Riding Motorcycles in China

I had never ridden a motorcycle until I came to China in 2006. This is probably why I crashed into a shop door within three days of buying my first motorcycle. I survived but the door did not. I had to pay 300 RMB to have it repaired. This early negative experience, however, did not dampen my enthusiasm for riding motorcycles in China and 6 months later I completed a lone 2000 KM motorcycle journey through Central China which took me through large cities and the open countryside.

I suppose that a disclaimer is needed before I continue writing this article. Riding a motorcycle in China is dangerous. But you are going to do it anyway, right? Just make sure that you understand the risks: other vehicles, drivers who completely disregard traffic rules,animals,bad road conditions, crazy bicyclists, rogue policemen. Driving a motorcycle can be extremely exhilirating in China but when something goes wrong there can be very serious consequences.

I purchased my motorcycle at a market near the center of town. My Chinese friends helped me bargain and I was able to buy a brand new 150 cc motorcycle for about 300 US dollars. I was too nervous to drive it home on the day that I purchased it so I asked one of my friends to deliver it to my apartment. I spent the next week driving up and down my small street as I practiced switching gears and using the accelerator.

In China, like many other countries, a motorcycle driver must register with the local government. A Chinese identification card is needed to complete this process. One of my friends went with me and we were able to use his card without any problem. The registration fee  of a few hundred Chinese yuan included an insurance policy that would protect me in the event that I accidentally injured someone or destroyed another vehicle.

As I grew more and more confident on my motorcycle, I took it longer and longer distances. The convenience of not having to wait for buses or pay for expensive taxi rides far outweighed the trouble of parking my motorcycle and securing it. For about US $1.50 worth of gas, I could travel for 130 Kilometers before having to refill the tank.

As the months went by, I became more accustomed to the “rules of the road” in my town. Motorcyclists and bicyclists could do as they pleased while cars had to pay more attention to traffic lights and lanes. If a road was blocked, it was perfectly acceptable for a motorcyclist to drive up on a sidewalk or maneuver in between cars. Motorcycles could also be parked virtually anywhere including on the side of streets or even on a sidewalk.

It was in 2006 that I felt comfortable enough with my motorcycle to take a longer trip. I began planning a 7 day trip that would take me through Wudang Shang in Hubei, up to Xian in Shanxii Province then over to Shaolin Temple in Henan Province. There were no English maps available in my town so I asked a Chinese friend to help me translate the names of the cities. I put numbers by the major cities that I would be passing through and then I entered these numbers (along with their coordinates) into my GPS. I also added the name of the city in English.

I left one early morning in May with nothing but a duffel bag strapped on the back of my bike. The first leg of my trip was a twelve hour journey to Wudang Shan, the birthplace of Taoism in China. A day later, I rode 13 more hours to the ancient city of Xian, where I visited the world famous Terracotta Warriors. It was not long before I was back on my bike again this time driving 11 hours to spend some time at Shaolin Temple in Henan Province, the birthplace of Chinese Kungfu. Altogether, I spent more than 50 hours driving and traveled well over 2000 Kilometers.

My only encounter with the Chinese police occurred on the first leg of this long trip. A policeman was standing in the middle of the road in front of a brick factory randomly pulling over vehicles. He motioned for me to pull over; I was wearing my helmet so I do not think that he realized at first that I was a foreigner. He was friendly but even with my limited Chinese, I could clearly understand what he wanted me to show him. All drivers in China are supposed to have a valid Chinese driver’s license. I did not have one; all I had was my international license. So, I did what I have done before in other countries when I knew that I needed to get out of a situation. I played dumb; I simply stood there and smiled. After about 5 minutes, he got tired of trying to make me understand what he wanted and waved me through. I was very greatful because I realized that he could very well have confiscated my motorcycle.

Other than a flat tire and a minor brake problem, the rest of my motorcycle trip through China was fairly uneventful.  A gas station  fixed my flat tire for free and the repairs to my brakes costed less than 10 RMB. Everywhere I went, people were extremely friendly and helped me as much as they could.

However, as I traveled I did pick up on a few tips that might be helpful to some of you who are planning on riding motorcycles in China.

