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How to drive an RV/caravan or rent a motor home in China? (Tips & Tricks)

RV'ing in China as Foreigner/Tourist.
Information what to check and think about if renting RV in China. Needed local C1 class driving license and preferable someone who knows the language

We have collected tips and tricks for fellow travelers​​.

Is it possible to rent a motor home in China? The answer is yes!

How to drive an RV/caravan or rent a motor home in China? For a foreigner, the first “must” is a Chinese driving license classified as C1 (C6 for the caravan from 1st April 2022). For how to acquire a Chinese driving license, please check the links below.

There are two types of driving licenses for foreigners: the permanent type and the temporary one, mostly for tourists.

How to pay for the rental

Then the payment. Due to the small market needs for motor homes, most of the renting companies are small-scale compared to their European and Western countries counterparts; therefore, only cash, local credit card, and other Chinese smartphone payments are accepted. Foreign credit cards will be rejected. Normally a large amount of the deposit is required. Most of the deposit will be refunded a few days or a few weeks after returning from the motor home, while a  small amount will be kept for a month in case there are traffic violation records during the renting period.

How much are RV rentals in china? RV rental prices

Rental prices might vary depending on the season and where you rent from. Prices have been between 1200-1500CNY/day. Some places have membership fees that include rental days, but you must be careful. Use all days included immediately, as it is common for the company to change owner or closure. If this happens, you might have difficulties using the upfront paid days in your membership.

How to drive RV/caravan or rent motor home in China?
Negotiating the price, this company is closed now, and we lost 2 days in membership fees. At the moment, avoid Tiande

RV Checklist   

RV physical check  

  •  Motor-home physical condition, for example, checks the tires and engine oil.
  • Shoot video and photos on the details and overall before heading out.
  • The car needs to be returned with a full tank. 

We have had one previous experience with a passenger car, where the rental company insisted the car be returned tank half full.

.

Documentation and Insurance

  • Check the insurance conditions and their coverage. Commercial insurance normally adds costs around an additional 50CNY/day.
  • The yearly check has been done, and the correct owner is on the documents.
  • Return policy overall. Some rentals might have a rent-and-drop policy.
  • Regarding caravan insurance, it should be covered by the car’s third-party insurance. Some insurers have disclosed that, so better to check the fine print.
Chinese standard electrical sockets
Chinese standard electrical sockets

The day-to-day use of articles

  • Which are not included in the motor-home are different than other countries. The renting company does not supply these unless you request, which include but are not limited like:
    • Bed sheets, cooking ware,  gas bottle,  external generator, cables for external electrical connection. Water hose and connectors.
  • Even to check if the water tank is full, the standard size seems to be a tank with 140 liters.

Additional information

  • The RV is normally equipped with A/C but will need external power or a generator. It can be run shortly with batteries. A/C can be used for cooling, and some A/C units can also be used for heating.
  • For electrical sockets, three standards exist. Please check the picture.
  • Heating is usually done using a diesel heater (Webasto or similar) in wintertime, verify if your RV has it in case of traveling in a cold area.
  • External generators or fuel tanks will be difficult to fill at the gas station.
    • You will need a letter from PSB or a Chinese ID, and they will still refuse to fill it in many places. Internal generators are not a problem
  • Gas bottles, if taking a ferry, no-size gas bottles are allowed.
  • Remember to verify that the province you are traveling to allows 10kg gas bottles, which is prohibited in some places.

Personal checklist  

  • Remember to bring your passport with a valid visa. If you have recently changed your passport, bring the old one with you, as exit and entry stamps need to be verified. Have copies of documents on mobile or paper ones.
  • Chinese driving license, minimum grade C1.
    • China has mutually recognized driver’s licenses with the United Arab Emirates UAE, France, and Belgium and inked such an agreement with Serbia.
    • I don’t have the official information, but this could be found in the news
  • Contact information in case of breakdown. Some of the rentals have offices in major cities.
  • For your safety, a First Aid kit. This needs to be provided by yourself.
  • Most of the campsites we have visited have been friendly, and they have been able to make the registration to PSB (Public Security Bureau). There is some exemption, and the reasons most don’t fill in the form to the police or are unsure of the law regarding foreigners.
  • Check routes with campsites. The problem is limited internet information, and English sites are almost none. Sometimes when unable to reach our destination in time, we stayed overnight at large Service Stations along the highway (south part of China). The good point is that those are normally open 24/7 with restaurants, public toilets, and security.
    • Exemption to this was during our road trip to Inner Mongolia, the more north we drove, the quality of the stations went down, and we would not like to stay overnight in one of those.
  • In China, boondocking is not recommended. There are seldom suitable parking areas, and safety concerns must be considered. Check a place with many people.
  • More information Wikipedia and English/Chinese Road traffic safety law in Peoples of Republic of China (中华人民共和国道路交通安全法)

Important

Please note that under the newest traffic law, when accidents happen between
pedestrians, non-motorized vehicles, motor vehicles, and cars, the cars must
bear most of the responsibility unless the other party violates the traffic
law. Meaning car insurance needs to take responsibility in 99% of the cases.

There are some very good apps in China for DIY travelers. Unfortunately have not seen any in English.

Emergency telephone numbers in China
Emergency telephone numbers in China

Emergency telephone numbers in China:

  • 110 may be used for all emergencies. It is the first number to call.
  • 12110 Police (Text message)
  • 12110 First-aid Ambulance
  • 120 Fire
  • 119Traffic Accidents
  • 12395 SOS in Water

How to drive an RV/caravan in China?

Traffic in China is a bit chaotic compared to Europe because of the vast number of road vehicles. Even though the traffic has improved dramatically, drivers’ habits have not changed much. For example, sudden lane changes without prior notice and electric bikes are still the biggest challenges on the roads. Cars from residential areas and small roads seldom look left before driving turns. Most of the highways are in perfect condition. 
 
One thing to be emphasized here is that normally toll fees need to be paid before getting out from the highway. There are “ETCs” for electronic payment (a prepaid card with a reader glued on the windshield, and the cost will be deducted automatically when the car drives through an ETC lane.) There are also lanes for manual payment available.

Fueling the car

Highway service centers provide gasoline and diesel, but in the cities, some gasoline stations do not provide diesel. Diesel cars are not popular in China at all; it is only bigger trucks and me who use them. Every time I fill up my car, they check that it is diesel three times.

How to drive an RV/caravan in China?
Traffic in China
Example Chinese driving license
For example Chinese driving license

Navigation in China, check our page for the most useful applications for navigation in China

My experience of using GPS in China comes from 2 different apps.
The first one is iOS Maps which can be used fully in English. It is sufficient for most foreign travelers. The Other Chinese options, both for iOS and Android, are the AMAP Autonavi (高德地图) and Baidu maps (百度地图).  Both can be found on Google Play or downloaded from their web page.  Unfortunately, Amap/Baidu is a pure Chinese application, therefore a limiting factor for non-Chinese speakers. 

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