There are plenty of apps available for travellers heading to China for their next holiday, but your smart device probably doesn’t have capacity to hold them all. So which ones should you download?
Instead of installing every language dictionary, translation service, currency converter and tourist map application, we’ve selected the best apps to help you book, arrive, get about and return safely from China.
Before you go
An experienced traveller will know that a trip doesn’t start when your plane lifts off the runway, it doesn’t even begin when you’re booking your flights. It all begins with daydreaming in the office, browsing travel magazines and scouring the net for great travel blogs. A big part of this is trying to find the most affordable flights to spark your travel inspiration even more!
To help you search for the best possible flight deals download the Skyscanner app, which allows you to search millions of flights from hundreds of airlines on your mobile. This is perfect for those commutes to work or a quick search before bed. There are over 20 airlines flying to China including JetStar, AirAsia, QANTAS, Air New Zealand, Air Vanuatu and Virgin Australia.
Pleco Chinese Dictionary
It might seem a little bit pre-emptive to download a Mandarin dictionary app prior to your trip, but the Pleco Chinese Dictionary is commonly regarded as the best and most useful app of its kind – so why not get used to using it before you travel, so that you’ll be able to use it quick smart on the ground in China. The app has lots of features including:
- Draw characters on screen for accurate translation.
- Phrasebook and dictionary.
- Audio recordings to help you communicate with native speakers.
- Flashcards to help you learn the basics.
- A searchable document reader.
We recommend travellers purchase travel insurance as soon as flights are booked. This ensures cover is in place for any unexpected events that may occur before you even leave the country. It also provides cover while you are overseas for damaged, lost or stolen items, among other things. Click here for more information on what the TravelCare policy covers.
When you land
If you haven’t prearranged a pick-up service from your accommodation in China, the Taxi Book app is an absolute must download. With vast databases across 33 major Chinese cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Xian, locations include: tourist, cultural, accommodation, shopping, nightlife, business, hospitality, travel, healthcare, consulate and sports destinations.
The mechanics are simple – you just select where you would like to go and the app produces a card, which you show to your taxi driver. Alternatively, you can turn on the sound for oration. The app cannot book taxis yet, but that feature is in development. A great trick is to enter all of your hotels in before you leave any free Wi-Fi spots, screenshot them and save them in a folder in your device’s gallery.
Air Quality China
Available on both Android and iOS, Air Quality China is one of many air pollution apps available, but the beauty of this particular app is that it combines accurate and important technical data with an easy to understand user interface.
There are over 407 monitoring stations in 164 cities around China which work to give real time updates on the air quality. This is all displayed in a chart that lists the air quality index from the last 24 hours ranging from Good, Moderate, Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups, Unhealthy, Very Unhealthy to Hazardous. This is an important app for families travelling with newborns, young children, the elderly or for people who are prone to asthma or respiratory issues. You can also track multiple cities at once, which is handy if you’re travelling frequently.
Tracking air pollution may be a foreign concept to western travellers, but considering that the air quality index in China can reach up to 200+ micrograms per cubic metre, it’s worth erring on the safer side of caution. The World Health Organisation safe level is 25 micrograms per cubic metre (one eighth of that recently registered in Shanghai).
Seeing the sites
If you’ll be travelling through Shanghai, one of the best apps to carry in your pocket is Smart Shanghai. Focusing on nightlife, dining, arts, events, addresses and maps, ‘SS’ is similar to ‘Time Out’ magazine or a real time Lonely Planet guide. Scroll through all of the upcoming events, top tourist destinations or great eats and simply tap for details, directions and a translation card to show taxi drivers.
Although Smart Shanghai is only available on iPhone and iPad, there is also a great mobile ready website which can be accessed from all devices.
Waygo Visual Translator
Although China is a lot more tourist friendly now than it was even just ten years ago, there are still plenty of hospitality establishments that do not have English translations on their menus. You’ll not only find this in smaller townships but also in popular destinations like Beijing and Shanghai. The Waygo translator is a great way to ensure that you’re not ordering anything too different from the menu.
The app works by translating Chinese characters into English – without needing Internet connection. All you have to do is activate the app and focus it on the characters you wish to translate. You can then screen shot or take a photo and store the translation to your device. Waygo can also be applied to larger signage to help you find your way around a tourist site or city.
Getting Around & Home Safe
Considering that China has the third longest rail network in the world, getting around by train can often be the best option for moving between cities. The China Trains app for iOS and Android is a comprehensive guide to understanding the vast travel options presented by China Rail. Using the simple app you can:
- Search train schedules
- Check ticket availability with a 20 day forecast
- Ask questions about China trains and get answers from experienced travellers
- Access the FAQ section for tips and tricks.
Don’t be surprised by delayed flights or cancelled planes. Instead, stay FlightAware with this great app that enables you to track all commercial airline flight status, gate and terminal information and changes, delays and cancellations. You can even get push notifications with estimated departure time with flight routes and airport congestion warnings. This is also handy for those back home, because they’ll be able to see that you’re on track to arrive home safely!