For those expats itching to get back into the driver’s seat, here’s some handy info to help you get your license and drive off into that Chinese Sunset.
Foreigners, as well as residents of Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan who wish to drive in China, must apply for a driving license within the mainland. International driving licenses are not recognized in the country, but here’s some information on obtaining a Chinese License so you can get back on the road.
1. YOU HAVE A LICENSE AND CHINESE RESIDENCE PERMIT
- Passport and residence permit and Chinese Visa valid at least three months (original and photocopy)
- Temporary residence registration obtained at the local police station (original and photocopy).
- Driving license from your home country (original and photocopy of both sides).
- Certified and notarized translation of the driver’s license translated by an authorized translation institution. It should cost around 100RMB for a copy in English, other languages may vary from 150RMB to 300RMB. Another address is 15th Floor, 168 Huapaifang Street, Jinniu District.
- Medical check Report. This can be obtained from most hospitals in the city, click here for more info. The medical examination is pretty basic and mainly focused on your eyes and balance. For the health examination, you have to bring your passport and the Registration Form of Temporary Residence.
- Five one-inch coloured photos (recent, bareheaded) with a white background.
Note: You can only apply to local driving licenses for the same kinds of vehicles, as your originally driver license is for. So if your driver license from your home country is for cars you can only apply for a Chinese car driver license.
You have to bring your documents to the Department of Motor Vehicle (成都车辆管理所综合服务大厅) in Xipu town, Pidu District, to get them examined. The business hours are Monday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm.
You can get a Chinese driver’s license (valid for 6 years) by passing a written exam. The process and the exam take place in the traffic police department, and you may need a prior appointment. Find your closest department here.
Written exams can be done in English or Chinese. In some of the big cities like Shanghai, you may even find exams in languages such as Spanish, French, German even Arabic.
2. YOU DON’T HAVE DRIVING LICENSE.
- Above 18 years old.
- Have a temporary or permanent residency permit
- Passport and residency permit with at least 3 months of validity (original and photocopy).
- Record of temporary residency obtained at the local police station (original and photocopy).
- Medical check report. This can be obtained from most hospitals in the city, click here for more info. The medical examination is pretty basic and mainly focused on your eyes and balance. For the health examination, you have to bring your passport and the Registration Form of Temporary Residence. You will most likely need to firstly open a hospital card and then pay upfront. The nurse will check whether or not you are colour blind and whether or not you have all of your fingers and thumbs. They will make note of your height and then the doctor will sign-off the examination and you are good to go.
- Three to five one-inch colour photos (recent, bareheaded) with a white background.
You have to pass four exams:
Therefore you need to register in a local Driving School to get training before passing the tests. The school probably has two foreign languages available English and Japanese, but a translator can be provided if needed.
- Written exam on laws and traffic regulations and basic concepts on vehicles (100 questions, 100RMB).
- Parking and basic driving skills test on a track (260RMB).
- Written exam on correct driving habits (50 questions, 10RMB).
- Road test (200RMB)
Before you can attend the exams you need two forms from the Vehicles Management Office: Driving License Application Form and Vehicles Driving Physical condition Form. After filling them in you have to do the physical examination, hand in the bill and set a date for your written exams. All bookings are made via an app called ‘12123’ which is the governments official driving app.
Please be aware that between each test (or re-sit), there must be a 10-day break period before re-booking.
Driving Test No.1 (Theory Test)
The first theory test should be done before you get behind the wheel, most instructors will be unwilling to provide actual lessons before you have passed, since you will probably fail this once of twice. Firstly, to pass the exam you must answer 90/100 questions correctly. Questions are selected randomly from a bank of over 1000, the only way to practise is to memorise all of the answers. There are many amazing apps available to help you practise for the exam for example Drive in China is known to be a good one.
Double check with your driving school and test centre about accessing the English test version. All centres have it, as it is part of the national government testing system.
Driving Test No.2 (Practical Test, Manoeuvring)
There are a total of 5 manoeuvres to be mastered, all of which are tested on the practical exam
Manoeuvre One (Stop on Hill) :
Manoeuvre Two (Turning Left) :
Manoeuvre Three (‘S-Bend’) :
Manoeuvre Four (Reverse Parking) :
Manoeuvre Five (Parallel Parking) :
Driving Test No.3 (Lights Test & On-road Driving Test)
For the lights test there are around 5 or 6 automated, randomised questions. You have to turn on the headlight switch and switch the lights according to the scenarios given in the questions. There is zero leeway for this test – one wrong switch of the lights and you fail.
Driving Test No.4 (Theory)
This theory is the harder of the two, since there are no exact resources in English. Just try and go over the first theory test questions as much as possible and hope for the best. There are only 50 questions rather than 100, but each question is worth 2 points.
- Within 90 days before the expiration of the license.
- Has not been put in a suspended or revoked state.
- Valid Residence Permit.
- Copy of the old and new passport main page.
- Copy of the valid Chinese visa.
- Copy of the latest entry stamp on your passport.
- Original Chinese driving license.
- A 1-inch Digital coloured photo with white background.
- Medical Check Report. This can be obtained from most hospitals in the city, click here for more info. The medical examination is pretty basic and mainly focused on your eyes and balance.
Just apply for renewal of the license at the China Police Vehicle Administration, if approved a license with a 10-years expiry will be issued to those whose penalty points are less than 12 in each of the past six years.
- National driving license (of your home country), original and photocopy.
- International Driving Permit (original and photocopy).
- Chinese translation of the foreign driver’s license. There are several offices that can do this for you directly across from the US Embassy in Ke Hua Bei Lu. It should cost around 100RMB.
- Completed application form.
- A hotel booking for at least one day.
- Three one-inch coloured photos with white background.
It can be obtained directly at the airport or at the traffic police department, find your closest one here.
- You don’t need to take another test for renewing your license.
- Always take your Visa, Passport, Driving License, Translated Driving License, Police Address Registration, and a Copy of them with you, and don’t forget the 1 Inch White Background Photos.
- You cannot change to Chinese driving license if your driving license is International Driver’s License.
The cost for the driver license card is 10RMB/ each
Examination fee in total: 570RMB
Bonus Tips and Advice:
The place where you deposit all your documents (health check, driver license translation etc) at 成都市公安局交通管理局车辆管理所, is also the place where you take the test. You cannot take the test anywhere else, but you can do it on the same day if you get there early enough (should have deposited all documents and paid to do the test before 4pm).