Tourists and Travelers to China have many great means of transit at their disposal, buses, trains, taxis and flights. We’ve enjoyed all these well connected ways of getting around this vast country.
Our thoughts turned towards how a car rental would work and so we did some research on the topic. The overall answer for travelers and tourists to China is that renting a car is not possible.
China does not accept the drivers licenses of most other countries as valid nor does China recognize or participate in the International Drivers Permit program. The only way a foreign driver can rent a car legally (and we say this because there are companies and businesses which will rent illegally which is a big risk) is to convert their license to a Chinese Drivers License.
How to get a Chinese Drivers License
The overall process of getting a Chinese Drivers license can vary from place to place. In Big Cities like Beijing and Shanghai there are more venues in which to take the test and it is available in major world languages. The smaller the town in which you apply, the more likely you will have to take it in Chinese and if you don’t speak it, you will have to bring a translator. A test must be taken in which you score a 90% or higher to pass. It can involve multiple trips to the office and so this process is only practical for those foreigners living or working in China for an extended period of time.
What options remain
Driving in China can be challenging from the road conditions, to the hectic traffic and to the parking. Public transit is very well developed and so it is not much of an inconvenience. If a car is the best way for you to get around however, the most common recourse it to rent a driver or a taxi for the day. There is good room for negotiation and one should get a quote from a hotel concierge as to what prices range from locally.