Living in China

Getting a driver’s license in China

Chinese Driver's License
Chinese Driver’s License

Good news! I finally got my Chinese driver’s license! Actually the process was much easier and faster than I thought, so I wanted to share it with you as well. I know many of my readers who are interested in getting a license and driving in China. My experience is in changing my Finnish license to Chinese, so if you don’t have a license at all, you need to go to driving school first.

Documents needed for changing foreign driver’s license to Chinese:

  • Application form
  • Health check (Super easy and superficial done at the exam center at the same day)
  • Four color photos, ask the photo shop for driver’s license photos, they know what to do
  • Official receipt for the photos with you passport number on it
  • Passport and an official translation and notarization of it (can be done at any 公证处, takes about half a month)
  • Foreign driver’s license and an official translation and notarization of it (can be done at any 公证处, takes about half a month)
  • Registration paper from your local police station, the original with a stamp

Translations and notarizations will take a few weeks, during that time it’s best to get ready for the theory exam!

Websites and apps for studying:

You will want to use these for studying at least for a few days before taking the exam. Also notice that many cities, including Guangzhou has new rules for the traffic violation scoring system, it changed at the beginning of this year. So find the newest regulations concerning the scoring and memorize it.

Taking the exam:

When you got all your paperwork in order and have studied enough for the exam, it’s time to go to the vehicle administration office (车管所) of your city. In Guangzhou it’s called Cen Village Vehicle Administration Office (岑村车管所) and it’s located at Huaguan Street 1732 of Tianhe District (天河区华观路1732号).

Take a waiting number and head to the back of the first floor to get your very quick and simple health check. If you can walk and aren’t blind, you can pass it in five minutes. When your number is up, give them all your paperwork and pay for the exam (80RMB). There are exams being held throughout the day until 3pm. Multiple languages are being offered, English being one of them.

You can take the exam twice in a row, so if you fail the first exam, you can just do it again with the same computer right away. Just tell the staff there you need to take it again. If you pass, you can pick up you new license at 4pm in the first floor lobby. They will call your name and give your license to you right away.

Now just get out there and learn to drive the Chinese way!


  • Timo

    I wonder if I ever dare to drive in China…so far the only place which looked fine was Shanghai ;o
    For me it always seems like madness on the streets. Some friends of mine (both Chinese and then some Expats) told me that in order to survive the Chinese traffic you have to just force your way through which does not sound too safe for me…
    Right now my wife is doing her driving license in Germany, let’s see how that will turn out :)


    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    I really thought I would never ever dare to drive in China. I was super scared the night before and couldn’t sleep even! :D But then when I got behind the wheel and just went with it, it was okay. Not as scary as I thought! But yet, you need to force your way, like you need to force your self into a rush hour metro.


  • zoomingjapan

    This is very interesting.
    In Japan, it actually depends on your nationality.
    I’m German, for me it was very easy to obtain a Japanese driver’s license.
    I just needed to get a translation of my German one and perform an eye check-up as well as watch a video.

    As American citizen you need to go through the whole process with a driving school to obtain a Japanese driver’s license. So, that’s a lot more complicated and very expensive.

    The same goes for tourists who want a driving permit in Japan.
    It depends on your nationality which makes it very complicated.
    A lot of nations can just go with an international driver’s license, but not everyone.
    As a German citizen I need yet again a translation of my German license.

    Driving in Japan is not difficult at all. The speed limits are quite strict, you rarely ever can drive faster than 80km/h – which is a HUGE difference to Germany where you can drive as fast as you want on the “Autobahn”.
    The only difference is that you drive on the left side of the road. :)

    I have no experience with driving in China, though.
    I wonder how it compares to Japan. :)


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