How to Shanghai 101: 11 MUST Download Apps When Living in Shanghai

27.12.2018 | By NANCY WANG

Those who’ve lived in Shanghai for a while now understand how apps can make life here a lot easier. And those who are like me, a newbie, will realize that it would be a pain in the a** if you don’t download them. (Take it from someone who had to learn it the hard way)

Shanghai has become increasingly technology-reliant, almost to the extent that locals don’t know how to go back the old ways.

Paying bills? There’s an app for it. Ordering food? There’s an app for it. Hailing a taxi/car? There’s an app for it. Doing groceries? Who does that anymore? Someone else can do it for you through, you guessed it — an app. Every aspect of daily life has been digitized, and if you plan on staying here for the long term, you better get on board to keep up. But forget not, all the apps that you are used to may not be functional here thanks to the great firewall of China. So to make your life a whole lot simpler, here are 12 must-have apps that will save your sorry butt.


This is the app in China, and it should go without saying that daily life revolves around it. WeChat is used much more than just a texting platform. Bosses use it to update employees, companies use it to keep the public informed with their latest updates, friends use it to transfer money to each other or and everyone use it for a good ol’ scroll down the social feed. This app has the functionality of WhatsApp, Venmo, Instagram, Facebook, and Wallet (for the iPhone users), combined.


Alipay has very similar functionality as WeChat, but unlike it, Alipay focuses especially on ePayment and transactions. It has a much clearer interface showing your every transaction as cwecompared to WeChat. is the equivalent to UberEATS, Postmates, Deliveroo, Foodora, or whatever food delivery app you use back at home. But what makes this app unique is their fast, cheap service that guarantees hot food to your door in under an hour. No more hanger. No more cold food. No more exaggerating fees. Just an endless scroll of Chinese and Western cuisine.


Let me introduce you Didi: China’s answer to Uber. It offers prices often much lower than traditional taxis. Although sometimes you’ll have to “wait in line” to get a car — that’s the downside of living in a city with such a high-density population. Hook it up with either WeChat or Alipay, and you’re good to go!


No Netflix? No problem. If you haven’t realized by now, there is a Chinese version of preeetty much every app you’re used to, if not sometimes even better. In this case, IQIYI does not have the Netflix originals, but it does have plenty of other movies and tv series that you can binge watch!


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by iQIYIofficial (@iqiyiofficial) on

Ayi Bang!

Unlike other places, having a maid, known as ayi here, is not just for the elite in Shanghai. It is common for people to hire an ayi for either a short or long-term basis, to do anything from regular housekeeping to cooking to childcare. And here’s what’s great about Ayi Bang!, you look for an ayi and not go through the struggle of trying to look for one.


Too busy to pamper yourself? Why not make the salon come to you! Helijia is, yes another app, that sends manicurists, hair stylists, personal trainers, and more right to your door. It’s never been so easy to just stay at home nowadays.

Explore Shanghai Metro Map

Get to know your way around the city with the world’s most extensive metro system. Explore Shanghai Metro app works without the internet connection it has the most accessible format for you to figure out how to get from point A to point B.

Express VPN

If you do intend to get past the Great Firewall of China to access blocked networks like Google, Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram, you will need to download a good VPN (Virtual Private Network) to do so. I’ve personally been using Express VPN, and it has been absolutely fabulous.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by ExpressVPN (@expressvpn) on

Bon App!

Don’t know where to eat? Bon App to the rescue! This is one of two useful restaurant review apps in the city (the other being Dianping, unfortunately the app is all in Chinese), but Bon App! caters more to Westerners with Western tastes. Missing that weekly brunch routine? Or pizza takeaway? Use the app’s curated list to find local spots perfect for a night out or a date! Bon appetite!

Baidu Maps

Whether you’re walking, driving or in a taxi, a good map in this city is essential. And since our all-time angel Google Maps is hardly reliable in China, Baidu Maps is here to come to save the day. What’s also great about Baidu Maps is that it shows you real-time traffic, cameras, traffic lights and how accurate it is.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by BeijingLifehacks (@beijinglifehacks) on

Don’t worry, you’ll thank me later on.