One way to make your first few months in China easier and more fun is by choosing the right apps for your new lifestyle, especially as the Great Chinese Firewall might well block the regular apps you use in your home country.
For social media, multi-purpose messaging and mobile payments, WeChat is the app of the moment. It’s now one of the planet’s largest stand-alone mobile apps, with more than a billion active monthly users. There’s not much you can’t do on WeChat and a huge number of things you can do, including buying tickets for the metro, bus, movies, concerts and even your internal flight to your next Chinese destination. Online shopping, paying for food in restaurants or from online foodie sites and even buying fresh vegetables in markets can all be done with this essential tool.
There’s only one hassle with WeChat and that’s having to top up your WeChat wallet by using another app found at Yayaka.com. As an expat without a Chinese ID card or bank account, you can use Yayaka to top up the wallet using either your credit card or PayPal. Once this is done, you can happily wander all over China without having to worry about carrying cash. For getting around the easy way, the ride-sharing platform Didi Chuxing is China’s largest ride-sharing service, with 550 million users in 400 Chinese cities. Another useful app is Dianping, a group-purchase website which accesses retail services and locally found consumer products. Deals of the day are a feature, using vouchers for entertainment and local services, and the app makes it easy to look up restaurant reviews before deciding where to eat.
For those moving around, China has two navigation apps, Autonavi Navigation and Baidu Map, with both at the top of the tree as regards ease of use. For general information and booking of hotels, restaurants and suchlike, the famous US site Tripadvisor is another useful app for expat travellers. Essential for new arrivals to China, Google Translate is one Google service which can usually be accessed in spite of the Chinese government’s block. If it doesn’t work, Baidu Translate and Bing Translate are popular with those unable to master Standard Chinese. Another essential is a Virtual Private Network, (VPN), which allows you to sidestep government internet controls and surf as usual. Express VPN is the recommended best of the bunch, known for its reasonable cost and excellent service. If you’re looking for budget accommodation until you get settled, AirBnB is as popular in China is it is in the rest of the world!