Driving yourself is not a possibility in mainland China, as the only valid driver's licenses are Chinese ones. International Driver’s Permits (IDP) are not recognized by Chinese authorities. However, this restriction should be cause for relief, as city traffic is terrible, drivers manic and maniacal, and getting lost inevitable for first-timers. Conditions in Hong Kong aren't much better, but you can drive there using a U.S. or international license.
A far better idea is to put yourself in the experienced hands of a local driver. All the same, consider your itinerary carefully before doing so—in big cities, taking the subway or walking is often far quicker. Reserve the car for excursions farther afield.
The quickest way to arrange for a car and driver is to flag down a taxi. If you're happy with a driver you've used for trips around town, ask if you can hire him for the day. After some negotiating, expect to pay between Y350 and Y600, depending on the type of car. Most hotels can make arrangements for you, though they often charge you double that rate.
Another alternative is American car-rental agency Avis, which includes mandatory chauffeurs as part of all rental packages. A car and driver usually cost Y740 to Y850 ($118 to $136) per day. The company’s headquarters are in Shanghai, with locations in Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Chengdu.
Avis. 021/6229–1118; www.avischina.com.