Renting a car in China, though it requires some foresight, offers the most freedom, flexibility, and comfort for getting around the country. Although there are long-distance buses available in China, they often lack comfortable conditions, while the safer and more advanced bullet trains sometimes do not have English signs, schedules, or information on routes and specific stops.
China is a massive country with different climates and natural conditions that you will drive through if you’re exploring a good portion of the country over land. If you’re sticking to the major cities or smaller towns like Guangzhou or Beijing, a car is all you’ll need; however, if you’re planning on going to the desert or the mountainous regions, a larger vehicle with four-wheel drive will be a necessity.
If you’re traveling to China with children, be advised that there are currently no laws requiring the use of child seats in vehicles or any other laws governing child restraint in vehicles. Because of this, child seats aren’t often offered as an add-on to your rental unless you rent with a large, multi-national company like Hertz or AVIS. If you prefer that your child be secured in a car seat during your time in China, you’ll have to bring your own.
Depending on the rental car agency you choose, it may be possible to cross borders if you have a Chinese driving license. If you’re planning to travel to the neighboring countries of Mongolia, Nepal, Russia, or Myanmar, you’ll need to ensure that you have the right entrance visa and all of the paperwork for your car (photos, correct registration, proof of insurance) to enter. Before you make your reservation, check with your rental car company to make sure they allow border crossings.
Book your rental car in China at least 1 day before your trip in order to get a below-average price
Compact rental cars in China are around 45% cheaper than other car types, on average
FAQs about hiring a car in China
Compact (Class Compact Car or similar) is the most frequently booked car hire type in China.
Based on car searches on KAYAK, the most popular cities to hire a car in China are Guangzhou (29% of total searches of users looking to hire a car in China), Shenzhen (29%) and Xi'an (14%).
Driving in China can be overwhelming for foreigners, due to the traffic and the crowded roads. Exercise caution when driving in cities and encountering congestion and motorcycles, and exercise caution when driving in more sparsely populated areas, watching out for things like wildlife and the common practice of farmers using the road to dry their grains.
Although the only age limitation for renting a car in China is that you must be older than 18, you will have to obtain a Chinese driver’s license before you’ll be allowed to rent a car. This requires a notarized Chinese translation of your license, the completion of a medical exam at an approved Chinese hospital, and a successful passing of a driving examination. After you meet these requirements, you’ll be able to pick up your license and drive freely throughout the country.
Petrol prices in China are a bit more expensive than they are in the US, and the stations are generally full-service, though no tip is required. A gallon of petrol in China, on average, will cost you around 28.62 CNY (4.14 USD), while the average price of a gallon of petrol in the US is around 2.50 USD. Credit cards are commonly accepted in Chinese petrol stations.
The speed limits in China vary by location and the type of road. Some of the country’s single-lane and major roads with double yellow lines are part of the China National Highway System. The speed limits on roads in China are as follows: 30 km/h (19 mph) on single-lane roads, 40 km/h (25 mph) on single-lane roads that are part of the China National Highway system, up to 70 km/h (43 mph) on major roads with double yellow lines, 80 km/h (50 mph) on major roads with double yellow lines that are part of the China National Highway system, 100 km/h (62 mph) on express motorways, and 120 km/h (75 mph) on China’s national expressways.
The rates displayed include all taxes and fees for hire cars for the class listed and were found by KAYAK users in the last 24 hours. Offers are subject to change and may not be available on all car hires listed or dates of travel. Some hire car providers charge additional fees for other services (GPS, infant car seats, etc.). Please check the website of the respective hire car provider.