Opinions, knowledge and resources from China Checkup's expert contributors
Whether you are planning a trip to China, researching a specific location, or trying to figure out how bad the Beijing rush hour is, there are plenty of good reasons to use China map websites.
Although most international map websites cover China, these websites face various restrictions which mean they can't provide a service as in-depth as their Chinese counterparts, so it is a good idea to know your options.
In this article we introduce the 8 most useful China map websites, including both international services available in your language, and some impressive domestic websites only available in Chinese.
The first thing you need to be aware of is that the China map websites with the most features and data are Chinese websites with only Chinese language support.
Although you can certainly get plenty of useful information from the English-language websites, they simply can't match their Chinese counterparts.
For this reason we have divided our list into two distinct groups - International map websites and Chinese-language map websites.
To help you get a feel for how each map website's appearance compares, we have included a Shanghai-centered map taken from each website.
Before deciding which China map website is right for you there are many factors to consider. First ask yourself these questions:
If you are currently in China you will find that you can't access Google.com unless you have a VPN. Most Google services are blocked in Mainland China, but you can access Google Maps by using their China URL - google.cn/maps
Another issue is that Bing Maps automatically selects language based on your location and it can be difficult to change. So if you're in China you may find yourself stuck with a Chinese language version of the website.
If not, you will find it very difficult to navigate the Chinese-language map websites without assistance from a Chinese-speaking friend or colleague.
Having said that, the navigation and layout on the Chinese-language map websites can feel quite familiar and searching in English can sometimes yield useful results.
None of the domestic China map websites are available in English or any other foreign language.
On the other hand, each of the international map websites we list are available in a wide range of languages.
If so you'll likely find that there is an annoying offset problem on both Google.com and Bing maps. More on this issue below!
None of the international services offer street view in Mainland China, so you will need to use a domestic China map website - Baidu Map and Tencent Maps both have this feature.
"Why are there roads showing up in the middle of the river?"
In China there is an issue with the satellite layer of map websites not aligning to the map layer.
In this example from Nanchang city in Jiangxi province, you can see that this results in the road around the stadium appearing to be in the middle of the river!
This is an issue common to both Google Maps and Bing Maps when viewing maps of China from overseas.
The reason for this is that China, due to national security concerns, insists that approved map service providers in China use a specific Chinese coordinates system which does not align with the world geodetic system used by GPS.
Users of Google Maps can get around this issue by visiting google.cn/maps which is based on the Chinese coordinates system.
Each of these websites are available worldwide in many different languages, including English, Chinese and more.
Note that Apple Maps is also available in China, but can only be used as an app, rather than a website, so has not been included here.
By some distance Google Maps is our favorite of the international China map websites, especially after we became aware of the option to use google.cn to get around the satellite offset issue.
If you are unable to read Chinese and navigate the domestic map websites, using Google Maps is the clear choice.
Another huge advantage is that Google Maps do a great job of showing English and Chinese-language text together on their maps. Take a look at the other images and you'll notice that they are the only website to offer this as standard.
Note: when using google.cn/maps there is no option to sign in to your google account - this might be a problem or an advantage depending on your needs and perspective!
The big advantage of using Bing Maps instead of Google Maps in China is that it includes traffic data, so you can get a more accurate idea of how bad the traffic is if you are rushing to the airport.
Unlike all the other map websites here, OpenStreetMap is an open-source map built by volunteers.
If you are thinking about contributing to the project be aware that doing so might be illegal in Mainland China!
Despite OpenStreetMap having an English language interface, the maps of China themselves are only in Chinese. Visitors to China might find the Cycle Map layer and user-submitted information useful.
It is important to note that none of these websites currently have an English-language version, so you will need at least a basic knowledge of Chinese, or a lot of patience, in order to navigate them.
Their maps might not be the most visually appealing, but from our experience Baidu Map simply has the most accurate data, the widest range of features and the best search results.
We find that Baidu Map is particularly useful for transportation and traffic data, as well as offering handy 3D maps of most Chinese cities.
Baidu Map also has the most comprehensive coverage of Street View images in China, which can be invaluable when researching specific addresses.
(Also known as Autonavi and AMAP)
Gaode may not have quite as many features as Baidu Maps but it has an easy to use interface and very clean and clear maps.
If you can't read Chinese but want to give a Chinese-language map website a try, this is probably the best place to start.
If you are visiting China and worried about the air pollution the air pollution layer is easy to understand even without any Chinese language skills. This can be viewed by simply clicking this link: gaode.com/smog
With a level of detail only bettered by Baidu Map, Tencent Maps is a useful resource for research.
We sometimes find that Tencent Maps street view (accessed by clicking "街景") covers areas not yet reached by Baidu Map.
Sogou Map is a nicely presented website with one star attraction - their 3D city maps.
Looking just like something out of Sim City, these incredibly detailed maps are highly realistic and a sight to behold.
Available in most of China's major cities, you can explore for yourself by clicking the button "三维" in the top right corner.
Mapbar is a little different to the other China map websites in that it doesn't display a map on its homepage.
To use Mapbar, first select the city you are interested in, then enter what you are looking for in a search bar. Results are displayed on a map.
In the below image the city being searched is Beijing (北京市).
Here at China Checkup, we use China map websites as part of our Chinese company verification services, to identify locations and provide street view images for our clients. We call this feature "Site Identification"
This can be an invaluable method for helping clients to better understand their Chinese counterparts and on many occasions has been used to expose fake addresses or greatly exaggerated claims.
For example, sometimes we find that the company name displayed at a factory's main entrance does not match that from an image on their website. On other occasions we have determined that companies are using an address that appears to be real, but actually no longer exists.
Site Identification is included in the following company verification reports:
Visit any Chinese city these days and you are bound to see rows and rows of brightly colored shared bicycles - they are the most visible of the many China sharing services.
Whilst shared bicycles might be the most well known, they are far from the only popular shared service in China though.
Keep reading to learn more about how shared bicycles and some of the other popular China sharing services work, including battery packs, sports equipment and cars!
Have you received a China ISO 45001 certificate and wondered what it is, if it is real and how to check it?
Replacing the previous standard OHSAS 18001 in 2018, this new international standard specifies the requirements for occupational health and safety.
The uptake of certification to this standard in China has been quick and many Chinese organizations are providing their clients with copies of their China ISO 45001 certificate. Learn more about it here.
With the high cost of sending freight by air, and the slow speed of sea freight, Chinese exporters are increasingly utilizing China to Europe freight trains as a means of sending their produce west.
As might be expected, the majority of these trains depart from cities located far from China's coastline and her seaports, but which Chinese cities have the most rail shipments?
We took a look at the data and found that the top 5 cities for China to Europe freight trains are each provincial capitals with huge populations - with Chengdu in Sichuan province leading the way.