Temporary Driving license for RVing in China as a foreigner

Our rented Maxus RV80 parked at service station

Instructions on what is needed for a temporary driving license in China

I have had a Chinese driving license for several years now and have been RVing in China for several years, if I remember correctly, since 2006. I am now on my third driving license, which states it is permanent (requires a health check every year after I’m 60 years old). There is still some time to that. There is plenty of information on the internet on how to apply, and I will only write about the temporary driving license.

Road trip Hainan 2022 | Narrow road in the mountains
Road trip Hainan narrow mountain road

For example, pages with more information

What about IDL (International driving license?

China does not recognize foreign driving licenses for direct use on its roads. China has specific regulations regarding foreign drivers, and while an IDP is a valuable document in many countries, it does not allow you to drive in. Instead, foreign drivers must obtain either a temporary Chinese driving permit or a full Chinese driving license to drive in China legally. Here is how foreign tourists can apply for temporary driving licenses.

Driving in China with a Foreign License is not allowed.

International Driving Permit (IDP):

  • Not recognized in China for driving purposes.
  • An IDP can sometimes be useful for identification, but it will not allow you to drive legally.

Temporary Driving Permit:

  • Foreigners can apply for a temporary Chinese driving permit if they plan to drive in China for a short period (up to 3 months).
  • The application process involves presenting a valid foreign driving license, a translated copy of the license, and a passport, which needs to be presented to the local Vehicle Administration Office.
  • You may need to pass a written test on Chinese traffic laws. Not needed in Shanghai or Beijing.

Car Rentals:

  • Many car rental companies in China will not rent vehicles to foreigners without a Chinese driving license or a temporary permit.
  • It’s advisable to check with rental companies beforehand to understand their specific requirements.

Here is a list of how you can obtain a temporary Chinese driving license to be able to RVing in China as a foreigner

Obtaining a temporary driving license in China as a foreigner involves a streamlined process designed for short-term visitors. This permit allows you to legally drive in China for a limited period, typically up to three months. Only valid for rental cars. Here’s a detailed guide on how to obtain a temporary driving license in China:

Steps to Obtain a Temporary Driving License in China

The Shanghai government’s official page has not updated the information regarding removing needed medical examinations and written tests. Below is the latest information as of 18 June 2024. We will test this in August 2024 with family members to confirm the correctness of the process and see how easy it would be to rent a car with a temporary license.

1. Eligibility Requirements:

  • Age: You must be at least 18 years old.
  • Valid Foreign License: You must have a valid driving license from your home country.

2. Document Preparation:

  • Passport: Original and copies of your passport, including the visa page.
  • Foreign Driving License: Your current, valid foreign driving license.
  • Photos: Passport-sized photos (usually one or two; check specific requirements).
  • License Translation: Authorized translation agencies or some vehicle administration offices can translate your foreign driving license into Chinese

Here are two places in Shanghai that can provide official translation services

Shanghai SISU Translation Service Co.
Address: 573 Chifeng Road, Hongkou District, Shanghai
Tel: 021-65362032
Office hours: Monday-Friday 9:00-16:30

Shanghai Interpreters’ Association (SIA)
Address: Room 1607, F16, 1277 West Beijing Road, Jing’an District, Shanghai
Tel: 021-63218568, 021-63239910
Office hours: Monday-Friday 9:00-16:30

From what I see on the internet, several places can provide official translations, so Google is your friend!

3. Medical Examination:

  • A medical checkup is required and can typically be done at designated health centers or hospitals.
  • The examination usually includes checks for vision, hearing, and general health to ensure you are fit to drive.
  • The latest information is that Shanghai and Beijing do not require this.
  • I cannot confirm about other locations; please comment if you know.

4. Application Submission:

  • Visit the local Vehicle Administration Office (Traffic Management Bureau).
  • Submit all the prepared documents along with the medical examination report.

5. Written Test (if required):

  • Some locations may require a written test on Chinese traffic laws and regulations, but this is not always mandatory for a temporary license.
  • The latest information is that Shanghai and Beijing do not require this.
  • I cannot confirm other locations; please comment if you know.

6. Processing and Issuance:

  • After submission, the application will be processed.
  • Once approved, you will receive your temporary Chinese driving license, typically valid for up to three months.

7. Now you are ready for RVing in China as a foreigner

How about a caravan in China?

The temporary driving license class is only C1, and to pull a caravan, you need C6. So this is not possible. I have taken the C6 driving test and passed it successfully, but the theory test exists only in Chinese, and with my Chinese language skills, it is a no-go. More of that in this link

Driviing license classes China
Driving license classes in China
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