I plan to go to China with a one or three-month tourist visa. I will apply for a temporary driver license at the airport in Beijing. Is it possible with this license to rent a car and drive outside of Beijing, for instance to Shaanxi province?

I know, some people say it is not possible to get a driver license in China. Other say it is possible, but nobody will rent a car to me. According to these sites it should be possible at the airport in Beijing.



  • Where do you plan to get a proper Chinese translation of your home license? – user13044 Jul 23 '17 at 22:25
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    Do you have a Chinese credit card as a security when renting? Otherwise I would expect you might need to leave twice the cars value in cash in order to be able to rent. That aside, why would you drive such a route? Getting a driver with a van is likely not any more expensive and train/plane or even bus a lot more comfy. That being said, two related threads on reddit: reddit.com/r/China/comments/303cj3/… and reddit.com/r/China/comments/60h70c/… – mts Jul 23 '17 at 22:29
  • I forgot to mention, I will do the road trip with a Chinese friend. Unfortunately, my friend doesn’t have a license. But it helps with the translation and the credit card if they don’t accept my one :). I will never ever pay a Chinese driver or join a group tour! – Patrick Jul 23 '17 at 22:34
  • Having a look to the sample Chinese license on the Motorhome China page it says Operation of rental cars only. So your friend would rent the car and put you on the rent contract as a 2nd driver?!? Without him actually being able to present a license as the first driver? It may be possible, but by now you might be one of the first doing this kind of thing. Also there are Chinese drivers that are well worth their pay, given also that you save. Finally, again on the Motorhome China page, there is a report of them renting a ... motorhome. Have your friend start asking around rental outfits?! – mts Jul 23 '17 at 22:39
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    Intrigued by your question I researched some more. These guys (in German, long story) managed to almost rent a car, but failed without a Chinese credit card. On the other hand wikipedia says: The driving license is then accepted by car rental companies. That may be good enough for you if your Chinese friend has a credit card. Google image reveals some of the permits are without the flag for rental cars only. – mts Jul 23 '17 at 23:26

tl;dr: It should be possible but do not expect it to be easy.

There are three questions at hand, first getting a Chinese driving license, whether it is valid for driving in other provinces and finally renting a car.

  1. Is apparently a fairly easy process in Beijing airport by now, as spelled out in most detail in your linked reports and confirmed in many other places.

  2. I found at least one trip report that implied people were driving across the whole country on such licenses and the pictures of such license which I find online do not state any limitations.

  3. The problem with car hires in China is that they are not accustomed or directed to international travelers. You will need to be insistent, fluent in Chinese and/or have access to a native speaker dealing on your behalf, ready to spend some time and maybe try and shop around in a few places. That being said, there are reports of people being able to rent cars, also with a temporary license.

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