Road Rules and Regulations

An overview of the main road rules and regulations when driving a car or motorbike in China...

Penalties for violating road rules in China include hefty fines, suspension of a driving licence or an immediate custodial sentence. It is strongly recommended that drivers are familiar with driving regulations before getting behind the wheel of a car.

  • Driving is on the right-hand side of the road in mainland China. In the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau, driving is on the left
  • Drivers should, technically, overtake only on the left, although on multi-lane highways vehicles often pass slower-moving road users on either side
  • The minimum legal age for driving a car is 18
  • All vehicles driven on China's roads must be registered with a traffic control department, or at least have a temporary pass while registration is in progress
  • All drivers, including foreigners, must carry a valid Chinese driving licence (either temporary or permanent). Police in some provinces may accept International Driver's Permits, but they are not officially recognised by national law and so foreigners should obtain a Chinese licence
  • By law, seatbelts must be worn in the front and rear seats of cars where provided
  • The law now considers drink driving to be a serious offence, and anything over 20mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood is over the limit
  • Car insurance is compulsory
  • Drivers are required by law to stop at red traffic lights
  • It is illegal to use a handheld mobile phone while driving.
  • Motorcycles and scooters can be ridden by expatriates provided the driver has a Chinese licence, although these vehicles are banned or restricted in many major Chinese cities.
  • Drivers caught by police with their headlights switched on during the daytime will be fined.

Full details of all the national road regulations are contained within the Law of the People's Republic of China on Road Traffic Safety.

Car Insurance

Insurance is mandatory for all vehicle owners. Rates of insurance are calculated as a percentage of the value of the vehicle, but may additionally take into account previous claims and the level of coverage. Different insurance companies offer varying quotes. Third-party coverage is the legal minimum, although many foreigners opt for fully comprehensive.

Drink Driving

Drink driving in China is regarded as a serious offence and is considered a criminal act. Previously drink driving was often only punished if the driver had an accident, but now anything more than 20mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood is over the limit.

The current laws state that having blood alcohol levels of 20mg to 80mg while driving can result in a CNY1,000 minimum fine and up to three months' suspension of licence, while more than 80mg of alcohol in the blood is punishable by a jail term, five years' suspension of licence (with a risk of losing it permanently), and a CNY1000 - 2,000 fine.