  • –Some cities do not allow motorcycles to operate. Make sure you find out about bans in the areas that you are traveling to.
  • –It is very important to have a front wheel lock on your bike as well as some sort of metal locking device on the back wheel.
  • –Always lock your bike no matter where you are or what you are doing. I have had countless Chinese and American friends lose their bikes because of carelessness.
  • –Be aggressive but defensive when driving in China. Other vehicles will often stop suddenly in front of you or pull out and cut you off. Be especially wary of taxies.
  • –Do not get angry if you are cutoff by someone. Bad driving is apart of Chinese culture and if you plan to drive a motorcycle you will just have to get used to this fact. I have rarely seen examples of “road rage” in China other than incessant pounding on horns
  • –Be especially careful of people when you are driving. Many cities in China have severe consequences (at least monetarily) for injuring pedestrians. Unlike other countries where pedestrians can sometimes be faulted, the driver is always at fault in China.

I had a bike for nine months in China and I had relatively few problems. I was sideswiped by a taxi driver and did crash into a door but I escaped serious injury. Multiple attempts were made to steal my bike but because of the locking mechanisms that I used, the attempts were unsuccessful. I would probably never drive a motorcycle again in China unless I had to because of the risk. For those nine months, I really did need a motorcycle and I do not regret the time I spent driving. But driving a motorcycle in China should only be done by responsible people who have enough common sense to operate a motor vehicle safely. If that is you then go for it! But please be careful and understand that the risk is great.

37 Responses to Riding Motorcycles in China

  1. Tony says:

    Hi very interesting post but very old, I hope it’s still active and the info current. Now you are going to laugh! I want to ride a Honda 50 from Paris to Singapore! A 50cc as I want to travel slow and don’t care about speed. I am an American and managed to get a Russian visa, don’t need one for Mongolia. Hopefully I will get one for china. I plan to ride my bike from Mongolia to Vietnam.
    First question is can I cross from Mongolia and then cross to Vietnam? Do I need a guide? I have read some stuff where foreign car drivers need to hire guides to a company them. Will I have to book accommodation in advance as they ask this stuff on visa form or can I camp?
    What else do I need to know? Will I still have to get a licence as described here? Have any of you guys crossed into/ out china on a bike? Thank you Tony


    LJ Reply:

    It is commendable that you you are trying the impossible. I wish I was doing it too.
    A 50cc bike, especially if you are camping, will not be able to haul you and your gear over mountain passes. I would highly recommend at least a 150cc. If the 50cc engine is two-stroke you will need to carry oil with you. Chinese bikes are four-stroke; neat petrol.
    Crossing into China may be problematic but I have read that regulations have changed recently which may allow you to do this. Formal paperwork will be required at the border.
    Strictly speaking foreigners are not allowed to drive in China without taking the licence exam and have a work or 90+ days visa. The Chinese do not recognise any International Driving Permit.
    The only time you will require a guide in China is if you travel within the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) which requires a separate permit (research it).
    For your Chinese visa make a fake pre-booking at a hostel and use that for your application. That’s what I do. They like to see flight bookings too. How the bike would be incorporated into the application form I don’t know. Try to make your application look touristy. Mention that you are going to places like Xi’an, Chengdu and Nanning. Nanning is close to the Vietnamese border.
    I have purchased a motorbike in Qinghai, three years running, and rode it illegally through the mountains to the south, from Yushu to Kangding, without any issues relating to licence or paperwork. Your most difficult bit will be at the international border crossing from Mongolia.
    Good Luck and travel safe.


  2. Maurizio says:

    Ok guys I’m Italian and my plane is to fly in Beijing, buy a motorbike and then come back in Italy through Kirghigistan, Tajikistan Uzbekistan Russia.
    Can you give me an exact contact of agency or office in that is possible bring my italian licence driving, my international driving licence and get the conversion for the chinese licence ? Do you think is possible to do this on line sending the scanner copy of the documents or you’ve got to be in China ? In these case, how many days do you need to get the chinese licence ?


