How to Get a Driver’s License in Beijing

How to Get a Driver’s License in Beijing


Q:  When a vehicle overturns slowly and jumping out of the vehicle is possible, the driver should jump _____?

a. In the driving direction
b. In the overturning direction
c. In the opposite direction of the overturn
d. To the overturning side

Q: When encountering pedestrians wearing cotton-padded caps or overcoats in winter, the driver should honk and be ready to brake.

True or false?

If you don't think there is ever an appropriate time to jump out of an overturning vehicle or if you aren't able to tell the difference between cotton-padded and fur-lined caps while traveling at 50 km/ph you should probably do a little bit more reading before attempting to take your Chinese driver's license test. (The answers are: c. In the opposite direction of the overturn; and True by the way)

As more and more expats living in Beijing and other parts of China are joining the masses on the road you may need some help navigating the process of getting your Chinese license. This article is based upon my personal experience getting my driver’s license in Beijing in the summer of 2010. This article is for people who have a license in their home country, but are interested in driving in China, not for first time drivers.


Before you go down to the Motor Vehicle Administration you'll need to get the proper documents in order. Here is the list of what you need:


  1. 6 Photos of yourself (small 2.5x4cm head-shots on a white background)


  1. Passport


  1. Visa - Z (work) or F (business) valid for at least 3 months


  1. Residence Permit


  1. Overseas Driver’s License


  1. Completed Medical Exam Form*


  1. Completed Overseas License Translation Form*


*These forms are available at the Motor Vehicle Administration or in digital form at as part of the larger China driver's license guide.

You can get your photos taken at any little Kodak shop with a computer. They should be able to take the photos, print them and give them to you in less than 10 minutes. It should cost between 20 and 30 RMB.

The medical exam can be done at any provincial-level (or higher) public Chinese hospital (no foreign hospitals though). Attach one of your photos to your blank medical form and bring it with you along with your passport. The Medical Exam is basically just an eye, height, and weight exam so no need to fear needles or the possibility of disrobing. Make sure to get your official hospital stamp before you leave the hospital, I got my stamp from the Info Counter in the main lobby.

The most ambiguous part of the process is the overseas driver’s license translation. It is somewhat unclear as to who can translate it for you. Most sources on the internet say that you need an official, legal translation, but nothing on the form or website actually say that. I know several people who have translated the form themselves or had a friend do it, and had no problems at the Motor Vehicle Administration. 

If you prefer to use an official translator I tracked one down at the north-east inside corner of 2nd ring road. I have a feeling that these places are all over the place, but this is the one I know about. It cost 120 RMB for the official translation, and they were able to do it in about 10 minutes.

Getting to the Motor Vehicle Administration

Once you have all of the documents on the check-list you can head down to the Motor Vehicle Administration. You will need to go there at least two times, once to schedule your appointment and a second time to take the test. 

The Motor Vehicle Administration office is located at the south-east corner of 4th ring road, just south of Shiba Li Dian Nan Qiao bridge. You can take the 740, 840, 803 or 952 bus, or take a cab. Their hours are weekdays 08:30 - 17:00.

The Foreign Affairs Department of Beijing Motor Vehicle Administration 北京市公安交通管理局车管所外事科 View In Map
Add: No.18 Southeast 4th Ring, Chaoyang District, Beijing
Tel: 010 8762 5150

Once you are at the MVA go around on to the left to find the entrance for the Foreign Driver’s Administration to schedule a date and time for your written test.

Grab a license application form and fill it out. The form has to be filled out in the Chinese, but since I don’t write Chinese the security guard helped fill out the form for me. There is a form with English on it available but it’s only for reference. You will also need to have a Chinese name that you can either write in characters or have it written down somewhere to ensure that the correct characters are used.

You will be applying for a C1 type license. One of your pictures should be glued to the form, the other two will be handed in with the rest of your paperwork.

You probably won't be able to pick the date and time of your appointment, so you'll just have to try to make your schedule work for whatever time they give you.

Study for the Test

The test itself is 100 randomly selected questions from a pool of 1300. If you have driven for a long time or fancy yourself as an especially good test-taker, you may be tempted to just go ahead and take the test without studying. This would be a mistake. The Chinese driver’s test is very difficult because there are a lot of crazy questions on it. Some of the questions make sense and should be no problem for most people, some are worded or translated strangely and are therefore difficult to figure out, some of the questions have answers that seem to make no sense (many of them related to traffic cop hand signals) and a couple of the questions are completely ridiculous and hilarious like the ones at the beginning of this article.

You can get a study booklet upstairs in the main hall of the Motor Vehicle Administration office before you leave after scheduling your test. The book should be 90 RMB. If you have access to an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad, I highly recommend downloading the China Drive application from the App Store for $2.99. It has all the questions that could be on the test, plus road sign flash cards and a practice test option that chooses 100 questions and mimics the real test.

The nice thing is that the questions in the Study Booklet and China Drive App are worded exactly the same as on the test, so you can simply memorize the answers.

Taking the Test

On the day of your test, go back to the Motor Vehicle Administration building. Again, go back around to the Foreign Driver’s counter with your receipt from when you scheduled your test. There will probably be about forty other people waiting as well. When it’s time for your scheduled test one of the administrators will bring everyone into the testing room. The testing room has forty-some desks and computers. Just pick one and sit down. You can choose which language you would like to take the test in, but I suggest English.

You will be given forty-five minutes for 100 questions, and you will have the opportunity to review your answers before you submit

After you have finished bring your receipt to the attendant at the front of the room, and
he /she will stamp it if you have passed.

The truth is, many people fail their first test, so don’t worry about it if you do. You can just schedule a new test date. It’s free to retake the test. If you passed your test, you will want to go back to the Foreign Driver's desk and arrange for your license to be delivered to your home or office. Alternatively you can come back and pick it up at the MVA in a couple of days.

You will need to pay for the delivery at the Foreign Driver’s desk (10 RMB) and then go out to the main hall of the MVA and go to line number 20 (marked on the diagram on page 6) to fill out the delivery card for EMS (E-something Mail Service). Again I don’t write Chinese, so I had someone else who was standing in line help me. I received my license in the mail within three days, but they say it can take up to a week.

Total Cost

In the end it cost me about 480 RMB to get my Chinese driver's license, but it would have been cheaper if I hadn't paid for the official license translation.

200 RMB - Transportation (taxi 4 x 50 rmb)
50 RMB - License fee
10 RMB - Delivery
90 RMB - Study Book
10 RMB - Medical Exam
120 RMB - License Translation

*This is a simplified version of a longer more in-depth guide that I put together that you can get at The guide includes more tips on studying for the test, a key to hand traffic signals and digital versions of all the forms you need. 

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Keywords: How to get driver’s license Beijing how to drive in Beijing how to get Chinese drivers license Beijing Beijing driving license tips


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