Are you wanting to be able to drive in China in 2022? Curious how to get a Chinese driver’s license? Driving in China is a thrill, but you can’t get behind the wheel unless you have an official China driver’s license. I’ve applied for a Chinese driver’s license twice (motorcycle license & car license) and below I share how you can get one too.
Before I go into how to get a Chinese driver’s license, let me explain one very important policy in China:
You must have a Chinese drivers license in order to drive any vehicle in China.
Many countries around the world and even throughout Asia accept a license from your home country or even an international driver’s permit (IDP).
Unfortunately, China is not one of those countries.
If you plan to drive a car or motorcycle in China, you need to be between 18-60 years old and will need one of the following two types of China driver’s licenses. I will go into more detail about each of these licenses further down.
- Full Driver’s License (time consuming): This driver’s license is for foreigners visiting China for over three months or plan on staying in China long term as it is good for 6 years. Unfortunately, it takes a few trips (if you’re lucky) to get a full-license as well as passing a 100 question written test.
- Provisional Driver’s License (easier): This driver’s license is temporary and available for foreigners visiting China for up to 3 months. The biggest perk to the provisional driver’s license is you don’t need to take a written test.
Use the links below to jump to a particular section or just scroll down to keep reading.
China Driver’s License
- Is Getting a China License Worth It?
- What Paperwork is Required for a License?
- How to Apply for a Temporary License
- How to Apply for a Full China Driver’s License
First things first.
Is it even worth it to get a Chinese driver’s license?
China Drivers License: Worth It?
Coming from the perspective of an expat who has enjoyed the freedom of driving my own car and motorcycle around gorgeous parts of China, my first instinct is to say…
Yes! Getting a Chinese driving license is absolutely worth it!
But I realize it’s not that simple.
Every person’s situation, perspective and risk tolerance is unique. And this plays a big role in deciding whether a Chinese license is worth it.
For example, are you willing to overcome the obstacle of:
- Actually Getting the License: It takes time and money. Personally, it took me two weeks of back and forth to get my license.
- Renting/Buying a Car: Buying a car was a huge headache for me and while renting a car in China isn’t nearly as bad, it’s not the simple process you know from back home. Oh, and as for selling your car when you’re finally ready to leave China? Yea…that was a massive headache too.
- Navigating Chinese Roads: You can’t rely on the English instructions of Google Maps in China since it’s blocked. It took me at least a year to understand Chinese roads without getting utterly confused.
- Finding Parking: The biggest challenge to driving, especially in the bigger cities, is finding parking. It’s frustrating and not cheap!
- Accepting the Liability: If you get in an accident, as a foreigner the blame will likely fall on you. Are you willing to accept this liability?
As you can see, I’m doing everything in my power to convince you that a Chinese driver’s license isn’t as awesome as it might sound.
Ultimately, it’s your choice.
If you’re still determined to get your own license, I recommend that you buy some good travel health insurance for China and then read on for instructions on how to apply.
**NOTE** Everything in this article also assumes you have a current (not-expired) driver’s license in your home country. If your driver’s license is expired, I’d probably pass on getting a Chinese driver’s license as it will take several months, thousands of RMB, and a much more complicated process.
What Paperwork Do You Need for a Driver’s License in China?
Did you ever go to the department of motor vehicles (DMV) in your home country to learn after waiting-in-line for an unspeakable amount of time that you were missing necessary information to get your driver’s license?
It sucks right?
In China, the DMV not only has long waiting times too, but it’s typically always in the outskirts of town.
So to avoid traveling a long distance to only be disappointed that you forgot something, make sure you have the following materials to get a Chinese driver’s license (you’ll need everything below for both the full or provisional driver’s license):
Required Paperwork for a China License
- 3-4 Copies of Your Passport and Visa: In addition to these clear photocopies, you’ll also need to bring your actual passport with you, so don’t forget it!
- 3-4 Copies of Your Residence Card/Certificate of Temporary Registration: The Residence Card or Certificate of Temporary Registration details where you live and is provided by your local police station. If you are applying for the provisional driver’s license, you can request a certificate of temporary registration from your hotel after checking-in.
- 5 One-Inch Identification Photos with a White Background: Some regions may require more or less, so it couldn’t hurt to bring a good number of spare photos. You can always get more photos directly at the DMV, but they will charge you more than elsewhere. Remember that you also cannot smile in these photos!