    LJ Reply:

    Strictly speaking foreigners are not allowed to drive in China without taking the licence exam and have a work or 90+ days visa. The Chinese do not recognise any International Driving Permit and you cannot convert your Italian licence. At best it will take you days to organise and take the driving test and may take well over a week. You would be more successful if you have a Chinese speaking friend with you for the application and the test. You will need a visa with more than 90 days on it.
    Do not buy your bike in Beijing. Travel much further west to somewhere smaller and remote where officialdom in town is more relaxed. Motorbikes are banned from a lot of Chinese cities.

    Good Luck and travel safe.


  3. BEST AWNSER says:

    will, if you guy want to buy a moto do not buy a moto made in china a leaving here for 5 yes and in 2007 i buy the first moto in china , made in china. the quality here is very very bad, and very easy to broket want a good motos yes you can buy in china but are not made in here, here i totally buy 4 motos, the chinese one, HONDA CBF 125 JAPONESE BUT MADE IT IN CHINA, 2- HONDA HORNET 250 THIS MODEL ONLY MAKE IT FOR ASIA, SUZUKI GSR OF DOUBLE ESCAPE 400cc AND HONDA CBR 600 2009 MY LAST ONE, you can see the webs in http://www.taobao.com you can look for it and latter go to visited the shop, if you are in jiangsu best city to boy ir is WUXI or CHANGZHOU, but best shop where i buy it is in SHANGHAI.


    PC Reply:

    Hi best Answer,
    I must disagree with you. I have been in and out of China for 20+ year and understand manufacturing.
    I have seen Chinese manufacturing change. Competition is keen. Most motorcycle buy their engines from limited sources. They only make the frames, fenders, and other small parts.

    It is unimportant where you buy the motorcycle. It is the brand and reputation.

    Most Chinese cities do not allow over 250cc, some do not allow over 125cc to be registered. I understand the maxumium is 250cc.

    When buying a Chinese bike, look at the welding of the frame. Too cheap bike have an unprofessional welding. If the welding is smooth and consistant, then it is done right. If it is sloppy, then do not buy.

    Chinese engines are ok, depends on how you use the bike. Jap brand names are better, even made in China.

    For intents and purposes, where can you buy a bike for 6,000 to 10,000rmb? Consider it a throwaway.

    I have seen Harleys (made in USA) with a Chinese plates. I do not know how the did this. I will inquire on my next return trip.


    BEST AWNSER Reply:

    Hi PC.

    I understand and respect that you want to disagree but i jut put before what happend before to me not lies. and you are wrong about the chinese cities not allow the moto, is not a law abut can not use it or use it for example i have a certificate that i can use the moto between 18.00 and 08.00 in the morning you can see the signals but if you dont have it the police take away your moto,(ANY MOTO).

    The one of 125 is made in China i buy it in changzhou but is made it in Hanan the others ones.

    Honda hornet 250cc,honda cbr 2009-600cc,suzuki GSR 400cc, this 3 are made it in japan the first and the last one only ,make it for asian market.

    I know Iknow, i buy the one made in china the first one, the welding is good you need to know is a honda but very big BUT is made in china, is the engine(MOTO) very bad, and that is the reason i have it in the garage.

    The moto between 6.000 and 10.000RMB ? and any moto shop.

    Look i leaving here every single day in china, i understand what you said, but im very inside of this wordl, i also manufactured and i understand everything that you said, but is the true, ou donr believe? ok, but when you go to ask yopu will see if im aright or not…



  4. AncientHunter says:

    hello all,

    This seems like a good thread to ask this question.

    First off I am Canadian,

    Me and and my brother plan on traveling by motorcycle from Shanghai to New Delhi (India)

    We plan on passing through Nepal, the route of course takes us through Tibet. Do we need to get a special permit to do this? This Hong Kong/ PRC license trick seems easy enough and we have a friend already in China who can help us get the bike. International license should take care of India and I’ll just bribe my way through Nepal if need be.

    Any words of advise?


    Philip Reply:

    There are two ways to do this. The GungAn (PSB chinese police) are more strict now (in cities, especially)(depending on the area)and the laws are constantly changing. They are even harsh with their own. I do not reccomend playing with them. Do it legally. Three ways:

    1. Get a temporary license:

    It needs following materials for application:
    1, Driver’s Passport information and its copy.
    2, Original Foreign Driver License with its Chinese version (translation).
    3, Aged 18 old and over. Body Healthy Certificate for driving in China.
    4, 2 Photos (1-inch size)
    5, Certificate from Chinese Organization if activity organized by Chinese Organization.
    6, Temporary Driver Permit (License) Application Form
    7, Some PSB will arrange you to learn the China Traffic Regulation.

