The Nightmare of My Last Months: Getting a Driving License in China

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I passed! I finally passed! So it took me only 3 times plus two additional trips for each time I went but I did it, I finally have my Chinese driving license!

Well, for most people the test is piece of cake; they probably tell you: ohh that’s nothing, I passed on my first time! For me on the other hand, it was a nightmare!

My dad is probably very disappointed at me; after all I’m the daughter of a driving instructor.

Well, back home in Israel I did pass for the first time, the theoretical test and also the practical one. The truth is, I had so many classes during my learning period, that after driving with my family to Eilat (6 hours driving from Tel Aviv) I stopped counting.

Okay, so now let me explain to you, THE WHY.

1. English is not my first language and some of the words in the test I just couldn’t understand, like: auxiliary, abruptly, collision, hazard, rear….and what’s the difference between press and depress? Also not to mention the chinglish questions that really sometimes does not make sense at all!

Why use those words?? What the hell is “Auxiliary”?

Why use those words?? What the hell is “Auxiliary”?

2.I don’t have time to study! I work all the time and on my spare time I prefer to do other things than study…

3. Every person told me to download a different app to study. Finally I had 5 different apps for the test and none of them felt like the real test; in the end I bought a book (not that it was that helpful).

4. When you fail the test, they give you the final score, but don’t tell you which questions you got wrong and then you might answer the same wrong answer again.

So maybe I don’t need a license in China, its too dangerous, traffic is bad, public transportation is great. On the other hand, there is never a taxi when it’s freezing outside but I can manage, right?

I’m starting to hallucinate...

I’m starting to hallucinate…

Okay, last time I will go to the test and this time I will study hard. So, for the third time I went of course I didn’t really study, but I had the book and I pass for the first time! So exciting!

Let me explain to you how it works for the expats who come to China and would like to be able to drive by their own:

1. I had a company that assisted me (Beijing Expat services) but I believe that if you speak a bit Chinese you can do it by yourself. You need to have a copy of your documents:

  • Your Foreign Drivers License (both sides);
  • Your Passport (+visa page);
  • The Registration Form of Temporary Residence. Click here

And then fill all the paperwork or just give it to the company to handle it.

2. You need to go for a health check up: they check your weight, height, eyes vision etc. Don’t forget to bring with you besides the application forms, 1-inch white-background photo (4 pics, if you don’t have, you can get it near the hospital in 5 minutes) Here is a small tip: come there in between 11:30am to 12:00pm, it’s right before lunch time and they just want to finish with you and go for their lunch.

3. You go to the police bureau, where you get the form with your photo and register the date for your test, usually it’s after one week, but not more than 2 weeks.

4. Then you come to the test on the day it has been scheduled – DON’T FORGET YOUR PASSPORT AND THE FORM! Of course it happened to me and I was 5 minutes late for the test; they don’t let you in and you need to pay 50 RMB and register for the next test.

The test room was full of people in the morning, after 2 fail tests I was left all alone :(

The test room was full of people in the morning, after 2 fail tests I was left all alone 🙁

5. After you pass the test (horayyyy) you can come again after a few days for your driving licenses or give your address and they will deliver it for you.

6. So now I have my driving licenses, hmmm now what?

Is the test trying to tell me something?

Is the test trying to tell me something?

If you have enough money to buy a new car in China you need to know that in order to get a license plate number for your car you need practically to win the lottery! You apply for it and wait until you “win” the approval from the authorities, it may take some time to get it… a friend of mine is still waiting  and he applied 4 years ago. Second and faster way is to rent a car also not so cheep.

After you rent the car you need to take under consideration that there is a parking fee for everywhere you go in the city, plus the costs of fuel, insurance and last but not least, the penalty points system! You can get points on almost anything you do on the road, 12 points is the maximum you can get in a year, after that your licenses is revoked.

You can get 12 points for drinking a sip of alcohol, for causing an accident and running away, if your speed is faster than the speed limit more than 50%, if your license plate is not attached to the car and more. Since there are cameras almost everywhere in Beijing they track the violation and send the ticket to your home and the number of points you’ll receive, then you need to go to the police and get the points on your license. The funny thing is that they don’t necessarily know who was driving the car at that time, so you can claim to get the points on your driving license even if you weren’t driving at the time. I heard that some people actually make money out of it, they charge 100 RMB for every point they put on their driving license, so they can make 1,200 RMB a year! For not even driving one day in their life, all they need is the driving license.

Why “she driver”?

Really! I still don’t understand this question… the picture, if you can’t see good, it says that the red X not allow to drive on both sides

Really! I still don’t understand this question… the picture, if you can’t see good, it says that the red X not allow to drive on both sides

So, now after knowing all of this in advance I’m not quite sure after all if I’ll be driving in China, maybe just for some weekends to get away with Luna from the foggy city, but at least now I can! And I passed! 🙂

Have a safe ride in Beijing, and be careful xiao xin 小心!

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Meirav 梅花 Shacked - The Israeli girl beyond the Great FireWall (of China). Currently living and working in Beijing, China for the last 3 years, Meirav is involve in the local Chinese online & social media scenes as well as the conventional global platforms. Meirav loves a good 'night out' at a chic KTV (karaoke) club as well as getting lost in Beijing old town alleys (Hutongs) while posting her adventures on Instagram (@meimarko). She might just be the only blonde who commutes daily in the Beijing subway, along with 12 million other Chinese passengers.

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