- Notarized Translation of Home Driver’s License: You’ll find translation companies near most of the major government buildings, and you’ll need to make sure that they are a licensed translator with a chop. Expect to pay at least 250-300 RMB for the translation. Notarization happens at the local 公证处 (Gōngzhèng chù) in your city. I’ve gone into more detail about how to get a document notarized in China.
You’ll also be required to complete a physical exam at the DMV to prove you’re physically fit and healthy to drive.
At first I thought that the comprehensive exam you take after arriving in China to get your residence permit will do, but that is not the case. It must be the physical exam they administer at the DMV.
How to Get a Temporary China Driving License
You’ll see that I’m referring to this as a temporary China driving license, but the official name of this document is:
China Provisional Driving Permit
临时机动车驾驶许可/Línshí Jīdòngchē Jiàshǐ Xǔkě.
Remember that the provisional driver’s license in China is only available to travelers visiting China on a visa that allows up for 3 months (90 days) of stay per entry.
However, starting in late 2019, this provisional license can be renewed for up to a year.
In other words, if you’re traveling to China on a tourist visa, this is the Chinese driver’s license for you.
In terms of the steps required to apply for a provisional license, China has made some effort to simplify the process and the paperwork required.
According to this Xinhua news article, the documents you’ll need to apply for a Chinese provisional license include:
- Your passport;
- The driver’s license from your home country;
- Official translations of both documents;
This translation can be done before you enter China or on the ground, but keep in mind that it usually takes 24 hours for a translation to be completed.
It’s important that this translation have a red stamp certifying that it is an officially recognized translator. You can’t just use Google Translate on your own.
Applying for a China Provisional Driving Permit
In order to apply for a China Provisional Driving Permit, you’ll need to make sure that you have all of the documents listed in the section above and then follow these steps.
- Step 1: Visit the DMV – Once you have all the necessary paperwork detailed above, make the journey out to the DMV or 车管所/Chēguǎnsuǒ where your certificate of temporary registration is issued. For example, if your temporary registration is at a hotel in Xi’an, then you need to go to the DMV in Xi’an.
Note: Your certificate of temporary registration must be certified by the local police station nearby your place of residence. When requesting from the the certificate from the hotel, ask if they can do this for you. If not, have them point you to the local police station and provide you with a note detailing that you need the temporary registration certified.
Step 2: Health Check– Update 2022: Thankfully the health check has been removed as part of the application process for a provisional drivers license.
- Step 3: Present Permit Application – Present all the documents and fill out an application for the provisional driver’s license.
Since the application document is written in Chinese and needs to be filled out entirely in Chinese, don’t hesitate to ask the staff to help you.
A simple phrase like “请帮我填写申请表 / Qǐng bāng wǒ tiánxiě shēnqǐng biǎo.” works wonders.
- Step 4: Wait for Processing – After filling out the application, the DMV will process your provisional license within an hour or so. It’s that easy and there is no written or driver’s exam required!
In terms of how much the provisional Chinese driver’s license costs, I’d bank on spending around 300-400 RMB.
The notary translation will be the bulk of that amount where the remaining will be spent on the photos and application for your driver’s license.
How to Get a Full China Driver’s License
The full driver’s license is for folks coming China for work (business, teaching English, etc) or those traveling for more than 3 months with the intention to frequently drive a car.
You should also expect to take multiple trips to the DMV before you finally get your hands on your Chinese driver’s license.
Let’s go over the steps needed to get a full driver’s license in China. I gathered all this information from a Chinese website detailing vehicle and traffic regulations all across China.
Depending where you live, there may be slight differences, so it couldn’t hurt to do a little research yourself before heading to the DMV to get your driver’s license in China.
Applying For a Full Chinese Driver’s License
In order to apply for a full Chinese Driver’s License, you’ll need to make sure that you have all of the documents listed in the section above and then follow these steps.
- Step 1: Visit the DMV – Locate and visit your local DMV or 车管所/Chēguǎnsuǒ. You must go to the DMV where your residence permit is issued. For example, if you have a residence permit issued in Beijing, you cannot go to the DMV in Shanghai.
- Step 2: Take the Physical Examination – Somewhere on the grounds of the DMV is a place to take the physical exam. Once you arrive at the DMV, pay the fee and take the exam, which will mostly test your eyesight, hearing and reflexes.
- Step 3: Fill Out the Application – After receiving the results, share them along with all your other paperwork for approval. You’ll also have to fill out the application for a full Chinese driver’s license, but since it is written and needs to be filled out entirely in Chinese, try to get the staff to fill it out for you since they already have your information handy.
