How to Legally get a Drivers License in China

If you have a valid license from another country you can get a Chinese license by only passing a written exam. The exception to this requirement is if you are from Belgium and have a valid Belgian license. In that case you can just directly get a Chinese without taking the written exam. This is due to some kind of reciprocal agreement made between China and Belgium to recognize each-other's driver's licenses. This also means that Chinese can also get a license in Belgium without taking an exam. If you don't have a valid license from another country then you would need to do the same procedure as a Chinese person. Take a driving course, do a road test , etc. This will probably be impossible if you don't speak Chinese. I would say that China is not a good country to learn how to drive anyway. I don't recommend driving in China unless you are highly skilled driver.

I got my license in Zhuhai, China in 2010 and much has changed since then. The test questions were changed on Jan 1, 2013 and the new questions will not be published by the Traffic Management Bureau because they want foreigners to learn the traffic regulations instead of memorizing answers to questions. The best available resource I can find is this website where they have translated the questions from the Chinese version of the test (which I guess has been leaked online). You can study the questions on this website but the translation may be different when you actually take the test.

I recommend getting your license legally by taking this written exam rather than "paying for it." If you want to pay for it there are many people offering these services but I won't put any links here. Generally what they do is take you to a small city where they can bribe someone to allow a third party to take the test on your behalf or give you the answers while you take the test. There might be somebody sitting under a desk (there are cameras in the test room) whispering "A, C, D, A, B" for example.

The most difficult part for me was studying for the written exam. The English version was complete Chinglish (and i assume still is) so I needed to memorize all 1,500 of the multiple choice and true/false questions. The questions have now been updated but if you are interested to see the original questions then you download them here. Also check out my blog post for some questions that I thought were funny. I studied 2-3 hours a day for 2 weeks before being able to pass the test. Most of the questions are complete non-sense, you cannot use common sense to pass this test. 

Below is my personal story of how I got my license in 2010. For up to date information check the Drivinig in China Wikitravel page and this great website that I mentioned above. Please leave your comments below if you have anything to add.

I went to a notary office to get my passport (main page) and Canadian license translated into Chinese and notarized. It cost me 100 yuan per document (200 yuan total). I found out later that it would have been much cheaper if I had translated the documents myself and asked them to notarize my own translation.

I then went to an appointed hospital to get a special vision test that is specifically for getting a drivers license. The cost was around 25 yuan. The vision test was a complete joke. It was the kind of test where you look at symbol E pointed in different directions (left, right, up, down) and a sign board and each line down is smaller. The dimly lit room was was not big enough to stand the required distance away from the sign board so the sign board was placed beside me and I had to look at it through a mirror that was half the required distance away from me. I have 20/20 vision but I could not pass this ridiculous test. My Chinese assistant who was standing beside me told me the directions in English and then I repeated them in Chinese. I know this doesn't make sense but it worked. The "eye doctor" didn't know what she was saying in English (left, right, up, down) but he must have wondered why a Chinese translator was speaking to me in English and I was then speaking to him in Chinese. Maybe he just didn't care.

I took my Canadian license, passport, notorized translations, vision test, and residential police registration paper to the driving test center to apply for the license and register for a class. It was a full day course completely in Chinese but was required to attend this class before registering for the exam. Even though the exam was in English the course was only in Chinese. I didn't understand very much of it, I just sat at the back of the room and did some work on my computer.

After completing the class, I was finally able to register for the exam. I booked an appointment 2 weeks later and started studying the questions. When I took the exam I passed with a score of 98/100 but when the test result paper was printed my photo was not on it (there is a web cam taking photos of you while you take the exam). They told me I had to take the exam again because they could not process the result paper without my photo on it to prove it was really me taking the exam. I only got 92/100 the second time because I was so angry and not thinking clearly. That was ok because you only 90/100 to pass. Problem was that the second result paper was also printed witout my photo on it. I told the officer there is no way I am taking the test a third time and demanded that he call his boss. He called his boss and got permission to approve my test result without my photo on it. They said it must have been a bug in the system when taking the English version of the test.

In total it only cost me only a few hundred yuan meanwhile most of my friends were paying around 5,000 yuan (i hear it's up to 7,000 yuan now) to get their licenses without taking this exam.

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