Essential apps for living in Shanghai

As a newcomer to Shanghai, you may find it challenging to live and travel in the city. But with the right apps on your phone, your trip can go from zero to hero.    

1. Multipurpose app: WeChat


The first app you need to download is definitely WeChat. WeChat is one of the most popular apps in China. You can use WeChat for messaging, voice or video calls, paying bills, and many more everyday tasks.

How to use WeChat like a local


2. Payment: WeChat Pay and Alipay


WeChat Pay and Alipay are the two major digital payment methods in China. By scanning a QR code, you can pay for practically everything, from coffee to clothing. Both WeChat and Alipay support an English-language version.

How to use Alipay

How to use WeChat Pay


3. Shopping: Taobao, JD, and Pinduoduo


The three apps are your typical online marketplace, much like Amazon. You can search for a product, sift through options, buy items for delivery and communicate with the sellers.

Pinduoduo is China's major online discounter, where you could buy products at sometimes surprisingly low prices through joint purchasing with other buyers.

Taobao is another popular online marketplace that offers a wide range of products, spanning from clothing and electronics to unique and niche items, providing you with virtually limitless options for your shopping needs. However, it is important to note that Taobao strictly prohibits the sale of illegal items.

For expedited delivery of your purchase, we recommend JD. Although you're not going to find as many options for niche items, it is possible to buy most items, from technology to overseas products.

How to use Taobao


4. Translation: Pleco and Baidu Translate


Language can be a barrier for many expats in China. Don't worry; you can get help from Pleco.

Type a word or phrase in the search bar and Pleco will do the rest. The app provides all potential translations for the searched word or phrase. Pleco is a not only a dictionary app, but also a great tool for learning Chinese.

Baidu Translate is another useful app for expats wanting to learn Chinese or needing translation. The service offers translation for more than 100 languages, including less common ones like Swahili and Bengali. It also allows you to translate by voice, text or photo. It's a useful tool when using apps exclusively in Chinese. Using Dazhong Dianping and can't read the food options? Take a screenshot, upload the photo in Baidu Translate and it'll translate it pretty accurately.

How to use Pleco to learn Chinese


5. Navigation: Gaode Maps and Baidu Maps


Gaode Maps, also known as Amap, is a navigation app that provides users with real-time traffic updates and, in some cases, information on how far the next bus is from the bus stop.

As long as you know the name of your desired destination, Gaode will give you all the possible methods of transport including going by public transport, on foot or by bike.

Baidu Maps offers real-time GPS navigation, traffic information and route planning.

The popular Chinese navigation service provides turn-by-turn voice guidance to help drivers, cyclists and pedestrians get where they're going. It also offers alternative routes, according to traffic conditions, to help avoid congestion.

How to use Gaode Maps


6. Car-hailing services: DiDi 


DiDi is the Chinese equivalent of Uber and it is available in English. DiDi provides options for both taxis and private cars. In the occurrence of a dispute, expats can contact customer services via the help chat which is also available in English.

You can also use DiDi or Meituan for bike rental services, if you prefer bicycling around Shanghai.

How to use DiDi Chuxing


7. Travel: Ctrip and Railway 12306


Ctrip is a travel app which is useful for booking flights, hotels and trains. The more you book, the higher your status goes, which includes bigger discounts and rewards. If you want to order train tickets, you can also go to Railway 12306, China's official train ticket booking system.


8. Food delivery: Meituan and Eleme


Are you hungry? Well, that's exactly what "Ele me" means in English. is one of the leading food delivery apps in China, offering a diverse range of products such as flowers, electronics, and makeup to fulfill various needs

Getting stuff delivered to your door in China is way easier than sourcing what you need from physical stores.

Meituan is another popular food delivery app. Upon loading the app, the nearest eateries appear, but you can search for a more specific restaurant or food if you prefer.

How to use Meituan and Eleme


9. Restaurant review: Dazhong Dianping


Dazhong Dianping is the app you need if you want to try a new restaurant or read the reviews of the restaurant your friend wants to take you to.

You can search nearby food options and how they compare according to locals and fellow foodies. Dazhong Dianping is also a good resource when looking for cinemas, spas, gyms and more. Once you are a savvy user of translation apps, you can even use it to buy discount vouchers.

How to use Dazhong Dianping