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Driving in China


wenjing*girl

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Hi, I'm wondering if any other foreigners living in China have licenses or drive and what your experiences have been. I feel like after driving here, I'll be arrested when I go back to the states and drive. :mrgreen:

Also wondering what you had to do to get your license. I have heard some people say that it was easy, just go down and fill out some papers. Others, (like myself) had to go through a whole mess of stuff to get it.

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Last year I drove a car in shanghai(illegal) with my dutch driving licence(legal).

My dad got his driving licence within 2 hours. (dont ask how he did it).

I know one thing for sure. You need to be ruthless and very experienced to drive in china. Otherwise you will never survive.

I will never drive a car in china again. Its really exhausting and requires a lot of patience. I got even fined for driving too fast and reckless on my bike!

If you dont have a "switch" in your head for Chinese Traffic Participation and Abroad Traffic Participation. You will be arrested/fined or end up in the hospital. :D

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i've never driven in china but i do a lot of licenseless driving in taiwan, and it seems to me that the only operative rule here is, 'me first'. Where north americas myriad of rules are rigid to the point of inefficiency, taiwan's (and i think china too from what i have seen) rules are nonexistent, or at least unenforced, to the point of inefficiency. I wish somewhere had a happy medium.

Another thing that is inversed from north america is yielding to smaller/slower moving objects, i.e. cars yield to bikes, bikes to pedestrians. In taiwan pedestrians are expected to get out of the way of everything, considering themselves near invisible. Something that seems to be true but can't yet be absolutley sure is explicit is that nicer cars can get away with more than regular cars. This is maybe due to so many chinese having so much deferential respect for people wealthier than them.... 'Big status, comin' through'.

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  • 1 month later...
  • 2 weeks later...

I knew two Americans that had Shanghai drivers licenses, and the PSB clerk hurried them to finish their test and pay their fee (about 200RMB) just to get them out of her hair. It is a much different and expensive proposition for local driver wannabes.

I never drove but I rode enough taxis to notice the elderly way in which Americans drive. The orderliness is great when there is a bit of confusion at an intersection, but can be maddening at other times.

The only time I've seen people get out of the way for a nice car is when it is sporting a gov't plate (A000x) or police/military plates. Those characters are the ones most likely to drive while severely intoxicated since nothing will happen to them.

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Funny I was just thinking the same thing today.

Is it necessary to have a drivers license while living iN Beijing or Shanghai?

I have lived in Japan for the past 3 years and never needed a drivers license. Granted, there are some places you cant go by plane train or subway, but really, you can -really- get around without a car.

Is China similar?

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I've been driving here for the past three-four years. The situation has changed considerably so it's difficult to generalise (when I got my licence the fourth ring road didn't even exist). There probably isn't a capital city in the world without traffic problems, presidential limousines and F1 pilot wannabes driving caterpillars, but these days I don't find driving as much fun as I used to. Handy for going out on weekends, though.

You need a local licence to drive. It used to be very easy to get one (my own test lasted something like 3 minutes) but I hear it has become more difficult. There's no city in mainland China that can compare to Japan in terms of railway connections, but then again taxis cost a fraction of the Shingansen, so you probably end up having more options in China rather than less.

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taxis cost a fraction of the Shingansen, so you probably end up having more options in China rather than less.

Sanity check!

You mean Shinkansen? 新幹線 The bullet train? That is only used for traveling between cities though.

Do you use taxis to travel between cities in China? I heard it was cheap... but it's not -that- cheap is it?

Thanks for the info!

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Sorry, shinkansen. I was half joking, but still...

You can take a taxi to visit small towns and places around Beijing, or book a taxi for the whole day for several hundred RMB. The base fare for a taxi in Tokyo (660 yen?) is about five times the one in Beijing (10 yuan). Note there is no equivalent to Tokyo's subway or Yamanote line in any mainland Chinese city just yet. For a short hop of say 3 km, you would pay around 200 yen on Tokyo's subway (IIRC), and 10 yuan on a Beijing taxi. So, roughly speaking, if you're coming from Japan, you can literally forget the subway and take taxis, and actually *save* money. How's that for a deal? :wink:

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  • 2 weeks later...

