Chinese Alternative to Google Maps 2023 | What Map Apps are Popular in China?

by Tim Howard

When traveling in China, having a reliable map app is essential for easy navigation. Embracing technology and using a China map app can save you time and ensure a pleasant travel experience. 

With Google being restricted in China, it pays to find a good Chinese alternative to Google Maps if you want to find your way around town.

This article presents a list of the best map apps for China, including popular English and Mandarin options, along with helpful tips for using them effectively.

Mapping AppAvailable onLanguage Support
Apple MapsApple devicesEnglish
MAPS.MEApp and websiteEnglish
Baidu MapsApple, Android, websiteNo English
AmapApp and websiteNo English
Tencent MapsApp and websiteNo English

6 Popular Chinese Alternatives to Google Maps 

Apple Maps – (苹果地图 )

Chinese Alternative to Google Maps
  • Available on: Apple devices
  • Language: English

If you own an iPhone, Apple Maps is a pre-installed app that offers turn-by-turn spoken directions, making it ideal for navigating landmarks like Beijing’s Imperial Palace. It also provides real-time traffic information, including speed limits, which is useful for taxi or DiDi (China’s Uber) rides. Furthermore, Apple’s Indoor Maps feature offers detailed directions inside major Chinese airports.

MAPS.ME

  • Available on: App and website
  • Language: English

With over 120 million downloads, MAPS.ME serves as a popular alternative to Google Maps in China. Notably, it allows offline usage by downloading maps in advance, making it a convenient choice for travelers. However, as an open-source software, MAPS.ME may have less accurate maps and challenges in matching English app information with Mandarin place names.

Baidu Maps – (百度地图 )

  • Available on: Apple, Android, and website
  • Language: No English support
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Baidu Maps is the Chinese equivalent of Google Maps and is widely used by locals. It offers features like street view, 3D city maps, and public transport schedules. However, due to the lack of English language support, it may be less suitable for non-Chinese speakers.

Amap – (高德地图 )

Chinese Alternative to Google Maps
  • Available on: App and website
  • Language: No English support

Owned by Alibaba, Amap is a prominent mapping app in China, providing mapping data to both Google and Apple. Although it lacks English support, Amap offers a user-friendly interface and is considered less overwhelming than Baidu Maps.

Tencent Maps – (腾讯地图)

  • Available on: App and website
  • Language: No English support

As one of China’s leading tech companies, Tencent offers Tencent Maps, alongside popular apps like WeChat and Tencent Video. Tencent Maps gained attention during the coronavirus outbreak by providing a map that pinpoints infected residential communities. While it doesn’t support English, Tencent Maps is widely used within China.

Can I Use Offline Maps in China?

Chinese Alternative to Google Maps

Using a map app in China doesn’t necessarily mean it will eat up your data. It depends on the kind of data plan you have on your phone. 

If you activate international roaming with your phone company, you may start using data quickly. Different phone companies have different rates, so it’s recommended to check with your provider before your trip. 

Alternatively, you can rely on offline map apps like MAPS.ME, where you can download maps before arriving in China to avoid using any data.

Which Map App is Best For Visiting China?

The best map app for China depends on your language skills and device:

  • If you can understand Chinese characters, Baidu Maps and Amap (owned by Alibaba) are highly recommended.
  • If you can’t read Chinese characters:
    • MAPS.ME is a good option as it offers offline maps, eliminating the need for internet data. However, the maps may not be as accurate or detailed.

    • For iPhone users, Apple Maps is a reliable choice. It’s currently accessible in China and utilizes Alibaba’s advanced technology.

    • Android users can rely on Google Maps but will need to download a VPN app before arriving in China due to Google being blocked.
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Remember to enable international roaming on your phone and choose the option that suits your needs and preferences.

Can I Connect to Google Maps in China?

Chinese Alternative to Google Maps

No, Google Maps is not accessible in China without a VPN (Virtual Private Network) due to internet restrictions imposed by the Chinese government. 

However, with the use of a VPN service like ExpressVPN, you can bypass these restrictions and connect to Google Maps while in China. 

A VPN allows you to encrypt your internet traffic and route it through a server located outside of China, giving you access to blocked websites and apps. 

It’s important to note that using a VPN to access restricted content in China may still be subject to legal and regulatory implications, so it’s advisable to use a VPN service responsibly and in accordance with local laws.

Chinese alternative to Google Maps FAQ’s

Which app offers street view in mainland China? 

Only domestic map apps like Baidu Maps or Tencent Maps offer street view in mainland China. So, it’s best to use these apps if you want to access this feature.

Should I download map apps before leaving home? 

It’s advisable to download any map apps you think you’ll need in China before you leave. Google Play is blocked in China, but if you have a VPN, you can still access it.

How can I save data when using maps in China? 

To save data and avoid excessive costs, download offline maps of the areas you’ll be exploring before heading to China. However, keep in mind that offline maps may not provide all the features of a full map experience.

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Can I expect 100% accuracy with Chinese navigation apps? 

Chinese navigation apps are influenced by the Chinese government, so certain features or information may be missing or altered. For example, Apple Maps in China, which relies on Chinese mapping company AutoNavi, may not show certain locations due to government actions.

What should I do about Chinese street signs? 

Chinese street signs typically display Chinese characters and sometimes pinyin (Romanized Mandarin). As Chinese writing can be challenging to decipher, using Google Maps can be helpful since it provides both English and Mandarin, making navigation easier.

Takeaway

In conclusion, when traveling in China, having a reliable map app is crucial for seamless navigation. 

Embracing technology and utilizing a China map app can save time and enhance the overall travel experience. 

This article has provided a comprehensive list of the best map apps for China, catering to both English and Mandarin speakers, along with valuable tips for using them effectively.

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