In recent years, there have been more expats driving their own cars. All drivers will need to acquire a Chinese driver’s license and have a valid foreign license, valid visa and residence registration certificate in order to do so. The roads have become easier to navigate, although traffic has only gotten worse. Road signs are often written in English as well as Chinese. However, many expats choose to hire a driver so that their family can share one car, with the driver ferrying husband, wife, and children around the city. Another reason to hire a driver is to avoid language hassles; you never know when you’ll be involved in a fender bender. A driver will often also take care of the car, taking it for inspections, filling it up with gas, etc. A driver is inexpensive to hire depending on his/her experience and job description. Many families pay between 3,000-5,000 RMB or more per month.

The easiest way to find a driver is to ask other expat families who have drivers if their driver can refer someone. Usually, expats families “pass on” their drivers to other families when they leave Beijing. Although there are no sites that list drivers, many people have found success by posting flyers advertising their need at their nearest Jenny Lou’s supermarket (which often has a bulletin board for such purposes), and at international schools. It can also be helpful to ask employers and Chinese colleagues for leads. Some expats have found drivers through the classified section of expat magazines such as CityWeekend (http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/) and TheBeijinger (http://www.thebeijinger.com/).

It is important to note that there are unique driving restrictions in Beijing. Cars with license plates ending with certain numbers are prevented from driving on certain weekdays. For example, currently cars with number plates ending in 0 or 5 are not to be driven on Mondays, while those ending in 1 or 6 will be banned on Tuesdays, 2 or 7 on Wednesdays, 3 or 8 on Thursdays and 4 or 9 on Fridays. The ban does not apply on weekends or holidays. According to the new rules, private cars will be banned within, but not on, the Fifth Ring Road from 7 am to 8 pm. The banned driving dates will rotate every 13 weeks, which means that drivers will need to check with the Beijing Traffic Management Bureau for the latest rotation rules (http://www.bjjtgl.gov.cn).

The government estimates that these rules will take 930,000 of the city’s 3.6 million vehicles off the road each weekday and increase driving speed by 10%.

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