How to Drive in China?

China is a powerful and increasingly modern country, which has an extensive history of over 5000 years. With a population that exceeds 1,400 million inhabitants today, it is the most populous nation in the world where different religions and languages coexist. 

With so many touristic attractions you wont know where to begin. Beijing its capital, there are numerous tourist attractions to know as the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven or the Summer Palace, the iconic Tienanmen Square, the National Museum of China, among others, which represent true architectural gems. Not to mention, the Great Wall of China of 21,196.18 km (13,170.70 miles) in length, built approximately 2,500 years ago and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. 

In each of its historical sites, centuries of history are encompassed from the different dynasties that ruled this Asian colossus. The busy streets of Beijing adorned with elegant shops and modern bars, contrast with the Beijing Hutongs, the winding alleys crowded with pedestrians. 

Much more to know

In addition to Beijing there are other very important cities to visit, each of which has dozens of tourist attractions. Shanghai is the second largest city in China. This world metropolis became an important and modern financial and commercial center, where Pudong district stands out, which has a lot to offer with its architecture, cuisine, culture and traditions. 

Other very important cities are Xi’an, the bright pearl that crosses the Yellow River where ancient Chinese culture was born. There you will see the amazing Terracotta Warriors as well as the Qin Shi Huang Emperor Horses. Nearby is the small town of Dunhuang, where the Silk Road to Europe began thousands of years ago. 

There is also Chengdu, whose history dates back to the fourth century BCE. and was the seat of the Kingdom of Shu. 

Wile passing by Hong Kong you can’t miss chance to visit Victoria Harbor as it houses one of the most important ports in the world and constitutes a great tourist attraction. Following the roads of China you can visit Mount Huang, the Giant Buddha, the Mogao Caves and the unmissable Cruise on the Li River. 

While previously traveling to China was a challenge because of language and existing cultural barriers, it is now much easier. There are hundreds of tour operators that will help you in the planning of the trip. Even if you decide to travel overland in a rental car you won’t have problems if you use one of the many travel guides also available. 

To know China fully, you have to invest a lot of time, due to its extension and the amount of tourist attractions it houses. If you are planning to drive in China here are some keys points to driving in China that will make your next visit to this majestic country an adventure. 

Legal requirements to drive

These are the main requirements for driving in China: 

Driver’s license

In the People’s Republic of China you can drive with an international license, however 

the laws state that you must submit an additional exam to obtain a local license or temporary driving license. This is because the country is not yet a member of the “International Traffic Agreement“. 

The driving test to obtain a driver’s license will not include apprentice maneuvers (backing up, parking, etc.), but only a written test usually in English or Chinese. Although currently some cities also offer the in Spanish, German, Arabic or French. While other cities only offer the test in Chinese, but it allow for the use of a translator. 

In other cities it is enough to carry an international driver’s license (International Driver’s Permit, IDP), which you can easily obtain through international-license.com. However, to drive in Beijing this license is not valid. Nor are the permits delivered in Hong Kong, Taiwan or Macao. 

The driving age is 18 years or older. To obtain a driver’s license in Beijing, the following documents are required: – Valid passport and residence permit (original and photocopy). – Temporary residence registration issued by the local police. – International license (original and photocopy). – Certified and notarized Chinese translation of the international driver’s license. Driving on China’s national roads is less complicated than doing it in cities. So with an international license and a driving license you can move between one city and another. 

Passport

The passport is an essential document to travel throughout the country. It is recommended to have a copy of each of the documents: passport and travel insurance, air tickets, addresses and telephone numbers of the place of accommodation and leave the originals stored in the hotel. 

Vehicle insurance

The civil liability insurance along with the registration of the vehicle, are two other documents that shouldn’t be missing from your glove compartment. Both documents will accompany the documentation that the car rental company will provide you with when you rent a car. 

If you purchase vehicle insurance, it is best to also include travel insurance against all risks. That is, covering accidents, illnesses, lost luggage, evacuation and repatriation. 

