Driving in Beijing? No, we’re not crazy. Just slightly on the adventure-seeking side. Getting your Chinese driver’s license is fairly straightforward—but not exactly hassle-free—process. The international driver’s license is a useless scrap of paper in China and the driver’s test is full of bizarre questions. But the silver lining is that you don’t have to take a road test.
What You Need
~ Driver’s license application
~ Your passport (and a photocopy) along with your registration form from the local PSB
~ Health certificate issued from a public hospital
~ Your original driver’s license with an attached Chinese translation (and a photocopy)
~ 5 1-inch color photo with a white background (can be taken at the center)
Basically, you can do the application yourself. It’s just going to take a few taxi rides to the Foreign Affairs Department of the Beijing Motor Vehicle Administration and explaining to the hospital that you need a health check to apply for a driver’s license. You’ll need at least three months on your visa, and amazingly, you can have any visa type as long as you have the required number of days. (Those with less than 90 days have to apply for a temporary driver’s license). After you finish filling in the forms and getting the health check, return to the BMVA to schedule your written test. You can also score an official test book while you're there handing in forms.
Taking the Test
The “written” test is actually computerized, multiple-choice set of 100 randomly generated questions. You have to get at least 90%, which is not exactly an easy feat—check out our selection of test questions culled from the test prep book. If you pass, expect to get your shiny new license within 5 working days. If you fail, you can re-take the exam one more time, but fail again and you’ll have to start from the very beginning.
While die-hard DIYers can take this and get driving, we recommend using an expat service to save yourself a few trips to the BMVA. Most of these groups offer to fill out forms, take you to get the health exam, translate your driver’s license, give you a test prep booklet and deliver the license to your home for around RMB800-1000. A few to check out include FESCO, STauto, and Beijing Expat Service Center.
Have you successfully nabbed your Chinese driver's license? Or used a particularly good (or bad) expat service? Let us and other CW readers know in the comments down below