How to Get a Motorbike License in China

Take one look at the traffic jammed streets of China’s major cities and you’ll know that it’s a mad, mad world out there. So obviously you want to be a part of it, right? A lot of foreigners find that driving a car is simply too much of a hassle, what with all the public transportation available and many foreign companies providing their employees personal drivers. But a motorbike? Well, that’s a whole different story – they’re fast, convenient and (usually) don’t cost an arm and a leg. Here’s what you need to know to get yourself in the driver’s seat and join China’s growing throng of motorbike riders.

Who needs a license for motorbikes

First of all, it’s important to mention who actually needs a motorbike license to drive here in China. The rule is really pretty straightforward: If you’re driving anything that is powered by diesel or gasoline (yes, this includes motor scooters), you need a driver’s license. If you’re driving anything electric (like an electric scooter or bike), you don’t need a driver’s license. Got that?

Even if you already have a Chinese driver’s license to operate a car, you still need to get a different license to drive a motorbike. You’ll want to get either a D license (which allows you to drive every kind of motorbike, including one with a sidecar), an E license (which allows you to drive any two-wheeled motorbike) or an F license (which only allows you to drive a two-wheeled motorbike under a certain engine power), depending on your preference.

The process for actually getting this license is similar to getting a license to drive a car.

If you don’t have a driver’s license at all, even a foreign one, you’ll have to take a written test, a minimum of 35 hours of driving lessons, a health check (which basically just consists of an eye exam) and then a driving test. If you already have a license, either one for a car or a foreign one, then you just need to submit the health check and take the written test. But remember – China does not accept the International Driver’s License as a valid license, so you’re just going to have to suck it up and take the actual Chinese driver’s test…

The written test – knowing the questions and answers

Luckily for you, all the questions are online for you to study beforehand. You can download a bilingual handbook with test questions for the motorbike license here. But don’t worry – most of the questions use common sense.

When you’re ready to actually register for the test, ask your local PSB for the office location. You’ll need to bring:

1) Your passport, as well as a copy of the picture page of your passport

2) A copy of your residence permit or visa (must be valid for three or more months) as well as your registration form of temporary residence (the slip you get from the police station)

3) A copy of the latest entry stamp in your passport

4) A copy of both sides of your foreign driver’s license

5) A legal translation of your license done by a certified translator

6) 4 passport-style photos with a white background

7) A completed health check – this can be done at most hospitals for under 50 RMB. These most be provincial-level hospitals or higher. Embassy workers and diplomats should get health checks in accordance with their embassy’s provisions.

8) Your Chinese name and your height in centimetres

Registering for and actually taking the test are the exact same procedures as those for getting a car license. Your motorbike license will be valid for six years, after which you’ll have to go back to the testing office and get it renewed.

It’s required that you have a residency permit (even just a temporary one) in order to receive a motorbike license. Now, I know China allows laws to often be bent, and sometimes even broken, but this is one law you really don’t want to mess with – especially if you live in smaller towns (who are more likely to stop and check foreigners). According to Article 99 of the “Safety Law”, if you’re stopped by the police and don’t have a motorbike license, you’re subject to a) getting your license revoked, b) your motorbike confiscated, c) a possible fine of up to 2000 RMB, and/or d) up to 15 days imprisonment. So save yourself the hassle and get a valid motorbike license!

So you registered, took the test, and have your valid motorbike license – congratulations! There’s just one more thing to keep in mind. If you bought a new motorbike, you’re supposed to get it inspected for “road worthiness” every two years, for the first four years you own it. After four years, you’re expected to get it inspected once every year. The rules for how often you need to get it inspected after that vary from city to city, so make sure you check your specific requirements. The more you know of motorbike laws, the more you follow them, and save yourself possible headaches down the road.