Driving a car in Shanghai has become a lot less absolutely terrifying in recent years, compared to, let’s say, 10 years ago when traffic rules were kinda more just suggestions than actual regulations. For most people, owning a car is more something for long-term expats with money to spare. Renting a car, however, is a fun and affordable way to get out of the city for a weekend trip, and something relatively easy to do.


The first rule to know is this: Foreigners aren’t allowed to drive in China using their home country driver’s license. Nor can you drive with an International Driver’s Permit (IDP).


So. Here's the full guide on how to get a Chinese driver's license.


You're coming at this three ways depending on your own situation. Skip to the section that applies to you and read on.


You can get a...


    • Temporary Driver’s License (临时驾照). You already have a driver’s license from your home country and you just want to drive rental cars.


    • Permanent Driver’s License (长期驾照). You already have a driver’s license from your own home country and you want to be able to drive any car, including your own.





    • You've never had a driver’s license before and are starting from scratch to get a Permanent Driver's License.







How to Get a Temporary Driver’s License If You’ve Already Got a Full License From Your Own Country


That’s the easiest of the 3 options. You don’t have to take any exams; it’s just a bit of paperwork. The downside side is that you are limited to rental cars and your permit will expire when your visa does.


We covered the whole process already right here.




How to Get the Permanent Driver’s License If You've Already Got One From Your Home Country



If you currently have a valid driver's license from your home country, getting a proper Permanent Driver’s License is a simple and straightforward process that should only take a few days — and you don’t even need to be able to speak any Chinese to get it.


Step 1: Get Your Documents Translated


You need to get your current home country driver's license translated by an official authority. Take your driver’s license and your passport to the Shanghai Interpreters' Association (or send a courier). Your visa needs to be valid for at least another 90 days. The price of verification depends on your country and starts at 50rmb. It should take two to three days. Don't open the envelope that you get back from the Interpreters' Association.


Step 2: Study for the License Written (Theory) Exam


Don't sleep on the written test. This is the most difficult part. The infamous Chinese driver's license test. You need to study for this thing.


Administered by the transportation bureau, you will need to answer 100 random questions out of a pool of 1,500 that you are required to study before hand. You need to get 90 of them right. All the questions are multiple-choice and true / false questions. 90% of the questions are common sense and you’d already know the answer even if you’ve never been behind the wheel.


Like this one.



The other 10% you'll really have to learn.


"What’s the maximum speed limit on a mountain road covered in snow?"


30 kilometers per hour.


"How many penalty points will you receive for driving through a red light?"


6 points.


In addition to the China-specific content, another challenge is the awkward wording. Some of the questions, you are only really able to answer correctly if you have learned them and memorized before just because of how they are worded.


For one of them, they show you a picture of a car driving away from a traffic accident.


"Is this a “Law-Breaking Act" or a "Criminal Act"?


Uhh. I just know you’re not supposed to do that... is that right?



A Few Apps to Consider to Help You Study



There are plenty of apps on the app store that let you study the questions in preparation for the exam. Some are okay. Some are crap. We tested "Drive in China" and "Laowai Drive". Both apps claim to be free, but once you download and get into them, they charge around 10 USD to continue.


Of the two, Laowai Drive had up-to-date questions. Drive in China was completely out-of-date and the main reason why this writer failed the exam the first time.


Also note-worthy, all apps use a combination of Google Translate and user submitted translations which don’t match the translations used on the actual exam.


More on that further down in the "How to Not Fail the Damn Exam" section.



Step 3: Register Your Application and Take the Test

Leave your question to continue.


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