The 12 Must-Have Apps for Living in Shanghai

We live in a world that is ruled by technology. There is an app for everything, so it’s no surprise that China’s largest city is leaps and bounds ahead of the world. Here are 12 must-have apps for living in Shanghai that will make your life so much easier and best of all…they’re FREE!

The 12 Must-Have Apps for Living in Shanghai

1. WeChat

I said it once and I’ll say it a hundred more times.

WeChat is life in China.

Connect with friends via text and voice messaging, share stickers, join niche groups (FitFam Shanghai, Expat Neighbors, Girls Gone International, M2Adventures, Shanghai Brunch Club…just to name a few) share pictures and links with your contacts on your moments, make appointments, keep up with local publications, order food, pay for products and services through WeChat Wallet (only available with a Chinese bank account) and much, much more!

2. Shanghai Metro

Taking the metro in Shanghai is inevitable and between the 14 metro lines that run through the city, it can seem a bit overwhelming at first. Download the Shanghai Metro app to make navigating the city a piece of cake! The app calculates routes, train times, the length of the journey, and ticket prices. Getting from point A to point B is now easier than ever!

3. 饿了么 (Are you Hungry?)

Take one look down the street in Shanghai and you will likely see a pack of delivery guys on the corner, whizzing by on their scooter, or feet up taking a nap on their scooter waiting for their next order.

Fast, cheap, guaranteed hot, food delivery to your door in under an hour. They are extremely generous with their time estimation, I’ve never waited longer than 15 minutes! 饿了么 offers a long list of options from Chinese and Western restaurants around the city.

4. Smart Shanghai

Nearly every business in the city is on SmartShanghai from restaurants, gyms, tourist attractions, and so much more. Search for a business and the directory will pull up hours, a phone number, website, closest metro station, and the Chinese address for taxi drivers.

Find out what’s happening today, nightlife, happy hours, live music shows, markets, art exhibitions, brunch deals, ladies night, sports, stage, and buy tickets to events.

5. Baopal/Taobao

If you can read Chinese characters or have a Chinese friend, colleague or tutor go ahead and download Taobao, it’s the Chinese version. However, if you’re like many of the expats in Shanghai, you can’t and don’t, so you should just go ahead and download Baopal.

Now you can easily, maybe a little too easily, shop from anywhere for anything and receive it tomorrow through Baopal.

6. AirVisual

We all know the air in China can be awful. This easy-to-use app lets you know when it’s time to put on your pollution mask by monitoring the air quality and tracking and foreseeing invisible threats in the air. Use your current location or add cities worldwide to your locations list for current temperature and AQI from both the US consulate and Chinese government.

7. BonApp

C’mon, did you really think I would move to Shanghai and leave my Yelping days behind? Not a chance. I found the closest thing to Yelp that Shanghai has to offer, BonApp!

One of the hottest food and beverage apps in Shanghai, Bon App is a place that lets foodies celebrate, slander and gossip about the city’s many restaurants…and gives them a place to post their food photos other than Instagram. It allows foodies to find nearby restaurants which can be filtered by distance, cuisine, and price. Check the ratings, read the reviews, make a reservation or wishlist it for later! The new “Meet” feature lets you sign up for organized dinners and special set menus with other members of the app’s community.

BonApp! is a must have for anyone in Shanghai that takes their food and drink seriously!

8. Pleco

New to Shanghai or just visiting? Maybe your Chinese isn’t up to par to get around just yet? Break the language barrier with Pleco! An English-Chinese translation app with Chinese characters, pinyin and audio pronunciation that will help you get by at the grocery store, in a taxi, or to check your Chinese homework (not that I’ve ever done that…).

9. Alipay

The world’s largest platform for online payments and China’s number one payment solution. Alipay is an all-in-one banking tool. Buy things online and in brick and mortar stores, invest in stocks, send money to friends and family and earn interest on your balance; all this via your mobile device.

**Note: most brick and mortar stores in Shanghai accept cash, WeChat pay or Alipay. There is hardly any need to carry cash or cards.

10. Mobike

Bicycles have taken over the city (especially with the latest 2017 scooter roundup). You can’t go a block without seeing a little orange bicycle (Mobike) or a yellow bicycle (competitor Ofo) parked legally or carelessly thrown illegally along the sidewalk.

Mobike is a hit with the expat community because it’s available in English and incredibly easy to use. Once you have an account, simply open the app to scan the QR code on the bike you want, and you’re ready to ride! For just 1RMB per half-hour of riding, it’s not only a faster option than walking, it provides an environmentally friendly alternative cutting emissions and traffic.

**Note: Registration can take 1-2 business days and requires a 299rmb refundable deposit via Alipay or WeChat.

11. QQ Music

QQ Music is like iTunes but FREE! The app is all in Chinese but if I can navigate it, so can you! Type any artist or song into the search bar and hit play. Add it to your playlist or share it with friends on WeChat.

12. Meetup is a website and app allowing members to find and join online groups based on a common interest to meet up offline in various locations around the world. Interests range from books, games, health & fitness, careers, travel, hobbies, politics, and much more! Read more about Why You Should Join a Meetup Group in Your City Today here. 

Did I miss an APP that you’ve found useful?
Share your apps for living in Shanghai in the comments below!


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