Getting around Singapore isn’t hard. Use this quick primer on your transport options – for when you don’t have a car.
Singapore’s MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) and LRT (Light Rail Transit) system is a reliable, cost-effective and air-conditioned way of travelling around town.
Trains run from 5:30 a.m. to midnight each day; longer during festive periods. Stations have escalators and lifts, which is convenient for those travelling with prams.
Eating and drinking isn’t allowed in MRT stations or trains (You can even be fined for sipping water!). However, the SMRT site notes that “special arrangements” may be made for breastfeeding or feeding hungry children (speak to station staff, if needed). Taking emergency medicine (for asthma, panic attack, etc.) is always okay.
HACK: Sign up your EZ-Link card for Travel Smart Rewards, and you’ll be able to earn cash rewards depending on what time you take the train. An initiative by the Land Transport Authority to encourage people to commute at less busy hours, the programme is exceptionally fuss-free – simply register for an account and receive automatic pay-outs.
MUST-KNOW: Equip yourself with an EZ-Link stored-value card, which charges you based on distance travelled (hint: Keep your card handy when on the train, as you’ll need it to leave the station). Estimated travel fares using EZ-Link starts as low as $0.78 for adults and $0.38 for children (0.9 metres or taller) up to $2.10 for adults and $0.60 for children.
2. Public buses
The comprehensive bus network runs from 5:30 to 12:30 a.m. daily. If you’re travelling without an EZ-Link card, prepare some spare change and ask the driver for the fare when you board.
As on trains, there are special seats reserved for those who need them, and no eating or drinking on board.
MUST-KNOW: Bus fares start at less than $1. Carrying a pram? It must be folded before boarding. Tuck it out of the way in the more widely spaced seats located directly behind the driver or in the bus’s open centre area.
3. Public taxis
Taxis may be more expensive than public transport, but compared to fares in other major cities (think New York, London, Tokyo), fares in Singapore are quite affordable.
One hitch: You may only be able to hail a cab or be dropped off at a designated taxi stand, depending on where you are on the island. (In the Central Business District, for example, legislation forbids roadside pickups.)
During shift changes, peak hours, rain or the festive season, it also may be harder to get a cab. In such cases, use hotlines (or try free apps) for companies like ComfortDelGro Taxi Booking (6552 1111), SMRT Book a Taxi (6555 8888) or Trans-Cab Taxi App (6555 3333).
HACK: If you’re travelling with a big family, consider getting a 7-seater Limo Taxi Cab (6600 9920), which should provide ample space. The current booking fee costs $10, with the meter starting at $3.90 upon boarding. Alternatively, operators like Limousine Transport (6535 3534) charge flat rates of $55 per trip.
MUST-KNOW: All taxis in Singapore run by the meter, but the final fare can depend upon factors such as peak-hour timings, after-midnight surcharges and where you board the cab (e.g., areas like Changi Airport incur a surcharge). In addition, fares for the six major cab operators vary. However, you don’t need to tip.
4. Grab private cars
Launch the free Grab app, select your pick-up location and drop-off destination and your GrabCar will be on its way to pick you up in minutes.
Grab practices dynamic pricing, based on supply and demand in your area, at the point you make the booking. And the fare is quoted upfront, so there are no surprises.
In addition to 6-Seater (Economy) or (Premium) rides, GrabCar also offers a 13-Seater option (estimated fares, excluding surcharges: $50 for distances less than 5 kilometres, and $65 for more than 5 kilometres).
HACK: Toddler in full-on meltdown? Need to be picked up ASAP? Tap the blue-andwhite “Flash” button on the Grab app to pool ALL of the nearby taxis and private cars – and catch your ride on the double.
MUST-KNOW: You can pay with cash or automatically on the app using your preferred credit card. And, unlike public taxis, private cars like Grab and Uber accept Visa.
5. Uber private cars
The next best thing to having your own private driver: using Uber’s free app.
It provides price estimates according to the type of ride you want to hire, from basic uberX to UberExec town cars and large-size uberXL (which seats up to six passengers).
Plus, it tells you how many minutes until your driver arrives, which you can track on the app – and contact him or her via SMS or phone, if needed.
HACK: A little known fact is that if you take more than 100 Uber rides, you may be upgraded to VIP status, ensuring you’ll get top-rated drivers and higher quality cars.
MUST-KNOW: uberX is subject to surge pricing. Meaning? Prices are sometimes temporarily inflated during peak times to ensure that supply can meet demand. Read carefully before confirming your booking. That said, you can cancel an Uber car without incurring a fee for up to five minutes after booking.
Ok, it isn’t public transport per se, but the newest bike-sharing schemes provide yet another easy option for getting around.
Reduce your carbon footprint, avoid crowded public transport commutes and save some dough with bike-sharing services such as oBike and ofo. Download either app on the Apple iTunes or Google Play stores, then register to unlock the bikes.
HACK: This guide on intra-town cycling by the Singapore Land Transport Authority covers signs and markings to look out for as a cyclist, safety tips for on-road cycling and more. Or, BBBike can help you plan safe cycling routes in Singapore (and hundreds of other cities around the world!). Simply enter your starting point and destination, and other preferences such as speed, and the site will prep a biking route, including the number of traffic lights and more.
MUST-KNOW: oBike requires you to lock the borrowed bicycle at a designated parking area and a $49 deposit plus $0.50 for every 15 minutes of use. ofo bikes, however, are free and can be parked in any safe location once you’re done.
By Candy Lim and Andre Theng, last updated June 2017
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