China does not recognize a foreign or international drivers licence. So  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.

But you can convert your own driver’s license into a Chinese one by doing an exam and some necessary paperwork.

I am sharing this step by step guide for you to get through the process in Shanghai.

Basically the process is similar in other cities, let me know if you have any question.


How to get a Chinese driver's license in Shanghai

How to get a Chinese driver’s license in Shanghai (photo by Chao: Lvjiazui, Shanghai)

Documents to Prepare

1. Your valid Passport

2. Your visa:  valid for at least 90 days.

3. Your current valid drivers licence: it shall NOT be a temporary or learner’s licence. The staff will verify your driver’s license.

4. Certified translation of your original driver’s license.

Take a picture of your driver’s license and send it to Shanghai Driver’s License Translation , You can get the certified translation within 48 hours.

4. Obtain your temporary residence permit from police station: this applies to all foreigners, even if you already have your residence permit in your passport. You should already have this document if you live in China.



Where to go and What to Bring

The Driving License Issuing Authority is the Shanghai Vehicle Management Bureau

( 哈密路1330号 /No. 1330, Hāmì street).

Ensure you have all the documents ready and do NOT forget the photocopies

  1. Certified translation of foreign driving license
  2. Original driving license + photocopy (front + back)
  3. Passport + Passport copy (front page + residence permit page)
  4. Temporary residence permit + photocopy
  5. Address and your Chinese name (Both in characters).


Get a Chinese Name

Without a Chinese name you cannot get a licence.

Best way to get a Chinese name


Procedures to Apply for the License

  1. Take Photos: normally takes you 10-15 mins.
  2. Physical check-up (bring your glasses if you are short-sighted).  it might take 20-60 mins depending on how many people taking the medical checks.
  3. Process documents
  4. Apply for a theory written test date: normally it will be scheduled after one week.
  5. Take the written test.


Tips for Your Written Test

  • An applicant needs to score 90 points out of 100 to pass the test.
  • You can take the test in Chinese, English, Japanese, French, Spanish or Russian.
  • Be sure you prepared it well since you need a new appointment for a new test if you fail.
  • The test time is 45 mins.
  • Do not get frustrated with the possible poor translations.
  • When you finish,  just click ‘hand in’ and you will know whether you have passed.

If you pass they give you a form at the same desk.

If you don’t pass you will need to re-book.


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