It is well known that a foreigner who wants to drive a foreign vehicle inside China needs to be accompanied by a guide - which makes this very costly: I have been quoted almost 7000 USD for 2 weeks drive through China, which is not something I am willing to pay, so either I find another way, or abandon the idea for the trip.

One travel agent claims to be able to arrange self-driving in China without a guide, but attempts to get in contact with him are unsuccessful: http://www.laurastraveltales.com/overlanding/overlanding-china-self-drive-and-without-a-guide-its-now-possible/

However lets look at these facts:

1) Foreigners can get a Chinese driving licence in China and drive Chinese-registered vehicles inside China without being accompanied by a guide.

2) For the expensive tourist self-drive through China with a guide, one needs to obtain a Chinese driving licence and affix Chinese licence plates for the vehicle anyway.

If the foreigner has a Chinese driving licence and his vehicle has Chinese licence plates, what makes him still need to be accompanied by a guide, while the same foreigner with his Chinese driving licence could borrow a Chinese vehicle and drive it himself without a guide? What makes the vehicle he brought from abroad, which now has Chinese licence plates, any "less Chinese" then a vehicle he could borrow in China and drive without a guide? What caveat in Chinese law requires one to be accompanied by a guide in one situation, but not the other? What I am missing here?

  • Questions tagged [rationale] and [legal] are a hard one but my guess is that in the one case the car has to enter and leave China before and after the trip.
    – mts
    Aug 1, 2016 at 9:50
  • It could be a scam by tourist agencies, rather than a real requirement.
    – JonathanReez
    Aug 1, 2016 at 12:02
  • i was just wondering, how can you bring a foreign vehicle to China ?!
    – Fattie
    Aug 1, 2016 at 16:03
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    Sure - I just meant, I mean, from what country!? Surely you mean driving it in to China right? (ie, not arriving by RoRo or some such ??)
    – Fattie
    Aug 1, 2016 at 16:10
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    @JoeBlow yes, for example driving from Kyrgyzstan via the Irkeshtam border crossing, and then to exit China to Laos via Mohan Port crossing.
    – lowtoxin
    Aug 1, 2016 at 16:14

1 Answer 1


I'm unable to quote any laws or regulation here, but take a closer look at it, in the end the cases are different:

As I wrote in my answer to your related question here, in case 2) you only get some sort of temporary driving licenses. Whereas in case 1) you will need a full-blown Chinese driving license, international licenses are not accepted.

Car Registration
Again, in case 1) there is nothing special about the car, but in case 2) you are temporarily importing a foreign car and in just about any place in the world there is paperwork etc. associated with that.

So I see it from the point of view that scenario 2) is a fairly special case for the authorities since you do not have a Chinese license and import a car. Instead of saying no they do allow this, but under the special conditions of a needed tour company + guide.

  • 1
    In case the downvote was more than a revenge-dv please do let me know so that I can improve this answer.
    – mts
    Oct 21, 2016 at 12:01
  • What I don't understand is how for example people in north Vietnam would visit their friends across the border or go shopping in China? It would be bizarre for them to hire a tour company and guide. In all the rest of the world (except North Korea and Myanmar) such things as cross-border car trips are common and normal thing to do, facilitating commerce and allowing people living close to each other, but separated by a border to maintain connections. Does such things simply do not exist across the Chinese border, with own vehicles of residents of neighbouring countries?
    – lowtoxin
    Nov 26, 2016 at 18:03

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