General Management Information

The modern system of highways and highways in today’s China, allows you to move between cities more easily and quickly than before. In Hong Kong you drive like in Britain, on the left, while in the rest of China you drive on the right. 

In China due to the weather, population density and fuel prices, many people prefer to drive a motorcycle or a bicycle instead of a car. To drive in this country it is imperative to know the traffic rules and regulations related to traffic accidents. 

  • In the event of an accident, for example, you should not move the vehicle or alter the accident scene in any way. You must wait until the traffic police arrive and order it. After an accident it is advisable to call the police and notify for help. 
  • Children should travel in the back in safety seats that are certainly not always available in China.
  • Motorized protective helmets are not mandatory but it is always recommended to wear them.
  • Chinese drivers are not exactly the most respectful of traffic signs. So during the crossing on one of its roads or in the cities you can have some surprises.
  • The right of way for pedestrians does not work the same as in the West. Cars do not usually stop to allow pedestrians to pass. Turning left when another vehicle is approaching from the front is also very normal. 

Parking lot

The rules for parking are very strict in China, precisely because of overpopulation and the number of cars that exist. These rules contribute to the traffic being smooth and not getting stuck. In some cities like Beijing and Shanghai there are areas where car traffic is not allowed. There are other areas where they are allowed but parking fees are very high. 

Fines

Fines for speeding are high. The areas where the speed is verified by radar or through a surveillance camera, are duly identified with signs. There are penalties for exceeding speed limits. 

In China, as in other countries, violations of traffic regulations are also sanctioned through a scoring system. Drivers have 12 points each year that may decrease depending on the type of fault committed. For example, passing a red traffic light subtracts 6 points, speeding exceeding 50% of the allowed limit removes the full 12 points automatically. 

Likewise, driving with bad license plates eliminates all points as well. When a penalty is imposed and the driver has no points, the driver’s license is seized and he will have to undergo two weeks of training classes at a driving center. Then you must pay a fine to have your return license. If the driver does not attend the training or the exam, his license is canceled. 

If the driver has been penalized with 12 or more twice in a year, after the training classes, he must pass the driving skills test again. After obtaining the driver’s license for the first time, if the driver loses all 12 points he will not be able to drive again for a whole year. 

Roads and highways

Driving on Chinese roads can be an adventure, so driving with caution is recommended. But if you want some action without fear of stress, you can rent a car and drive through its roads. Some people prefer to rent a car with a driver instead of driving, as prices are accessible. 

In the main cities of the country, traffic is usually congested and suffers traffic jams, especially during peak hours. Where it can be very pleasant to drive is on national highways (level G). Provincial highways (level S) are a bit more busy and local highways (level X), if they can be truly challenging. 

You will find traffic signs in Chinese and English on all highways and national roads. They are well maintained and have emergency and other services such as accommodation, restaurants, service stations and have a large number of exits. On these roads where the speed limits are high, traffic jams generally do not occur. 

The only municipality in the country where there are no tolls for national roads is Beijing. The other regions have tolls installed both on national roads and on some provincial roads. 

Speed limits

China’s traffic laws set the following speed limits for driving on its roads and cities: – 30 km / h (19 mph) in cities with only one lane per direction. – 40 km / h (25 mph) on main roads. – Up to 70 km / h (43 mph) on city roads marked with two yellow lines or with railings. – 80 km / h (50 mph) on national highways. – 100 km / h (62 mph) on express roads in the city. – 120 km / h (75 mph) on fast highways. Excess speed limits below 10 km / h (6 mph) are generally tolerated by the authorities. 

Emergency numbers

Police 110 Transit Police 122 Firefighters 119 Ambulance 120 

Sources: cnto.com.sg / travelguia.net / idaoffice.org / travelchinaguide.com / howtodrivein.com

Our International Driver's Document is fully compliant with all Regulations and Standards of the Vienna Agreement of Road Traffic of November 8th, 1968, including the maximum validity of 3 years. International Driving Permits, which are booklets issued by governmental agencies or private organizations designated by a country's government, are the only official translation of a person's Driver's License. Our translation has no official status and does not confer any legal privileges or rights on consumers.

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