10 Must-Have Apps for Living in Shanghai

Apps | © jeshoots / Pexels
Rachel Deason

In a world that is increasingly technology-reliant, Shanghai is leading the march towards total smartphone domination. Hailing a taxi? There’s an app for that. Ordering food? There’s an app for that. Hiring a maid? You guessed it – there’s an app for that too. Every aspect of daily life has been digitized by China‘s largest city, and you better get on board if you want to keep up. Here are the 10 must-have apps to get you started.


It should go without saying that WeChat is essential to life in Shanghai. The messaging app is used for much more than texting. Bosses use it to update employees, local publications use it to keep the public apprised of the latest city happenings, and friends use it to transfer money between themselves. This one app has the functionality of WhatsApp, GroupMe, Venmo, Snapchat, and Facebook, combined.

Didi Dache

Cabs aren’t always easy to hail in Shanghai, especially at peak times throughout the day. Enter Didi: China’s answer to Uber. For prices often much lower than traditional taxis, a Didi is available anytime, anywhere. The app is only available in Chinese for now, but it is intuitive to use once you have figured out a few of the key characters. Hook it up to WeChat for increased ease of use.

Bon App!

Bon App! is one of two useful restaurant review apps in the city (the other being Dianping), but Bon App! caters specifically to Westerners with Western tastes. Turn on your phone’s GPS to search Mediterranean food near you, or use one of the app’s curated lists to find local restaurants, the perfect date spot, or the best place to take out-of-towners you want to impress. Bon appétit!

Baidu Maps

Apple Maps works in Shanghai, as does Google Maps (VPN enabled), but Baidu Maps is the most reliable, accurate, and up-to-date of the three. Find the best routes for car, bicycle, public transport, and walking. Once you input your destination in Chinese, the app will guide you every step of the way, or give you an overview of where you can expect to go.


Within the last few months, bike sharing platforms have taken over the city. The leader of the pack is Mobike, a little orange bicycle you can’t go two blocks without seeing. For one RMB per half-hour of riding, Mobike is a great alternative to walking. The app is available in English and incredibly easy to use. Once you have an account, simply open the app to scan the QR code of the bike you want, and you’re ready to ride!

Ayi Bang!

Having a maid is not just for the elite in Shanghai. Maids, known as ayi, can be hired on a short- or long-term basis, to do anything from regular housekeeping to cooking to childcare. Ayi Bang! is an app that will help you select a short-term ayi for standard or deep cleaning. There are also options for pest removal, floor waxing, and more.


With several food delivery apps in Shanghai, it takes a lot to stand out. Fast, cheap service that guarantees hot food to your door in under an hour makes Ele.me a leader in the industry. No more cold food. No more exorbitant fees. Choose from a long list of Chinese and Western options.


Don’t have time to go to the salon? Make the salon come to you! Helijia is an app that sends manicurists, hair stylists, personal trainers, and more right to your door. The app is particularly popular for its nail services, letting users choose a style, price, artist and time, just with the tap of a few buttons.


If you intend to get around the Great Firewall of China to access blocked websites like Google, Facebook, and Instagram, you will need to download a VPN (Virtual Private Network). One of the best mobile-friendly versions available is Hexatech, a free service that offers connections through one server. For connection through multiple services, upgrade to the paid edition.

Explore Shanghai Metro Map

Finally, get to know your way around the city via the world’s largest metro system. The Explore Shanghai Metro app is searchable without an internet connection and is the easiest way to figure out how to get from point A to point B.

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.