    Total cost about 150-250USD, vary from one PSB to another.

    2. Get a real license with your foreign license.
    Take the written test with a hired translator (who will give you the correct answers and pass the written test. Cost a few hundred RMBs. Wait 5 days to get your REAL license.

    3. Pay 4,000-5,000 rmb to an agency to get the license without written test, but check with the PSB’s computer to see if it is real. Chinese love to counterfeit.

    Best way is to take the written test with a translator who will give you the right answers. Important facts, the Chinese written test is in Chineghish. Hard to understand what they mean for their grammar and use of word is “foreign” to us. Apply when you arrive and rest up from jetlag or sightsee for 4-5 days (waiting for license).

    I do not have any first hand knowledge about Napal, but know that they like to play games and corrupt.

    Better to spend time and enjoy yourself, rather than spending time in a Chinese jail, pay a heavy fine and get stranded.



    BEST AWNSER Reply:

    I do not have any first hand knowledge about Napal, but know that they like to play games and corrupt.

    Better to spend time and enjoy yourself, rather than spending time in a Chinese jail, pay a heavy fine and get stranded.





    Aleks Reply:

    I managed to get my chinese driver’s licence investing less than CNY200 and spending less than a week. Had my original driver’s licence from Europe, legally translated, passport copied, 2 one inch photos, went to the traffic bureau applied for the licence, passed a simple health check. From the internet I downloaded the questions, spend 45 minutes understanding the Chinese penaly system, arrived to the computer exam (which is actually properly in English)n scored 90/100, and got my licence on the same day. It was as easy as it sounds. Yes, there are some difference in Chinese traffic laws, and other countries laws, but it’s mostly common sense. The questions are like: If it is a heavy rain and road not clear, what should you do: a) drive fast, b) pull the hand brake, c) stop in the middle of the road, d) adjust the speed limit to the road condition and pay extra attention to safety… Now if you can not pass that, then you should not even consider of thinking of having a driver’s licence at all.

    Anyways, guys, I hope this helps!



    BEST AWNSER Reply:

    Philip that is to dificult he will spend much more money and that wey that is the wey that not many peoples will use it i need change my licience every 5 year, u just need go to the licience office and talk to the boss pay like 4000RMB and he will get you a licience, after 2 weeks, 2000RMB is for the licience the 2000RMB is called corruption, now yes be carefull when you go to do this take a chinese people whit you a boy is better, bussines man to man in china is better even this little things.


  5. duncan says:

    Hi, I was just wondering if anyone could shed some light on a hazy and complicated issue.
    Basically I plan to buy a bike in Hanoi (Vietnam) and cross into china at the Lao Cai crossing and ride across Yunnan province into Tibet over one month.
    However, everywhere I look people say varying things, such as you cant cross the border with a bike, then the bike size (CC) maybe too high.
    It is seemingly harder and harder, would I be better off crossing the border then purchasing a bike, and if so, is that legal for me (a Brit) to do so?
    The most part it seems the only way to cross the border with a bike is to go with a tour guide also, is this right??
    It would be mos appreciated if anyone could answer any of these.


    PC Reply:

    I (American) have traveled in China near 20 years and have never seen a foreign license, with exception of Hong Kong and Macau (with special permits, and this applies to cars and trucks.The only known exception is a Harley Motor Cycle club, imported their bikes to tour China, but they had to get permission.

    Motorcycle engines are limited in size to 125cc to 250cc, depending on locality, but still must be licensed and registered within China.

    In recent years, Chinese Driving License and enforcement has changed, because of the sheer volume of motorcycle.
    There was a time when a motorcycle was a status symbol and few. Now it has become ubiquitous, because it is so cheap. Gung An (Chinese Police) are starting to enforce the laws strictly, such a helmets, registration and license.

    Many cities such as Guangzhou, motorcycles are forbidden and subject to fines and maybe jail.

