13 Top Apps and Sites You Need in China 2024

As you get ready to move from your home country to China, it’s important to be prepared with the best resources. Check out these recommended apps and sites to help you make an easy transition to Chinese life. 

Keeping in Touch

China has restricted some communications platforms like Google, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp. To stay in touch with your friends and family around the world, you will need to prepare ahead of time. 


Short for Virtual Private Network, a VPN will help you access these restricted sites even from China. China Admissions offers a discount for Express VPN, one of the best services. Other popular VPNs include NordVPN, Surfshield, and Hotspot Shield. Read more here

2. WeChat App

Inside China, the one app you’ll use to communicate most is WeChat. On WeChat, you can share pictures on your “moments” news feed, send and receive money with other WeChat users, make free audio and video calls, read articles, and even book movie tickets or train tickets. 


Chinese Language 

Chinese doesn’t have to be difficult! There are plenty of ways to learn the language efficiently and quickly. Read about the apps you can use to study for free, and check these out too:

3. Pleco App

Use this free Chinese language dictionary to look up words by typing characters or hand-drawing them, and make flashcards to study later on. 

4. MDBG website

This underrated website is a great translator and dictionary. Look up words from your computer screen and see sample sentences, pinyin, and definitions. They also offer the MDBG Chinese Reader: just hover your mouse over a Chinese word and the definition will pop up. 

Chinese reader for translating characters online
Using MDBG.net’s Chinese reader, translating terms on Chinese websites becomes easy and convenient.

5. DeepL translator

Rated as more accurate than Google translate, use DeepL to translate Chinese text, Word documents, and PDFs. 


Getting Around and Making Payments

6. Ctrip App and Site

The easiest way to book travel options within China is Ctrip. Their English site, Trip.com, helps you book hotels, flights, and trains in China with ease. Download the English app from the Google Play or Apple app stores. The app is also available in Chinese and on Chinese app stores under the name 携程旅行. Insider Tip: Prices on the Chinese version are sometimes cheaper than the English version. 

Easily find and book trains, flights, and hotels in China.
Easily find and book trains, flights, and hotels in China.

7. Amap App

Using Alibaba’s Amap app, you can see where you are, find directions, and call a taxi right from your phone. However, this app is all in Chinese. Download on the Apple app store or Google PlayFor English speakers, Apple Maps is much more accurate than Google Maps, though you can’t call a taxi from Apple Maps. 

8. City websites

The most convenient way to find out new information about your new home is by checking out what other internationals in China have written about your city. Here are some great websites to learn about events, restaurants, tourist attractions, and more in your city. 

People’s Square, Shanghai.

9. Alipay

Alibaba’s Alipay is like Paypal or Apple Pay, but the difference is it’s accepted almost everywhere in China. Simply link the app to your Chinese bank account and scan a QR code to pay. 

Alipay apps needed to pay
Scan to pay: Convenient payment in China with the Alipay app.


Chinese Life and Culture

Practice Chinese and start living like a local by checking out these popular Chinese apps that are all the rage with Chinese students now. 

Chinese shoppers on mobile phones

With popular apps, you can connect with Chinese friends, shop, and get to know current trends.

10. Douyin

Douyin is the Chinese version of Tiktok. You can watch Chinese youth’s favorite dances, songs, trends, and more right here. 

11. Taobao

Taobao is one of the most popular online shopping websites in China offering thousands of products at affordable prices, easy payment through Alipay, and fast delivery in just a few days. For an English language version, try Baopals (though the selection of products may be more limited). 

12. Xiaohongshu (Little Red Book)

Xiaohongshu is very popular among China’s Gen Z students. A combination of Instagram and Pinterest, users can create and share content, shop for fashion and beauty products, and view trending topics. 

13. Sina Weibo

Often called “Chinese Twitter,” Sina Weibo is a social media platform with over 500 million monthly active users. Here you can see trending news topics, videos, livestreams, and posts from your friends and celebrities.


Want to learn even more about China? Watch this video to learn 30 fun facts!

Savannah Billman has a master's degree in Chinese Law and Society at the Yenching Academy of Peking University. She holds a B.A. from NYU Shanghai and has also written for The World of Chinese, TechNode, SupChina, and Sixth Tone.
Savannah Billman

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