What You Need to Know to Motorcycle in China


So I’ve been in China for almost 2 weeks now, and with most of the moving and settling in stuff out of the way, I’ve been able to start looking at how to go about (legally) getting and riding a motorcycle in China.

There are two important legal issues that I’ve found need to be taken care of: drivers license (驾照, jia4zhao4)and license plate(车牌, che1pai2). In China, they don’t actually accept the international drivers license, so even if you have one from your home country, you have to have it converted to a Chinese one. This involves getting a health check up (which apparently is really just a check of your eyes) and then completing a written exam (which you can have in English or Chinese). I’ve heard that the exam is actually kind of hard, only because they start asking some outrageous questions. The good news though is that apparently the questions are all available online, so you can prepare them ahead of time.

The license plate situation can be a little tricky. There’s a pretty intricate system in place where I am in Beijing with the plates, where depending on what chinese character you have on your plate, you get different privileges specifically regarding how far out from or how close to the center of the city you can go (this applies to cars too). You have to pay for these different registrations of course. This is a wiki article on the system in China.

Despite all this, it’s pretty easy to get away with, from what I understand, having neither, but it may not be a risk you’re willing to take. Last year when I was in Beijing, I briefly had a motorcycle in Beijing and not only did I not have the proper driver’s license, I didn’t even have a license plate on my bike! (you can read the story here)

I’ll be updating as I myself go through the process with tips etc., as I myself find out how to do all this. One of the best things to do is to try and find a friend that knows about motorcycles to find out what they did, where they went, and where they got their bike. In fact, at 6:15 tonight, I’ll be heading out to meet someone to do just that!

Some helpful links:

Vehicle Registration Plates for the People’s Republic of China

How to: Get a Motorbike License in China

How China Works


Update: TheBeijinger.com This is a really fantastic article that I found on Beijing’s major community site “The Beijinger.” It’s an article from a person who has been through this whole process. It is very in depth and helpful. I also recommend scrolling through the comments as some commentors have some good input on their own experiences.