The top five apps that you should download before coming to China. You will need to either open your current phone plan to allow for international use or purchase a sim card when you arrive so that you can have internet access outside of Starbucks and the airport. You can usually get a sim card at the airport when you arrive or you can go to any phone store and get one. For someone coming for their first time with no use of the language and no one to help translate for you, I would suggest just getting it at the airport when you arrive.
TOP FIVE APPS
It makes for an easier transition if you get a VPN as this will allow you to seamlessly continue using all of that apps that are already using on your phone. Astrill coats a bit more than express VPN but it is much more reliable. The customer service is not as good but you will get more consistent connection time. I had express VPN for a year and a half. After my first year I could not get it to connect ever again although their customer service is prompt friendly and professional sadly the app has given me the least amount of connection time and the most breaks in connection. No VPN will ever be perfect. And there are plenty of free ones like Hotspot and Free gate. There will be times when it will not work but it is better than nothing at all or flying all the way to Hong Kong just to check your Facebook. 😬Najiyah Blogs
You can download Astrill VPN here.
You can download Express VPN here. With this link you get 30 days free. 🙃
You would benefit greatly from downloading the metro map for the city/cities that you will be going to. For example here is the one I use while in Shanghai called “Explore Shanghai”. It shows very clearly the subway lines in English and Chinese. It can easily tell you the time and cost of your journey by simply tapping on the the starting and ending destination in the app.
You can download Explore Metro maps for major cities in China here.
Wechat is the number one communication app in China and if you plan on making any friends or doing any business, this will be the platform that you need to use. It is well worth it as this app can not only connect you with your friends and family back home but also, any new friends you make in China. As an added plus you can also pay for your transactions with this app virtully anywhere!! If you don’t have a Chinese bank account you can easily ask a friend, who already has a setup wechat pay, to transfer the amount to your wechat wallet and reimburse them. You can use we chat to translate, if you add someone and send them a message, those messages can be translated right in the app. You can also take photos of Chinese or English text and the app will translate the words in the image. Make sure that you are familiar with Chinese laws that govern certain bank transfers.
You can download WeChat here.
Didi will be the number one app for you to catch taxis for long distance travels or when you have luggage that you don’t want to haul through the subway. It is so convenient and so cheap. Sometimes during your late night travels the subway may be closed or you find yourself too far away with heavy luggage and no clear idea of which direction to go even with all of your maps. It is a huge waste of time and energy to get turned around. It can save you tons of time and take you directly where you need to go. The app is in English, you can use an international credit card, you can send your real time location to your friends and family through wechat from the didi app, the drivers are all certified and registered through the app, and the prices are very close to the local normal taxi rates. The app can even tell you how many years of experience your driver has and how old the car is!! It is a very safe, affordable, and convenient way to get around when the subway is not an option for you. (Sometimes because of traffic, it is better to hit the subway than to take a taxi so always check your travel times and compare to make sure you don’t get stuck in a traffic jam.) They constantly have promotions so you can usually save a few bucks with the promo codes as well. A very safe and convenient way to travel.
You can download Didi here.
If you don’t already you should download a map app that can be used even when you do not have internet access. Remember what I said about that vpn? Well, if that is not connecting, neither will your Google apps. You need to save the regional map beforehand for offline use. So get another GPS app AND a map app that you can use WITHOUT internet access if you plan on doing some roaming around off the beaten track and even for city touring. In case your vpn goes out and you are unable to access the internet for some reason., at least you won’t be up the creek without a paddle. Nothing more annoying than walking for 45 minutes only to find you have completely backtracked.
Here is a link to a list of 9 free offline maps for Android and IOs.
FINAL THOUGHTS FOR THE SAAVY CHINA VISITOR
With just a little preparation you can prevent a lot of trouble and confusion avoiding time wasting, trip ruining complications. These apps will help your travels to be more seamless and make you that confident traveler we all know that you can be. Prepare yourself transform your phone into the ultimate travel assistant.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!