How to get a Chinese driver’s license in Shanghai (including a motorcycle license)
Just a note that this information may be horribly outdated by the time you read it. My Shanghai riding buddies inform me that now foreigners actually need to take the written driving test in Chinese.
When I did the test, one only needed a foreign license (British) to drive a car.* I’ve heard that the procedure varies depending on your nationality. For example Belgian passport holders don’t need to do ANY test. You’ll note in the following description, that at no point did I take lessons or do any practical test on a motorcycle to get my license…
So yes, the place to get your license in on Hami Road. This is called the 车管所 （cheguansuo）and is frantic as it’s not only the testing centre fro licenses but also the issue office for license plates in Shanghai.
You could take a Chinese local with you but in my case my lady friend actually took us to the wrong places, so… I’m pretty sure you can do this on your own. Plus… there is a lady in the Hami road （哈密路）Traffic Police centre (at desk 44) who speaks English.
The nearest subway stop is Shanghai zoo, Line 10. It’s a bit of a walk from the subway station to the centre, but not complicated to find- it’s right next to a gas station just inside the outer ring road(外环路).
I asked for a Chinese car and motorcycle license (C1-D in my case- the ‘D’ is the highest level and includes sidecars- awesome for me, although was confusing when I got it because I thought a 三轮车（sanlun Che）- three wheeled bike was only for disabled people – I was most upset and thought they’d not given me a full motorcycle license.. little did I know that the lady at window 44 had given me the full endorsement and a rare license to ride sidecars, which I was able to do just six months later- awesome:)
*This was in October 2010.
I’m going to give details on how to get a Chinese driving license if you already have one in your home country and if you also have, or will have, a residence permit to live in China- say you are working here (this is a separate full page sticker you get in your passport when you come here to live and work and is not the ‘z’ class visa). I don’t know about the situation with those who enter for study, although I know they also get a residence permit.
It is apparently possible to get a temporary driving license when entering China with a Tourist (‘L’ class) visa, but my friend from France was turned down when he got here because they said he needed a 30 day entry, annoying for him because he had had that option in Paris but the consular staff never advised him to get it although he told them he would need a driving permit once inside China – it might be worth getting this at the consulate in your country.
That said, I’ll continue. So you go to the Hami road centre with a copy of your foreign driver’s license, and a Chinese translation of this. You need to go to one of two places in town to get it translated by an approved agency for about fifty yuan. This is great because you can give them your arbitrarily chosen Chinese name.
You take a number downstairs then go to the second floor at the back and hope that you are referred to the English speaking lady at desk 44.
Then she sends you outside to run between buildings and get photos taken (I did this right before closing so it was deserted and a real rush) and have some simple medical tests- eye check ( “cover your left eye, read this”), hearing test and reflex test- pretty sure I remember the older lady in a white coat hitting my knee with a comically small hammer. Go back upstairs and hand this all in the choose a time to come back and sit the written test. This all costs next to nothing (under fifty yuan for the photos and medical)
When you come back to the centre, you’ll go to the second floor, and if you go to the back, there is a door at side of the room that goes outside up a fires escape and leads to the silent test centre where there’s a rather military-like guy pacing up and down, computers against the walls and a T.V. to watch horrific traffic accidents on whilst you wait for your test.
The test is timed and It’ll give you 100 random questions. You need to get a score of ninety to pass. If you stuff it up, the drill sergeant guy will, kindly, allow you another go that day. If you don’t pass the second time, it’s time to head back down to the lady at desk 44 to arrange another sitting in the future.
A note here, don’t just go on the internet like me and answer test questions because when you come to do the test, you’ll find that the website you visited only had about a quarter of the questions and was in ridiculous Chinglish. Instead, pro tip here, download the app for your phone ‘Drive in China’ by Michael Borgers and use this. It’s a little expensive but is comprehensive and has a flashcard style learning system, telling you when you’re ready to take the test.
If you pass, you’ll go to the second floor and pay a paltry sum, like 20 yuan and they will make up your card license.
It’s worth checking the current situation with the traffic police. Here’s their website. If you are occasionally character challenged like me, whack it into Baidu or google translate. I’m sorry, you’ll need a Chinese speaker to look over this but..