When driving in China it is required by the Chinese government that a guide is present from the moment you cross the border into China until you leave at a neighbouring border, another caveat of this is a prearranged itinerary which is set by the agency which in some respects will allow us to see a huge amount of China but may run the risk of not having those experiences we would have encountered if we were self guided. Some overlanders join together in convoys across China to share the tour costs, we have put our plans out to fellow overlanders for our planned trip and dates and will wait to see what comes up.


Country Infomation


Population: 1,303,701,000
Capital: Beijing (10,849,000)
Area: 9,596,960 square kilometers (3,705,405 square miles)
Language: Chinese (Mandarin), Cantonese, other dialects and minority languages
Religion: Taoist, Buddhist, Muslim
Currency: Yuan, also referred to as the Renminbi

Dates in the country

June 2017


The climate in China varies from region to region since the country is massive! In the northeast the summers are hot and dry and the winters are freezing cold. The north and central regions have frequent bouts of rain coupled with hot summers and cold winters.  In the southeast there is plenty of rainfall, semi-tropical summers and cool winters. Flooding can occur in the central, southern and western regions and the country in general can experience earthquakes. The best time to visit China climate-wise is in spring, from March to April or autumn from September to October.

Public Holidays

  • January 1st New years day
  • January 27th Spring Festival Eve
  • 28th Chinese New Year
  • January 29th – February 2nd Spring Festival golden week holiday
  • April 5th Qing Ming Jie
  • May 1st Labour Day
  • May 30th Dragon Boat festival
  • October 1st National Day
  • October 2nd – 7th National day golden week


  • Apply in Australia
  • invitation letter from tour guide
  • UK application proof of status in Australia
  • visa form and photo
  • passport
  • Apply in Laos Vientiane
  • 30 day visa
  • Passport plus 2 colour copies
  • 2 copies of license and international license
  • Original and 2 copies of invitation letter
  • Evidence of entry and exit of China – from company
  • Recent payslips
  • Evidence of money in account – print out bank statement
  • Passport photo
  • Application form


Vaccines advised:

  • Tetanus
  • Hepatitis A
  • typhoid
  • Rabies
  • tick-borne encephalitis
  • Malaria: precautions in the south of China

Rules of the Road

If you want to drive in China, you need a Chinese driver license. In China, foreigners cannot drive with their National driving permits and International driver licenses. But, Chinese laws allow foreign residents to have Chinese driver license issued by the Chinese government. Our Chinese tour guide arranges this license for us along with Chinese car number plates.

Foreigners with National driving permits and their International translations of driving permit, who come to China for a short-term (within 3 months), can apply for a temporary Chinese driving license at major cities: Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. Before a foreign tourist can drive in China, they need to attend classes to learn Chinese road traffic rules. The temporary Chinese driving license should be used together with the National driving permit; it gives visitors rights to drive small or automatic-gear cars.

Chinese traffic is clearly dangerous for drivers and pedestrians. In China, the driving manner strongly differs from European and American. You should be prepared to follow:

  • Chinese drivers follow the rule “first is right”; in other words, any car with a slight lead position has right of way.
  • When the traffic lights go green, oncoming vehicles are racing to turn left before you cross the intersection.
  • U-turns may be done regardless of the lines on the road and the oncoming traffic.
  • Chinese drivers don’t stop for pedestrians; even when they are on a cross-walk at the lights. Drivers honk at pedestrians (even on the sidewalks) to get out of the way or drive around them.
  • Chinese drivers rarely look to the left when they are going to turn right out of a road.
  • Lane changes and turns are often not signalled.
  • Chinese drivers merge onto any road without yielding to traffic.
  • Chinese drivers don’t pay much attention to lane discipline and turn signals.
  • In China, overtaking on the right is very common.
  • Bicycles, motorcycles, and sometimes cars ignore one-way signs. Lane markings are often ignored too.
  • In the countryside, many drivers ignore stoplights.
  • Lorry drivers may not switch on lights at night.
  • Usually, bicycles don’t have lights and even reflectors. Motorcycles often run without lights at night. Sometimes, both are on the wrong side of the road.
  • As a rule, a Chinese driver desiring to turn left across oncoming traffic will not yield to oncoming traffic and await a “safe” movement.
  • At night, people in dark clothes often walk in the middle of the road, with the back to the oncoming traffic.
  • At petrol stations, the “no smoking” signs may be ignored.
  • Drivers of large trucks prefer to drive late at night.
  • If in main lanes, traffic is jammed, vehicles take to bicycle lanes.
  • If there is no opposing traffic, Chinese drivers usually go through red lights. They can run on red lights even if the other traffic is present.

