Top 14 Chinese Apps for Foreigners Who Want a Hassle-Free Life in China
What are the best Chinese Apps for 2023? Time to reveal all…
Whatever the reason, and however long you’ll be staying in China, we’ve put a list together of the best Chinese apps that are guaranteed to make your time in China easier and more enjoyable.
Best Chinese App #1 || WeChat
Best Chinese App #2 || Hello Bike
Best Chinese App #3 || Didi
Best Chinese App #4 || China Train Booking
Best Chinese App #5 || Pleco
Best Chinese App #6 || Luckin’ Coffee
Best Chinese App #7 || China Metro
Best Chinese App #8 || iQiYi
Best Chinese App #9 || Alipay
Best Chinese App #10 || Baidu Wai Mai
Best Chinese App #11 || Baidu Maps
Best Chinese App #12 || Tantan
Best Chinese App #13 || Taobao/Jingdong
Best Chinese App #14 || Trip.com
Did you know we also have a podcast?
If you fancy listening to our team talk about our favourite apps, take a listen below, with Marketing Wizards, Max and Campbell.
OK, on with the list. Here are the best Chinese apps, starting with…
1. Chinese Apps: WeChat
- Social Network/messaging app
- Available in multiple languages
Coming in at Number 1 for Chinese apps by a good few miles is WeChat.
This is an absolute must if you’re coming to live in China or here for an extended period, or if you want to communicate with pretty much anyone in China.
(This includes those Tinder matches!)
WeChat is one of China’s social media’s platforms, and you will be hard pushed to find someone in China that doesn’t use it, especially given that it has over 900 million active users!
You could easily write an entire blog about WeChat (actually we did, see below) and it’s many uses. But generally, it’s used to… live.
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Pay for your groceries, your meal, or your drinks. Use taxi services, order food or pretty much anything delivered to your door, or connect with other people around Beijing or China.
It’s a pretty non-social social media platform since you can only connect and chat with people who already have your contact details on the app – but you’ll soon build up a big list of contacts, and groups you can join are constantly being tossed around.
The WeChat pay feature of this top app in China also needs a special mention.
Goodbye cash, hello cashless society!
Depending on where you’re coming from, your home country may or may not have started introducing the concept of paying with your phone, or some other form of cashless payment.
China is pioneering this, with few (mainly the older generation) still preferring to use cash, whilst others prefer the must quicker and more convenient cashless option…
In bigger cities you may come across some hip places that don’t even accept cash!
If you’re staying for a while in China, setting up WeChat pay is a must.
Luckily, this process began massively easier in 2023 as foreign visitors are now able to link international banks cards!
For a step-by-step instructions on how to set up and use WeChat Pay (including with international cards), check out our WeChat Pay Guide here.
2. Chinese Apps: Hello Bike
- Bike-sharing app
- Cheap and convenient way to get around
Hello Bike is a bike sharing system.
Unlike many others over the world, these do not require you to leave your bike at a particular docking station.
This means that it is incredibly practical (although it can lead to problems such as messy roads and people stealing them but that’s another matter).
See a bike, scan the code, and the bike is yours until you’re finished and lock it again.
In bigger cities, you can find the bikes just about anywhere – with it becoming an actual issue in the centre of cities such as Beijing.
They are a great way to discover a new city no matter what the weather in China throws at you.
You may already have heard of Ofo or Mobike, however although these companies made a big splash when they first started they are now both pretty much defunct.
As of 2022 along with Hello Bike, the other major shared bike companies are:
- Didi bikes
- Alipay bikes
All of the above shared bikes can be used through the company app so if you don’t want to download a dedicated bike sharing app and already have one of the above it might be a good move for you.
Do note that if you want to use the Didi app for shared bikes you’ll need to use the Chinese version of the app.
Bikes are left in large piles around the city. You will see the signature blue (Hello Bike), yellow (Meituan), turquoise and white (Didi), blue and white (Alipay) pretty much everywhere you go!
