If you are going on a trip to China and want to rent and drive a car, maybe you have been told about its chaotic traffic, but you want to give it a chance and get to know some of its natural beauty from a car either alone, with your partner, friends or family.
In this article we will tell you where to rent your car and everything you need to be able to drive in China: how to apply for a temporary license, what options you have to rent a car with or without a driver and some travel routes.
Let’s get started!
CAN TOURISTS DRIVE IN CHINA?
If you go to Mainland China you need a Temporary Driving Permit to drive.
If you go to cities like Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan the conditions for driving are different:
- Hong Kong: In the case of Hong Kong, you will be able to drive if you have one of these three licences, the temporary driving licence that does not require a test, the driving licence of your country (this will only be valid if you stay at least 12 months in Hong Kong) and the international driving licence.
- Macao and Taiwan: In the case of Macao and Taiwan, an international driving licence will suffice.
Remember that an international driver’s license will not work for you to drive in mainland China.
TEMPORARY DRIVING LICENCE IN CHINA
This type of license will allow you to drive in mainland China for a maximum of three months, both for tourists and for those who have gone for work or studies.
The procedure is simple, you do not have to take any test, just ask the traffic police department of the city where you are or at the airport (this only in big cities).
WHAT DO I NEED TO SUBMIT?
- National driver’s license.
- International driving licence.
- Chinese translation of foreign driver’s license.
- Filled out form.
- Reservation in a hotel for at least one day.
- Three color photos with white background.
HOW TO RENT A CAR WITH DRIVER IN CHINA?
This information may be of interest to you if you are not very experienced in driving or do not want to expose yourself to traffic as chaotic as China. Considered one of the most dangerous in the world, if you still want to rent a car, you can do it with a driver included. Here I show you some alternatives.
Here are some options without and with the additional driver service, the latter being the most recommended.
- Contact: +34 902 180 854, web: https://www.avis.es/
Based in 17 Chinese regions and Hong Kong, this company can rent you both cars and vans (to transport up to seven people). Their rates range from 80 euros a day, depending on the type of car, brand, year, mileage, among others.
- Contact: 911-505-000, web: https://www.europcar.es/
This company offers rates from 50 euros per day and their prices vary by vehicle type, mileage, exchange rate, whether or not it has air conditioning, the brand, among others. All prices include VAT.
Tongye Car Rental
- Contact: 01-708-5393, web: https://www.rentalcars.com/
This company works with rentalcars.com carngo.com, among others, and you can make your reservations on these websites. It has offices in 13 cities and four airports.
- Contact: 400-777-0888, web: http://reocar.com/
It rents vehicles from 100 yuan a day (12 euros) and has branches in almost every region of China, from Tibet to Shanghai, and from Hainan to Inner Mongolia. In adition, it has car rental services for short and long periods. It also offers discounts if you rent for a certain number of days.
Ehi Car Services
- Contact: 400-888-6608, web: https://en.1hai.cn/
It offers both the “Self-Drive” service, which rents the car to you only so that you can drive it, and the “Chauffeured Car Service“, which includes a driver. The company has offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. A benefit of their website is that from there you can apply for a temporary driving license.
HOW TO APPLY FOR A DRIVING LICENSE IN MAINLAND CHINA?
This can be useful if you want to stay in China for a while.
It is a bit complicated but you will have to take some theoretical exams, the language in which they will take them depends on the city where you do it: if it is in Beijing, you can do it in English or in Chinese, but some cities only allow you to take it in Chinese, the good thing is that some allow you to bring a translator.
It is valid for six years. Please note that the theoretical exams will be held at the traffic police department by appointment.
The exam consists of 100 questions with several options, lasts 45 minutes and you only pass if you answer more than 90% of the answers correctly.
WHAT DO I NEED TO SUBMIT?
- Passport and residence permit valid for at least three months
- Registration of temporary residence from the local police.
- Driver’s license from your country or another country.
- Certified and notarized translation into Chinese language (Mandarin) of your country’s driving license.
- Medical certificate.
- Three or five color photos on a white background
HOW TO GET AROUND IN A CAR IN CHINA?
Cities are well interconnected and roads are in good condition, the problem could be road safety education for some drivers, so always drive very carefully.
Here are some highways that run through the particular climates and beautiful landscapes of this great nation.
- The Karakorum Road: One of the highest roads in the world, which connects China (Kashgar) with Pakistan (Islamabad) and passes through the mountains that give it its name. Called the Friendship Highway, its highest pass is at 4,693 meters above sea level.
- The Qinqzang Highway: Connects Qinghai to Tibet, and joins China’s national highway 109, which extends to the capital, Beijing.
- The Tarim Desert Highway: This is the longest highway built in a desert, and is located between the great dunes of Taklamakan. It joins Luntai with Mifeng.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT DRIVING IN CHINA
Which way is the wheel?
In mainland China, the steering wheel is on the left, as is common worldwide. But in Hong Kong and Macau the wheel is on the right.
Which direction does one drive in China?
Here the roles are reversed, in mainland China you drive on the right, while in Hong Kong and Macao you drive on the left.
How’s the traffic?
Places like Thailand or Vietnam have a more chaotic traffic than China and only in central areas it is not very safe to drive, it is better to do it in the rural area or in not so big cities.
How do you best locate and mobilize?
We give you 3 options of apps that you can download and use in China with the China internet. Remember that in China there is an internet censorship that does not allow you to use apps such as Google Maps unless you have a Sim Card with a VPN built-in which removes the internet censorship and you can use all the apps and applications that you normally use in your country such as whasapp, facebook and instagram.
If you don’t have a SIM card with a built-in VPN, don’t forget to download the following apps. They can replace Google Maps and help you find your way around Asia:
Baidu Map: https://map.baidu.com/
Apple Maps (for iPhone): https://mapsconnect.apple.com/
China Subway: Android; iOS
Important: You can read our article SIM card for your trip to China and take it from Spain so that you can have internet immediately after getting off the plane 😉
Learn more travel tips for China