This guide can help you:

  • Getting around

    Get your maps, your cabs and your bike sharing all figured out

  • Pay for things

    China is pretty much cash-less! Take advantage and spend less time in the bank!

  • Access the ‘internet’

    The internet that you know does not exist here, read on to learn more

Traveling or simply getting things done in China used to be quite a task for the brave.  In the last 5 years, phones and good software have entirely wiped away all this trouble, just as long as you reside here, or have the foresight and ability to hook into all these benefits. If you do, moving through China becomes easier and safer than in much of the developed world – if not, things are going to be even more difficult than before!

The Orchid’s Official Guide to Modern China Access

Stuff you’ll absolutely need

  • Download WeChat

    OK so you download WeChat, you scan our QR code so you can keep chatting with the hotel and maybe other friends/family/companies prior to your China trip, but what else is needed?

    1. Quick, set up WeChat wallet, link up a credit card to authenticate
    2. Load in some monies into this wallet, likely requiring a friend in china to ‘transfer’ you money or linking a bank card and loading up your wallet. This will launch you to the head of the pack, and everything after gets much easier!
  • Download Mobike

    Plan on getting by with minimal public transport and fewer cabs in traffic jams, bikes are the way forward! We can’t say how great all these bike sharing startups have been treating the rest of the world, but in China it has been pure brilliance. This one in particular at least for Beijing is currently the most reliable. Set up takes some time, so download, sign up and authenticate with your passport prior to coming here.

  • Download Didi

    Going to be standing on the road hailing cabs in China? Think again, this barely works anymore. This app has knocked Uber out of China (kinda oversimplified) and is the default ride hailing app. Taxi scams are finally a thing of the past – assuming you use this..

  • consider getting a local SIM card

    You will have a much easier time booking things, buying things, confirming things etc. with a local phone number. Also, data. It’s real cheap here, and also the only thing worse than having that little E on the top corner of your phone is when simply nothing is there at all. Scary.

    So previously this was an easy 1 minute process that any number of the 10 different mobile phone shops nearby could help you sort out. In the name of the terror, that’s no longer so easy – but we are working on better ways.  We do offer you one with a phone, but unfortunately that has to stay with said phone, for multiple reasons. If we give you that phone, why are we not simply pre-organizing this whole page rather than talking about it? That’s complicated.

    How else can you get one?

    1. Order one from an online provider in advance (they can have it delivered to you in advance of your trip or to your hotel
    2. Go to one of the mobile provider service halls when you arrive in China (slow, a bit annoying, but of course works)
    3. Buy from a nearby shop once you arrive. Again, not guaranteed, but we are working on it.
  • Set up a Virtually non-Private Network

    Sorry you’ll have to read between the lines for that one. Do a search for internet in China and you should know what to do.  We can’t list any specific services or apps here, however. Some do decent paid apps come with 1-7 day free trials, so that could be worthwhile.

    But why is this necessary? If you enjoy using gmail or any other google products like YouTube, google maps or things like Facebook, WhatsApp, Viber, or websites – you want one of these set up.   Still think you can get by without one, just go to baidu.com and search for something you love. You will find it on page 217.

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Easy secondary stuff

  • Download Pleco

    This is a simple one. Pleco Dict is our favourite Chinese-English apps. Actually it probably does a lot more than we think.

  • Download Maps.me

    We like using this app since its data comes from OpenStreetMaps.org, but also because you can pre-download full maps for offline viewing. So even without a local SIM card you can use your GPS to get around like a pro.

Advanced China-goers only

  • Download Alipay

    Not just download but also set up.  The procedure for doing this is always in motion, but the gains are huge.

    • Another payment gateway other than WeChat
    • Better foreign bank support than WeChat (last we checked)
    • umm.. It’s step 1 of 2 for Taobao. Taobao is like having the Internet, in China! At least that’s how good it feels. But it’s a way bigger topic than this page or your attention-span likely has time to delve into.
  • Download JD

    JD or Jingdong is one of the prominent ‘amazon-like’ apps with nearly instant delivery and far more content than what they first started with (electronics, not books though).  You can install it and set up The Orchid as your shipping destination (perhaps with our help, simply ask) and get whatever you need pre-delivered and left in your room for your arrival!

  • Download Ctrip

    For better or worse, Ctrip, or 携程, or Trip.com as now known abroad is the default app for hotel/flight/rail bookings. You will likely get a very competitive price here, but mainly when combined with WeChat or Alipay it is a robust all-in-one travel app.

WeChat wallet, for security reasons doesn’t allow one personal ID to be attached to more than one wallet. This somewhat makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is that there is no set up yet for a company like The Orchid to manage some form of corporate wallet for a set of phones and then give it to guests as we’d really prefer. Once that happens we can simply delete this entire webpage.

Same goes for mobike and other bike sharing systems. Sorry! We tried.