Getting your Driver’s License in China for a foreigner is a three step process :
- Get your eye exam at an approved hospital
- Visit License Bureau to pay fee and schedule time for test
- Take the written driving exam
I had the help of the local company (Asian Tigers) as part of my settling into Beijing program. They filled out the all the forms and drove me to the locations. Only way they could have helped more was to actually take the test for me. 😉
This is a very simple eye sight and color test administered by a “Doctor” at a approved hospital. The form requires two photos (you can generally get them taken across the street); I got 6 for 20 rmb. Be warned that if you wear glasses to your exam and require them to drive your photo should be taken wearing your glasses. When you arrive you pay a 10 rmb fee with your eye exam form at pay station in the hospital. You then retrieve your receipt and queue for the eye exam. The eye chart instead of the normal alphabet letters is a series of rows all containing the capital E; each E is facing either up, down, left or right and they start out large on the top row and get progressively smaller. The eye exam consists of you standing with the chart behind and above you, you face a mirror and view the reflection of the chart behind you. The “Doctor” points to a letter on a row and asks you which direction its pointing.
I watched some poor guy ahead of us get grilled 10 or 15 times; he failed because he wasn’t wearing his glasses and couldn’t determine the direction of the E’s. I was only asked two questions with rather large E’s and got them both right easily. They asked me if I could see the red colored 69 in the mottled green and red drawing (a standard test for color blindness) and that was it. Except for the “Doctor” having to guess my height in centimeters, which he got within a single cm. I put “Doctor” in quotes because the test was so rudimentary that anyone could have administered it, and despite his white hat and outfit I am not convinced he was a Dr.
There is a license bureau per district in Beijing. We visited the headquarters in Chao Yang district. It was a big shiny bright new building. We handed in another form for application for a driver’s license. This required another copy of my passport photo and they made photocopies of my passport with a valid residency permit and my temporary residency permit. They also made a photo copy of my US driver license. I paid 50 rmb and scheduled a time at a later date for my driver license test. You can view the time slots for the tests online but you can only apply in person. After paying the fee we walked up stairs to get a copy of the Review Materials for motorized Vehicle Drivers Test; it comes in English, and cost me 90 rmb for the booklet.
If you are a Chinese citizen you are required to take driving lessons from a school which entail 60 hrs of driving and mastering and passing off certain driving skills such as driving your two weeks up a raised plank for a certain distance and weaving in and out of set cones on the road. (there is an excellent book all about driving in China called Country Driving, which goes into a lot more details). The written test itself is comprised of 100 questions of which you are only able to miss 10. The booklet is written in English; There are a series of 1350 questions that organized by sections spread out over 100 pages. There is no discussion or written text of guidelines or principles. Everything you need to know is imparted through the questions. So you have to glean the principles from reading the questions. 1350 is alot! The good news is that all the questions are there, the bad news is that some or oblique and some are downright tricky.
There are three main kinds of questions :
- multiple choice
- true of false (called Judgment questions)
- pictures of signs with mulitple choice answers
The first time I only had 2 calendar days between when I got the booklet and when I took the test. This amounted to about 5 solid hours of studying, which was frankly just barely enough time to finish reading the booklet 5 minutes before I took the test.
Sadly I failed by 1 question. I retook it an hour later and failed by 3 questions. I was able to pay another 50 rmb and I have an appointment to retake the test in a few weeks.
Here are some of my favorite questions from the book :
- The motorized vehicle driver _____________
- May drive at will when there is no traffic signal
- Should drive according to the traffic rules and in a safe and courteous manner
- May drive at will when there is no traffic police
- May drive according to his habit
- Answer B
- The driver may drive a motorized vehicle ______________
- After drinking alcohol
- When he suffers from a disease that impedes safe driving
- When he is exhausted
- After drinking tea
- Answer D
- When running in the road section having no speed limit signs, the motorized vehicle __________
- Should run at the designed maximum speed of the vehicle
- Is not subject to speed limit
- Should run at a safe speed
- May run at will
- Answer C
- When encountering slow-moving vehicles at an intersection that has no traffic signals, the motorized vehicle should_________
- Move to the right land overtake
- Overtake from the left
- Pass alternatively
- Cut in the waiting vehicles
- Answer C
- When causing a road accident involving no human casualties, the parties to the accident should ____________ if they have no dispute over the fact and cause.
- Park the vehicles in the original place, preserve the scene and wait for the traffic police to handle
- Immediately leave the scene to discuss compensation on their own
- Not leave the scene
- Preserve the scene and request the insurance company to assess the damage
- Answer : B
- A motorized vehicle driver who drives after drinking alcohol is subject to the temporary detention of the driving license for __________ and also a fine of 200 yuan ~ 500 yuan.
- 12 months
- 6 months
- 3-6 months
- 1-3 months
- Answer : D
- When causing a road accident involving only slight property damage and the basic fact is clear, the parties to the accident___________
- Should not leave the scene
- Should report to the police immediately
- Should first leave the scene and then discuss how to solve the problem
- Should park the vehicles in the original place and discuss compensation
- Answer : C
- If a motorized vehicle driver has illegally installed siren and marker light, the traffic control department of the public security organ should force him to remove them, confiscate them and impose a fine of _______
- 100 yuan ~ 200 yuan
- 200 yuan ~ 500 yuan
- 200 yuan ~ 2000 yuan
- More than 2000 yuan
- Answer : C