    You must have a Chinese Driving License. Your foreign license can be converted. Depending on the locality, you might have to take the written test, but probably not have to take the road test. The test can be in English, but it is really in Chinglish (meaning English with Chinese grammar and hard to understand). I will post details, if someone needs to know. I have a list of the questions, if one wants it.
    There are many companies that will convert or get you a license through their relationship with authorities, but if you do this, you must check if it is a fake. You can check through the Motor Vehicle’s computer. It is comes up, it is legal. If it does not come up, it is a fake, and you got cheated. Beware the companies that “converts” Licenses will ask you for 1000rmb deposit, but will not tell you the full cost (although some will). It could cost near 4000 to 5000rmbs.

    It is cheaper and better to spend some time to take the written test. The cost is a few hundred RMB. For a few hundred more, you are allowed a translator. For this fee (a few hundred, negotiable) he will not only translate, but give you the correct answer.

    If will spend a lot of time in china, this is the way to go.

    Concerning ownership, only Chinese citizens or foreigner with residence permits may buy a motor vehicle. This may be circumvented by having a friend purchasing and register in his name.

    On the question of touring Tibet, A Tibet entry permit must be gotten for foreigner, especially American and British. Permits are not needed for Chinese or Hong Kong citizens. Remember, this a paranoid communist regime. Foreigner need entry permit for Lhasa. Other areas will need another permit. Permits require you also travel with a tour group or independent travel hire a guide. In actuality this guide is your hired spy.

    You are a foreigner, trying to import an illegal bike, with no Chinese License, and illegally going to Tibet, I suggest you add to your itinerery, jail time, providing you get through Chinese customs and immigration first.

    I am an American (Chinese), so I know what you are thinking. Easy Rider is not available in China for us American and British.

    Is there anything else you need to know?

    My advice, take a tour and stay out jail. Chinese jails is not known for their hospitality.


    PC Reply:

    Hi Ducan,
    When you cross the Viet Nam/China border, you will need a China Entry Visa. If you purchase a Chinese motorcycle, a cheap one will be about 6,000 rmb includes registration plate and insurance. You will not be able to buy in your own name, so have a friend buy it for you. This will be a throwaway, for your friend has ownership. You can make a deal with your friend, upon leaving China, you will give him the bike for a price (half?). Consider it a rental.

    You can take a chance on not having a Chinese license, but I would not reccommend it. While it is possible true, that Chinese Police may not want to deal with non Chinese speaking foreigners, are you willing to take the chance?

    If you get to Tibet, it will be a different story. As foreigner (especially American and British) you are the target as China sees Americans and British as subversives that are supporting Tibetian freedom and human rights. Some Americans demonstrated at Everest Base camp, so they were arrested ad deported. At the same time they closed the Permit.

    Be Careful. When in Tibet, Americans and foreigners have a target painted on backs, because they do not know any color but yellow.


    duncan Reply:

    Thanks for the information, I have posted on a few sites and not got anything near as useful, so cheers. I knew it was going to be hard but not as expensive as I have also found out for paying the guide etc.
    Im looking now at the situation of overland by bus/train and save the bike trip for an easier option else where.

    I have a lot of planning to do.
    Thanks again,


    PC Reply:

    What cities do you want to visit and purpose? The are website (mostly British motorcycle club)for arrange motorcycle group trips to China, as well as American Harley Clubs. They arrange converted Chinese licenses (temporary), import and export their rides. I assume this is not cheap, but you can inquire. I have a Harley which I would like to have at my Chinese abode, so I know the problems.

    I have visited many places in China, so maybe I can give you some direction. I do not know your entry point in China, so I assume you are going via Viet Nam from Hanoi.BTW do not look for the Hanoi Hilton (where us pows were kept), because there is now a real Hanoi HILTON.Haha

    The entry border should be the Hailong bay region (Mong Cai) 21degrees 32’15.79N 107Degrees58’05.65E on ur GPS.
    From Hanoi go to Hailong Bay region to take ferry to Vietnam/China border crossing (Mong Cai). It is Russian built. Russian ferries, I take. Russian airplanes, I do not take.

