Can foreigners drive in China?
Most visitors find they have enough trouble surviving Chinese traffic without actually taking the wheel. It is generally best to just rent a car with a driver or employ a driver if you buy a car. Because of Chinese wages, the cost of the driver is quite low.
You cannot drive with an International Driver's Permit (IDP) in mainland China; China has not signed the convention which created IDPs. You need a Chinese license to drive in China. (Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan issued licenses are not considered Chinese licenses).
It is therefore essential for foreigners living in China to get through the application process for a Chinese driving license if they have any plans to drive a car themselves. This norm applies to all Chinese cities and provinces. Foreigners who wish to undergo the official examinations and apply for a Chinese driving license may find the procedures described here.
To obtain a regular driving license, the applicant must have a valid resident permit in China. Any past received driving licenses, in the home country or elsewhere, are irrelevant to the process. Tourists, therefore, are not eligible for regular driving licenses. Besides preparing several documents, the applicant must also pass a driving test, upon which, the license is issued in about one week.
In January 2007, it became possible for foreigners in China to apply for temporary driving licenses (临时驾驶执照) with the approval of a new clause by the Ministry of Public Security. The application process for temporary driving licenses is less complicated and removes the requirement of the examinations, the health check and other procedures. However, holders of temporary driving licenses are subject to several limitations. Firstly, not all Chinese visa holders are eligible for this “express” application method. Only those foreigners who have been granted a visa with a duration of stay of at least 180 days are eligible. Secondly, the holders of the temporary license will only be allowed to drive in China for a period of 90 days at maximum after the issue of the certification. Thirdly, this period cannot be extended, and multiple applications are not allowed under the same visa.
The temporary license may be obtained at the traffic police department or in select international airports. Necessary documents to be presented include:
- National driver’s license (translated in Chinese);
- International Driving Permit (translated in Chinese);
- Completed application form;
- Resident permit or hotel booking (for tourists); and
- Three color ID photos against a white background.