These Chinese apps are particularly useful for those who don’t shy away from the sometimes crazy Chinese roads, and those that prefer to travel overground rather than underground.
3. Chinese Apps: DiDi
- Chinese Uber
- Can also use for bike sharing
- Available in English
For those who want to get around but prefer a more comfortable option, try downloading China’s version of Uber – DiDi.
DiDi recently (last year) released the English version of this app which is absolutely great.
However, 99% of the time you will be called by your driver asking you to do the most simple of instructions – such as meet around the corner instead.
Chances are, with a thick accent and speedy talk you won’t be able to understand them.
Unless your Chinese is pretty good (I’ve only just started answering my calls…) this is a common occurrence for many stranded Laowai’s and has resulted in several amusing videos.
Don’t let that scare you off, however. DiDi is a very useful app that will make all of your travelling much easier, as well as much cheaper! An hour-long DiDi may only cost you less than $15!
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4. Chinese Apps: China Train Booking
- Book train tickets quickly and conveniently
- Available in multiple languages
China Train Booking app is a very simple way for foreigners to book train tickets to travel China.
Booking China train tickets is not that easy for non-Chinese speakers so this is hugely useful especially if you are new to China.
The lack cash in China these days and language barriers are other reasons why using an app to book train tickets is a hugely useful tool.
China Train Booking allows you to check trains timetables and book tickets online in a very simple way.
You can easily pay with your credit card, PayPal, WeChat, and Alipay.
After booking successfully, you will receive your pickup codes for tickets collection.
To avoid wasting time to queue up to collect tickets, you can use its delivery service, which helps you get tickets right at your hotel or personal address in China before departure date!
As stated, a hugely useful tool.
5. Chinese Apps: Pleco
- Offline translation service
- Available in English
A must-have for the Chinese learner!
Long gone are the days of carrying around paper dictionaries or travel phrase books.
Pleco allows you to look up characters and words in Chinese with absolute simplicity.
There are even features that allow you to use your camera to analyse a character and obtain its meaning or to write the character yourself.
It’s simply a must download for anyone coming to China, for tourism or long-term.
For a more in depth look at this app, check out our Pleco review.… or check out this video below for more great language learning tips…
6. Chinese Apps: Luckin’ Coffee
Eh? What’s Luckin’? Oh dear friend, you live a sheltered life.
Luckin’ is a caffeine lovers dream, and guess what, it’s all cashless. You don’t need to know any Chinese either. So what’s on the menu at Luckin’?
The great thing about Luckin’ is the fact they offer such generous discounts.
Time will tell if it’s sustainable long-term, but with each purchase you can share a voucher with your friends.
Everyday you can open 3 vouchers (effectively giving you 3 discounted orders) and these discounts range from 30% to 60% although sometimes they have been even more generous, and sometimes they feel the pinch and tighten up.
Either way, it’s way cheaper than Starbucks and the coffee is on the money. They even do food and a whole variety of seasonal drinks.
What’s not to like?
7. Chinese Apps: RGuide China Metro
If you are travelling to a number of Chinese cities this is a great app for getting familiar with the Metro/Underground/Subway system in China (and actually through to Taiwan, Hong Kong and even Singapore too).
At first, the metro can feel a tad overwhelming, huge maps, lots of Chinese characters and exits everywhere you look etc.
However, the Metro in China is actually incredibly quick and convenient and once you get used to it (which doesn’t take long), you will find yourself at ease and able to travel the city very quickly, for very little cost.
China Metro allows you to download the Metro maps for all of the Chinese cities that have one.
The next tier cities have very easy system to follow. For example, Shenyang city (in the north east of China) has just two lines, and Harbin (even further north east) has just one at the time of writing.
Not exactly hard to follow!
And as mentioned above, the app even spills out to metro systems in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore so you’ve got a fair bit of Asia covered, all in one handy app! Winner winner.
If you come and study with us at LTL, you’ll most likely be using the metro daily, check it out…How to find LTL Beijing using the Beijing Metro
8. Chinese Apps: iQIYI – Netflix alternative
- Chinese Netflix
- Available in Chinese only
So this app is for the more advanced learner – or those with Chinese friends who can help them out with Chinese reading every now and then.