    Tour the Chinese town ( really nothing special)and get to the Long Distance Bus station to Nanning (Guangxi). If on budget, take “Motorcycle taxi”. A few RMB usually 3-8 rmb.

    From Nanning you have many choices:

    Guilin (Karst nature)
    Lijiang (world heritage ancient town)Danba minority culture
    Dali (Li minority culture, Erhai Lake)
    Kumming (flowers)

    From any of these points, there is always long distance buses to get to the next point.

    Buses in China are cheap. Trains are cheap, usually under 100rmb (depending on distance)with the exception of the Bullet trains (high speed 250-350km/hour). Buy ticket at bus or train counters only. do not buy from hawkers outside. Many ticket are counterfeit and overpriced.

    “Motorcycle” taxi are negotiable, especially if you are a foreigner and do not speak the language.

    Stay at youth hostels (cheap and helpful for they speak English catering to young people. Many hostel websites.

    Traveling alone is one thing. Traveling with a companion is another.

    As anywhere you go Tourist are easy prey. So think and be careful.

    Hint:Go to the cities of your choice by long distance bus or train. Take a local tour bought in any city or hostel for that area in China. Everything is arranged and you do not have to worry about getting lost or cheated.

    About Chinese Train.
    There are several classes. Hard seat (just a seat)Hard sleeper (dormlike bunks)and soft sleeper (4 bunk to a private room). Check Chinese train website as to schedule and class availability and prices. Hard seat and hard sleeper are cheap. Soft sleeper are about same price as taking plan, except you do not have to get to the airport.

    Trains station are usually in the middle of the city (like Europe).

    Tibet tours are overpriced. It is possible to sneak in, only if you look Chinese. I assume you are not. Have a Chinese friend buy the train ticket. Dress down. Take the train. Hope there is not a id check on train (there sometimes is). Only if you like the high (007). checking in a hotel would be a problem, for they will copy your ID (passport) and permit (for you have none.I would not do it.

    Any hotel in China is the same procedure. They need to copy your passport and entry visa for the Public Security Bureau,before you check in.

    This is a communist party controlled tolartarin state.

    Is there anything else I could help you out with?

    Good luck!!

  6. […] Drive and Ride a Motorcycle in China […]

  7. Marc says:

    I just wonder how much is your insurance and registration worth, when it comes to a serious, or minor issue. i was riding a bike recently in Shandong province, where the shop did care about license plate and insurance. I’m know in Nanjing, at it seems things are more difficult. The first shop we called up, can/will not provide registration, pisses me really off, damn china.


    Robert Vance Reply:

    I’m not sure what you mean. Are you talking about how you can be paid on a claim related to an accident or are you talking about whether or not a shop will repair your bike based on whether or not you have registration/insurance?

    Fortunately, I never had to test how effective my insurance was but I did have to take the bike in for repairs a couple of times. Including once when some neighborhood thieves tried to steal my bike and managed to jam and break a key in the ignition.

    The bike shops don’t usually care too much about whether or not you have registration/insurance.


  8. Philip says:

    You are correct. Cities like Guangzhou, motorcycle are forbidden and will be fined heavily (if not the motorcycle impounded). If you see the traffic and how Chinese drive in the big cities, unless you have a compelling death wish, you would not want to ride the motorcycle. LOL

    Repeat of the other post in answer to your question about getting a Hong Kong License:

    The Hong Kong Drivers License does not have to be transfer to a PRC license. As of about 5 years ago, there was a recripical agreement. Hong Kong must recognize PRC license to drive in HK, and PRC must recognize Hong Kong License to drive in PRC.

    You only need your native country’s driver license. You do not need an international permit. Your Driver License’s ID number is your passport number. You may have to carry your Hong Kong License as well as your passport.

    You may verify with PRC security or Hong Kong police.

    I have driven autos and motorcycle in PRC with my Hong Kong license for many years.

    There is another problem with ownership of the motor vehicle or motorcycle. In Guangdong, to buy a motorcycle, you must have an PRC identity card. The answer is to have a friend buy the motorcycle in his name. I do not know about other areas.

    Here is another trick I learned. If you want a 250cc, and the area you are staying in limits the motorcycle to 150cc, you can have a friend who lives in the other area, buy the 250cc from another area.

