Have you been keen to learn about all that China has to offer? If so, you are certainly not alone. A growing number of travellers from all walks of life are choosing to explore this vast landscape on a decidedly personal basis. One of the best ways to enjoy your stay is to plan a China self-drive tour. What do you need to know in advance? What are the steps needed to obtain a temporary licence? Are there any rules and regulations which may seem quite different when compared to other countries? If this is your first time considering such a trek, it is critical to answer each of these questions in greater detail. Let’s break this topic down into a handful of clear sections.
Unlike some other countries, foreigners cannot simply cross the border and begin driving. It is necessary to obtain a temporary driving licence before getting behind the wheel of any motor vehicle. The good news is that the required documentation is rather straightforward. You will need to possess a valid driving licence from your country of origin, a recent set of photos and a valid passport. One caveat here is that (at the time that this article was written) those travelling from Belgium are not required to take any type of examination. However, this is a rather “grey” area and it will ultimately depend upon the test centre as well as your country of origin. This is why it is a good idea to contact the relevant authorities in advance in order to fully understand your requirements.
While some drivers will be provided with a temporary permit immediately, there are other instances when an examination is first necessary. This one-day test consists of 100 multiple choice questions (90 or more will need to be answered correctly). However, it is always possible to obtain a cost-effective translator and there are many times when this individual will actually tell you the answers to the associated questions (this is especially beneficial if you happen to be taking the examination in a smaller region or province). Major cities offer the test in numerous languages and the questions are generally straightforward.
Those who are completely new to China could very well be better off opting for a sponsored self-driving tour. There are several benefits (as well as a possible drawback) associated with this option. The advantages include:
The only possible caveat here is that this method is somewhat more expensive when compared to obtaining a temporary permit without any help. Furthermore, the process itself may take up to three months to complete. Thus, obtaining the services of a professional firm may be the best option if you are planning a cross-country journey well in advance or if you are simply not comfortable personally obtaining the necessary documents.
It is a foregone conclusion that the driving rules associated with China can be somewhat different if you are arriving from another portion of the world. However, we should point out that all motorists drive on the right-hand side of the road (common in other nations). Speed limits will vary depending upon your location. Much like other countries, these tend to be more restricted when navigating through major cities or if you happen to be driving on a challenging road. However, it is possible to enjoy speeds of up to 120 kilometres per hour if you happen to be on a national expressway.
In terms of traffic violations and similar infractions, there are some similarities as well as a handful of noticeable differences. Generally, those who travel no more than 10 per cent over the speed limit will not be subject to any type of fine. However, driving faster than 50 per cent of the posted limit can result in a penalty of up to 2,000 yuan (€255 euros or £216 pounds). In other words, always obey the speed limits relevant to a specific area and pay attention if they happen to change.
When we take into account the 9.6 million square kilometres of land area, it should come as no surprise that the road conditions throughout China will vary. Major motorways and expressways are generally maintained quite well; offering petrol stations, service stops and emergency assistance when required.
On the other end of the spectrum, roads located within more urban areas may not be nearly as maintained. Potholes, missing sewer drains and narrow passages can be encountered on occasion. These areas are likewise not associated with signage in two different languages. Therefore, those who do not understand Chinese may run into problems when navigating between two different points.
Keep in mind that some stretches of motorway can likewise be quire remote. If you happen to break down or require some type of assistance, it might be difficult to contact the local authorities. In the case of a minor issue (such as a flat tyre), you may instead have to rely upon the general public for assistance. This is why those who are considering a China self-drive tour should always prepare for the journey well in advance. We will therefore move on to discuss some primary safety concerns as well as to briefly examine what to expect in regards to traffic as well as the behaviour of other drivers.
Any China self-driving tour needs to address safety as a paramount issue well before the trip ever begins. Much like when touring any country, it is a good idea to bring along a handful of items in the event of a breakdown or a similar unexpected situation. Some worthwhile suggestions include:
If you choose to employ the services of a third-party vehicle supplier (such as companies which provide self-driving tours), always determine when the unit in question was last inspected. Be sure that important safety features such as headlamps and brakes are all functioning properly. When in doubt, speak with a representative. If he or she cannot offer adequate explanations, it is best to look elsewhere.
Chinese drivers may appear to navigate somewhat aggressively; particularly those associated with congested urban conditions within cities such as Beijing and Guangzhou. This is does not necessarily represent a rude disposition, but merely the ways in which they have learned to drive. Minor traffic accidents are not frequently reported to the police and issues such as sudden lane changes can be quite common. In the same respect, many drivers may not give right of way and some have been known to pass through a traffic light even when it is red. This is why it is critical for foreigners to always be aware of their surroundings at all times.
Self-driving tours are some of the best ways to appreciate all that this eclectic nation has to offer. Still, a bit of preparation will go a long way if this is your first time undertaking such a journey. Always feel free to refer back to the information contained within this article and when in doubt, do not hesitate to contact a professional tour agency or a government office for further details.