The app is not (yet) available in English, but it has a lot of foreign content – including films and dramas in English and other European languages.
You can use it on your phone or computer, just like Netflix. Except – it’s heaps cheaper, and not blocked in China.
One of the reasons it makes it to the list of top Chinese apps is that it costs about 15 yuan per month, which is just a couple of US dollars.
You can download lots of films and dramas onto your phone for offline use, and pick the quality so it doesn’t take up too much space on your phone. This is perfect if you’re traveling long distances in China!
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All of the films come with subtitles which help with understanding, as well as a strange commentary feature which shows people’s comments in real-time.
All of this is in Chinese, of course, so you can learn some colloquial language by reading these too!
It is very easy to set up, as you can use WeChat pay. If you can’t read Chinese, you can get someone to help you press the buttons to get to your downloads area. Once you’ve used it a few times it will be no problem!
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9. Chinese Apps: Alipay
- Chinese PayPal
- Available in English
- Can link international cards
WeChat pay (read more in Part 1 of our best Chinese apps blog) and Alipay are like Mastercard and Visa… You only really need one, because they both do the same job.
However, many Chinese people have both. AliPay is particularly useful for those that want to use Taobao – the Chinese version of Amazon.
However, WeChat also uses the JD platform (similar to Taobao, but actually quicker) so you can do this on WeChat too.
Going into any store, you should be able to pay via WeChat or Alipay. It is rare that they will only accept one of the two.
WANT TO KNOW ALL THE COOL FEATURES INSIDE OF ALIPAY? Give us a few minutes, we’ll teach you…Ready…. GO
It is also useful since sometimes because, for no real reason sometimes (probably your English name) WeChat won’t connect with your card so you can use AliPay as a backup.
NOTE – One excellent bit of news foreigners received lately was that AliPay has decided to open its doors to foreign bank accounts meaning anyone can connect their bank card (whatever the country) and pay for things in China, cashless.
Everyone can join the AliParty… find out how here 👇
10. Chinese Apps: BaiduWaiMai
- Chinese UberEats/Food delivery service
- Available in Chinese only
Food is an essential part of life, however, sometimes you just don’t want to leave the comfort of your home.
While in the west pizza delivery is common place along with a few other fast food places that have begun delivering, in China everything can be delivered.
With cheap delivery fees and an inexhaustible range of restaurants to choose from, baiduwaimai will make your life easy and will be your best friend when the pollution sets in and you don’t want to leave the house.
Our favourite feature is not just ordering from restaurants, it is the ability to also do your grocery shopping on this app.
Fresh fruit, vegetables, wine, bread, toothpaste.
When we said anything could be delivered, we weren’t exaggerating.
Again, Baiduwaimai may not yet have made the list of Chinese apps in English, but it’s a great way to practice your Chinese food vocab..!
11. Chinese Apps: BaiduMaps
- Chinese GoogleMaps
- Available in Chinese only
This top Chinese app is China’s version of Google Maps.
Google maps is actually blocked by the so-called Great Firewall of China.
This means using an app like Baidu is much easier especially when not connected to WiFi.
It has much more detailed information and works a lot quicker.
You can also send location information, and it generally has better, quicker, and more features than Google Maps.
The Chinese really do know how to do things properly!
BaiduMaps in English?
Unfortunately, BaiduMaps in English is not yet a thing… Many of the names will appear in Chinese, however, you can search for areas in English no problem!
Definitely a must for navigating China, when you realise how big it is.
Keep your fingers crossed! We never know when China might pull BaiduMaps in English out of the bag, and people can enjoy one of the best top Chinese apps going!
12. Chinese Apps: TanTan
- Chinese Tinder
- Available in English
This is one for those lonely hearts of China…
Tantan, China’s version of Tinder.
Again – it works quicker and more efficiently as an app than Tinder, with a great user-friendly interface.
