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There is a lot to think about when you are moving into a new country like China, there is a lot to think about. Where will you work? What is the average salary? Where will you live? It can be more than a little intimidating on top of getting all your documentation together to move to a new country.

One question you have to ask yourself, though, is how you will get around once you are in China. You could take the bus but that can get inconvenient. You could also take a taxi or cab when you need to get around but that can get expensive. One of your best options, though, is to do what you are probably already doing where you live now; get yourself a licence and a car so that you have more freedom on your own without paying a driver or worrying about catching a bus.

However, getting a licence in China is a little different than getting a licence in other countries. Don’t worry, though. In this article, we are going to detail all the steps that you need to go through to be ready to drive in China.

International Driving Permit

Once you are 18, you can get something called an international driving permit – sometimes referred to as an international driver’s licence. These permits are mostly used by frequent international travelers so that they can travel to foreign countries and rent cars to get around while they are on their trips.

However, not every country has signed onto the convention that created the idea of international driving permits (or IDPs). In these countries, you won’t be able to use an IDP to drive legally. Unfortunately, China is one of these countries that hasn’t signed the convention. As such, you will have to obtain a Chinese licence to drive legally. It should also be noted that special Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau licences are not considered official Chinese licences and only official Chinese licences can be used all over the mainland.

How Hard Is It To Get A Chinese Driver’s Licence?

Before you get into gathering your documents and head straight to sign up for the test, it is important to understand what you are getting yourself into. Luckily, though, getting your Chinese licence is a rather straightforward and easy process.

The only thing that might add a little bit of difficulty to the process is if you don’t speak Mandarin – the language that your paperwork will most likely be in. However, with the help of a translator or even a Mandarin-speaking friend, you should be able to get through the paperwork with relative ease. If this isn’t enough, though, there are agencies that specialize in helping expats get their Chinese driver’s licence.

However, what about the written test? Well, don’t worry too much about that because China is aware that not everyone coming in is fluent in the language. Because of this, you will usually have one of two options when you take the test. First, you can choose to take the test in your native language but if you can’t do this for some reason or if you have a different preference, you can also take the test with the help of a translator.

What Do You Need?

When you are getting ready to get your Chinese licence, there is certain paperwork that you need to gather up and it’s a little different from getting a licence in your country of origin. Below is a checklist of the personal documents you will need to present to start the process of getting a Chinese licence.

  • Your passport and visa
  • Chinese residence permit
  • Either your IDP or licence from your home country – the information included must be translated by a certified translator.
  • 6 passport-style photos – this means a blank background and a straight-on headshot. This isn’t the place for candid and informal shots.
  • Results of a medical exam by a Chinese physician proving you are fit to drive.
  • The application form for the Chinese driver’s licence.

What Is The Testing Like?

There are two types of tests that you need to take when you are applying to get your Chinese driver’s licence. The first is the written test and the second is the real-life driving test. However, if you have an IDP or a licence from your home country, you will not have to take this portion of the test.

The written (or computerized) test is made up of 100 questions and to pass you have to pass with a score of 90% to be considered for your licence. The test is made up of questions like the following:
When overtaking, the driver should ______ if the vehicle in front refuses to give room for overtaking.

A) Overtake rapidly
B) Stop overtaking
C) Continuously honk and overtake
D) Turn on the head light and overtake

The Results

Once you have passed the test, done your paperwork, and payed any requested fees, you don’t have to wait long. In fact, usually you will be able to pick up your licence within a week. Once you have your licence, you can drive anywhere in China legally.


David Smith is a blogger and world traveller, with experience in China’s manufacturing industry, as well as social media marketing in his hometown of Los Angeles, California. When not staring at a computer screen, David is an avid badminton player and photographer of natural landscapes.

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