The world is full of redundancies, waste and duplicates. Just imagine an imaginary problem. Google it and a million pages pop up with solutions to your ‘problem’.

You may think you are struck by an original thought or idea, but chances are, someone somewhere else on this planet already had exactly the same thought or idea. There is not a word or sentence that hasn’t been said before. Not an idea that has been thought about by someone else. The same holds true for actions or events, whether it be weddings, holidays or whatever else. Unless you have planned a trip to some place out of this world, your plans are probably have been drawn up and done before. To me it’s quite a shocking thought. Even on remote islands in the Pacific ocean, exclusivity is not exclusive anymore.

So that’s exactly what I was expecting again when I started our research into how to drive a car from China to Europe. Surely, there must be people on this seven billion people planet that have done this before. But, although there probably are people, I’m so surprised to not find a single account or report by someone who HAS done this before. Sure, I found people traversing and exiting China with their own foreign licensed cars and even more accounts of travelers going the other way around, traveling from Europe to China to eventually ship back their cars to Europe. But so far I didn’t  find a single account on the internet of fellow adventurers who did what we are planning to do: travel from China to Europa in a Chinese registered car and not come back.

And I’m starting to understand why.

Officially we’re told it is impossible for a foreigner to drive a Chinese car out of China. But we beg to differ. Calls to the authorities at the border with Mongolia and Kazakhstan reinforce our belief that it should be possible to drive out of China in our own car. But still, since there is very little jurisdiction so to speak, we are for sure not sure. But we’re gonna try anyway. Since we now are in proud possession of our Chinese driver’s licenses the next step is buying a car as we mentioned in a previous post. In any other country buying a car is as simple as buying a coffee at the nearest Starbucks.

Not in China.

Of course.

To be clear: we can buy a car in Shanghai pretty easily. The problem is the license plate. To discourage the frenzy car buying in China and the consequent pollution, authorities here restrict the number of new cars that are allowed on the road. There are numerous ways to accomplish that and the government of Shanghai has gone for the license plate auction-method, which means that every month only a limited number of license plates are auctioned off to prospective car buyers. Since the demand for those licenses is much bigger than the supply, prices for these precious car real estate have skyrocketed.

A license plate now costs about anywhere between 8000 – 10.000 euros, which is more than our budget for our car. For us this therefore is not an option. Problem is we need the Shanghai license plate to be able to drive freely in Shanghai. There are other types of plates, like the C-plate. Those plates only cost about 20 euros, but don’t allow you to drive into the city centre of Shanghai. It’s a nuisance of course, but it would be a viable option for us to use in the end. But then again: those plates are only issued to people with a so called suburban hukous, or household registrations which we don’t have.

So that leaves us with very limited possibilities to own and drive a car in Shanghai. We could buy car outside Shanghai and get a non-Shanghai-license plate, but officially this can only be done if we have a resident permit for the city we are buying the car in. This ‘road’ also is closed for us then so it seems. But luckily in China everything is difficult, but nothing is impossible. After some calls to car dealers far away from China we’ve learned that it should be possible to legally buy a car under our own name outside Shanghai. Some agents can deliver a temporary residence permit for us on which we can buy a car.

A car that we can use in Shanghai, but will not cost thousands of euros just for the license plate. So finally there seems to be an opening for us. I have still no idea whether it actually will work let alone if the border guys will eventually let us through, but we have to keep up our optimism, right?