If there’s one thing you definitely won’t need to organise while in Singapore, it’s a hire car. This isn’t because driving in the city-state is difficult or dangerous; quite the opposite in fact, the high road tolls and new car pricing means traffic is light plus all the road signs are in English.
However, Singapore places a firm emphasis on public rather than private transport and have developed an efficient, value-for-money system that will whisk you from sight to sight quickly, comfortably and cleanly.
More than half the population uses public transport to get to work, adding up to a massive 5.3 million journeys a day, but despite this, the system copes admirably, never showing any signs of strain.
Mass Rapid Transport
The backbone of Singapore’s transport system since it opened in 1987, has been the (Mass Rapid Transport) MRT rail network. The first of its four lines, the North South, was swiftly followed by the East West, with two more, the North East and the Circle opening in 2003 and 2009 respectively. A number of extensions and two new lines are planned for the next couple of decades.
In total there are currently 102 stations, meaning you are never far away from being able to hop on to a train. Acting as feeders to the MRT is the Light Rail Transit system, which operates fully-automated on three lines.
The trains and the underground stations are air-conditioned and screens keep you informed of the next departure, rarely more than a few minutes. There are a number of fare options, including one-time tickets but for a visit of a few days, a stored value or ez-link card is your best bet. Available from TransitLink Ticket Offices, these allow you to pre-load the card with an amount of your choosing. The card is swiped as you enter and leave the stations and the correct amount is debited.
Another option is the Standard Ticket, which allows six journeys within 30 days. However ez-link cards have the advantage of being usable on the bus system.
There are two main bus companies in Singapore, SMRT and SBS. The latter is the larger, operating more than 300 routes, serviced by over 3000 buses, with SMRT around one third the size. A current enhancement programme is adding more than 40 routes and an additional 800 buses to the roads.
Like the trains, the buses are air-conditioned with some even featuring TVs. Fares are very reasonable, ranging from between 60c and $1.50, paid either in cash (where no change is given), or using an ez-card – but remember to swipe your card when disembarking or you will be charged the full fare.
There are also night bus services on Fridays, Saturdays and the day before public holidays. Fares for these range between $1.50 for the inner city and $4.00 further afield.
No wonder Singapore bus travel is the envy of the world!
With nearly 20,000 on the roads, finding a taxi in Singapore is rarely a problem, although as in all big cities, as soon as it rains they become a prized and fought-over rarity. You can also struggle during shift change time, from 4pm to 5pm, as well as late evenings from 10pm to 11pm when the post-dinner crowd heads home. Otherwise you can flag a taxi in the street or grab one from one of the numerous ranks.
Beware though, there are a number of surcharges including peak hour and airport journeys. The largest price hike is reserved for post 11.30pm when an additional 50% is added onto the metered fare until 6am.