- Step 4: Take the Written Test – Then it’s time to take the written test, which can be taken in eight different languages including English. In many cases you’ll have to make an appointment for the exam, so be ready for news that you’ll have to come back another day to take the test.
Think of that time between trips as a great opportunity to prepare for the test.
You’ll be surprised to find that the written test for a Chinese driver’s license is actually really hard! It’s a whopping 100 questions that requires a 90/100 score to pass.
I ended up failing twice before finally passing on my third attempt, so I highly recommend taking some time to study for the test so you can hopefully pass on the first attempt.
After passing the written test you can now have a driver’s license in China. There is no need for a driver’s test!
Following the test, listen out for and double check on the processing time for your Chinese driver’s license.
Typically you can expect around 5 business days before you can come back up to pick up your driver’s license. But sometimes you may be lucky to where they can process it for you immediately.
I personally spent around US$100 on everything from getting a notarized translation of my US driver’s license to the medical check, the fee for the written test, and the license itself.
Should You Get a Chinese Driver’s License
Always remember that you must have a Chinese driver’s license to drive in China. There’s no getting around this.
I recommend getting a provisional driver’s license in contrast to a full Chinese driver’s license as they are faster and easier to get. You also don’t have to worry about the written driver’s test too, which is a big perk.
Lastly, many foreigners may think you are crazy wanting to drive on the open roads in China.
You probably are…
…but that’s just part of the adventure 🙂
Remember, you’ll need to get yourself some traveler’s insurance and probably some good road maps in order to stay safe on the road.
Further Reading & Resources
China Business Guide | Gift Giving Ideas for China Business Partners
How to Send Gifts to China in 2020 (for any special occasion)
Traveling or Moving to China Soon?
Download "44 Tips You MUST Know Before Traveling to China". These simple but often overlooked tips could make or break your trip!
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Foreign Tourists who wish to drive in China for a short period can obtain a provisional Chinese driving license for up to three months without having to take an exam. Usually, you can get it from the traffic police department in the city where you are.How long does it take to get a license in China? ›
After passing the theory test, the Vehicle Administration Office will issue a Chinese driver's license within five working days. This license only applies to cars. To obtain a license for buses or trucks, the applicant will need to take a practical exam for that vehicle.How much is a driving Licence in China? ›
|中华人民共和国机动车驾驶证 Driving License of the People's Republic of China|
|Valid in||People's Republic of China|
|Eligibility||At least 18 years old|
|Expiration||6 years, 10 years, or life-time|
You'll be surprised to find that the written test for a Chinese driver's license is actually really hard! It's a whopping 100 questions that requires a 90/100 score to pass.How much is temporarily Licence? ›
If your license has already expired, it will set you back an extra R72* for a temporary license, along with two extra ID photos.Which country is the easiest to get a driver license? ›
The easiest country for a foreigner to get a local driver's license might be the Philippines. Foreigners from most countries need only a valid licensed issued somewhere else along with a brief application and fee, typically in cash.How long is the wait for full license? ›
You may apply for a Full Licence after you have had your Restricted Licence for 18 months if you're under 25 years of age, or in 6 months if you're 25 and over.Is driving in China easy? ›
Driving in China is difficult, especially for anyone not used to local conditions. For most visitors it is better to use other means of transport. Many Chinese cities have good bus or subway systems, and nearly all have cheap, ubiquitous taxis.What is the age limit to drive in China? ›
In China, the minimum age for automobile driving is 18 years. China had about 418 million registered drivers as of 2020.Is there a driving test in China? ›
The most difficult tests to pass
Requirements also involve taking a theory exam, five days driving practice, and finally a practical exam. In China, the theory test contains 100 questions and requires you to memorise 1,000 in total. There are then two separate practical assessments, followed by a final theory test.
