Singapore is an island city-state in Southeast Asia that has a land area of 722 square kilometres. Travelling around the city is easy because on top of Singapore being small, it also has one of the best and most affordable public transport systems in the world, according to a study done by McKinsey in 2018. Read on to find out more about how the public transport system works in Singapore.
Types of Public Transport in Singapore
The three main modes of public transport in Singapore are the 1. Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), 2. bus and 3. taxi.
Mass Rapid Transit (MRT)
The MRT refers to the main train system that can bring you to most parts of Singapore due to its extensive coverage across the island. This is one of the fastest ways to reach your destination as it bypasses traffic congestion. The train operation hours are from 5.30am to about 12am daily.
Similar to the MRT, the LRT offers intra-town loop services that are currently limited to Bukit Panjang, Sengkang and Punggol housing estates.
Both the MRT and LRT are extremely clean, air-conditioned and well-maintained. It is important to note that you will not be allowed to eat, drink or smoke in the trains and such acts would result in a hefty fine.
The trains are very cheap compared to most train services around the world! A single trip for an adult ranges from $0.83 – $2.08. Senior citizens, persons with disabilities and students travel at a discounted rate that ranges from $0.38 to $0.88.
Children below 0.9m in height and accompanied by a fee-paying commuter do not have to pay for train rides.
Singapore’s public bus transportation is provided by 2 operators, SBS Transit and SMRT and almost all buses are fully air-conditioned. Public buses run daily from 5.30am to about 12am. Depending on the distance, each ride costs $0.67 – $1.58.
Extended night services, the Nite Owl and NightRider, offer night services at a higher cost of $1.50 – $3.00.
“Feeder” bus services run along a small circuit of roads in a single housing estate and cost a flat rate of $0.67.
Similarly, children below 0.9m in height and accompanied by a fee-paying commuter do not have to pay for bus rides.
Taxis in Singapore are charged by the meter and are calculated based on the flag-down rate and distance travelled.
The flag-down rate ranges from $3.00 to $5.00, depending on the type of taxi. Surcharges include midnight surcharge, peak hour surcharge (Mon – Fri, 6am to 9.30pm; Mon – Sun & public holidays, 6pm to midnight), location surcharge and Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) charges. This is the most expensive public transport option, but is the most convenient when travelling to places that are less accessible by bus or train.
Not all public transport in Singapore accepts cash. Opt for these travel cards instead!
EZ Link Card
The EZ-link and Nets FlashPay cards are travel cards with stored values that can be used for all train and bus rides in Singapore. They are the most common form of travel card used due to their convenience, and can be bought from any Ticket Office or Passenger Service Centre, which can be found at all MRT stations.
You can top up the card using cash or credit at any of the following places:
- General Ticketing Machines (in MRT stations, before entering the gantry)
- Add Value Machine Plus
- TransitLink Ticket Office (usually right beside the MRT gantry)
- AXS Stations
- DBS/POSB/OCBC Automatic Teller Machines
- 7-Eleven stores
- SingPost outlets
A standard ticket can be used on MRT and LRT rides for both single and return trips. Do note that this cannot be used on buses. The ticket can be used up to 6 times within 30 days from the date of purchase. It can be bought and topped-up from any Ticket Office or General Ticketing Machines, which can be found in all MRT stations.
The purchase price of the ticket includes a deposit of 10 cents that will be automatically refunded on the travel fare of the third trip. The user can also enjoy a 10-cent discount on the 6th trip.
However, this option is uncommon as the EZ-link card or tourist pass are a lot more convenient and can sufficiently serve the need of most users.
Singapore Tourist Pass (STP)
The Singapore tourist pass offers all-day unlimited travel on rail and regular bus services. There are different passes to cater to your needs. Passes have a 1-3 days limit with different costs ($10/$16/$20/$25/$38) and may or may not require rental deposit. You can head over to the STP website to find the most suitable card for your needs.
The STP can be bought from selected TransitLink Ticket Office or Automated STP Kiosk.
Car Booking Apps
It is pretty simple to order taxis or private hire cars in Singapore. You simply turn on your phone’s location (optional) through settings on your phone, choose any taxi or private hire apps, select the pick-up point to your location, and set the desired destination through street name or postal code.
Below are some apps to help you with a taxi/private hire car booking.
- ComfortDelgro. Users can choose between a metered fare (with a range) or a flat fare (excluding ERP) and can pay by cash or card.
- Taxi-Taxi@SG. This app does not book a taxi for you; instead, it shows you the number of taxis within your vicinity. You can easily walk to a taxi “hotspot” and flag one down.
