Chinese Driving Licences

Find out about getting a Chinese driving licence and learning to drive a car or motorbike in China...

To get a People’s Republic of China (PRC) driving licence without holding a foreign one requires taking a driving course and passing both a written and a theory test. As a foreigner this process can be very difficult; the system is set up for foreigners to transfer a licence from another country. For example, only a limited number of driving schools (three in Beijing) are authorised to accept foreign beginners.

Applicants must first complete a Driver’s Licence Application form with identification documents and obtain a health exam certificate. When this is accepted the applicant must attend a driving school for training in road safety and regulations. Upon passing the written test the applicant receives a “Driving Test Permit” which is valid for two years. They should then attend a driving school for practical tuition. A licence is issued upon passing practical driving tests. A minimum of 35 hours of driving lessons is required before an applicant can sit the test.

PRC Driver’s Licence Points System

China operates a 12 point system to manage driver’s traffic violations. A clean PRC licence has 12 points; deductions occur if a driver is caught breaking traffic laws. The following deductions are given for common traffic violations:

  • Three points are given for exceeding a speed limit or ignoring traffic lights
  • One or two points for driving without a seatbelt
  • Between 6 and 12 points for driving drunk. It is against the law to drive after consuming alcohol or taking banned drugs

Should an individual lose all 12 points in one year they must take a class to re-learn all the road rules and sit a test.

Motorbikes, Mopeds and Scooters

A licence is needed to ride a motorcycle in China. There are three different types:

  1. A “D” licence. This allows the holder to drive all kinds of motorcycle and to use a sidecar.
  2. An “E” licence. Holders of this licence can drive any two-wheeled motorbike.
  3. An “F” licence. This allows the holder to drive any two-wheeled bike under a certain engine power.

For holders of a foreign motorcycle licence, applying to get a PRC licence is very similar to applying for a car driving licence. Applications should be made at the local Public Security Bureau with the following documents:

  • Valid identification in the form of a passport with a visa or residence permit valid for more than 90 days. Many cities require a translation of the passport by a certified translator
  • A valid foreign driving licence and a stamped translation by a certified translator
  • A health certificate issued by a hospital. The health check is mainly a sight test

People who do not have a foreign licence but wish to ride a motorcycle in China must have at least 35 hours of driving lessons and must pass a written test, a health check and finally a driving test.

Mopeds and electric scooters or E-bikes are treated legally in the same way as bicycles in some Chinese cities. As such, a driver’s licence is not needed to drive one. There are often restrictions on where mopeds can be ridden, for example they may not be allowed in the main traffic lanes. Electric bikes can legally be ridden at 18 years old. When purchasing a bike the buyer is not obligated to give a home address to the seller. Warnings have been issued to expats advising addresses not to be handed over as some unscrupulous sellers have been known to steal the bike from the address provided and re-sell it.

Further Information