June 2012:

Foreigners driving in China

Dear Sir: I am helping Portugal's leading AIDS-fighting charity... willing to do something that might call people's attention to the resurgence of the infection, mainly amongst young people.

I intend to start a driving trip in April… but the first disappointment has come from the Chinese Embassy here in Lisbon, stating that I have to get a Chinese driving licence, and – what is worse – I have to permanently have an accompanying guide with me in the car. I would very much appreciate if you could tell me how you managed to sort this problem out (on your Aston Martin adventure from Tokyo to London).

(name and address with-held)

Richard writes: Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but there is no way round China's draconian rules for foreigner drivers. Officially, they tell you they need to supply the 'guides' to make sure you don't get lost – but the truth is they want to find out where you go and why! In our case, there was no way we could accommodate two of their guides inside the Aston Martin cockpit so they followed us all the way in a second vehicle which we had to pay for. They also took their food breaks with us and stayed at the same hotels. We had to pay for that too!