Q: How do expats apply for a driver’s license here?
A: The first thing that must be made clear is that it is illegal for foreigners to drive in China with a foreign or international license as China has not joined the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic.
Foreigners who want to drive in China should apply for a Chinese driver’s license.
Foreigners who already have a valid foreign or international driving license need at least 90 days remaining on their visa or a Shanghai residence permit to fill in a registration form of temporary residence.
A formal translation of your foreign license into Chinese is required.
Driving theory test
After making an appointment for a computer-based driving theory test, applicants can take their time to review the reading materials about the test.
“I opted for a standard service from a driving agency for foreigners,” a Japanese analyst in his 40s, who works in the city and asked not to be named, told Shanghai Daily.
“They provided me with review questions and answers in Japanese. They also accompanied me to the test center that day.”
The general computer-based driving theory test center in Shanghai now provides versions in different language, including English, Japanese, and Korean.
An applicant needs to score 90 points out of 100 to pass the test.
Once the written test is over, foreigners who already have a driver’s license from their home country are not required to take a practical test. But a health check is mandatory.
Andersen, a German designer, applied for a Chinese driving license last year.
“We were asked to read letters that were on a lighted panel, covering my right eye and left eye in turn,” said Andersen. “It was a way to check our eyesight.”
Take to the road
If all procedures go smoothly, foreigners can get a Chinese driving license on the day they complete the theory test and health check.
Then reality sets in.
The Japanese analyst said it doesn’t seem like anyone really knows the rules of the road.
“On the streets of Shanghai, few drivers pay serious attention to driving rules,” the Japanese analyst said.
“People overtake from the right, cyclists ride against the flow of traffic and pedestrians jaywalk. And that’s just the beginning. Every day seems like a another driving test for me.”