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Driving and Public Transportation

China - Driving and Public Transportation

China has a recently constructed a modern highway system which allows relatively fast travel between the main cities. Traffic drives on the right in mainland China and Taiwan, and on the left in Hong Kong.

Although foreign permanent residents can apply for a People's Republic of China driving licence, most expatriates prefer not to drive themselves in China due to the hazardous, over-crowded roads. There are also liability issues which make it preferable to employ a local driver. There are no well-established driving conventions in China, and accidents are frequent, although the victims are most often pedestrians rather than car passengers, and travelling in cars in generally safe as long as seat belts are worn.

If involved in an accident, the regulations state that drivers must summon the traffic police and wait at the scene of the accident, without moving their vehicles, until they arrive. During this time, it is common practice for a crowd to draw in, shouting out their views on who is at fault and how much they should pay. When the police arrive, they will prepare a preliminary report and arrange a time for the drivers to report to the police station, where they will be asked to sign the report. As the report will be in Chinese it is important not to sign it unless it is fully understood or translated and the foreign driver is in agreement with it. If this is not the case, the driver can write a disclaimer on the report saying that they do not understand it and cannot attest to its accuracy, or they can write their own version in English on the report form and sign this version only.

Buses are gradually becoming a popular form of transport between cities, including modern luxury buses as well as minibuses, and fares are usually cheaper than train fares. However, due to the many road hazards this is quite a dangerous form of inter-city transport, and bus accidents are common.

Rail is still the most popular form of public transport for long-distance travel, and the network of train stations continues to expand. There are usually two or three classes of rail travel. Services often run over-night and include sleeper facilities, the level of comfort varying according to the class of travel chosen. The lowest class of rail travel does not include bunks, and as the carriages are extremely over-crowded many people have to stand for the whole journey of perhaps 10-12 hours.

There are a number of state-owned airlines operating domestic routes, and airfares are falling, with the result that air travel is starting to compete with rail travel for long-distance customers. Numerous new airports have recently been constructed throughout the country.

Within cities, for those who do not have their own driver, taxis are a relatively cheap form of travel. Taxis can also be hired for travel between cities.

It is relatively expensive to buy a car in China, and bicycles are a far more popular form of transport among the Chinese. Sometimes whole families can be seen on one bicycle!

Read more about this country

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