Just as we need visas for ourselves, we need to have the necessary documentation for our motorcycles as well. The information below is from a China-departure POV. The basic documents are:
a) Motorcycle Registration (green book)
b) Power of Attorney (PoA)
c) Vehicle License (blue book)
e) Chinese Driver’s License
f) International Driver’s Permit
h) Carnet du Passage (depends on your route. Read more)
a, b) Motorcycle Registration & PoA
Because we are foreigners in China, we had trouble registering the motorcycles under our own name in our respective provinces. The Departure of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in Wuyuan, Jiangxi, had never processed a foreigner’s registration, and the DMV in Beijing does not allow foreigners to register Jing B license plate (Jing A’s cost about RMB 130,000).
As a workaround, we both asked the motorcycle dealer to help register the bikes under friends’ names (best to register under a person’s name rather than a company’s). Then we asked our friend to:
1) sign a Power of Attorney (PoA, which basically says that his friend allows Jieming to use the motorcycle)
2) help notarized the PoA.
To further complicate matters, because Jieming’s friend was married, Chinese law requires both his friend and his friend’s wife to sign the PoA, and they have to bring along their Hukou booklet. So the whole family came along, because they couldn’t leave their kid at home.
c) Vehicle License
This blue book comes once the vehicle is registered, and your motorcycle dealer can usually do on your behalf for a fee. You will have to pay the vehicle tax (approx 10% of vehicle value).
The mandatory Chinese vehicle insurance is done along with the registration and license.
e) Chinese Driver’s License
Because China did not sign the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic, it is one of the few countries in the world that do not recognize International Driver’s Permits (IDPs). This means that by
law every driver in China must have a China-issued license. If you have a foreign license, you can convert it to a Chinese one by going to your nearest DMV (车管所), doing a perfunctory medical
check-up (don’t worry, you will pass), and scheduling an appointment for the 100-question written test. Big cities will usually have the test in English. If you’re in a small city that doesn’t
have one, you can sometimes ask to bring a translator to the exam. There is also an English iPhone app called “Driving in China”, but I don’t think any exists yet for the Android.
f) International Driver’s Permit (IDP)
Once you leave China, the IDP will usually suffice. This can usually be obtained at your local DMV or Automobile Association at a very low cost.
Be aware of scams! Although scrappy-looking, authentic IDPs are simply pieces of paper stapled together (below left). Organizations that try to sell you International Driver’s Licenses, are usually scams. When you call them, the person that picks up may sound like they’re from Nigeria, Eastern Europe, or Russia. Jieming unfortunately fell for that trick…(below right).
For Chinese Nationals
Because China does not recognize IDPs, it also cannot issue IDPs. Therefore, you have three options
- Cross your fingers and hope you don’t get stopped by the popo
- Translate your Chinese license into all major languages in the countries on your route (English, French, Russian, Spanish)
- Go to Hong Kong. Chinese nationals can convert their licenses to HK licenses, and then to the IDP. These are the requirements, and there are ways to satisfy them if you're really serious about it:
- >1 year old license. Due to a new law that came into effect in 2013, Chinese license holders have to wait for one whole year after their “practice period 实习期” passes before they can apply for the HK license
- HK proof of address. Phone bill, electricity bill, bank statement…
If you’re reading this section, you deserve a pat on your back, and there are other ways to get a license. Send us a message in the Contact Us section and we will tell you more.
You will need translations for your registration, license, and if you’re a Chinese national, perhaps your driver’s license. Get these from the most authentic-sounding translator association (i.e. Shanghai Interpreter’s Association) in your area. Because we’re passing through Central Asia, Europe, and Africa, we got English, Russia, and French translations.
photos, words and illustrations
©Nathaniel Brown and Jieming Sun, 2015