Singapore is not known as a fine city for nothing. Just making sure you don’t murder someone or peddle drugs on the street isn’t enough to keep you safe from the ever-present threat of fines.
So get acquainted with the fines in Singapore before you unwittingly commit an offence. Here are the 9 most common ones.
Fines in Singapore – 9 things you don’t want to be caught doing
|Offence||Fine per charge|
|Importing and selling gum||$10,000 or up to one year in jail|
|Drink-driving||$5,000 or up to 6 months in jail|
|Smoking in prohibited places||Up to $1,000 or up to 3 months in jail|
|Drinking in public at liquor control zones||Up to $1,000 or up to 3 months in jail|
|Littering||Up to $2,000 or up to 3 months in jail|
|Jaywalking||$20 to $1,000 or up to 3 months in jail|
|Using someone else’s unsecured Wi-Fi network||Up to $10,000 or up to 3 years in jail|
|Eating and drinking on the MRT||Up to $500|
|Feeding pigeons||Up to $500|
1. Importing and selling chewing gum
The infamous chewing gum ban in Singapore is a perplexing one for foreigners, but the reasons behind it are simple: incidents of gum stuck between MRT train doors caused disruptions and cleaning up carelessly disposed chewing gum was costing the city too much money in 1991.
Fortunately, following a ban lift in 2004, some pharmacies do carry chewing gum for medical purposes. Anecdotally, it doesn’t seem that the rule against eating chew gum is strictly enforced as well.
While you can chew gum in Singapore, take note if you are caught importing chewing gum, you could be fined up to $10,000 or jailed up to one year for first-time offenders.
Getting caught for drink driving frequently happens to regular folk in Singapore. You don’t necessarily have to be drunk to get caught, since the legal limit of 35ug/100ml of breath or 80mg/100ml of blood isn’t very high at all.
Depending on just how much alcohol they find in your body, a first-time offender can be fined up to $5,000 or imprisonment of up to 6 months.
But one of the worst things about getting caught for drink driving is losing your licence, because the process of getting one is so arduous in Singapore. It’s even worse if you have other licences like a motorcycle licence or taxi vocational licence, because one drink driving offence wipes all of them out. And in the case of most non-Class 3 licences, you will not only have to resit all theory and practical tests but also redo the entire course at a driving centre.
3. Smoking in prohibited places
Most smokers smoke in prohibited areas every single day, but what do you expect them to do really, since smoking has been banned in virtually every conceivable public place, from common corridors in HDB flats to void decks to bus tops to sheltered walkways. Technically, someone has to stand at least five metres away from a bus stop or sheltered walkway just to smoke. But nobody does that in real life because it means dying of heatstroke.
While you can technically get fined up to $1,000, in reality first-timers are likely to be made to pay the minimum of $200, unless they get caught smoking in air conditioned areas or on the MRT.
And lest you think you can get away with smoking as long as you’re not caught, beware – NEA is testing out heat-detection thermal cameras that can detect smoking in prohibited areas that can capture high definition images of the smoker’s face.
4. Drinking in public
Before 2013, the only thing about Singapore that’s legitimately cool is the fact that you can crack open a can of beer in the middle of Gardens by the Bay or on East Coast Park beach. But alas, the death knell has sounded.
Under the Liquor Control Act, which came into force on April 1, 2015, retail shops are not allowed to sell takeaway alcohol from 10.30pm to 7am. There are also Liquor Control Zones at Geylang and Little India where public drinking is banned.
One of my friends, determined not to start patronising overpriced bars, was heartened when he realised that first-time offenders will probably get away with a warning, while newbies can get slapped with a fine of not more than $1,000. “It’s not that bad,” he says, prepared to run the risk for the sake of preserving his favourite local tradition.
Every primary school kid in Singapore has been warned that if you become a litterbug you’ll be slapped with the ignominious Corrective Work Order, which means you get to don a highlighter yellow vest and pick up trash in a public place so the entire world can witness your shame.
Well, that wouldn’t be so bad if you didn’t have to pay a fine as well. If you’re a first-time offender and have been caught just flicking away an innocent little cigarette butt or tossing a scrunched up ball of tissue, you’ll probably get away with a fine of $300.
But try to dispose large items or, worse, fling killer litter out of the window and you could get slapped with a full fine of $2,000 (first conviction). Or you could be like this guy, who got fined $19,800 for perpetual littering of cigarette butts out of his home window. Yes, Big Brother is watching (and that’s a good thing in this case!).
Apparently, in 2016, the number of fines handed out for littering rose to a seven-year high, and before you blame foreigners, get this: Singapore residents made up more than 60% of the offenders. Seriously? Clean up after yourself!
Nobody really knows the true definition of jaywalking, because you have to be pretty unlucky to get caught. Still, it does happen. I actually know someone who did get caught, and policemen have been known to station themselves in areas rife with jaywalkers. So does the law against jaywalking mean you can never again dash across a road? Not really.
Darting across the road only counts as jaywalking if you are within 50 metres of an area designated for road-crossing, such as a traffic light, pedestrian crossing or overhead bridge. But that doesn’t deter most people from dashing across the road anyway, because nobody really wants to spend an extra 5 minutes hiking over an overhead bridge in the sweltering heat. Especially the elderly, who made up 30% of jaywalking incidents in 2016.
The good news is that you’re likely to be fined a paltry $20 if you get caught for the first time. Offenders may also be charged and fined up to $1,000 or jailed for up to three months. Repeat offenders may be fined up to $2,000 or jailed for up to six months.
7. Using someone else’s unsecured wifi network
So your neighbour is a technological dinosaur and doesn’t know how to put a password on his wifi network, and you’ve been gleefully piggybacking on his connection. Sorry to break it to you, but if your neighbour is particularly vindictive and lodges a complaint, you could be liable to a hefty fine, under section 6(1)(a) of the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act.
While there haven’t exactly been thousands of people who have been convicted of stealing wifi, if you’re unlucky enough you could end up paying a fine of up to $10,000. There’s also the danger that your computer will get seized during investigations, which means you could end up in a lot of trouble for other sorts of activity, if you know what I mean.
8. Eating and drinking on the MRT
The MRT is a dangerous place. Not only are you at the mercy of super vigilant MRT staff (try bringing an unopened cup of bubble tea into an MRT station and watch them descend like vultures), but if you fold yourself into a packed cabin you’ll be under the scrutiny of a thousand “citizen journalists”, too.
And while there are scores of so-called offences in Singapore that aren’t enforced, eating and drinking on the MRT is one that is. While the sinister-looking signs on the walls of the MRT station declare that you can be fined $500, in reality the amount that will be extracted from your wallet depends on the severity of your behaviour.
For example, this woman got fined $30 for eating a sweet on the MRT. Ouch! On the other hand, if you start opening a bottle of Martell and try to squeeze ketchup over your McDonald’s fries in the middle of the MRT cabin, I wish you luck.
9. Feeding pigeons
If you’re thinking of living out your Mary Poppins fantasies by feeding the little birdies, forget it. Feeding the pigeons will result in your being slapped with a fine of up to $500 under Animals and Birds (Pigeons) Rules. Pigeon droppings are responsible for spreading all sorts of diseases, and pigeons are kind of like rats with wings.
NEA encourages people to call in and report anyone who’s spotted feeding pigeons, so don’t even think of setting up a bird feeder on the balcony or benevolently tossing your breadcrumbs into the corridor. They’re serious. Find another void deck activity or get fined like these two men for feeding pigeons.
Have you ever been fined for any of the above? Tell us about it in the comments!
Image credit: Matt Madd via Flickr