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How To Get a Driver's License in China
Author:Sarah Meik    Date:2010/01/20

Maybe never getting a seat on the bus has finally gotten to you, maybe it’s the never-ending fight to get a taxi or maybe the driver you hired is too reckless. Whatever the reason, you have decided you need to get your own license, and drive yourself around China. It seems logical that it would solve your problems, but you know what they say, the asphalt is always redder on the other side of the overpass. WikiTravel tells us, “According to the World Health Organisation ‘In China, traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for people between 15 and 45’ and the annual Chinese traffic death toll is near 250,000.”


Still want to drive yourself? Luckily for you, the process to get a Chinese driver’s license is fairly straightforward. There are two major steps towards getting your Chinese license: applying for the test and taking the test. If you speak and read Mandarin, you can do all of these things by yourself without too much trouble. All they’re really doing is transferring the license you have from your home country and making it a Chinese one. This means that the system is really set up for people who already have valid driver’s licenses from their home countries. Getting your very first driver’s license as a foreigner in China is much more difficult. In China, the International Driver’s Permit is not valid; they simply treat the IDP just like any other foreign license – if you do have an IDP, you must follow the same procedure as everyone else. If you don’t speak Mandarin you may want to take a friend to help you register but you can still take the test in your native language or through a translator – more on this below.


Registering for the test
Before you can take the test you have to register. If your city has a traffic management department or driver’s licensing bureau you go there to register; otherwise, you can usually register at the main public security bureau in your city.

In order to get your driver’s license, you need to bring the following things:
1) Your passport as well as a copy of the picture page of your passport
2) A copy of your valid Chinese visa
3) A copy of the latest entry stamp in your passport
4) A copy of both sides of your foreign driver’s license
5) A legal translation of your license done by a certified translator
6) 4 passport-style photos
7) A completed health check – this can be done at most hospitals for under 50 RMB
8) Your Chinese name and your height in centimeters
9) 200-300 RMB


Be aware that many local PSBs want an official translation of your foreign documents. This means that you must take your driver’s license and passport to an officially recognized translating service, and they will translate everything on your documents, as well as give you an official stamp telling the PSB that they can trust the translation. Check with your local PSB to find out who they recognizes as an official translator – there is usually someone on site or nearby.


When your registration is complete they will give you a card with the time and date of your test. You will need to bring this with you when you take the test.


Taking the test
You will find out the time, date and location of the exam when you register. If you live in one of the major Chinese mega-cities like Shanghai or Beijing, you will be lucky enough to take the test yourself, in your own language. You must correctly answer 90 out of 100 multiple choice questions. If you fail the first time, you can take the test a second time without paying another fee. They will give you a test prep booklet when you register or you can practice potential questions (or just amuse yourself) here. Be aware, however, that there are reports that some of the translated tests or poorly translated and difficult to understand.


However, many cities also allow you to bring a translator, as most cities do not offer the test in different languages. It’s also very common for these translators to not only translate the questions for you, but supply the answers as well. Many people see this as a sweet deal: the translator basically takes the test for you and you pass on the first try – translators/test takers usually only charge 100-200 RMB for the service. Which is fortunate for potential test takers because who could answer this question without studying first?


The driver may drive a motorized vehicle _________?

A)After drinking alcohol
B)When he suffers from a disease that impedes safe driving
C)When he is exhausted
D)After drinking tea


Although in all honesty, they’re not all that easy. Do you know the answer to this one?

If someone's intestines are protruding from an open abdominal wound, should you?
A) Put them back in place;
B) Do nothing
C) Cover them with some kind of container and fasten it around the body?


The agent
There are agencies that will help foreigners apply for licenses. This may be a good route if you don’t speak Chinese or have someone help you but ask around or look online for a reliable company to help you.


The aftermath
More on buying and renting cars in upcoming articles but before you go through the hassle of getting a Chinese license there are some things you may want to consider. Do you drive stick? If you can’t operate a manual transmission it’s going to be difficult finding a suitable car in China. Do you plan on renting or buying a vehicle? Can you get maps you can understand and ask for directions?


In the meantime there’s still a lot of studying to be done. Try this question on for size?


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




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