Photos: How I navigated Beijing with just my smartphone

Since moving to Beijing a month ago, my smartphone has proved to be tremendously helpful settling in, in China’s capital. I soon realized that I could navigate the city with my smartphone only and leave my wallet behind.

Here I’ve put together a photo essay illustrating a day in my life and how I went about accomplishing the various things I like to do. 

To start my day, I ordered a car through Didi Chuxing, a ride-hailing service similar to Uber, right from my phone to get to my lunch destination — Nanluoguxiang.

Order Didi

I was lucky. My Didi express car picked me up within minutes.

Bonus tip: If you don’t get a response to your request for a Didi Express Car within 88 seconds, Didi will send you a 5 RMB (USD 0.78) coupon to use towards your bill.

Didi picks up Wendy

Just like Uber, it was cashless payments with Didi. I had the option of using WeChat Payment, Alipay and QQ Wallet to settle the bill.

Didi Bill

On my way to Nanluoguxiang, I picked out a Korean restaurant using the Meituan app, a group-buying website.

Meituan App to order

I ordered a Korean hotpot set for two directly from the Meituan app. Voila!

Korean Hotpot

After lunch, I used Baidu maps to lead me to nearby tourist attraction, the Confucius Temple.

Bonus Tip: Just like Google Maps, Baidu Maps has voice-command navigation so you can put your phone away and put your earbuds on while walking there.

Baidu Map

Upon arrival at the Confucius Temple, I fired up the 51 Daoyou app, which is a location-based audio tour guide app.

Confucius Temple

The audio guide app offers free standard audio tours and paid versions which are high-defintion.

51 Daoyou

After the tour, I decided to walk to a cafe at Wudaoying Hutong for some coffee.

Wudaoying Cafe

This cafe takes Alipay which is one of China’s top two mobile payment systems.

Bonus tip: If your smartphone allows touch ID, you can use your fingerprint to pay with WeChat payment and Alipay instead of having to type your PIN.

Scanning Alipay

While at the cafe, I browsed restaurant recommendations for dinner while using the Dianping app, which is similar to Yelp.

Browsing Dianping

Besides looking up restaurant recommendations, I felt like watching a movie after dinner. Through the Maoyan app, I was able to see all the showtimes and movie theater locations, I also was able to buy a ticket directly from the app.

Maoyan App 007


All in all, it’s possible to get by in China without cash as long as you’re all set up with mobile payments and have a few apps installed on your smartphone. So next time when you leave your wallet at home, don’t panic.

(With contributions from Stella Yu)

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