Driving in China – Chinese Driver’s License

Copyright © 2018 Expedition Citroën C3 Europe - Asia for 60 days

Do you want to drive in China?

Just like everything, even that works differently compared to the rest of the world. An international driver’s license does not work in China. China has never signed the international agreement of Geneva Conventions. For that reason not only it doesn’t count, but you can’t even get one (if you already don’t have one). To drive in China, you need a Chinese driver’s license. Fortunately, getting one is not complicated.

Chinese Driver’s License

There are two types of Chinese driver’s license you can get – permanent and temporary. You need one of those to drive a vehicle. To get one, you firstly need your own driver’s license before it’s expiry. Driving in China without any documents can get you up to 14 days of jail time and a fine. You don’t need a license for electrical scooters.

  • If an applicant has a visa that has a period for less than 90 days, they must get a temporary driver’s license. They do not have the right to own a permanent one.
  • If an applicant has a visa, or lives somewhere in China, that lasts for more than 90 days, they have the right for a permanent driver’s license. On the flip side, they don’t for a temporary one.

Temporary driver’s license

The validity of the temporary driving license is limited to a maximum of three months. It is easy to arrange it just after arriving at the Beijing Airport, specifically at Terminal Three. If a person does not have the option to get a temporary driving license at an airport in Beijing, they can also go to the “Vehicle Administration (车辆 管理所)” office in Beijing or Shanghai. Their addresses are at the end of the article. In Shanghai, the driver’s license can not be obtained at the airport.

For a temporary driver’s license you will need:

  • A visa with a period shorter than 90 days
  • Passport and a photocopy of all three pages: pages with photos, pages with visa and a stamp of the last entry to the country.
  • International driver’s license and a copy
  • A photo on a white background
  • Medical endorsement
  • Photocopies, photos and a medical check-in are possible to be done at the airport.

Permanent Chinese driver’s license

A permanent driving license is available at the “Vehicle Administration (车辆 管理所)” office in your home town. It can be arranged in most places in China. Its validity is not limited.

You need to prepare these documents ahead of time:

  • Your name in Chinese (You can ask a friend to choose a Chinese name for you)
  • Confirmation of residence at a police station under which the address is located (this is a must-have for everyone, and is not related to the driving license, but only to prove it.)
  • Official translation of current driving license (Agency address is at the end of the article)

Other required documents, which can be arranged on the spot:

  • Passport and a photocopy of all three pages: pages with photos, pages with visa and a stamp of the last entry to the country.
  • Passport photo on a white background
  • Completed application
  • Medical endorsement (In Shanghai, it can be done in the same place as a driver’s license. Beijing provides this service in hospitals).

Theoretical exam

After submitting the application, the participant will undergo an electronic test of theoretical knowledge. It is possible to do it in Chinese with a translator, in English, German, Arabic, French, Spanish, Korean, Japanese, or Russian (All languages are available in Beijing and Shanghai, not in smaller cities).

The test consists of one hundred questions that are randomly selected from a total of 900 questions. To pass, 90% of them need to be answered correctly.

It is good to have a minimal knowledge of Chinese because Chinese traffic signs are in characters. In most places, there is no need for a practical driving test, but some cities may have exceptions.

How to prepare for the exams

China does not publish official test questions, but there are a few ways to prepare for the tests:

  • Driving in China (best application)
  • China Driving test pro
  • Wikitravel article about driving in China (it’s more of a theory about how transport works in China, it will not prepare you for a test. There are many inaccurate claims.)
  • Police gestures as an article in Chinese, or as a video in Chinese

Important addresses

  • Translation Agency for a certified translation of a driving license in Shanghai:

上海市外事翻译工作者协会, 北京西路1277号(国旅大厦)1607室

Shanghai Interpreters’ Association, Rm. 1607, No. 1277 Beijing Road (W)

  • Shanghai Vehicle Administration ( 上海车辆管理所 )

SH: 哈密路1330号 /Hāmì street nr. 1330)

  • Beijing Vehicle Administration ( 北京车辆管理所 )


Medical endorsement:

  • In Shanghai, the medical check-ups are provided in the same building as a driving license
  • In Beijing, medical check-ups are done by most large hospitals.

I’d really like to thank the author, Pavel Dvořák for allowing me to publish his article on my website. I recommend visiting his website before traveling to China.

Author: Pavel Dvořák

Published by


For just about 10 years I've been working with cameras, and the last two with video production. You can find photos of my work on www.jojosamek.com. Photography is my way of life and it has brought me to this wonderful project.

Leave a comment