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Renting a Car or Limousine in China: Shanghai and Beijing

Shanghai Car Rental Overview

Rising incomes have seen levels of car ownership in China increase dramatically during recent years. As a result, traffic in Shanghai can be dense, particularly during peak hours, and local driving techniques mean that driving is not for the faint-hearted. However, if you long for that sense of freedom that driving can bring then you can rent a car from any of the local or global car rental agencies.

Requirements to Rent a Car

If you want to drive in Shanghai, you will need to apply for a Republic of China driver’s license, as international licenses are not recognized by the Chinese authorities. To apply for a Chinese license, you will be asked to provide the following documentation:

o Passport and Entry Visa

o Residence Permit valid for a period of at least 3 months

o Current Valid National Drivers License

o Certificate of physical examination for driving license application, available from public hospitals

The complete process requires passing a written examination and takes approximately 3 hours. Non Chinese speakers are advised to take a bilingual interpreter with them to assist with translation and document completion.

From there, the process is similar to those found in Western countries. When arriving at the rental location:

o Present your passport, Chinese driving license and major credit card.

o Select any additional insurances required.

o Provide verification documents and leave a deposit upwards of 5500 RMB.

o Check and sign your Rental Agreement

Self-drive car rental agencies in China are still in their infancy. Oftentimes, renting a car in China means contending with limited selection, discovering that the car you reserved is not available and learning that the price quoted over the phone doesn’t include additional charges such as Shanghai Insurance, coverage for more than one driver and refueling fees. In addition, in order to protect their interests, many agencies require customers to undergo a lengthy process of document verification or to provide a local guarantor before allowing customers to rent cars.

If the process of renting from an agency seems too much of a hassle, then there are also foreign and local companies that offer vehicles with personal drivers.

Hiring a Personal Driver

Most foreign expatriates or visitors to China consider driving on their own too much effort and instead choose to rent a car with a personal driver. These are readily available, reasonably priced and can be rented long-term. China’s car rental companies offer wide vehicle selection, from economy cars to luxury limousines.

The process of renting a chauffeur-driven vehicle is much less complicated and allows customers to enjoy the sights or concentrate on business. Unlike self-driven vehicles, chauffeur driven vehicles are usually reserved for half or full day rentals. Although the rates are slightly higher than those for self-driven cars, the price can usually be justified after factoring in fuel, parking costs and customer convenience.

Rental Tips

Although we can not guarantee a pleasurable experience every time you rent a car, you can reduce the number of times you encounter problems at the rental counter by following the tips below:

Local vs. international agencies

There are a few international car-rental agencies that have local branches in China. These companies offer a level of service comparable to what one would expect from overseas. Although the price is usually higher than local companies, international agencies offer a reliable alternative. If choosing a local company, it’s important to choose a company that has international service experience or that is a member of an international rental association.

No gratuity necessary

Unlike in Western countries, tipping the driver or paying an extra gratuity charge is not necessary. These charges are always included in the quoted rate. Beware of those companies who try to add extra fees. You may end up paying a lot more than you bargained for.

Brace yourself for urban driving

In a city of 6 million bicycles and 20 million people, driving on the streets of Shanghai is an experience in itself. Whether it’s deciphering foreign road signs, avoiding weaving bicyclists and taxi drivers, or locating a parking spot, driving in Shanghai is like navigating an obstacle course. If all this sounds like too much, then consider hiring a chauffeur-driven vehicle.

Service may not be included

It’s important for any renter to be aware that in China “you get what you pay for.” Some companies will not offer anything more than delivery from point A to point B. You may be lucky if you even get that much. It’s up to the renter to do proper due diligence and choose a rental company that can fulfill their needs and provide the service they desire. Fortunately, there are international and foreign invested car rental agencies that cater to international travelers. These companies will usually include additional services such as language interpretation, introductions to local points of interest, etc.

For more information about Shanghai car rental agencies, please refer to the automobile rental section or try search engine sites such as Google or Yahoo.