Driving, getting a license and traffic rules in China.
Car ownership is on the rise in China due to the government making it easier to get cars and the effort made to create a market for locally produced vehicles. When you land in China to teach English, you will need to figure out how you will be moving around the city where you work. This will be primarily determined by the length of time you plan to stay in China. You will need your own car if your stay is a bit longer.
Here is what you need to know about driving in China:
For you to drive in China, you must have a valid Chinese driving license. Additionally, only Chinese residents drive on China roads and convert your visa into a residence permit in 30 days after you enter China. If you are in China for a short period (less than three months), use your international driving license to get a temporary driving license.
You should get a permanent driving license if you intend to stay in China for more than three months. Ensure you have a driving license from your home country or own an International Driving License for you to apply for a Chinese one. Written and practical tests prove that a person can indeed drive.
To get a Chinese local driving license, you need the following:
- A valid passport
- Visa or residence permit
- Passport photographs
- Health certificate
- A copy of your international driving license or from your home country
- Certified translation of your driving license
- A copy of the passport page with the latest entry stamp to China
When you have completed your tests, present the documents above. You will receive your Chinese license in a few business days.
Traffic rules in China
Every country has traffic rules, and China is no exception. Traffic rules are often ignored, and cases of road rage are quite high in China. China’s large population and industrial boom have contributed to this. China as a country is quite young on matters of car ownership. People are yet to adjust to the drastic change brought about by the industrial revolution.
This list highlights the basic traffic rules in China:
- Always drive on the right-hand side of the road and..
- Overtake on the left side. On expressways, cars may sometimes overtake on the right side if it is safe.
- Have your driver’s license (temporary or permanent) and your residence permit every time you drive.
- Drunk driving is prohibited in China. In fact, it is a criminal offence and the police in China conduct random crackdowns. They do this to identify drivers who operate cars while drunk. In this case, they identify drivers that exceed a certain alcohol limit in their bloodstream.
- All passengers must wear seatbelts. However, this rule is not always observed. The Chinese government runs sensitisation campaigns on the need to wear seatbelts for safety.
- Do not use a handheld device while driving and…
- Observe speed limits. In China, speed limits range between 40km/hr to 120km/hr depending on the type of road in use.
- Obey all the traffic signs on the road. Traffic signs and symbols tend to be conventional throughout the world. You will understand the symbols if not the words.
- The minimum legal age to drive in China is 18 years.
- If you get into an accident, remain at the scene. Leaving the scene will have you heavily penalised. Take photos of the damage immediately and wait for the necessary help. Dial 122 to call the police, 120 to call an ambulance or 119 to call the fire service.
- All vehicles are registered with a traffic control department within your area of residence.
- It is compulsory to have car insurance.
- Do not drive with headlights switched on during the day, as this could attract a heavy fine.
As a teacher in China, ensure to follow these rules. Breaking traffic rules in China is punished by fines and penalties.
State and type of roads in China
There are three categories of roads in China:
- Expressways: These are motorways. They have several lanes moving in different directions. Expressways are used for long-distance travel and are identified by a G which is followed by 1, 2, 3, or 4 digits. Most expressways are toll roads with service stations, restaurants and well-labelled exits. The speed limit on expressways is 120km/hr.
- National highways: These are roads that link connect towns and cities. They are identified by the letter G followed by 3 digits. The speed limit on national highways is 50km/hr-80km/hr.
- City roads: City roads are the roads used for movement within cities and towns. Speed limits are 40km/hr-70km/hr.
There are 3.5 million kilometres of roads in China. 99,000 kilometres of these are expressways. It easier to drive on expressways for foreigners where there is a free flow of traffic. However, expect traffic snarl-ups sometimes, there is an influx of cars due to China’s large population as well as the industrial boom.
Resources and further reading