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Transport For Tourists In Singapore – Guide To The Best And Most Affordable Means To Get Around In Singapore

transport for tourists getting around singapore

Joanne Poh

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It’s no surprise that cost is often a key concern of tourists to Singapore, especially those who have been travelling in more affordable neighbouring countries. While you might have relied on tuk tuks or motorbike taxis in neighbouring destinations, in Singapore these modes of transportation are unavailable, and taxis are a lot more expensive so you might not want to use them all the time. Fortunately, there’s a buffet of transport options for tourists at all budgets.

However, some do require a bit of know-how before you start using them. Not to worry, this guide will have you zipping about the island like a pro.

Contents

  1. What transport options are there in Singapore?
  2. MRT
  3. Buses
  4. LRT
  5. Taxi
  6. Ride hailing mobile app
  7. Bike sharing

 

What transport options are there in Singapore?

Here are the various transport options tourists on holiday in Singapore can use.

  • MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) – This is the local subway system, and offers probably the quickest way to get around if you and your destination are both near an MRT station.
  • Buses – Slower than the MRT, but also the cheapest way to get to a destination if there is no MRT station nearby.
  • LRT (Light Rail Transit) – Connects to the MRT network in the suburbs Bukit Panjang, Sengkang and Punggol. Unless you’re visiting someone who lives in these suburbs, you’re unlikely to use the LRT.
  • Taxis – Can be hailed on the street and ordered by phone or through mobile apps like ComfortDelgro Taxi Booking and Grab.
  • Ride hailing mobile appsGrab is the only one available now that Uber has bowed out. You will need a smartphone with an internet connection.
  • Bike sharing – Pick these shared bikes up anytime you see them, and park them anywhere when you’re done. You will need to create an account on the bike sharing service’s app ahead of time, and must have a smartphone with an internet connection when you pick up and park the bikes.

 

MRT

How to use it and where it takes you

The MRT is one of the more efficient ways to get around town as it is fast and is not affected by traffic jams. Fares are also relatively cheap, considering the cost of living.

MRT stations are also within walking distance of virtually all the tourist sights in the city centre, including Marina Bay, Chinatown, Little India, Kampong Glam and Orchard Road.

However, the MRT network is not as dense as the metro network in, say, London, Paris or Tokyo. That means that to get to certain destinations such as the Zoo or Bird Park which are far from the city core, you will need to get off the MRT network and take a bus, taxi or other mode of transport to your final destination.

MRT Map

As a tourist, these are the stations you’re most likely to be using:

  • Changi Airport – All travellers arriving by air will be able to access the city centre from Changi Airport MRT station.
  • Raffles Place – The CBD of Singapore, and also home to the Riverside colonial area, Boat Quay and famous rooftop bars like One Altitude.
  • City Hall – Continuation of the colonial city core, with landmarks like Raffles Hotel.
  • Bayfront – Marina Bay Sands and Gardens by the Bay, two must-sees for first-time visitors.
  • Esplanade – As the name suggests, this station takes you to the Esplanade, the durian-shaped building that’s also the main performing arts venue in Singapore, from which you can see the Merlion.
  • Chinatown / Telok Ayer – This station is the gateway to Singapore’s Chinatown area and the Club Street party area.
  • Little India – Historic Indian enclave with atmospheric temples and the best Indian food in town.
  • Bugis – A short walk to the Kampong Glam area, and the hip bars and shops on Haji Lane. The Bugis area is also home to Bugis Market, the National Library and some famous temples.
  • Orchard / Somerset – The massive Orchard Road shopping belt is home to glitzy malls.
  • Clarke Quay – The party zone most popular with tourists.
  • Harbourfront – Connects to VivoCity, where you can catch the Sentosa Express Monorail (on Level 3 of the mall) to Sentosa, where Resorts World and Universal Studios are located.

 

MRT ticketing options

There are three ticketing options to choose from:

  • Standard ticket – If you are only in Singapore for only a day or two, you can simply purchase one of these, for use on the MRT and LRT. These can be bought at the ticketing and top-up machines located at every station. You can buy single-trip or return-trip tickets, and you can use each Standard ticket up to 6 times.
  • EZ-Link card – Staying for a while? Then you can save some money with an EZ-Link card. MRT, bus and LRT fares are significantly cheaper when you pay by EZ-Link, but the card itself costs $5. You can buy them at the ticket offices (with $7 stored value) located at MRT stations, as well as 7-11 outlets (with $5 stored value). These cards can be reloaded at the top-up machines located at every MRT station.
  • Singapore Tourist Pass – It gives you unlimited rides on the MRT, buses and LRT.

 

Where can you buy the Singapore Tourist Pass?

You can buy these at the Transitlink Ticket Offices located at Changi Airport City Hall, Raffles Place, Chinatown, Bugis, Somerset, Orchard, Bayfront, Harbourfront, Lavender, Woodlands, Jurong East, Kranji and Ang Mo Kio stations. You can also buy your pass at the Changi Recommends counters at Changi Airport terminals.

 

How much does the Singapore Tourist Pass cost?

