5 free apps to survive a life in China

Moving or visiting a country like China it’s important to be prepared, especially if you don’t speak the language. Before I moved here, I didn’t pre download anything or even know much about how to prepare myself. This post is a bit of a reflection on what I would do differently if I could go back. These are my suggestions to download before landing, which help me get through day to day life in a country where I speak very very little of the language.


WeChat is the app I use hourly. It is an obvious chose for this list as it is the largest communication app in the world, although I didn’t realise this before moving to China. It allows you to add photos and create a newsfeed with your friends just like Facebook or Instagram, where you leave comments and like each others’ photos. Then there is also the private messaging facility, which I use more frequently. Each person has a QR code which you scan to become friends, you can then text and see each others ‘moments’ or or wall in Facebook terms. Since settling in, I’ve made all my family and friends get WeChat to make it easier to stay in contact. On reflection, this would have been much easier to do before I left while we were still all together. Scanning each other and sharing WeChat IDs  was more complicated.

Within the app there are other services, like ordering food, renting bikes on the street, ordering taxis, checking the weather, traffic updates, it really has taken over. It has a wallet function where you can pay in shops and restaurants, much like my other app, however this doesn’t give you any discounts. There is no way you can come to the East without this app, especially if you plan to stick around.


The second app I would suggest getting is Alipay. To use this though, you need a Chinese bank account. You link it up to your bank and you can pay anywhere, even food stalls on the street, taxis, absolutely everything because everyone has it. Due to how widely available it is, the app also offers discounts in certain shops or days of the year, if there is a holiday going on.


Pleco is an app, offering fast English to Chinese translations. This app has saved me on several occasions during my embarrassing chinenglish conversations. If you pay a little extra you can download a feature, which gives you the ability to scan Chinese and the app translates it directly into English. This is particularly useful for menus or when you’re pressured for time.


MoBike, which can in fact be accessed through WeChat, is an app where you pay a deposit and you can scan a QR code on bikes left around the street. You pay for the time you use it. It’s generally a yuan for an hour. If you don’t use all the hour then it is cheaper. The bikes can be left anywhere as long as their safe. As soon as you wonder through the streets anywhere in China you will notice the enormous quantity of MoBikes. There are lots of apps like this, however MoBike is in English so I would suggest this one unless you read Chinese in which case Ofo has great reviews. To start using the app you need a Chinese number to register and then to take a photo of your passport and a selfie with your passport for security. After the security check you have to pay a 299¥ deposit, which is more than the other apps but is worth it for the English facility.


I have recently heard that Ctrips now offers an English app, it seems to be creating a storm especially among my friends and colleagues. I haven’t checked it out yet, but the website is great so I am confident recommending the app.

It offers cheap train tickets and flights around China and internationally. It is very easy to use and is obviously in English too, where as many of the travel sites within China don’t have any translation service. If you need to cancel or change your booking the company offers reasonable rates to do so, not free but the prices aren’t ridiculous which they are in some cases across Europe.

Do you use these apps? What do you think? Have I missed any? Comment below ♥

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4 thoughts on “5 free apps to survive a life in China

  1. Great list. We used all of them, except for MoBike as that wasn’t a thing yet. I would also suggest Baidu translate as a good app. It allows you to do translations through speech, which we found incredibly helpful.


    1. Yes, I’ve heard Baidu is a good translation app I haven’t checked it out yet though. Pleco only translates single words so that can sometimes be a hinderance. Thanks for commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m so glad. It’s great hearing about the things you visited while you were here. Check out the latest post about Guilin and Yangshuo. Thanks for your support.

        Liked by 1 person

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