Expats in Hong Kong are not taking the time to adapt to the driving culture before taking to the roads and as a result end up making more claims than locals on their insurance, research shows.

Experts point out that Hong Kong is extremely congested compared to other parts of the world and the driving lanes and parking areas can be extremely narrow.


The driving culture is different and many locals do not signal when changing lanes, overtake on both sides and commonly talk on their mobile phones while driving even though it is illegal. There are some specifically fundamental differences between the roads in Hong Kong and other parts of the world as well. Traffic signs are different and expats often don’t understand them.

Also, roundabout etiquette is different than in Europe and North America and is not part of the Hong Kong driving test. There is also the matter of which side of the road to drive on. Many expat drivers are used to driving on the right side of the road like in their home countries, and they may not have adjusted to driving on the left. In Hong Kong, the driver also sits on the right side of the car, whereas in many other parts of the world, the driver sits on the left.

These are all differences that can pose a greater safety risk for expats, according to insurance company Kwiksure. Its research shows that although it has processed a higher total number of claims from locals than expats this year; when compared to the number of policies sold to both local drivers and expats, local drivers are less likely to make a claim.

So far in 2013, Kwiksure has reported 315 claims from locals and 78 made by expats with a reported 27,060 policies sold to locals and 3,826 for expat drivers. When comparing the two sets of figures, it becomes apparent that the average expat driver is more likely to make a claim than the average local driver. For locals, the number of claims is roughly 1.16% of the number of new policies, while for expats the figure stands at about 2.04% of the number of new policies.

Using another comparison, while expats have made up approximately 12.39% of new policies, they've also made up about 19.90% of claims so far in 2013.

Kwiksure Motor Insurance Manager Ken Chung believes that the higher likelihood of claims from expats could be due to the differences in driving culture. He believes that expats, especially during their first few years driving in Hong Kong, may not yet have adapted to several different factors of Hong Kong roads.

Chung also explained that a large portion of drivers on the roads were not required to pass a driving test in Hong Kong in order to obtain their driver's license. ‘The Hong Kong Transport Department is allowed to grant licenses to expats from certain countries that have an existing license without requiring them to take a driving exam. This means that many expats drivers are driving on Hong Kong roads without the adequate level of preparation,’ said Chung.

He also pointed out that visitors in Hong Kong who are staying less than 12 months are not actually required to obtain a Hong Kong licence as long as they have a valid driver's license from their home country.

‘Simply put, many expat drivers are not taking the time to adjust to the Hong Kong driving culture in a safe environment before braving the roadways,’ added Chung.

Kwiksure experts are curious to see if driver license policies for expats will change at all in the future. Until then, they will continue to keep an eye on the number of claims from expats and local drivers alike.