Owning a car in Hong Kong, while certainly not a necessity, is a reasonably affordable luxury. More expensive than the US, UK, or Australia, but far cheaper than somewhere like Singapore.
Due to reasonably cheap vehicle transfer fees ($1000), people here change their cars every couple of years. For that reason, second-hand cars are quite affordable.
Before you go out and purchase a car, have a read of these tips for car ownership in Hong Kong first.
Converting your Foreign Driving Licence in Hong Kong
During the first year in Hong Kong, you are able to drive legally using your Foreign Licence. That is, provided it is from an approved country. In the event your Drivers Licence doesn’t fall into the approved country list, you are able to apply for a Temporary Driving Licence, which will be valid for 12 months from your date of entry into Hong Kong. The form you need for that is TD181.
Following that you’ll need to convert your Foreign Licence. There are a few conditions to satisfy, but nothing too troublesome. Firstly, your driving Licence must be valid (or not expired for more than 3 years. Following that, reference to the country that issued your licence, you must have either lived there for at least 6 months. Had the licence for at least 5 years, or have a passport issued from the same country. I expect these conditions are to prevent someone from trying to convert a dodgy drivers licence printed in Bangkok!
Simply then head to one of the Transport Department locations with form TD63a and all the paperwork it requires, pay the fee ($900) and you’re done. I would recommend making a booking, especially during lunch hour as it can get very busy.
Getting your Drivers Licence in Hong Kong
Firstly, the process of obtaining your first Drivers Licence from scratch (if you haven’t driven before).
It’s quite a process gaining a full Drivers Licence in Hong Kong, best to just work your way through the steps one-by-one.
The main requirements are that you’re over 18 years old, and are physically sound without any significant issues.
The flowchart above is fairly straight forward, however, be prepared for there to be plenty of paperwork for each step. Your best point of contact for all the forms and tests is the Transport Department, which has four locations in Hong Kong. The process is as follows;
• Apply for a Learners Permit using the TD555 form
• Apply for a Drivers Test using the TD82 form
• If required, book into a Driver Training School for Driving Lessons
• Take the Driving Test – Written (multi-choice) and Practical Road test
• Apply for a Probationary Drivers Licence (P Plates) using the TD590 form.
* Don’t get any traffic violations or it’ll add another 6 months to your Probationary time*
• Minimum 12 months later apply for your Full Drivers Licence using the TD557 form
Driving Style in Hong Kong
Whilst not difficult to drive here in Hong Kong, it does take a while to adapt to the different driving style. Let me break it down for you –
• Merging – Possession is 9/10ths of the law here! Rather than leaving enough gap for cars to merge together nicely, people will drive bumper to bumper until the traffic comes to a stop, then let each other in. Whilst daunting at first, go with it and people will let you in eventually.
• Indicators – Rarely used. At first, I wondered whether they were an option when buying cars here, as the majority don’t seem to know they exist! Frustrating, but predictable once you come to expect it.
• Hazard Lights – It has become accepted that you can stop virtually anywhere, provided you turn on your Hazard Lights! People also use them to warn others behind that they are slowing down rapidly (quite effective and thoughtful)
• Double White Lines – While it’s acceptable to stop anywhere, not indicate and in many cases not wear seatbelts. Drivers however, will never cross double white lines on the road.
• Parking – The only places that you can legally park in Hong Kong are in a private carpark or a public area which has Octopus Parking Meters. There are Yellow lines on the side of roads, you can stop on a Single Yellow line, but don’t stop or park on a double yellow line. Look out for signs which specify places that you can’t park.
• Speed Cameras – Hong Kong is littered with fixed speed cameras. Most have a signpost with the camera symbol on it to warn you. Most cameras are in Orange or Grey boxes, often with a Red Light Camera attached at traffic lights. You will notice, however, that many cars don’t slow down for these cameras. The reason being that many aren’t loaded, so are empty boxes! Others, particularly before and inside tunnels, are a physical camera on a tripod when have to be removed from the box and set up. So these ones aren’t out too often.
Traffic Infringement Points System
The traffic infringement system in Hong Kong is based on points. You start at 0, over a rolling two year period. Should you reach –
• 8 Points – Expect a letter in the mail advising that you if any more points are accrued, things will get tricky.
• 10 Points – As the letter mentioned, now it gets tricky. You will be required to do a Mandatory Driving Improvement Course, within 3 months. There are a number of Driving Schools that provide this course, expect it to take about 8 hours and be at your own expense. For your troubles, you’ll get 3 points back, so you still need to be careful and drive safe!
• 15 Points – Time to dust off the suit, as you’ll receive a summons to Court. Expect a 3-month suspension for a first-time offence.
Always try to avoid travelling more than 15Km/h over the speed limit, as below this number you won’t incur any Infringement Points. More information with a detailed Points table can be found here.
I've had an Accident, what to do??
Heaven forbid you will ever need this advice, however, it’s better to be forewarned than forearmed. Firstly, always carry your insurance details in your glovebox.
A common practice here is to not move the vehicles until Police arrive. Often the Police will then call an Ambulance. Keep in mind, there is no requirement to call the Police for minor bingles unless there are any injuries involved. This is your main area of concern, try and establish immediately from the other party that they are not injured. Get it in writing if possible.
For minor scratches, it is advisable to make a settlement on the spot determining who’s at fault and, should you not want to claim through your insurance, decide on compensation. Be aware, however, should you not inform your insurance company of the incident, if the other person decides months later that they were in-fact injured, your insurance won’t cover as they weren’t informed.
Highly recommend that you give some consideration to what you do should your car breakdown. Many Insurance policies include 24-hour free towing. That’s great, but be sure to know which mechanic you plan to send the car to in this case. As you will be on the spot otherwise. Hong Kong is scattered with private garages, ask around to find one that comes well recommended.
Hong Kong Automobile Association offer reliable Roadside assistance 24/7. Membership currently runs at $1180 per year (+$300 joining fee).
It’s time now to go car shopping! Be sure to read our post on Buying Used Cars in Hong Kong for some great tips and tricks for purchasing used vehicles. Drive safe and get out there and explore Hong Kong.