Private Hire Apps
- Grab. Platforms such as JustGrab, GrabTaxi and GrabHitch offer users various cars and rates. It is one of the most common apps used by Singaporeans when booking a ride.
All three apps have various options to offer users different services suited to their needs. You can always download all of them and compare across the apps to find the cheapest price.
Since Grab is the biggest private hire car company in Singapore, they generally offer cheaper rates and have shorter waiting times.
How To Read Transportation Maps
Unsure of how to navigate the public tranport system? Don’t fret – every MRT Station has an overall map of all the lines that run through Singapore. And while there isn’t an official bus map, there are various apps to guide you around.
Here’s a breakdown on navigating the system.
Reading the MRT Map
Above is the official MRT/LRT map provided by the Land Transport Authority (LTA).
The first MRT lines built in Singapore are the North-South (NS) and East-West (EW) lines. As the names suggest, the NS line runs from the North (NS28: Marina South Pier) to South (NS1: Jurong East) of Singapore, while the EW line covers the East (EW1: Pasir Ris) to West (EW33: Tuas Link) of Singapore.
Since then, other lines such as the Northeast Line, Circle Line (CCL) and Downtown line have been added to facilitate travelling across the country.
The lines have been colour-coded for easy reference:
- Green – East-West Line
- Red – North-South Line
- Purple – North-East Line
- Yellow – Circle Line
- Blue – Downtown Line
- Grey – LRT lines in Bukit Panjang, Sengkang and Punggol
The line intersections show the stations with an MRT interchange, where commuters can switch from one line to another. Do note that there can be a bit of walking required when interchanging to other lines, such as the North-east or Downtown line.
You can download the MRT map to your phone to refer to it on-the-go.
Alternatively, apps like Google maps or CityMapper show you the best way to get to your destination as well as your estimated time of arrival (ETA).
Reading Bus Maps
There is no official bus map in Singapore, but apps like SG Buses provide you with everything you need to know about the bus system in Singapore, including bus stop locations, arrival times, routes and seat availability.
The app has a pretty simple interface and it will let you know the most efficient way to get from your location to destination, so you won’t have to study and memorise bus routes.
Alternatively, you can use Google maps to find out whether trains or buses will take you on the best route.
Car Rental Platforms and Cost
There are several car rental companies in Singapore that allow you to rent a car by the hour or day. Here are some companies that offer the lowest rates!
Do note that rental cars do not provide cash cards so you will have to purchase one to pay for parking in multi-storey carparks or ERP charges.
Avis Car Rental
Avis Car Rental offers classic cars like Toyota and Hyundai, but also luxury cars like BMWs. Rates are from $69/day.
Swee Seng Leasing
Swee Seng Leasing offers a range family-friendly options, including hatchbacks, sedans, SUVs and MPVs. Try them if you’re travelling in a larger group! Rates are from $60/day.
Eazi Car Leasing
You are certainly spoilt for choice with Eazi Car Leasing as they offer over 30 car models, including luxury brands like BMW, Lexus and Mercedes. Insurance is covered within the rental price of $60/day and a replacement car will be provided if the car happens to break down.
Tips When Using Google Maps
Here are a few tips and tricks when using Google maps to ensure that you have a smooth travelling experience in Singapore!
If you have limited data, make sure to download the offline map of Singapore using wi-fi before travelling. Just pull up the location of Singapore, open the settings menu and select “offline maps” to save it. That way, you can view the map without using data and even track your location using GPS.
Make A List Of All Your Favourite Spots
You can store all your planned destinations, whether restaurants, tourist attractions or parks, using the map so that you can refer to them easily (even when you’re offline!). Tap on a location and hit “save”. Select “new list” and give it a name. You can continue adding new locations to your existing lists, and even share them with the friends that you’re travelling with!
Add Multiple Destinations
Google maps defaults to bringing you from a location straight to your destination. To add an extra stop to your trip, press the three horizontal dots in the top right corner to pull up a menu and select “add stop”. That way, you can plan your trip in advance and choose the most convenient way to travel.
Recommendations For Nearby Spots
If you are in an unfamiliar area, the “near” function becomes very useful. Simply search for “western restaurant near orchard” or “atm machines near me” to get useful suggestions by Google maps, which can make your life a lot easier.
Transportation in Singapore may be daunting, but you’ll get the hang of it through constant usage. In addition, most Singaporeans speak English so you can always ask them for help should you require any assistance. Nevertheless, Singapore is generally a very safe country so travelling alone should not be much of a problem. The maps and apps listed in this article are easy to use so they should be enough to serve your travelling needs.
We hope that this article has been helpful as a guide to taking public transports in Singapore and we hope you enjoy your stay here!