Oh no! You are coming to Beijing and found out Google services, such as Google Translate or Google Maps, don’t work. What to do now? How to get around Beijing without Google Maps?
Get Around Beijing Without VPN
Don’t worry. Google Maps and Google Translate are actually working in China. But you have to access it through Chinese URL with suffix .cn instead of .com. This is an easy hack which can help you during your traveling around China. Besides Google Maps, you can also use Microsoft’s Bing Maps
and Baidu Maps
. Bing Maps are partially in English, so it should be easier to navigate through them than Baidu Maps. On the other hand, Baidu Maps give you the option to search for the public transportation and much more, but you will have to know at least some Chinese to get a value from it.
As you can see, Google Maps really do work in China. Even without VPN. On the picture, you can see the route from Beijing International Capital Airport to Wangjing. Final word of advice: instead of map.google.com, you will need to write google.cn/maps
Hack Your Way Through Other Apps
There is also another way how to “hack” maps in China. Through WeChat, Mobike or other applications which use localization services and have map function inbuilt in it. From WeChat you can directly share location with your friends and ask them for help. If you are in a rush it can help you orientate faster as you don’t have to go to your browser, type in URL and then make screenshots and then switch again to the other app to share with your friends (or Airbnb hosts), but do everything from one place.
Mobike Not Just For Bike-sharing
I personally use Mobike app (new bicycle sharing service in China) when I need to find my way. Mobike’s map is loading very quickly and it can localize me even without GPS turned on. I can also swiftly zoom in and out to find the place where I am going. In addition, Mobike also displays the route and estimated time to get there.
You can use Mobike app for more than just bike-sharing. If you are lost or just want to check the route, you can localize yourself through the app and navigate where you need to go. Be careful though as you can only pin bikes as your direction points where you heading. But as Mobike bikes are everywhere, it shouldn’t be an issue.
How Do You Get Around Beijing?
Now you should be able to get around Beijing and also China. Hopefully, these “hacks” will save you some time and prevent you from getting lost. It is often frustrating to navigate around China even when you have access to the maps – and even when you know how to read the maps. But it is part of the experience of getting lost in the Beijing’s hutongs or other streets and explore the city from a different perspective. If you really feel hopeless, ask someone on the street, Chinese are always happy to help!
Wish you safe travels around Beijing and China full of adventures!
Do you know of other ways how to navigate through Beijing?
Share your experience in the comments below.