we travel, and nowhere is this more true than China. Downloading these apps before you get to China can make everything a whole lot easier, as it alleviates problems with the language and can help you get your bearings quicker.

That's why we've listed the top 15 most useful China apps for travelers, whether it be language, directions, traveling, taxis, keeping access to your social media, or restaurants.

1. A VPN App — for Internet Access

Google no data receivedMuch of the Internet, including Google and many apps, are blocked in China.

You won't get very far in China without a VPN these days, as apps such as WhatsApp, anything Google (Google mail accounts, Google docs), Instagram, Facebook and Twitter all require a VPN for use.

We've listed the best free and paid VPNs so that you can start your trip prepared!

Language Apps

2. Pleco (Free or Upgraded Version)


In terms of getting to terms with the Chinese language, Pleco is one of the best language-learning apps, and will also save your time if you can't read things such as menus, signs, or can't translate a tourist attraction name into Chinese.

You can either input using pinyin (the alphabetic system of Mandarin), or you can draw out characters in order to translate them. The dictionary from English into Chinese is also very good.

3. Learn Chinese Mandarin (Free or Upgraded Version)

Learn Chinese Mandarin App

A great beginners' language app with sets of key phrases for the most important parts of traveling. Greetings, general conversation, numbers, directions and places, transportation, eating out, and emergency are all included in the free version.

If you want to take your Chinese learning to the next level, consider paying $4.99 for the upgraded version which also includes vocab lists for time and date, accommodation, shopping, colors, regions and towns, countries, tourist attractions, family, dating, feeling sick, and more.

Navigation Apps

4. Google Maps (Free)

Google maps app

Google Maps is the best comprehensive maps service throughout China, as it is fully available in English and makes it easy to navigate around even if you don't speak the language.

Now google, facebook, twitter, youtube, and instgram have been blocked by China firewall. You'd better get a VPN before departure. See the Best VPNs for Use in China (Free and Paid).

5. China Travel Guide (Free)

China Travel Guide app

A travel guide with listings for popular tourist attractions throughout the country, including addresses, pictures, locations on the map, and other peoples comments on each of the popular tourist sites.

Great for pre-planning or while you're on the road as this app can be used offline too, which is perfect if you're traveling without much access to Internet.

Transport Apps

6. Our Train-Booking App

China Train Booking App

We've designed an app to connect mobile users with our acclaimed English-language China train service, making it easier for foreign travelers in China to book train tickets.

Read more about it here, including information on how to download it.

7. China Metro (Free)

China Metro app

China Metro has a huge collection of subway maps from cities through China, whether you're traveling to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, or even smaller cities like Harbin, Wuhan, Hangzhou and Changsha.

Even more conveniently, it also has information for Singapore, Hong Kong and Taipei if you're traveling off the mainland.

8. DiDi ChuXing (Free) — for Taxis

DiDi ChuXing taxi app logoDiDi ChuXing taxi app logo

Since Uber was taken off the market, a local equivalent called DiDi ChuXing has taken over the car-sharing market. Similarly with Uber, drivers will be eager to please and get you to your location for a good rating.

The vast amount of Wi-Fi around the country in hotels and restaurants means that even without 3G or a Chinese SIM you'll be able to request a car, and the driver will be able to find you based on the pin you have dropped at your location. The chat function in-app also means you can chat with your driver through a translation service in real time.

Payment gets taken off your international card as per usual, it's very simple and the same price as normal taxis.

9. Taxi! China ($1.99)

Taxi China app

Taxi! China is the best way to ensure that you have important information to pass onto taxi drivers throughout the country about your hotel, the locations you want to go to, and can flawlessly communicate with them. 

It has lists of important phrases and phone numbers so that you'll never be caught off-guard or lost.

10. MoBike (Free)

MoBike app logoMoBike app logo

The bike-sharing economy is taking the world by storm, and the revolution started in China! MoBike is one of the many apps that you can easily download and catch a shared bike ride on. Bikes are found throughout most Chinese cities, on pretty much every street corner.

First few rides are free, and from there on you'll pay CNY1 per ride. You do have to put down a CNY200 deposit but you can get this back.

11. WeChat (Free) — THE Social App

WeChat app

WeChat is the most popular messaging service in China, and is great if you're meeting people in China and want to stay in touch. Even in cases where you, for example, meet a lovely taxi driver and want to keep his contact in case you need him to drive you around the next day, WeChat is the best way to do this.

You can send text and voice messages, and call people for free if you're both connected to either Wi-Fi, 3G or 4G. It can also be used to pay for things by QR code.

Travel Help Apps

12. Day Tour Booking App

Day tour booking app Download Day Tour Booking App

If you only have 1-2 days to visit a city, our Day Tour Booking app is the best way to plan your day trip.

The app selects the most popular attractions to visit in the main tourist cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Xi'an, and Guilin. Every stop of your tour can be checked easily on the app before you make your payment.

After you have booked, you will be picked up from your hotel lobby by a local tour guide, and an experienced driver in a comfortable car to start your tour.

Now the Day Tour Booking is available on App Store. Get your free trial by clicking here.

13. Flight Radar (Free or Upgraded Version)

Flight Radar app

If you're considering doing a lot of traveling by air in China, Flight Radar may actually have more information than the airport when it comes to delays and actual flight times.

Prepare by getting this app, and you won't regret it in case something unexpected happens while you're at the airport. Also great for those with a special interest in airplanes!

14. Airbnb (Free) — for Accommodation

Airbnb app logo

Airbnb is not only changing the way people travel in the West, but also in China. On Airbnb you will find a wide array of accommodation throughout the entire country, including some very unique spots near the Great Wall of China, for example.

Most Airbnb hosts signed up in China do speak English, and you'll also find that many of them are actually foreigners living in China with a unique view of the country to share.

15. AirVisual (Free) — for Air Quality

AirVisual app logo

If you're worried about traveling in China as a result of increased coverage of its air pollution issues, it can be worth downloading AirVisual ahead of your trip. The app shows real-time air pollution levels as measured at different points in the country, with an estimation for the next few days. This can be useful if you're traveling with someone who has a weaker respiratory system.

The app's coverage isn't limited to China though, you might be surprised that your hometown is more polluted than you thought.

Our China Tours

China tour guideOur guides can answer your questions on the way, maximizing your China experience.

Our tours will guide you as much or as little as you need, so you won't even need to use any of these apps if we guide you through China, as we'll take care of it all.

To get in touch with us about organizing a tour, all you have to do is contact us through this form and tell us more about how many people are traveling, and where you'd like to go.

Further Reading

  • Internet access in China is not the same as back home, so make sure you know what you're doing before coming out here. For example, if your only email address is a gmail address, consider creating a hotmail or yahoo to stay in touch with friends.
  • For HK, we have Hong Kong Apps: The Top 10 for Travelers/Expats.
  • And if you're going to Shanghai, we've also compiled a list of apps for tourists visiting Shanghai.
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