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Driving in Xi’an

Driving in a new country can be daunting. These tips offer insight into what to expect when driving in Xi'an.

1. Understanding the Traffic Culture

Driving in Xi’an, like many other Chinese cities, can be quite chaotic for those not used to it. The traffic rules are not always strictly followed, and the roads are often crowded with cars, bicycles, and pedestrians. It’s important to be alert and patient while driving.

2. Choosing the Right Car

Compact cars are recommended for driving in Xi’an due to the heavy traffic and narrow streets. Electric cars are also becoming increasingly popular due to their environmental benefits and the government’s push for green energy.

3. Parking in Xi’an

Finding parking in Xi’an can be challenging, especially in the city center. Many people opt to use public transportation or taxis to avoid the hassle. Parking fees can vary, but they are generally not too expensive.

4. Driving with an International License

Foreigners can drive in China with an international driving permit (IDP) for up to 90 days. After that, you will need to obtain a Chinese driving license.

5. Obtaining a Chinese Driving License

To get a Chinese driving license, you will need to pass a written test in Chinese or English. The test includes questions about traffic rules and road signs. You will also need to provide a medical certificate, your passport, and your current driving license. It’s recommended to take a driving course to familiarize yourself with the local driving rules and conditions.

6. Consider Alternatives to Driving

Given the traffic conditions and the excellent public transportation system in Xi’an, you might want to consider alternatives to driving. The city has an extensive bus network and several metro lines. Taxis and ride-hailing services like Didi are also widely available and affordable.

7. Be Prepared for the Unexpected

Driving in Xi’an can be unpredictable. Be prepared for sudden changes in traffic flow, unexpected maneuvers from other drivers, and pedestrians or cyclists appearing out of nowhere. Always keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you and stay alert.

8. Learn Basic Chinese Road Signs and Phrases

While some road signs in Xi’an are in both Chinese and English, many are in Chinese only. Learning basic road signs and phrases can be very helpful. There are also apps and books available that can help you with this.

Joshua WoodJoshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

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