Obtain a Chinese driver’s license

How to obtain a Chinese driver’s license with one from home

By Carl Hoopingarner

Packing into a subway squeezed against a dozen different strangers is not anyone’s idea of an ideal commute yet that is exactly how millions go to work every day in Tianjin. Taking a taxi isn’t much better when you have the pleasure of being driven by Mr. Bean, Speed Racer or Professor Politics more often than one would think possible. For those of you single, perhaps it’s just part of living in Tianjin but for those with a family the only safe and suitable alternative is obtaining a driver’s license and vehicle, that is, until Elon Musk figures out how to make inner-city hyperloops a reality.

Below I’ll explain the steps needed in order to obtain your license provided you have a valid license in your home country already.

Your first step to freedom on the road is obtaining a驾照jiàzhào Chinese driving license.

What you’ll need:

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  • Driver’s License from your home country
  • Photocopy of your license.
  • Passport
  • Photocopy of the front of your passport.
  • Photocopy of the information page.
  • Photocopy of your current visa page.
  • Photocopy’s of both last exit and entry stamps. (These may be on separate pages)
  • 备查卡bèichákǎ (You get this when you register with the local police)
  • Copy of your备查卡bèichákǎ


[box style=’note’] Make several copies of everything for later use and in cases where you will need to give a copy to several different people. [/box]

Step 1.

Get your home countries driver’s license translated by an official translator.

天津翻译中心 can translate your driver’s license within a half hour or so for 100元. They are located directly across the street from Tianjin Foreign Studies University 天津外国语学院tiānjīn wài guó yú xué yuán.

Contact Information

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Address: 天津市和平区马场道64号

Land Line: 23253701

Mobile: 23256273

Website: http://www.fanyitj.com/contact.html


Step 2.

Get your physical check-up

Taking care of the translation and physical check-up the same day is easy if you start in the morning. Now that the translation is complete go down the street to公安医院 on 南京路 where you will first take pictures and do a quick physical for 45元.

Step 3.

Go to the Tianjin Traffic Police Management Bureau Office of Vehicle Management 天津市公安局车辆管理市所 in your district.

Copy and paste天津市公安局车辆管理市所in Google and a map of all the available offices will appear. Chances are you will go to the 河东Hedong District branch or the 北辰 Bechen branch. The following directions are for the Hedong district branch where I took the test.

Enter the first building on the left (building 4) after you enter get a number for the queue on the left. Present all your paperwork including your physical checkup paperwork, they will find your state/province and a copy of someone else’s license from there as reference to see whether or not yours is a fake. After some eye-browing you will be told to go to the testing building. There you simply need to show your paperwork again and you will be given a slip of paper showing the days and time the test can be taken.

Step 4.

Study for the test.

The test can be taken in Chinese or English. Although the test was changed in 2013 it is still very necessary to study the “old” test questions. There are a few caveats to keep in mind before continuing.

No matter what your study materials the chinglish on the test will not be exactly the same. My advice is to study the rules, regulations, penalties, signs, road markings and the general way questions are presented and worded. Memorizing answers to the study questions although helpful in understanding how the questions may be presented is not a replacement for understanding the actual laws.

You must score 90 or above in order to pass. You can take the test two times before you have to pay a fee of 60 RMB to do so a third time. If you fail the test you can take it again the following test day.

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Online Study Materials, which really help


[button url=’http://www.china-driving-test.net/’ size=’small’ style=’blue’ target=’new’] Read more here: Online Study Meterials [/button]

This website is by far the best resource and the only one you need to pass the test. First go here and read through all of the study material for the old test. This may sound like an easy way to get a nose bleed but it will ensure you pass the first time. After you’ve spent a few days (or a day if you have that much free time) start doing the practice test and quiz. Copy down all the questions you have problems with and add them to an SRS style study app like Anki. Once you think you have all of those down, start studying the questions on the main page of the site, these questions should be the same as the old questions but in visual form which makes them much easier to answer. (As if they weren’t already easy to answer!)

[box style=’note’] Here is an Anki deck I put together with images covering the new 2013 questions. Share it.[/box]

[button url=’https://mega.co.nz/#!LdpVACqQ!FFPDOxp0tuQiDdNv4Zn8E3Bot49pt8HFBERLYN-k3mw’ size=’small’ style=’blue’ target=’new’] New 2013 China Driver’s License Questions [/button]

Your testing center will sell a 2008 question bank book for 50 元 which is entirely unnecessary. The only difference between the questions in this book and the ones found online are the local laws and regulations for Tianjin in the back of the book (which in some cases completely contradict national laws) which are not on the test.

