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Living in Hong Kong
Hong Kong: Driving Licence and Vehicles
Even if you have a Hong Kong driving licence, your car may not be the comfiest way to travel. The density of cars is among the highest in the world, with 530 registered vehicles per km². But if you want to brave the traffic, we’ll tell you all about local driver’s licences and car ownership.
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General Considerations for Drivers
As a driver in Hong Kong, you will be faced with manifold annoyances: shortage of parking space, extremely crowded streets, regular traffic jams – not to mention high fuel costs and an annual vehicle fee of at least HKD 3,929. The cost of keeping and maintaining a car is especially high when compared to public transportation in Hong Kong. Then again, having a driver’s licence and owning a car can be very useful, especially if you have kids.
You should carefully consider if you want to use cars during your time as an expat. If you do, you should look into getting a local permit. This article provides you with everything you need to know about driving licences, as well as vehicle ownership, in Hong Kong.
You can either import your own car from home, or you can easily buy or lease a vehicle upon arrival. Depending on your country of origin, you may also be able to directly obtain a driving licence. But if you are from one of the 72% of all countries worldwide which have right-hand traffic, remember that you should drive on the left!
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Obtaining a Permit
Whether you import, buy or lease your car, you need a licence to hit the road. Generally, visitors are allowed to make do without a local permit under special conditions: They must possess either a valid overseas licence or an international permit. However, they may only use it for up to 12 months.
Exchanging Foreign Licences
If you take up residence in the city, you need to get a local permit. In case you have an overseas permit issued in one of the following countries, you can simply apply for a full driving licence.
This list of countries includes the states cited below:
- Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark
- Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan
- (South) Korea, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway
- Pakistan, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland
- the UK and the US
Acquiring a Licence from Scratch
If your permit was not issued in any of the countries listed above, you have to make an application for a driving test within three months of your arrival.
- First, you need to get a learner’s licence.
- Then you register for the exam.
- You pass a theoretical and a practical test, as well as a 12-month probationary period.
Congratulations! You are now eligible for a regular driving licence. A full permit is usually valid for ten years.
If you don’t have any overseas licence whatsoever, you can also get a temporary learner’s permit and eventually take the exams. With this special licence, you can safely take lessons. However, you must do so with one of the government-designated driving schools or private instructors.
For further information on the Hong Kong driving permit, as well as details on the tests and the probationary period, please contact the Department of Transport.
More Regulations for Drivers
The legal age for driving in Hong Kong is 18 years for private cars, light goods vehicles, motorcycles, and motor tricycles. In order to drive other types of motor vehicles, you need to be at least 21 years old.
As mentioned above, you have to drive on the left side of the road. Road signs are both in English and Chinese.
The Road User’s Code, as well as plenty of advice for safe driving in the crowded metropolis, is available on the website of the Transport Department.