Like how many other countries insist on their own idiosyncratic way of life, there are some things in China that simply must be done in a Chinese way. Driving is one of those.
To drive legally in China, you need a Chinese drivers license; foreigners aren’t permitted to drive on their home country license, even with an International Driving Permit1 (which is actually just a translation of the home country license). Getting the license is famously difficult, chiefly because
everyone must take a written test; 90 percent is considered passing. The test consists of 100 questions drawn from a pool of nearly 1,000. The test is particularly tough for foreigners, owing to the volume of memorization and sometimes sketchy translations. 2
I got my driver’s license with motorcycle endorsement (C1E) in Guangzhou last week, and it was indeed a trial. (Some have reported on forums that Guangzhou is no longer issuing motorcycle licenses,3 but they didn’t give me hard time about that particular aspect of the process.) Passing the test wasn’t the hard part; after regular studying with the Chinese Driving Test website I was successful on my first test attempt. Dealing with the bureaucracy, on the other hand, ultimately required six trips to the main DMV office (岑村车管总所). Much of this is due to the lack of published information about the process, so learn from my experience so that yours is smoother.
- Langfitt, Frank. “How I Flunked China’s Driving Test … Three Times.” NPR. NPR, 17 Jan. 2014. Web. 29 Dec. 2015. ↩
- Langfitt, Frank. “Do You Have What It Takes To Get A Chinese Driver’s License?” NPR. NPR, 17 Jan. 2014. Web. 29 Dec. 2015. ↩
- “Thread: New in Guangdong, Some License Questions.” Online forum. My China Moto. Motocyclops LLC, 15 Nov. 2013. Web. 29 Dec. 2015. ↩