8 Apps for Living Like a Local

Learning to use these 8 apps in China will improve your quality of life! Having spent the better part of a decade living and working in China, I decided to have a look through my phone and find the apps that have been the most important to me over the course of the years. While the apps we use can vary greatly from person to person, here are the apps that have made my life more convenient in the past 8 years.

1. WeChat

China’s number one social media platform, WeChat is everything I like about Facebook but without all the cluttered advertisements and news stories. WeChat allows you to chat with your contacts, create groups, video chat and share your daily life through “moments”. Being social is the most important function of WeChat, but over time the platform has evolved and now you can use WeChat to pay for goods and services, get a taxi, buy tickets for movies or tourist attractions and much more. WeChat is not exclusive to China as it is getting more and more popular overseas. Because of the Great Firewall, I have my parents and closest friends back home on WeChat too to stay in touch with them easily when Facebook is out of reach. (I have previously written about WeChat, find that article here)

2. Alipay

Alipay is the Chinese equivalent of Paypal and is an app designed to be your virtual wallet. While other apps such as WeChat or Apple Pay or Samsung Pay also allows for phone payments, Alipay is still, I think, the biggest payment app in China. I have all my cards connected to Alipay and use it for payments, for moving money between accounts, investments and even sending money back home. You can also pay for utility bills such as Electricity, water, gas, building management fees and internet access all through Alipay. I previously wrote about Alipay, you can find that article here.

3. Taobao

Akin to eBay, Taobao is a collection of private and official sellers of a large variety of merchandise, clothes, gadgets and even food. You can find just about anything on Taobao and usually for a better price than you can online. You’ll need to learn a bit of Chinese to use the app to its full potential, but once you have your details added in, your address typed and such, all you really have to do is browse, find what you need, buy it and wait for it to be delivered. A simple translation app can help you find the Chinese word for what you’re looking for and you’re off to the races. If you prefer buying from a larger company rather than private sellers you can use JinDong.

4. Eleme

Eleme (Chinese for “Hungry?” is my favorite food delivery app. Some of my friends prefer to use Dianping (see below) but I’ve always used Eleme. Again, you will need to learn a bit of Chinese but once you get a handle on the app, you’ll be able to order food directly to your home, or your workplace. You can also find local convenience stores that will deliver anything from bread, milk, water, pretty much anything they sell. Some of the larger supermarkets in some cities will let you order anything they sell, and deliver it to you.

5. Dianping

Aside from also having food delivery, dianping is the go-to app for coupons. If you want to see a movie, go to a spa, hot springs or visit a tourist attraction, chances are you can find it a little cheaper on Dianping. I use it mainly to buy movie tickets, but you can also find tons of activities in your area and get tickets directly from your phone. Many restaurants also offer discounts available through dianping where you can order a set meal or buy an 80-yuan ticket that is of 100 yuan value saving you 20 yuan off your payment.

6. DiDi Chuxing

DiDi is the Chinese version of Uber and is the main app used for getting either a taxi or a rented car to go, just about anywhere. Waving in a taxi from the road-side can sometimes be a hassle, competing with everyone else on the road but ordering it through the app, you know you’ll be picked up soon. You can even set your pickup-location, pickup-time, and destination right from the appl saving you the trouble of having to tell the driver where you need to go. Getting a taxi costs the same as hailing one on the street, higher quality cars with certified drivers are a bit more expensive but also offers a very smooth ride in, often, a very nice car. Excellent if you want to go to the airport or just want the comfort of leaning back and not worry about getting off at the wrong stop. The DiDi app even comes in English! (I have mentioned DiDi before, take a look at this article)

7. Anjuke and Hulala

Having lived in a handful of cities in China, and changing apartments every now and then, there are two apps that have been very useful to me. Anjuke lets you look at house listings from some of the major real estate agents such as Daojiale and Lianjia as well as private listings and will often have detailed photos of houses and apartments as well as detailed information about the location and the communities. Hulala is a moving service where you can order a moving van of different sizes according to your needs and they can move your things into the van, drive it your new location and help put everything in your new home. (I have previously mentioned Anjuke and other real estate apps, see that article here)

8. Trip (formerly cTrip)

Trip.com, previously known as cTrip is one of the most widely used travel agents in China. This app also comes in English and lets you book flights, travel packages, hotels and even train tickets online from your phone. They have English speaking customer service, and everything just works. You can use WeChat or Alipay to pay for your bookings and track your flights through the app. You might be able to find travel deals and such, cheaper somewhere else, but Trip is very convenient. Alternatives to Ctrip is another popular travel site called qunar.com.

What about you? Are there any apps that you cannot live without in China? Are there some apps I have missed that are worth knowing about? Send a comment and let me know!

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