Getting around sultry Singapore is an absolute breeze thanks to the Lion City’s excellent public transport system, which is continually expanding. With taxis, rideshare services, and bicycle hire also available, most travelers won’t see the need to hire a car.
If you’re visiting for more than a day or two, the easiest way to pay for travel on public transport is with the EZ-Link card, which allows you to travel by MRT trains, local buses, river taxis, the Sentosa Express monorail, and by most taxis. Simply swipe the card over sensors as you enter and leave a station or bus. Cards are available for purchase and top from customer service counters at MRT stations and at 7-Elevens for S$10; both prices include a S$5 nonrefundable deposit. You can also top-up your card through the EZ-Link app.
Here’s everything else you need to know about getting around Singapore.
Efficient, clean, and blissfully air-conditioned, Singapore’s Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) metro system is the easiest and quickest way to get around Singapore. There are more than 130 stations on the system, which operates from 5.30am to midnight, with trains at peak times running every two to three minutes, and off-peak every five to seven minutes.
In the inner city, the MRT runs underground, emerging overground out towards the suburban housing estates. It consists of six colour-coded lines: North–South (red), North–East (purple), East–West (green), Circle Line (orange) and Downtown (blue), and the Thomson–East Coast Line (brown). The latter opened its first three stations in 2020, followed by six more in mid–2021. A third stage connecting Caldecott with Marina Bay is scheduled to open in 2022, with a final section running through to Changi Airport due to be completed by 2040. There’s a map of the network on the Land Transport Authority website.
Single-trip tickets cost from S$1.70, but if you’re using the MRT a lot it’s more convenient and cheaper to use the EZ-Link card.
Singapore’s extensive bus service is clean, efficient and regular, reaching just about every corner of the island. The two main operators are SBS Transit and SMRT, both of which accept EZ-Link cards. You can also pay with cash, but you’ll need the exact fare as no change is given. Routes and timetables can be found on their websites as well as the 'SG Buses' app, which shows real-time bus arrivals.
Train operator SMRT also runs late-night bus services between the city and various suburbs from 11.30pm to 4.35am on Fridays, Saturdays and the eve of public holidays. The flat rate per journey is S$4.50.
Once a popular mode of transport in the Little Red Dot, Singapore’s dwindling fleet of trishaws (three-wheeled bicycle taxis) have evolved to offer novelty rides through some of the city state's most atmospheric neighbourhoods courtesy of Trishaw Uncle, the city-state’s only licensed trishaw tour operator. Freelance trishaw operators are far and few between these days; look for them in tourist haunts like Chinatown and outside Raffles Singapore.
Taxi and rideshare
When you’re headed to one of the few corners of Singapore that isn’t serviced by its public transport network, or you need to get somewhere quickly or after hours, metered taxis and rideshare services have you covered.
Singapore taxis are clean, air-conditioned and affordable by Singapore standards. They’re also becoming greener: look out for the fleet of neon-green electric Strides Taxi cabs rolled out in 2021.
Taxis are technically only allowed to stop at designated taxi stands, so make a beeline for a hotel or shopping centre, but you may be able to flag one down if you're lucky. Do note that finding a cab during peak hours, at night, or when it's raining can be difficult. Many drivers change shifts between 4pm and 5pm, making it notoriously tricky to score a taxi then too.
The fare system here is complicated, but as taxis are metered there’s no haggling over fares. Passengers are expected to pay in cash when you can – Singapore taxis don’t accept Visa, and other cards incur a 10% surcharge. You can also pay using your Ez-link transport card. For a comprehensive list of fares and surcharges, visit Taxi Singapore.
Grab is Singapore’s answer to Uber and Lyft, and works much the same way – book and pay through the app, and expect price ‘surges’ during peak times.
If you’re staying downtown, water taxis are a fun way to get around, with stops at Robertson Quay, Clemenceau, Clarke Quay, Boat Quay, and the Esplanade. Scenic river cruises are also available.
Cycling may be a sweaty endeavour in perpetually hot and humid Singapore, but it hasn’t deterred the Land Transport Authority from its goal to triple the nation’s 460km (286-mile) network of bike paths by 2030. Top draws include the 300km (186-mile) Park Connector Network of trails connecting Singapore’s green spaces, and the dedicated mountain-biking areas at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Tampines and Pulau Ubin.
Other excellent places for cycling include East Coast Park, Sentosa, Pasir Ris Park and the Southern Ridges. Note that only fold-up bikes are allowed on trains and buses, with only one fold-up bike allowed on buses at any time.
Bikes can be rented at several places along East Coast Park and on Sentosa Island and Pulau Ubin, with adult prices starting from S$7 a day on Pulau Ubin and around S$12 an hour elsewhere.
Singapore also supports several bike-sharing platforms with the major players including SGbike and Anywheel. Simply download the app, create an account, locate a bike, and off you go! You’re charged for the time you ride.
If you’re planning a visit to the laid-back island escape of Pulau Ubin, you’ll need to board a bumboat (motorised sampan) at Changi Point Ferry Terminal, near the airport, for the 15-minute trip. Boats don’t leave until full (usually 12 people), so factor in some waiting time.
You can also visit four of Singapore’s Southern Islands by public ferry, with services bound for St John’s Island, Lazarus Island, Kusu Island, and Sisters’ Island departing from the Marina South Pier. Island-hopping tickets are available.
Singapore Tourist Pass
If you’ve got a jam-packed Singapore itinerary, it may be more cost-effective to purchase a one-, two- or three-day Singapore Tourist Pass which includes unlimited train and bus travel for up to three days. Passes start at S$10 for one day plus a S$10 refundable deposit.
Accessible transportation in Singapore
Singapore is one of the world’s most accessible cities, as befits one of a handful of countries that have officially adopted Universal Design principles. In terms of transport, all MRT stations have priority lifts, tactile wayfinding, easy-to-follow signage, visual and audible indicators in lifts and on platforms, and wheelchair-accessible toilets.
Singapore’s entire fleet of public buses was declared wheelchair-friendly in December 2020; almost all bus stops are barrier-free.
Wheelchair-accessible taxis can sometimes be flagged down, but wheelchair-accessible maxicabs can be booked through Limousine Transport.
For more information on accessible travel in Singapore and beyond, download Lonely Planet’s complimentary Accessible Travel Online Resources ebook.
You might also like:
The top 25 free things to do in Singapore
The best time to go to Singapore
8 essential beaches in Singapore