Help! My Teen Wants to Drive!

By Oi In Lin 2021-07-12 15:53:59

Getting a driver’s license in Shanghai can be a tedious process, but it’s necessary if you want to drive here. There are four exams in total: a written exam on traffic laws, a practical exam on basic driving skills and parking, a road test, and then a written exam on good driving habits. The written exams can be offered in English, but the practical exams will be in Chinese, so it’s best if you brush up on your lingo beforehand.



Signing Up

1. Download the 12123 app on your phone and create an account. This is where you will book your exams in advance and the overall place where you will keep track of your license and such.



2. Make sure you have physical photocopies of your passport and your residence permit with a >= 90 days stay visa.

3. Head over to the Shanghai Vehicle Management Bureau (SVMB) - 1330 Hami Road, near Jinbang Road - with the aforementioned documents. There, you’ll have to pay 40 RMB to get an official photograph taken in a booth (you can’t use your own photos for registration) and another 60 RMB to undergo a health check. Don’t worry, it’s a quick process where they only test necessary things such as vision and blood pressure to make sure you’re healthy enough to be able to drive safely.



Study, Study, Study!

It may seem like you can just rely on common sense and general knowledge to pass the written exam, but that’s far from the truth. They cover a wide scope of topics, from generic things like traffic signs to police hand signals and even the specific length of jail terms for different offences. To add to the difficulty, the questions can be phrased in tricky ways, so it’s best to familiarise yourself with the questions and answers beforehand. Here are some materials you can use to study so you know what to expect:




- Laowaidrive (app)

- Drive in China (app)



Book Your Exams

Once you feel confident enough, go onto 12123 one week in advance to book your exams. They offer different time slots and test locations, so pick whichever ones are the most convenient for you. On the day of the exam, make sure you bring your paperwork and identification with you.



1st Exam-Traffic Rules & Laws

This is the most difficult and frustrating one - it’s the whole reason why I emphasised having to study in the previous section. You will have 45 minutes to finish 100 multiple-choice questions on a computer, and once you submit your answers, you’ll be notified immediately whether or not you’ve made it. You will need a minimum score of 90/100 to pass. A lot of people fail on their first try, so don’t be discouraged if you have to retake it! In the instance that you don’t pass, you can resit the exam on the same day at the price of 40 RMB. If you fail again during the resit, then you’ll have to wait a week before booking the next test to try again.



2nd Exam-Driving Skills

There are many facilities around the city where you can book sessions with an instructor to learn how to actually drive. During the exam, you will be tested on basic skills such as U-turns, reversing, parking, and so on. To pass, you will need a minimum score of 80/100. You only get 5 attempts at this exam.



3rd Exam-road Test

The name is self-explanatory: you will be tested on whether or not you can actually be a capable driver on real roads. You will need a minimum score of 90/100 to pass.



4th Exam-Good Driving Habits

This exam is taken on the computer, just like the first one. You’ll be tested on your knowledge of good driving habits and you will be notified immediately whether or not you pass. You will need a minimum score of 90/100, and you only get 5 attempts at this exam.



And that’s it! You’ve obtained a driver’s license that is valid for approximately 6 years. Make sure to update that information on your 12123 account.


If you already have a foreign license from your home country, you won’t need to take the practical exam, but you will need to study in order to complete the first written exam on traffic rules and laws. Once you’ve finished studying, follow the steps below:



1. Get your driver’s license translated at one of the following authorised institutions.

Shanghai SISU Translation Service Co.

Address: 573 Chifeng Road, Hongkou District


Shanghai Interpreters’ Association

Address: Room 1607, 1277 West Beijing Road, Jing’an District

Tel: 6321 8568; 6323 9910


2. Gather your documents.

Passport, visa, residence permit, and translated driver’s license.


3. Go to the Shanghai Vehicle Management Bureau (SVMB) - 1330 Hami Road, near Jin bang Road - with the aforementioned documents. You’ll have to pay 40 RMB to get an official photograph taken in a booth (you can’t use your own photos) and another 60 RMB to undergo a simple health check.


4. Make an appointment for your written exam.

There’s a counter at the SVMB specifically for this on the 2nd floor of Building 1.



Good luck to everyone, and remember to drive safely!