If you’re after meeting people to practice Chinese, go for dates, or looking for the love of your life…
This app may or may not be the answer. Use with caution, and remember that dating in China may be different to what you’re used to in your culture!
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You will find mainly Chinese users on the app, however, there are also other foreigners that use it.
The Chinese people on the app probably won’t be able to speak English, so it genuinely is a great way to practice written colloquial Chinese at first. But you may get a bit bored of being asked the same questions over and over again…
13. Chinese Apps: Taobao/Jingdong
- Shop ’till you drop
- Buy anything your heart ever desired
A list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning two of China’s biggest apps, Taobao and Jingdong. Two behemoths in the Chinese app market.
Whatever you need, and I mean whatever, you can buy it here.
In fact, you’ll find a lot of things you DON’T need, yet you end up buying them because it’s so cheap/stupid/silly (insert adjective here)!
Top class fashion labels ✓, cheap tacky merchandise ✓, food and groceries ✓, football shirts ✓, winter hats ✓, headphones ✓… everything is covered with these two!
If it’s great bargains you are after, join the chaos of November 11th, China’s very own Black Friday…
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14. Chinese Apps: Trip.com
- Travel app
- Available in English
Trip.com, formerly known as Ctrip, is an app to assist with all of your travel bookings! Flights, trains, hotels… In China and around the world!
This app is going to be your best friend if you’re planning to travel around China! Probably deserving of a higher position, but we’ve decided too save one of the best until last!
Just as China is fast becoming a cashless society, it’s also fast becoming a ticketless society.
That’s not to see you get on trains for free! It just means that now, rather than scanning tickets, Chinese citizens scan their ID cards and foreigners can now scan their passports to get on trains – as this information is linked to your ticket.
This means you can cut the queues and the hassle at the train station (and trust me, it IS hassle trying to buy a train ticket in China) by buying your ticket on Trip.com (for a small premium, of course, but we think it’s worth it!)
It’s also worth noting that train tickets on busy routes often sell out in China, so it’s definitely worth getting your ticket in advance.
Top Tip: If you set up Alipay, you won’t even need to download the app. Instead, you can use Trip as a mini program within Alipay and pay seamlessly through with your Alipay-linked cards- easy peasy!
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For train travel, you can choose your date, time, and which type of ticket you want.
After purchasing, you will receive a booking code, the train number and your seat.
If you use the app rather than the Alipay mini program, you can connect your foreign card or use WeChat to pay.
As well as trains, you can also get cheap flights as it uses a system similar to Skyscanner.
Chinese Apps BONUS MATERIAL: VPN in China
A special shoutout goes to downloading a VPN app for China. This isn’t a Chinese app, and therefore not included in the list.
If you’re already in China and find yourself lost without Google, check the post here on how to download a VPN if you’re already in China.
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Chinese Apps || FAQs
What are the most popular apps in China?
WeChat would be the most popular and used app in China due to the fact it provides so many services. Messaging, paying bills, sending money to people, booking train/plane tickets etc.
Other very popular apps in China are QQ, Weibo, Baidu etc
Is WeChat like WhatsApp?
WeChat is a messenger app just like Whatsapp but provides more than just this, making it more extensive in what it provides the user.
One key feature is WeChat Pay, which allows user to pay for goods and service with Chinese and international bank cards. Here’s our Guide to Using WeChat Pay if you want to find out more!
Can I use Spotify in China?
Yes you can use Spotify in China and there is no need to use a VPN either.
Your account will work the same as in your home country.
If you wish to listen to Chinese music and songs, there are plenty of “Spotify alternatives” in China such as QQ Music and Kugou Music.
Can I link a foreign card to Alipay?
Can I download Chinese Apps in English?
Some yes, some no.
For example the taxi app Didi is generally available on most app stores in English, but apps like Baidu, will only be in Chinese.
Can I use Google Maps in China?
What dating apps can I download in China?
Can I download apps from my home country whilst in China?
Yes, if you are registered to the US App Store for example, you can still download apps from this app store in China.
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