It appears that all Chinese drivers ignore traffic regulations and the main thoughts on the road are don’t hit anything and don’t get hit by anything. However, if a driver is caught by the police at road rules violation, he/she may face strict punishments: high fines, suspension of your license, and penalties include imprisonment. Therefore, before driving in China, drivers should familiarize with Chinese road rules.

  • In China, it is right-hand traffic.
  • Overtaking on the right is forbidden.
  • The minimal driving age is 18 years.
  • While driving, using of a handheld mobile phone is prohibited.
  • The allowable blood-alcohol level is .02%.
  • Speed limits are: on city, 30 km/h (19 mph) – 70 (43 mph) km/h; on national highways, 40 km/h (25 mph) – 80 km/h (50 mph); on city express routes, 100 km/h (62 mph); on expressways, 120 km/h (75 mph). Tolerance is around 10 km/h (6 mph).

China National Highways have:

    • G-level (national) highways which are a pleasure for driving;
    • S-level (provincial) highways that sometimes don’t have the central reservation or road separation.
    • X-level (county) highways some of which may be in areas cordoned off for foreigners.
    • On major expressways, road signs are often bilingual (English, Chinese), but not elsewhere. So avoid driving a vehicle until you can read the road signs. The road conditions are not the same anywhere, so be prepared to choose the appropriate vehicle.


  • Give way to pedestrians.
  • For your safety, wear your seat-belt all the time.
  • If you are in a small vehicle, always give way.
  • Do not speed and park your car inappropriately.
  • Do overtake as fast as possible, preferably on a blind bend.
  • All foreign visitors over 16 years of age must carry their passports at all the times.
  • You cannot travel to Tibet without the appropriate permits.
  • You also should consider that the wet season is from May to November, particularly, in the southern and eastern coastal regions of China.
  • Turning off from the main roads may require off-road driving skills and technical equipment; at some places, it is illegal.
  • Try to drive near the middle-right of the road.
  • If you see merging driver, yield and allow merging.
  • Don’t drive with lights on during daytime.
  • Avoid driving at night and if you need to use your lights.
  • In the case of an accident in China, don’t panic. Take down the driver’s name, number of his/ her license, license plate number, and type of car. Don’t intervene with the accident scene. Ask several passers-by to be eye-witnesses. Call the police about an incident. If necessary, contact the branch of your embassy or consulate in China.

Documents for bringing our car into China

  • Vehicle registration
  • 4 photos all sides of the car
  • Photo with clearly readable number plates
  • Serial Numbers
  • Certification
  • Insurance
  • Engine details
  • Producer
  • Value upon entering China
  • Passport and visa
  • Individual insurance
  • 5 passport photos of drivers
  • National and international drivers license
  • Personal details
  • List of equipment

Places To Visit

  • Great wall of China
  • Terracotta Warriors
  • Tiger Leaping Gorge
  • Chengdu Panda Base
  • Tibetan Mountains


Enter border at Xinaning

A detailed route showing where we went overlanding and exploring. We jotted down the routes we travelled on a physical map which travelled with us from Australia to the UK, then transferred this to a digital form using Google Maps (KML and GeoRSS Layers) 

These are exact appropriations, maps differ between brands and converting from paper to digital may lose some details in translation. This should still show in great detail our route.