Get the credit-card-sized electronic EZ-Link card to use on MRT trains and local buses. Just tap on and off at the sensors. You can buy one, and top up your card's credit, at all MRT stations.
Singapore is the easiest city in Asia to get around. Maps showing the surrounding area are printed on the walls in MRT stations – great for figuring out which exit to use.
The smartphone app gothere.sg will guide you from your location to your destination via different public transport options; it also provides an approximate taxi fare guide.
- MRT The local subway – the most convenient way to get around between 5.30am and midnight.
- Bus Go everywhere the trains do and more. Great for views. Runs from 5am till 1am the following day, plus some later night buses from the city.
- Taxis These are fairly cheap if you're used to Sydney or London prices, though there are hefty surcharges during peak hours and from midnight to 6am. Flag one on the street or at a taxi stand. Good luck getting one on rainy days.
- Grab Singapore's answer to Uber, which they took over in 2018.
Avoid cycling on roads. Drivers are sometimes aggressive and the roads themselves are uncomfortably hot. A much safer and more pleasant option for cyclists is Singapore's large network of parks and park connectors, not to mention 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 route linking Mt Faber Park, Telok Blangah Hill Park and Kent Ridge Park.
Only fold-up bikes are allowed on trains and buses, with only one fold-up bike allowed on buses at any time, so you might as well ride if you have to.
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.
Bike-sharing platforms made an appearance in Singapore in 2017 and they're already extremely popular. So far there are two players in the market, Mobike (www.mobike.com) and ofo (www.ofo.so) – each are still working out the kinks in their systems but basically you download the app, pay a deposit (between S$40 and S$50), find a bike and off you go. You're charged for the time you ride.
Singapore's extensive bus service is clean, efficient and regular, reaching every corner of the island. The two main operators are SBS Transit and SMRT. Both offer similar services. For information and routes, check the websites. Alternatively download the 'SG Buses' smartphone app, which will give you real-time bus arrivals.
Bus fares range from S$1 to S$2.10 (less with an EZ-Link card). When you board the bus, drop the exact money into the fare box (no change is given), or tap your EZ-Link card or Singapore Tourist Pass on the reader as you board, then again when you get off.
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. See the website for route details.
Car & Motorcycle
Singaporeans drive on the left-hand side of the road and it is compulsory to wear seat belts in the front and back of the car. The Mighty Minds Singapore Street Directory (S$16.90) is invaluable and available from petrol stations, bookshops, FairPrice supermarkets and stationery stores. However, the island has good internet coverage so Google Maps is also a reasonable option.
If you plan on driving in Singapore, bring your current home driver's licence. Some car-hire companies may also require you to have an international driving permit.
The roads are immaculate and well signed. However, drivers tend to change lanes quickly and sometimes do so without signalling. Motorcycles have a bad habit of riding between cars, especially when traffic is slow.
If you want a car for local driving only, it's worth checking smaller operators, where the rates are often cheaper than the big global rental firms. If you're going into Malaysia, you're better off renting in Johor Bahru, where the rates are significantly lower (besides which, Malaysian police are renowned for targeting Singapore licence plates).
Rates start from around S$60 a day. Special deals may be available, especially for longer-term rental. Most rental companies require that drivers are at least 23 years old.
All major car-hire companies have booths at Changi Airport as well as in the city.
Restricted Zone & Car Parking
At various times through the day, from Monday to Saturday, much of central Singapore is considered a restricted zone. Cars are free to enter but they must pay a toll. Vehicles are automatically tracked by sensors on overhead Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) gantries, so cars must be fitted with an in-vehicle unit, into which drivers must insert a cash card (available at petrol stations and 7-Elevens). The toll is extracted from the card. The same system is also in operation on certain expressways. Rental cars are subject to the same rules. Check www.onemotoring.com.sg for ERP rates and hours of operation.
Parking in the city centre is expensive, but relatively easy to find – almost every major mall has a car park. Many car parks are now using the same in-vehicle unit and cash card as the ERP gantries. Outdoor car parks and street parking spaces are usually operated by the government – you can buy booklets of parking coupons, which must be displayed in the window, from petrol stations and 7-Elevens; however, these are being phased out in favour of the 'Parking SG' smartphone app.
You can flag down a taxi any time, but in the city centre taxis are technically not allowed to stop anywhere except at designated taxi stands.
Finding a taxi in the city at certain times is harder than it should be. These include during peak hours, at night, or when it’s raining. Many cab drivers change shifts between 4pm and 5pm, making it notoriously difficult to score a taxi then.
The fare system is also complicated, but thankfully it’s all metered, so there’s no haggling over fares. The basic flagfall is S$3 to S$3.40 then S$0.22 for every 400m.
There's a whole raft of surcharges to note, among them:
- 50% of the metered fare from midnight to 6am
- 25% of the metered fare between 6am and 9.30am Monday to Friday, and 6pm to midnight daily
- S$5 for airport trips from 5pm to midnight Friday to Sunday, and S$3 at all other times
- S$3 city-area surcharge from 5pm to midnight
- S$2.30 to S$8 for telephone bookings
Payment by credit card incurs a 10% surcharge. You can also pay using your EZ-Link transport card. For a comprehensive list of fares and surcharges, visit www.taxisingapore.com.
Mass Rapid Transit (MRT)
The efficient Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) subway system is the easiest, quickest and most comfortable way to get around Singapore. The system 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 five colour-coded lines: North–South (red), North–East (purple), East–West (green), Circle Line (orange) and Downtown (blue). A sixth line, the Thomson–East Coast Line (brown), will open in five stages and is scheduled to begin in 2019.
You'll find a map of the network at www.smrt.com.sg.
Fares & Fare Cards
Single-trip tickets cost from S$1.40 to S$2.50, but if you're using the MRT a lot it can become a hassle buying and refunding tickets for every journey. A lot more convenient is the EZ-Link card. Alternatively, a Singapore Tourist Pass (www.thesingaporetouristpass.com.sg) offers unlimited train and bus travel (S$10 plus a S$10 refundable deposit) for one day.
Tickets & Passes
- If you're staying in Singapore for more than a day or two, the easiest way to pay for travel on public transport is with the EZ-Link card (www.ezlink.com.sg). The card allows you to travel by train and bus by simply swiping it over sensors as you enter and leave a station or bus.
- EZ-Link cards can be purchased from the customer service counters at MRT stations for S$12 (this includes a S$5 nonrefundable deposit).
- The card can also be bought at 7-Elevens for S$10 (including the S$5 nonrefundable deposit).
- Cards can be topped up with cash or by ATM cards at station ticket machines. The minimum top-up value is S$10 while the maximum stored value allowed on your card is S$500.
Trishaws peaked just after WWII when motorised transport was practically nonexistent and trishaw drivers could make a tidy income. Today there are only around 250 trishaws left in Singapore, mainly plying the tourist routes. Trishaws have banded together and are now managed in a queue system by Trishaw Uncle.
You can also find freelance trishaw riders outside the Raffles Hotel. Always agree on the fare beforehand: expect to pay S$40 for 30 minutes.