Renewing your driving licence in the UK is a pretty straightforward affair. Last time I did it to get my address changed it involved the following steps.
- Get a passport-sized photo
- Fill in the form and take to Post Office
- Give form to man in Post Office.
- Pay fee.
About a week later my new licence arrived in the post.
Oh, if only it were that simple in China.
To set the background - YY used to live in Ningbo and this is where she passed her driving test. Sadly, for us, these things are organised regionally and the hideous monster of Chinese bureaucracy likes nothing more than a long, complicated process that employs hundreds of thousands of people doing effectively nothing and inconveniencing millions.
Driving licences need renewing every 6 years and YY's needs renewing. She first tried to see if it could be moved to Hangzhou but, alas, with only a driving licence issued in the next largest major city for evidence the Hangzhou authorities insisted that she'd have to retake the whole driving test again.
So, we're in Ningbo. We arrived Sunday night and got up bright and breezy to get the new licence. The process went like this. Sorry if it goes on a bit but I'm trying to share my pain.
At the driving licence centre in Ningbo
Told to go to the 'hospital' (seperate building) for a checkup.
At the 'Hospital'
- Go to window 1 and pay 15 RMB for a form
- Colour blindness test - YY sat down and was asked 'what colours are on the screen'. 5 seconds later she was done.
- Height. They asked her height. They could have measured it as they had a proper thing, they just didn't bother.
- Peripheral vision. At last - an actual test that lasted 30 seconds
- Hearing (the funniest). She was asked 'can you hear me'. The answer 'yes' was sufficient.
- All done so were told to queue at Window 3. Gave them the form we got from Window 1 and a photo.
- Queued at window 4 to be given another form with the photo stuck on it and a further form to fill in.
- Whilst waiting to fill the form in were told she'd need photocopies of her ID card and old driving licence, which we could only do at the shops outside on the street. That was quite handy because it meant we could get a pen instead of having to try to beg one from other people.
- She was also told that the photos she'd taken in Hangzhou were unusable because you have to get them taken in a neighbouring building so they have an id number on the photo.
- queued at window 1 and paid for photos.
- queued for photo studio. In the tradition of Chinese hospitals, every time the door opened all of the people waiting outside would pour in.
- queue at window 2 to pick photos up.
Back to 'hospital'
- Went back to complete the form (they had little guillotines - the sort that were banned from schools in the UK 30 years ago - to chop your photos up and a big dish of glue and a paint brush that was rather remeniscent of primary school).
- Whilst there someone pointed out that she needed a photocopy of another document.
Thus ended hour 1
Driving Licence Building
When we arrived, YY was given number 2221 - the latest being served as 2161 so we guessed we'd be a while. They did have a nice video, mostly showing e-bike riders being killed at junctions to keep us amused.
An hour later and... She was told 'you can't renew a Ningbo licence when you've got a Hangzhou address... And confirmed that you can't move the licence to Hangzhou. What you need, she was told, is to go and get a temporary residents permit for any address in Ningbo. The helpful person behing the counter said that no-one will care what the address is and temporary residents permits are very easy to get, but rules is rules and you must have one with a Ningbo address. Never mind that its not real, the real Hangzhou one is useless.
At times like this, I can really hate the crap that China can throw at you. This is pure, pointless bureaucracy at its most infuriating.
So, on top of the hotel bill we ended up taking one of YYs old friends out for lunch and arranged for them to organise a Temporary Residents Permit.
Permit arrived after lunch and back we went
Driving Licence Building
- a new number and another wait for an hour.
- Saw the counter lady for 60 seconds and then YY was told to wait until her number was called again at another window.
- 15 minutes later she was called again and asked for the receipt to prove she'd paid. Except no-one mentioned paying anything so...
- Go to a different window, queue, pay
- Return to previous window and queue and, hallelujah, receive the driving licence.
Time of arrival - 9:10 am.
Time of receiving licence - 4:20pm.
I'll never complain about the DVLA again!