There are 50 questions including single-choice questions, multiple-choice questions and true-false questions. Each question is 2 points, and score 90 to pass. After the learner has completed and passed the assessment of all four subjects, a motor vehicle driver's license will be obtained.Can you self drive in China? ›
Important notice: For self-drive tours in China, there must be always a Chinese guide with the group. In case of car, 4WD, jeep, truck etc. trips the guide can join the vehicle of the participants, in case of motorbike tours, the guide has to follow in a separate car.Can a foreigner get a drivers license in China? ›
If you are over 18 years of age, you have a temporary or permanent residency permit and you don't have a driver's license from another country, you can still get a driver's license in China.Which country is difficult for license? ›
According to the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) scale, it will take English speakers 88 weeks (2,200 hours of active learning) to reach native/bilingual Chinese proficiency. Chinese is one of the 5 languages which is most challenging to learn for native English speakers.How many hours is a temporary license? ›
TOP serves as driver's temporary license within 72 hours or 3 days only. 4. How many days is the validity of the TOP? 72 hours or 3 days is the validity of the TOP, unless specified for a shorter period of time.How many hours is a temporary driver's license? ›
Yes. TOP serves as driver's temporary license within 72 hours or 3 days only.What country is youngest to drive? ›
Countries with the lowest driving ages (17 and below) are Australia, The Bahamas, Canada, Malaysia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom (mainland), United States, and Zimbabwe. In some jurisdictions in the United States and Canada, drivers can be as young as 14 (with parental supervision).Which country has most skillful drivers? ›
- Denmark. Denmark is the best country for car owners, according to our data. ...
- United States of America (USA) ...
- The Netherlands.
- Which countries' driver's licenses can be used in the most countries, with the fewest restrictions?
- The most powerful driver's licenses.
- Belgium, France & Germany.
- Finland, Italy, Spain & Sweden.
- The least powerful driver's licenses.
To pass the FLT, an applicant must demonstrate safe decision-making, observance of road rules, a high standard of car-handling skills and ability to identify and apply the correct driving response to any hazards encountered.What happens if you fail your full license test? ›
If you fail
The Testing Officer will return your Learner Licence to you before you leave. They will give you feedback on why you failed. They will also note on a feedback form what you did wrong. Try not to be discouraged – this just means you need to do more work on your driving before you try again.
Yes. Your examiner will normally arrange for your provisional licence photocard to be sent off to the DVLA, where it will be upgraded to a full driving licence. Although it could take up to three weeks for you to receive your updated photocard in the post, you don't need to wait for it to arrive before you drive.Is China right or left hand drive? ›
About two thirds of the countries in the world drive on the right including the USA, China and Russia. Canada used to drive on the left but changed to the right to make border crossings with the United States of America more manageable. The reasons for driving on different sides of the road are historical.Can you drive drunk in China? ›
Mainland China: 0. Over 0% but under 0.08%: ¥ RMB 1,000–2,000 fine, six-month license suspension; Over 0.08%: up to three years' imprisonment, five-year license suspension. If the driver causes serious injuries or death, he or she will be charged with crime and the license will be permanently cancelled.What is highest speed limit in the world? ›
Poland has the world's highest speed limit which is 140kph on motorways, though the Austrians dabbled with having a 160kph variable limit on motorways in 2006.What's the lowest driving age? ›
South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana have the lowest age to drive in the USA where a full license can be issued at just 16 years old.What state can you drive at 14? ›
You cannot get a full, legal driver's license at the age of 14 in any state. You can get a learner's permit at 14 in Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota.Is passing driving test hard? ›
You will face many potentially dangerous obstacles during the test, so with a combination of anxiety, nerves and stress (all while you're sitting next to the examiner) it's certainly not easy for anyone. People fail for a multitude of reasons, and passing requires experience and practice, hard work and determination.How much is a driving test? ›
Book a driving test
The cost of a driving test is €85.
Driving Test Differences Over the Years
Arguably it's much harder now than it was all those years ago to pass, and the number of young motorists passing their practical driving test is at its lowest for 10 years.
Gaokao — one of the world's toughest exams — kicked off in China on Tuesday. According to a Global Times report, a record 11.93 million people trooped to examination rooms across the country as the annual national college entrance exams officially started.Is cheating in exam a crime in China? ›
According to the Criminal Law, people who organize cheating, sell and use wireless cheating equipment or provide test questions and answers to examinees in the national examinations are in violation of the law.How do I prepare for the Chinese written test? ›
- Make vocabulary lists. A great way of organising your notes is to create separate vocabulary lists. ...
- Review material in a different order to when you first learnt it. ...
- Do some general language practice outside of the curriculum. ...
- Practice paraphrasing. ...
- Get a good night sleep.