    The cost is 4-5 year ago was 900HKD or about 120USD for a 10 year license. My license covered light truck, automobile, 3 wheeled vehicles, and motorcycle. My basis is my US license covered these classes of motor vehicles.


  9. Philip says:

    I forgot to mention, the Hong Kong license is good for 10 years. 12 USD per year. cheap.


  10. Philip says:

    The Hong Kong Drivers License does not have to be transfer to a PRC license. As of about 5 years ago, there was a recripical agreement. Hong Kong must recognize PRC license to drive in HK, and PRC must recognize Hong Kong License to drive in PRC.

    You only need your native country’s driver license. You do not need an international permit. Your Driver License’s ID number is your passport number. You may have to carry your Hong Kong License as well as your passport.

    You may verify with PRC security or Hong Kong police.

    I have driven autos and motorcycle in PRC with my Hong Kong license for many years.

    There is another problem with ownership of the motor vehicle or motorcycle. In Guangdong, to buy a motorcycle, you must have an PRC identity card. The answer is to have a friend buy the motorcycle in his name. I do not know about other areas.

    Here is another trick I learned. If you want a 250cc, and the area you are staying in limits the motorcycle to 150cc, you can have a friend who lives in the other area, buy the 250cc from another area.


  11. MR says:

    >>the Hong Kong licence route is an interesting idea.

    But don’t forget that a license of Hong Kong has to be transferred into a Chinese license as well, though Hong Kong has plenty of agencies to do it for you, so you won’t have to go to the mainland and can do everything from Hong Kong.

    Though sometimes otherwise stated, Hong Kongers cannot use their license in the Mainland, and Mainlanders cannot use their license in Hong Kong.


    PC Reply:

    MR is correct. Chinese Police have gotten strict and the laws have changed with the circumstance. See other posting concerning convertion of Hong Kong or other foreign Licenses.


  12. Having made several motorcycle tours in China, I would NOT recommend anyone rides there without a Chinese licence. However, the Hong Kong licence route is an interesting idea. Do you simply take the licence of your home country, as well as an International Driving/Motorcycle Licence to the Hong Kong licencing authority? My first tour was in 1986 from Dalian to Hailar. For that we had Chinese Temporary Licences issued with the assistance of the Shenyang branch of the old China International Travel Service (CITS) when it was government-owned. That was an organised ride – there were 12 of us – and you would not believe the level of back-up service we had! The Chinese ‘guides’ almost outnumbered us and after a couple of days it was clear they had no real idea of the distances between towns by road. They had done all their calculations off the RAILWAY distances! Fun times. Last tours have been in Sichuan and Yunnan. Off The Beaten Track, staying away from big cities.


  13. Ryan says:

    Great info Robert, thanks for sharing it. Am getting eager to buy a bike myself, and it’s good to have some first-hand accounts of the risks and pleasures of it.


  14. Mike says:

    I am wondering why your proudly dare to tell that
    1) you do ride in China without a Chinese motorcycle license
    2) that you never had a motorcycle license, even in your own country.
    3) And you still make fun of Chinese traffic, seems you are not better and not more responsable at all than the Chinese drivers and riders.

    Please remember that also China has some laws. That many Chinese disobey Chinese laws should not be a reason for foreigners to do the same.
    It seems the place where you live is not one that has stopped issuing motorcycle licenses.


  15. susan stafford says:

    Hi all my name is Susan Stafford from Australia. I have read your stories and
    there fascinating. I am an experience rider and i`d love to ride throughout
    china and the continent, but going it alone maybe some risks. I met a Japanese
    fella in Cape York who was riding a Honda CT 110, he had all his stuff in
    sidesaddles he was cool mate and going into unfamiliar terroritory it`s rough
    as guts that country, but he did it i heard along the grapevine. If anyone has
    information about group rides or anything i`d love to hear..


  16. Cojo says:

    I would like to point out that not having a license and playing dumb won’t always work. There’s a high chance that the police officers won’t bother you if you play dumb but I think the author plays down the risk in his article. Worst case scenario includes jail time, confiscation of the bike, hefty fines and even deportation.


  17. Ilan says:


    very interesting story.
    anyone knows if it is possible to cross the border with a motorcycle?




