China Driving Advice Advice and Car Hire Info
Driving In China
As private car ownership in China is a relatively new phenomenon, you have a lot of inexperienced drivers on the roads. Throw in the usual Asian driving ‘quirks’ plus the high volume of traffic in most cities and you have a pretty challenging mix when driving abroad in this huge country. There are numerous internet discussions on Chinese driving, just type ‘Driving in China’ into Google and you’ll get a screen full of horror stories. A lot of the things mentioned will be typical of most urban Asian environments but there do seem to be a few additional deviations from driving norm in China. I’ve personally experienced taxis pulling over the central reservation of a dual carriageway and driving into oncoming traffic for a few hundred yards before swerving off down a side road. I’ve been in a taxi which knocked a cyclist over (who had right of way) and carried on driving. I’ve seen night time roads where about a third of vehicles haven’t bothered to put lights on. So it is pretty bad, but as I generally advise in any big city , if you manage to rent a car you can always pay the rental company to drive it out of town for you (Though that may take a long time in a Chinese City!). Most of the companies mentioned below seem to deal in tours rather than City driving which is where most problems will occur. Out of the Cities , roads are probably going to be in a better state than in much of Asia, though you may find this varies by province , depending on how healthy the local government’s finances are.
For information on driving in or to Tibet, see the Tibet section.
China Car Rental –
When I launched DriverAbroad.com in 2011, all the big international companies advertised car rental in China but most were actually ‘chauffeur drive’ only.
That appears to be changing and Avis now seem to offer self drive from a variety of locations, which is bookable online –
There are also companies who seem to be able to arrange self drive, though these may be more of a tour than just setting off on your own and deciding where to head yourself.
This well established company offer a variety of self drive tours, mainly in the South and South West of China but they also cover Tibet and even parts of South East Asia. They’ll also sort out all the documentation for you, and you’ll use their 4 WD vehicles are travel in a small guided group either with your friends or joining others –
These are some other tour companies who’s websites mention self drive tours in China –
This company also offer a self drive option which seems to be limited to Western China.
China Self Driving Rules-
The biggest obstacle to self drive is that you will need a temporary Chinese licence (not IDP) and depending in which country you passed your test you will probably need to take a written test, which is multiple choice test of 100 questions, and you need to achieve a 90% score to pass. Apparently the test is available in English in major cities now.
When I first set up DriverAbroad.com it seemed much more difficult to obtain accurate information on how foreigners can obtain a Chinese licence. There do now seem more websites providing details on how to go about this such as-
There are also likely to be restrictions on driving without a guide to certain parts of China. This information will change regularly and you should be able to get up to date guidance from the company who arrange your vehicle.