I knew two Americans that had Shanghai drivers licenses, and the PSB clerk hurried them to finish their test and pay their fee (about 200RMB) just to get them out of her hair. It is a much different and expensive proposition for local driver wannabes.

When I went to get my license they encouraged us to take "translators" (friends to take the test for us) with us.

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  • 1 year later...

The AA's web site says the British need a UK license and IDP to drive in Taipei Taiwan, just a UK license in Hong Kong, but contact the embassy to enquire about anywhere else.

From reading this thread it looks like you "should" get a Chinese driving license before you can drive in mainland China, and that the Chinese don't recognise foreign licenses even with an International Driving Permit. Is this correct?

Also, do you need a different license in different cities? or does the license cover the whole of China? I heard someone say that if you get a license in Shanghai you can drive anywhere, which seemed to imply that if you get a license in Jinan you can't use it to drive in Shanghai.

Where do you get a license? and how difficult is it?

Or should I just use a UK license with an IDP (which includes a Chinese translation), and some bribe money?

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Recently, my landlord told me that there will be a change in legislation, and foreigners will only need their passport to drive a car (that's the way he said it, I presume that a driver's license from your home country will still be necessary). Does anybody know anything about this?

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Recently, my landlord told me that there will be a change in legislation, and foreigners will only need their passport to drive a car

Your landlord is obviously not a good source of information. If you think about it for a moment you will see.

You can just transfer your existing license to a Chinese one. For my Hong Kong license it would be very very easy. For other foreign licenses it's a bit more difficult.

Some facts in German:

http://www.schanghai.com/index.php?p=forum&fl=&fl=sh&sfl=&dmsgid=94913

The critical issue in China is liability. Involved in an accident, even if it's not your fault, you may still have to pay. I heard of cases where locals walked into cars and then asking for money. Be aware of that. And remember, one of the very top things Chinese people can't do is driving cars.

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To drive legally in China you must get a Chinese license. I think the procedures for obtaining the license vary from place to place, but once you get it you should be able to use it anywhere in China.

I converted my UK license in Shenzhen a couple of years ago - it's valid for 7 years. The biggest problem was that I first needed a residency visa (work visa) that was issued with at least 12 months validity.

Then there's a paper trail to follow. I needed to prove again that I had the job that I already proved to apply for the visa. stamp stamp stamp. Also go to the translation office to get a translation of the UK driving license, then get the translation verified at the verify stuff office. stamp stamp stamp. I can't remember if there were any other documents needed.

And book the test - they only did the test for foreigners once a month. Get photos that have the right colour background. Do an easy sight test.

There was only a written test, which was very easy. You take a translator (who on course doesn't know the answers). In my test everyone was sharing the answers anyway.

The cost was minimal - a hundred or two - but the hassle extensive. In all I visited the test centre about 4 times, each time being heckled outside by the guys selling fake driving licenses.

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Thanks for the link, flameproof. Never have been visiting those forums, really, as their level is just above thatsbj, but this entry proves quite useful.

(For those who can't read German, the posters describe formalities similar to the ones johnd mentioned, for Shanghai and Xi'An, so it seems to be pretty unified across the country.)

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I just found this:

Foreigners who have driving license issued by their home countries can apply for a temporary driving license and drive in China without having to take related tests, according to a clause in a regulation issued by the Ministry of Public Security. The regulation will start to take effect from January 1, 2007, the Beijing Youth Daily reported.

from here: http://www.china.org.cn/english/LivinginChina/194325.htm

But again, local implementation may vary - so whether you can get it or not is another question.

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I guess that's what my landlord was referring to. Doesn't make much sense, though, for anybody staying in China for long; the only difference seems to be whether you have to take the exam or not. Administrative procedures will probably be just as [pop=troublesome/máfan]麻烦[/pop]。

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Thanks. I'll get my wife to phone the Jinan local government office tonight to find out more about the temporary foreigner license.

If its going to be a pain getting that every time we go to China, it might be easier in the long run to try for a full license.

I've seen you need proof of your job as well as an F-visa to get a full license, but does anyone know if you can use proof of marriage to a Chinese citizen and a 1-year L-visa instead?

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