  18. […] I want to first congratulate you and your friend on your ambitious motorcycling plans this Fall. Many foreigners have enjoyed exploring China by motorcycle and I am sure that you will have an unforgettable experience. However, there are some issues related to driving motorcycles in China that you should be aware of. I will touch on a few of these issues here and also direct you to an informative article about motorcycles in China written by our very own Robert Vance. […]

  19. Jason says:

    I was an experianced motorcycle rider when I came to China, getting my first motorbike at 10 years old and owning one ever since. Needless to say one of the first things I bought here was a motorcycle. It was a Chinese brand, and I tricked it out to look like an American Harley, more like a chopper. As I have worked on motorcycles for as lond as I had them, and enjoyed this in my pass time. My bike was truely one of a kind. I wish we could post pics here, you would never believed it was made here. Extended forks, bored pistons, custom exhaust, custom handle bars, custom seat, electronic alarm and ignition, the whole nine yards.

    It was a 150cc, but I won several bets by racing 250cc sport bikes, and smoking them.

    However as I mentioned in a recent post here, a few days ago I was in a serious accident which I am lucky to have survived. A man rode directly through a red light and creamed me, totaling me, and all my hard work. My bike is now history and even the police could not believe I survived.

    Point being be carefull. Even an experianced rider such as myself had a brush with death. Driving here is very different from western countries, and that is an understatement to say the least. I would certainly say take lessons if you are inexperianced. Drive cautiously but you will need to be a bit aggressive as well.


    Philip Reply:

    Here is the answer. You go to Hong Kong (DMV)(United Centre) and apply for a Hong Kong Driver License. As of 2007 China must reconize HK license as well a PRC must reconize HK license.

    You pay 900HKD, wait 2-3 hours and bingo, you have a HK license.
    There is nothing Gong An do (unless you pissed him off). It is legal. I got my “PRC driver license” that way.

    Hong Kong makes money and do not care, for HK reconizes Internationl license while PRC does not.

    I tried to get a normal PRC license, but they told me that I must take the written and road test (in chinese, I do not read chinese) and responded ” you must know our rules of road”. I responded “you have not rules, where there is room and opportunity, you go”. LOL



  20. Robert Vance says:

    Hi Dapai,

    Thanks for your informative post. Paying “a motorcycle taxi driver to teach you” is a very interesting suggestion. I never thought about that. Actually, some of my ‘motorcycle pals’ used to routinely convince the motorcycle taxi drivers to let them drive instead. I don’t know if the drivers were crazy or just simply thought all foreigners could drive motorcycles, but my friends were often able to do this.

    I agree with you that in general, a foreign motorcyclist will not be hassled by the police unless he or she is in blatant disregard of a traffic law. Most police officers do not want to waste their time trying to communicate with you in English.


  21. dapai says:

    I motorcycled from Harbin to Urumqi with my two friends last summer. We did NOT have licenses and still got by, admittedly with a few police run-ins. If you can, get the proper paperwork. If not, just don’t break any traffic rules, wear a helmet and it’s likely the police won’t bother a foreigner. He is right about some cities not allowing motorcycles. As you enter, have a look around; if you don’t see any other motorcycles, stay outside the city. When you buy the bike, have the dealer get the license plates for you.

    Another way to learn to ride is to pay a motorcycle taxi driver to teach you and use his/her bike. We paid 50 yuan/hour, and met with him maybe 4 times 1-1.5 hrs each time. When we went to purchase the bike we were ready to ride away like we were pros!

    Nothing beats the freedom of a motorcycle! Be sure to drive defensively!

    Good luck,



  22. Chris Maupin says:

    Awesome post!!! So helpful man! Please please please tell me more about the registration process. I want to ride a bike in China this summer, but I am not a resident and don’t have the card. I’m just a tourist. can it be done?

    Your learning-to-ride story is awesome – I did it exactly the same way when I lived in Oklahoma. I bought the bike and had it delivered by truck. Then I sat in my front yard with an article I printed off entitled “how to start a motorcycle.” Then, just like you I did it a street and a block at a time. Soon it was cruising old 66!

    Hope you can help me with some of my questions.

    S Korea


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