Which apps should you add to your phone before coming to China? Smart tips from GBJ's Maria Rincon
Whether you plan to visit, study, or live in China, you’ll soon realize that your everyday life relies heavily on your phone.
So first off, here’s a list of apps to download on your phone that will make living in China a breeze:
A VPN App: Download a VPN app before you enter China to access Google, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Quora. There are free VPN apps such as Betternet, and paid VPN apps such as Astral, Flow, and Express VPN.
WeChat 微信: The equivalent of WhatsApp + Facebook, with other cool functions such as WeChat Pay. This is the number one social media app in China and is the top app for communicating. Get on your WeChat game now!
Alipay 支付宝: A paying app that is linked to your credit card or bank card (similar to WeChat Pay). Alipay and WeChat Pay are the two main apps for mobile methods of payment.
Beijing Metro app: For your convenience in getting around town through the metro, download the city’s metro app. It will help you get around the massive subway system efficiently. You can even pay your fares on your smartphone.
AirVisual: The best app for checking the pollution index and air quality in whichever city you live in. All my friends living in Beijing (including myself) have this app downloaded on our phones.
Taobao 淘宝: Equivalent of Wish app in the States, this is the most popular and cheapest online store app. Taobao has a huge selection of things to buy from clothing and electronics, to souvenirs and everyday household items. It basically carries anything you can think of.
Meituan 美团 ／Elema 饿了吗: Food ordering apps for when you get sick of the neighborhood’s noodle house, or are craving something in particular but are too lazy to get up. Next time your stomach is calling for a Dairy Queen strawberry milkshake or pork dumplings at 2am in the morning, you know what to do.
You’ll spot the food delivery drivers the minute you walk out on the street. They’re literally everywhere.
What to Bring to China:
Besides this list of essential apps I came up with, here’s a list of things to bring to China:
While most of these things can be found here, they definitely do cost more and may not be the favourite brands you love from home.
Healthy snacks: Nuts, dried fruit, peanut butter, almond butter, granola bars, protein bars, and protein powder. Next time I head back to Vancouver, I’m going on a big Costco run.
Chocolate: Chocolate lovers will come to know Dove chocolate when they come to China, but I just know it doesn’t compare to the chocolates we love from back home. For some reason, Ferrero, Lindt, and Godiva are more expensive in China, and the Nestle variety isn’t great. So bring your favorite chocolate bars from home!
Name-brand Clothing: We’re talking Zara, H&M, Forever 21, Gap, Hollister, Abercrombie & Fitch, Champion, Adidas, and Nike (plus all the other brands alike). These brands are more expensive here, so best to bring these from outside of China if you like to shop these brands. Also, don’t fall prey to the counterfeit stores claiming to sell these brands for cheap!
Last but not least, bring an open attitude when you come to China (super cheesy, I know).
China is not for everyone, and there will be things you won’t like about this country. However, keeping an open and positive attitude will always make your experience a great one.
I also recommend learning Chinese and immersing yourself in the culture here. While most of my friends here are foreigners, I’ve found pleasure being able to talk to locals in Chinese (and it definitely makes your life easier).
For me, living in China has been great so far. There’s so much to discover here, and I hope that with some of the tips I mentioned your life will be more convenient here!