7 Great iPhone Apps for Foreigners in China

7 Great iPhone Apps for Foreigners in China
May 06, 2011 By Andrea Scarlatelli , eChinacities.com

The iPhone is a lovely thing. It can make life easier in many different ways, not least of which by helping you navigate your new life as an expat. Need to know the local train schedule? There’s an app for that. Need to brush up on your Mandarin phrases? There’s an app for that. Need to know where the closest public restroom is? Yes, there’s even an app for that. With this arsenal of seven iPhone apps for expats, you’ll be an expert on China in no time!

1) Lonely Planet Mandarin Phrasebook

While having a Mandarin dictionary is certainly helpful, phrasebooks are often better for quick reference. You don’t have to waste time looking up individual words, and there is no need to worry about proper grammar, since the phrasebook puts it together for you. The Lonely Planet Mandarin Phrasebook app is one of the best, with thousands of common phrases to get you through. There is also an audio version of each phrase, so you can listen to how it is supposed to sound and try your best to replicate it!”

Price: $5.99 USD (about 40 RMB)

2) Aibang Trains

Train travel is an important mode of transportation in China – chances are you will ride at least one during your stay here (many more if you plan to explore within the country). The Aibang Trains app lets you look up train schedules in a variety of ways, including by arrival stations, departure stations, or train number. Most importantly, they include information for all the new bullet trains, which seem to be popping up every other day or so. Keep in mind, however, that you need to be online when checking this app, so be sure you have access to Wi-Fi. Not a problem if you have…

Price: Free

3) Wi-Fi Finder

Finding a spot with Wi-Fi can be a project unto itself, but the Wi-Fi Finder makes it a no-brainer. Whether you simply haven’t discovered the Wi-Fi hot spots of your new neighbourhood, you are in an unfamiliar part of town, or you have not had a chance to set up internet in your own home yet, this app can help you find those places that offer free Wi-Fi. It is also incredibly useful on vacation, since the service covers over 135 different countries.

Price: Free

4) China Menu

For those expats who are unfamiliar with all of China’s culinary delights, the China Menu app can come in handy when your stomach is growling and you don’t know what you want. Listing over 200 pictures of popular Chinese dishes, the China Menu app gives you the appropriate dish names and extra vocabulary you may need to order it – including how to order vegetarian dishes or MSG-free dishes. It also gives you a small tutorial on Chinese food customs and phrases that may come up in common dinner scenarios.

Price: $4.99 USD (about 33 RMB)

5) Sit or Squat

Surely one of the funniest (yet useful) apps out there, Sit or Squat points you in the direction of the nearest public toilet – and even shows you user generated ratings based on cleanliness, convenience, etc. Never underestimate how handy this can be, especially since public restrooms have been the bane of expats’ existence in China since, well, expats began coming to China. This app can be a lifesaver when you’re lost and in need of some urgent relief.

Price: Free

6) Explore Shanghai/Beijing/Guangzhou/Hong Kong

Granted, these apps only help those living or playing in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, or Hong Kong. But chances are that even if you live elsewhere in China, you’ll be visiting at least one of these cities at one time or another. And if that’s the case, these Explore apps will basically become vital to your existence on the subway system. Each app consists of an interactive metro map, meaning you can plan your specific route that day and budget your transportation costs upfront. It can also track exactly where you’re standing in relation to the various metro stops, letting you know which is the closest and how to get there.

Price: $0.99 each (about 6.5 RMB)

7) Skype

While almost every expat has Skype on his or her home computer, this internet calling service can be used with even more convenience by having it as an app on your iPhone. As long as there is a Wi-Fi connection, you can call your family and friends directly from your phone, allowing you to chat just like you were at home. And even if you don’t have a Wi-Fi connection, there is no need to fall out of touch – you can still send out incredibly cheap text messages to tide you over until you can call.

Price: Free

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I agree with Boa...any chance of a list for Android users...?

May 06, 2011 16:31 Report Abuse


Funny, 4 replies to this article so far, and none of them to do with Apple and the iPHone. I have hTC ..so, as with others, would some kind person at echinacities devise a list for us please!

May 06, 2011 19:32 Report Abuse