I found that for myself, after failing the first test (I scored 81 after only studying the pictures on the main page) that the test of the old material was quite accurate to actual test itself. The first two times I took the website test without studying I received an 81 and 82. After three days of studying I had pushed up to a score of 93. The following day I took the test and passed with a score of 93. So if you’re passing the test on this website chances are you will pass the real test.

Step 5.

Take the test.

If you’re taking the test for the first time you will need to sign your name in English or Chinese, your sex, nationality and phone number. The proctor will explain how the test will be taken for Chinese and foreigners. Don’t expect any translations; however there is someone who can speak English that you can talk to after their presentation is over. You’ll then wait for them to call your name after which you will enter the testing room. You’ll need to find the computer with your name on it. During the test you can ask the proctor questions by raising your hand. There will be a camera facing you during the test, it will take three pictures during random times so it’s important you keep your face centered the entire time. The test lasts 45 minutes from the moment you hit start. The English test allows you to change your answers before you submit it so take advantage of this by making mental notes on questions that repeat or give away answers to others.

After submitting the computer will display your score, if you passed with a 90 or above leave the room and go to the small window next to the testing room. They will print out your information. If you didn’t pass there’s nothing to do, make sure you take your paperwork with you and go back the next testing day with it.

ID’s are printed the same day (this is according to the Hedong center) at 11:30 a.m. so you will be waiting around for an hour. Your ID can be picked up at booth 1 in the building you registered for the test, it will cost you around 10 元.

[box style=’success’] Tianjin Bang would like to thank Carl for his very in-depth article, and for his kindness of sharing this with the rest of the expat community. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave the below, or join our community and post them on the forums.  [/box]


14 thoughts on “Obtain a Chinese driver’s license

  1. I recently renewed my licence and had a little problem with the Chinese name on the beichaka not matching the Chinese name on my licence. Something to look out for.

    Also, and I could be wrong here, but don’t they offer the test in some other languages in addition to Chinese and English? I seem to remember they do, though it was several years ago I did it.

    • Hi Andrew, yes they do provide the test in several other languages. I don’t really want to post what they are as they may have been changed since last time I did this, and don’t want people to take what I say to heart, but you can always ask the local license office prior.

  2. @Adrew,

    Yes they have the test in Russian, German and a few others I can’t remember. I made sure to use the same name on my BeichaKa so I hopefully won’t have problems later. How long have you been driving in China? My license is valid for six years.

  3. I’ve been driving for six and a half years.

    A couple of other tips about driving here: the drink driving limit is much lower here than in most other countries, so don’t drink anything at all if you are going to drive, and don’t drink heavily if you are going to drive early the next day.

    If you drive to Beijing, TJ plates are not allowed inside the fifth ring during rush hours, and the number plate restrictions in Beijing also apply to non-Beijing plates. You will be fined, though you may only find out next time you try to enter Beijing. It can be a real hassle.

    • I don’t recall how much the test was but it wasn’t anything outrageous. If you have a drivers license from your home country you will not be required to take a test of your driving ability.

  4. Hi Carl,
    is it possible to get a 备查卡bèichákǎ from the local police if you are staying inside a university?

  5. Ren, Sorry for the late reply. That’s a good question, I don’t have the answer. Your best bet is to go to uni office and ask if they can give you one. If they say no that’s probably not the end of it, I’d then go to the nearest police station near the uni and ask if they can issue one and what you’ll need. If not, go to the Traffic Police Management borough and ask if a university student can drive and how you can get a license without a 备查卡. Let us know what you find out.

  6. Hi. Thanks for the great info. I am starting the process next week. Couple of questions.
    Do you know if it is possible to get a motorcycle endorsement in Tianjin? I have it on my US license and want one for China.
    I live just south of Hexi chu and am wondering if all the offices have the facilities to handle forieners or not.
    Thanks in advance

  7. I don’t know enough about this to be of help but maybe someone who does can chime in, you may have better luck on Tianjin expats if you search their forums; I’ve seen people talk about this before there.

    Good luck with it and please post what you learn here for the rest of us.

  8. I don’t know enough about this to be of help but maybe someone who does can chime in, you may have better luck on Tianjin expats if you search their forums; I’ve seen people talk about this there before.

    Good luck with it and please post what you learn here for the rest of us.

  9. My husband and I just finished getting our licenses today at the Hedong location, and we found that it was also required to have our passports officially translated (maybe this is a new requirement?). The first time we went in that was not done so we had to go get it done and come back the next day. We had a difficult time finding out the testing times and if we would have to make the appointment and come back another day or be able to do it the same day. We never did find out the current official test days (we heard Tues and Fri mornings from one source but this is unverified) because we were so relieved to have passed the test on the first try that we forgot to ask the exam proctor, but from our experience if you have all your application stuff complete on Tuesday morning around 9 am that you can walk in and take the test as long as there are computers available. There were not that many people taking the test when we were there. Hope this helps someone!


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