When on the road in China as a visitor, you might need some help to get around. Here's a short overview of 5 recommended apps you should consider downloading to your phone, enhancing and facilitating your travel experiences in Middle Kingdom.
Pleco (Free, Offline)
Pleco is a Chinese learning and translation program: integrated dictionaries, document reader, flashcard system with full screen handwriting input and live OCR (optical character recognition). If you want to get a better understanding of Chinese language, Pleco is the recommended language-learning app and will facilitate many (not all!) language barrier situation (menus in restaurants, any kind of Chineses signs, communication support, etc.). You can either input words using English, Pinyin (the Romanization system of Chinese) or (let someone) draw out characters in order to translate them.
Google Maps (Free, Online)
Even though Google Maps is often not accessible in China and you might need a VPN to bypass the lock, it is still the best comprehensive map service, also for China as it is fully available in English and makes it easier for you to travel around and navigate without thoroughly speaking the language. Try the Chinese webpage maps.google.cn.
WeChat (Free, Online)
WeChat is the most popular messaging service in China, comparable with What'sApp in other countries. As emails mostly stay unanswered nowadays, Wechat (or Weixin / 微信 as it is called in Chinese) is recommended if you want to meet people in China and want to stay in touch. For instance, if you have made good experience with a driver and want to keep his contact in case you need him to drive you around on another day, WeChat is the best and most common way to communicate. You can send text and voice messages and call people for free if you're both connected to the internet.
Uber (Free, Online)
Uber has been a revelation for many of China's big cities. Uber drivers in Beijing and Shanghai are generally friendlier than normal taxi drivers, and will be more patient with you (in order to get the 5-star rating following your ride). The vast amount of Wi-Fi around the country in hotels and restaurants means that even without a Chinese SIM card you'll be able to call for a driver and he or she will be able to find your exact location based on the info you have transferred. Payment is done automatically with your registered credit card. It's very easy and usually also cheaper than using normal taxis. The only problem you will have is that the driver may not be able to speak English (as any other taxi driver). But for handling this problem, you certainly already downloaded Pleco (see above).
Dianping (Free, Online)
The main restaurant review site in China also has an app: dianping. It is perfect for finding out which restaurants nearby have good ratings from other customers. Although not all reviews are available in English, the basic information is, and the Chinese address makes it convenient to ask people how to get there.
Want to keep up with current travel information in Yunnan and China? Check out our latest newsletter and if of further interest, you can subsribe to it in the field at the lower right end of this page - just enter your email address. Any other questions (and if you shouldn't have a phone to download the above apps) feel free to contact us anytime. Also - better than any "smart" phone - one of our tour guides will be happy to join you during your Yunnan Tour!