Foreign riders must have a Chinese Driving Licence and Chinese number plates for foreign registered motorcycles – depending on your province of entry, you may need to take your driving theory test and do an eyesight test to secure your licence!Can I drive in the US with a Chinese license? ›
All U.S. states recognize foreign drivers' licenses. In most cases, your license will be valid for up to 4 months after the date you enter the U.S. Consult the DMV in the state where you wish to drive to confirm the length of validity and the rules for driving with a foreign driver's license.How do people drive in China? ›
In mainland China, traffic drives on the right-hand side of the road. Hong and Kong Macau (Special Adminstrative Regions of China) drives on the left side of the road. India, Nepal and Pakistan drive on the left.Does China give citizenship to foreigners? ›
Foreigners may naturalize as Chinese nationals if they have immediate family with Chinese nationality, possess permanent residency in mainland China or a special administrative region, or have other "legitimate reasons".Can a foreigner live in China permanently? ›
Foreign individuals who want to live in China need to obtain a permanent residence permit in China. The application is submitted together with several documents. Those who come to the country to work must first obtain a work permit and then apply for residency in China.How do foreigners get a driver's license? ›
U.S. Driver's License Requirements for Immigrants
Most require a green card, but as previously mentioned, not all. Typically, some of the requirements for obtaining your license include your I.D., proof of residency in your state, proof of social security, driver's license from the native country, and a passport.
Kiribati. Kiribati (pronunciation of 'Kiribati' is 'Kiribas') is a remote island nation in the Central Pacific close to the Dateline. It's, therefore, one of the world's least-visited as well as hardest countries to get to.Which country license is international? ›
List Of Countries Recognising International Driving Permit.
|Afghanistan||Curacao (Netherlands Antilles)||Ireland|
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- Duolingo is a popular app option for beginners. ...
- Memrise is another useful app. ...
- If games help you learn, try Quizlet, a free flashcard-making website. ...
- Practice reading stories on the Du Chinese app, which has short Chinese stories at a range of levels complete with English translations.
IDPs can only be issued to drivers holding a valid domestic driving licence (not a foreign driving licence). IDPs can only be issued to people over 18 years of age. IDPs cannot be issued to people who hold a learner driver permit.Can you only drive on certain days in China? ›
On July 20, 2008, Beijing implemented a temporary road space rationing policy, odd-even rationing policy, by allowing cars that have an even last number of their license plates to be able to drive on roads in one day while the cars that have an odd last number of their license plates could go on the road the next day ...Can I get an IDP in China? ›
International Driving Permits or other foreign driver's licenses are not recognised in China. Only foreigners with a valid residence permit can apply for a Chinese driver's license. In this blog we will go into detail how about to obtain both temporary and permanent driver's license in China.Who needs ICP license in China? ›
1. A China Internet Content Provider license (ICP license) is a legal requirement for any individual who wishes to run a website located on a Chinese server. 2. ICP commercial licenses and non-commercial ICP filings are available.How long does a temporary licence last for? ›
About applying for a temporary driving licence
This licence is valid for only six months and can be issued at any driving licence testing centre (DLTC).
Drivers who reside in Gauteng can make the temporary drivers licence application online. Visit online.natis.gov.za and follow the prompts. If your drivers licence expires when you are out of the country, you will only be required to apply for renewal and the temporary licence when you get back to South Africa.
Booking your driver's licence test date
Your Identity Document (ID) 4 identical black-and-white photographs. (before you have photographs taken, you should confirm with the DLTC how many photos they require) The completed Application for Driving Licence form (DL1) which is available online or at the DLTC.
You should not drive for more than 9 hours a day, excluding breaks. For every 4.5 hours driving you should take breaks amounting to 45 minutes. For long-distance driving, this means you can drive around 500 miles safely in a day.Can foreigner rent car in China? ›
China does not accept a foreign or international driving permit. China does not recognize any other driver's license except for the Chinese one. To rent a car in China, you should first get a Chinese driver's license.How old do you have to be to drive in China? ›
In China, the minimum age for automobile driving is 18 years. China had about 418 million registered drivers as of 2020.What countries recognize an IDP? ›
|Spain||No need for IDP|
Applying for an ICP could cost anywhere between $20,147 and $104,024 (or more).How do I get a trade license in China? ›
To register in Mainland China, companies are required to apply to the relevant authorities for a business license. This application is usually made at the company's local Administration for Industry and Commerce (AIC).Why do you need an ICP license? ›
An ICP filing enables the holder to host a website on a server or CDN in mainland China for informational purposes only. An ICP license, known as “ICP Zheng” in Chinese, allows online platforms or third-party sellers selling goods and services to deploy their website on a hosting server or CDN within mainland China.