The rules when driving between Hong Kong and the mainland

Driving in China

UPDATED: April 21, 2017 - New insurance rules around insured cars leaving the mainland have been released. The Car insurance laws section below has been updated with this new information. 

It's a time for visiting loved ones, many of whom might live over on the mainland. If you’re thinking of driving over the border to visit family and friends, you’ll want to make sure that you’re prepared for the differences in road rules between Hong Kong and China.

General requirements

Those of you considering taking the car into China from Hong Kong will need to ensure you meet the following requirements:

  • You hold a mainland driving license
  • You hold an Approval Notice for the vehicle and driver from the Guangdong Public Security Bureau
  • You hold a Closed Road Permit for the vehicle from the Transport Department

There may be other immigration or other border-related formalities required. This article is focused on requirements related to driving in the mainland.

Driver’s licenses

China only allows for its own driving licenses and permits to be used in the mainland, meaning that neither a Hong Kong, Taiwanese, or Macau issued driver’s license nor an International Driving Permit may be used. In order to apply for a mainland Driving License, you will need to visit a Guangdong Public Security Bureau [GPSB] licensing counter in the Guangdong Province.

Driving without a Chinese license can see you imprisoned for up to 14 days.

Application for an Approval Notice and Closed Road Permit

To be eligible for an Approval Notice from the GPSB, you will need to meet requirements that have been stipulated by the Bureau. Closed Road Permits can be obtained from the Transport Department in Hong Kong by filling out a completed Form TD 547D together with the required supporting documentation listed on the form. Applications should be submitted to the Cross Boundary Unit of the Transport Department either in person, by an agent, by post, or through a drop box at the Transport Department office in Central.

Road rules

Driving in China also flips to the opposite side when you’re coming from Hong Kong or Macau. The Law of the People's Republic of China on Road Traffic Safety contains all of the official road rules of China, however, general speed limit guidelines are as follows (unless otherwise stated by signs):

  • 30 km/h (19 mph) on single-lane city roads
  • 40 km/h (25 mph) on China National Highways
  • 70 km/h (43 mph) on city roads where a major road has central reservations or two yellow lines present
  • 80 km/h (50 mph) on China National Highways where a major road has central reservations or two yellow lines present
  • 100 km/h (62 mph) on city express roads (some may be sign posted to 80 km/h)
  • 120 km/h (75 mph) on Expressways (both National or Provincial, or National Highways built to expressway standards)

General enforcement of speed limits and road rules can vary from urban areas to the countryside, and from province to province. Tolerances for speeding is said to be generally around 10 km/h (6 mph), however, it is recommended that you drive more on the cautious side if you’re new to driving in China.

The right of way rules in China is typically First is Right. This concept is similar to many parts of Asia where any vehicle with even a slight positional advantage or quicker access to a gap before another has a de-facto right of way. This rule applies to vehicles turning as well as those simply changing lanes, and new drivers should be aware of this.

Car insurance laws

Like Hong Kong, the mainland has compulsory car insurance laws which mandate that drivers must have a minimum third-party level of coverage when driving in China. While third-party is the minimum, Kwiksure would strongly recommend obtaining more comprehensive forms of insurance for protection against car scams

It is also worth noting here that in mid-April 2017, the Insurance Association of China released new terms for motor insurance plans that are sold to cover vehicles registered in China that are driven to and in other countries. If you decide to register your vehicle in China and drive it in another country, including Hong Kong, or any other country China is connected to by road, it is now required to secure insurance with specific types of coverage. According to the Asia Insurance Review, "Crossborder motor insurance [policies must] include cover for damage to vehicle; third-party liability, passenger liability insurance, vehicle hijacking and streamlined riders for additional risks."  

Hong Kong car insurance

If you’re not even insured in Hong Kong, you’re not legally allowed to be driving. Third-party car insurance is the bare minimum required by law in Hong Kong and Kwiksure can provide you with a free quote for the coverage you need, at a price that suits your budget. For advice on insurance or a free quote, contact the expert advisors at Kwiksure today!