Self-drive in China with your foreign-registered RV/car

Road trip Hainan China. Nice campground to stay for couple of days
Information how to get temporary license plates for your foreign registered RV/car to self-drive in China. Links and regulations

This might be possible, but still, many unclear issues need to be solved

I am trying to dig deeper and deeper to find out all the possible regulations and laws on how this could be done. Someone asked me if it was possible. If you are interested, we can help you find information. For those who are interested, this post might be a good starting point.

Still, the main question is, can you obtain a visa based on your travel plan? The information below is for the regulations on how to get your RV/car to China and what is needed for the self-drive.

Vehicle Management Station of Traffic Police Headquarters of Shanghai Public Security Bureau, information self-drive in China

Paid a visit to the Vehicle Management Station of Traffic Police Headquarters of Shanghai Public Security Bureau in a matter regarding my C6 driving license English theory test. Driving in China with a caravan requires a C6-level driving license. As usual, I have received mixed information about this issue. Someone says yes, it exists, and some other instance says no, there is no. I have hit the brick wall now, and the English version does not exist. We need to start to claim back the money from the driving school.

Vehicle Management Station of Traffic Police Headquarters of Shanghai Public Security Bureau
Vehicle Management Station of Traffic Police Headquarters of Shanghai Public Security Bureau

How to get temporary Chinese license number plates for your car

Getting back to the headline of this post. At the same time, I asked about the possibility of using foreign-registered vehicles for self-drive in China from the traffic police and got a reply. It would not be easy, but it can be done with some documents/patience and limitations. One of my questions was whether you need a local guide when driving in China. I found on the internet that many web pages organizing road trips with self-drive state you need a local guide. For self-drive In China, according to the police officers, there is no need for a guide.

It might get difficult if you cannot speak Chinese as the level of English language of the locals might be limited, so it is up to you if you need a guide. Driving in China otherwise is something special. I have managed by taking it easy and following the flow. For rental and navigation, you can find information here.

Below is the translation of the document that was given to me by Vehicle Management

The police officer was nice enough to print the document, and I shared it with you (Chinese version) for all who are interested. Notice this document is from the Vehicle Management Station of Traffic Police Headquarters of Shanghai Public Security Bureau. Hence, you must verify the regulations with the correct land entry port authorities.

Vehicle registration plates of China. I am not sure how they look nowadays, but here are some examples.
Land entry ports customs China
Picture from I have no clue how valid the land entry port list is. I tried to look for more information but could not find it. Tianjin, Shanghai, Weihai, Qingdao, Lianyungang, and Chongqing are the major marine ports for shipping cars.

You need a temporary driving license (China Provisional Driving Permit) for self-drive in China.

You can find additional information about self-driving in China from the links below.

19 March 2024, some additional information from China Briefing

In January 2007, it became possible for foreigners in China to apply for temporary driving licenses (临时驾驶执照) with the approval of a new clause by the Ministry of Public Security. The application process for temporary driving licenses is less complicated and removes the requirement for examinations, health checks, and other procedures.

However, holders of temporary driving licenses are subject to several limitations. Firstly, not all Chinese visa holders are eligible for this “express” application method. Only those foreigners who have been granted a visa with a duration of stay of at least 180 days are eligible. Secondly, the holders of the temporary license will only be allowed to drive in China for a period of 90 days at maximum after the issue of the certification. Thirdly, this period cannot be extended, and multiple applications are not allowed under the same visa.

Visa beforehand and registration to PSB during travel are still needed.

The visa must be valid and should be applied beforehand, and I will not list here what is needed as the web is full of information regarding this. You still need to follow the PSB (official Chinese) rules anyway when travelling with RV for the registration of residency, which states.

Public security bureau

“Article 33 Foreigners who temporarily stay in mobile accommodation must report to the local public security agency within 24 hours. Organizations or individuals that provide space for foreigners’ mobile accommodation should report to the local public security agency 24 hours in advance..”


You need to find out this as I don’t have the information.

What can you drive with the C1 driving license?

Driving license classes for different RV or caravans in China

I assume you will only get a C1 grade license when applying for a temporary driving license. That means it is not applicable for RVs over 6m long and a maximum total mass of 4.5t. According to new regulations, starting in April 2022, you will need a C6 class driving license for caravans. This makes it a little more complicated, and you need to be careful that the RV is within the limits of your driving license class.

This means only RVs less than 6m/4.5t and no caravans as it requires a C6 class driving license.

It is complicated in China, and catching all the information from the web without knowing any Chinese language is difficult. Yes, I admit that I’m lazy about Chinese language studies. Also, new regulations are coming frequently, and finding them is difficult.

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