GlobeBusters has been travelling in China for almost ten years and our founder, Kevin Sanders has ridden across China 8 times. We like to think that we are THE China experts and if you want top tips on how to ride in China, then just ask us. On our London – Beijing – Tokyo Expedition, we spend five weeks riding across this massive country from west to east and that includes traversing the incredible Tibetan region. We have built up hundreds of thousands of miles of expertise of how to enter China and what to expect when riding there. Here are some of the more unusual must knows about riding in China!
- Foreign riders must have a Chinese Driving Licence and Chinese number plates for foreign registered bikes – depending on your province of entry, you may need to take your driving theory test and do an eyesight test to secure your licence! When on a GlobeBusters Expedition, we organise all this for you in advance.
2. The Chinese driving test for your licence tells you that you must not spit in your car . . . . . alas spitting is a common sight in China, so much so that certain cities have introduced rules to not spit in public or you get a fine.
3. Beijing has 6 ring roads – most motorcycle dealerships are located on the 4th Ring Road, as motorcycles cannot go into the centre of Beijing (motorcycles are not allowed into the centres of many major cities) – this means that you are not allowed to ride your bike into Tianamen Square. You can try, but there are police on every major junction leading to Tianamen Square and you’ll be very lucky to reach it! We’ve tried . . .
4. In Tibet and Xinjiang Province, many fuel stations refuse to fill motorcycles at the pump; you must move to the side and attendants fill the bikes from kettles. You then carry it across to your bike and fill up – supposedly, it’s safer . . .
5. You do not need a carnet de passage for your motorcycle to enter for China – it is not recognised. China has its own procedures for the temporary import of your motorcycle and all your documents need to be provided in advance to the authorities to prepare for your entry into China. Do not just turn up at the Chinese Border; your motorcycle will not be permitted to enter. Whilst you may hear some traveller experiences stating they entered China with their motorcycle without planning in advance, this is rare and the exception, probably due to border officials not being sure what to do, rather than it being officially allowed.
6. In remote areas, road works will mean a DIY off road diversion, where you can do anything to make your way around the obstruction. There are rarely diversion signs, designated diversion routes or anyone co-ordinating traffic flow.
7. Our Triumph Tigers work amazingly well at over 5,000m; but sometimes their riders do not! We have taken BMW GS, Africa Twin, Yamaha Tenere across the Tibetan plateau without problems. As for KTM, the less said! Worry about yourself and coping with altitude and the cold when you cross Tibet, rather than motorcycle problems!
8. There are so many hazards and road users are so unpredictable, you will use your horn more times in one day that you do in five years of riding in the West!
9. Motorcycles are not allowed to use the Express Way (that is the equivalent of motorways, interstate, autopistas, autobahn etc). There are a few exceptions to this, but not many. You may think that it doesn’t matter to you because surely riding on the rural country roads is much better and it’s true, these roads are much more of an adventure, but they can also be very slow, with many hazards and incredibly tiring; sometimes to push a few miles on the Expressway would be great!
10. Don’t stick to the Western rules of the road – ride like a local; it’s the only way to survive! If you come to a junction and the traffic light is red and all the locals are ignoring it, you may risk being back-ended by stopping, so be alert the what the locals are doing and protect yourself.
To ride your own motorcycle in China is still quite a rare thing – and by booking with GlobeBusters, you benefit from massive amount of cumulative knowledge and expertise. We organise all the permits required, all authorisations, driving licence, vehicle registration, Chinese guides and support vehicle. You provide us the documents that we ask for and we do all the rest! With us, you also get up to date route notes, GPS co-ordinates and an expert Motorcycle Expedition Leader to accompany you.
See you on the Silk Road!