The cost of the Singapore Tourist Pass is as follows:

1-day pass

2-day pass

3-day pass

$10

$16

$20

How to pay

When you buy an EZ-Link card or Singapore Tourist Pass at the control station or ticketing offices at MRT stations, you are usually required to pay in cash.

Only got a credit card? You can pay by card if you purchase your EZ-Link card at a 7-11 outlet or your Singapore Tourist Pass at a Changi Recommends counter at Changi Airport.

To buy single-use tickets or re-load your EZ-Link card at the ticketing and top-up machines at most MRT stations, you can pay using cash, credit or debit card.

Once you’ve got your card, you simply tap in and out at the gantries to enter and exit MRT stations.

Fares

Fares for a single MRT ride range from $0.77 to $2.02. If you have to make a transfer to a bus or the LRT, your maximum fare will still be $2.02 as fares are calculated based on distance regardless of mode of transport.

If you tap in before 7.45am at any station using an EZ-Link card, you will receive a discount of $0.50.

Here are some sample MRT fares.

Trip

EZ-Link fare

Standard ticket fare

Changi Airport to Marina Bay

$1.72

$2.40

Chinatown to Orchard

$0.87

$1.60

Bayfront to Little India

$0.87

$1.60

Woodlands to Esplanade

$1.87

$2.50

Bugis to Orchard

$0.87

$1.60

Jurong East to Changi Airport

$1.94

$2.50

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Bus

How to use it and where it takes you

Singaporeans tend to rely on buses to take them to and from MRT stations whenever their starting points or destinations are not within walking distance of a station.

Bus stops are always sheltered and clearly marked with the numbers of the available bus services. In addition, there are large bus interchanges at some MRT stations which serve as a terminus.

Buses cover pretty much all of Singapore, including areas that are not well-served by the MRT. As a tourist, most of the main areas can be reached via MRT. However, you might need to rely on buses or another mode of transport to get to the following places:

  • Singapore Zoo and Night Safari – Take Bus 138 from the bus interchange beside Ang Mo Kio MRT station (30 minute ride).
  • Jurong Bird Park – Take Bus 194 from the bus interchange beside Boon Lay MRT station (6 minute ride).
  • Changi Point Ferry Terminal (for Pulau Ubin) – Take Bus 59 from Tampines East Station (13 minute bus ride).
  • Bus ticketing options

To take buses, you can pay in the following ways.

  • Coins – You can pay the bus driver directly in coins on board. Change is not given. You will receive a ticket for that ride, dispensed by a machine to the right of the bus driver. Fares are highest when paid in cash.
  • EZ-Link card – See the MRT section above. Simply tap your EZ-Link card at the card readers at each entrance or exit. Fares are cheaper when paid by EZ-link than in cash.
  • Singapore Tourist Pass – See MRT section above.

 

How to pay

Prepare coins, preferably in exact change, if you wish to pay on board.

Otherwise, the EZ-Link and Singapore Tourist Pass payment options have already been discussed above.

Fares

Every bus stop contains info about each bus route it is on, including the list of stops, first and last bus timing and fares.

Bus fares, like MRT fares, range from $0.77 to $2.02. You will be charged roughly the same amount when you travel by bus as you would if you were travelling the same distance by MRT despite the fact that bus travel is much slower.

If your journey involves both MRT and bus rides, you will be charged according to distance travelled. That means that if you get off the MRT and immediately take the bus just one stop, you will be charged much less than $0.77 for that bus ride.

Here are some sample distances and their corresponding bus fares (assuming your entire journey is made by bus).

Distance of journey

Ez-Link fare

Cash onboard fare

3.2 km and under

$0.77

$1.40

5.3 to 6.2 km

$1.07

$1.60

9.3 to 10.2 km

$1.33

$2.00

14.3 to 15.2 km

$1.53

$2.20

20.3 to 21.2 km

$1.75

$2.40

Do note that these fares apply only to regular bus routes. There are also Express bus routes (mostly serving office workers travelling to the city centre from the suburbs and back during rush hour) and Night Rider buses (running from the city centre to the suburbs after midnight on Fridays and Saturdays), both of which cost more.

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LRT

Where it takes you

The LRT connects seamlessly to the MRT network, and travels to destinations in the following residential suburban areas:

  • Bukit Panjang in the northwest of Singapore
  • Sengkang in the northeast of Singapore
  • Punggol in the northeast of Singapore

There is little of touristic interest in these three neighbourhoods, so tourists generally do not have end up taking the LRT.

LRT ticketing options

Ticketing works in exactly the same manner as for the MRT (see above), so you can continue to use the following:

  • Standard Ticket
  • EZ-Link card
  • Singapore Tourist Pass

 

How to pay

Same as for the MRT (see above).

Fares

Here are some sample LRT fares.

Trip

EZ-Link fare

Standard ticket fare

Choa Chu Kang to Fajar

$0.97

$1.60

Sengkang to Ranggung

$0.77

$1.40

Punggol to Riviera

$0.77

$1.40

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Taxi

How to use it and where it takes you

Going back to your accommodation at 4am after a crazy night of partying? Or don’t want to have to take the MRT with a huge suitcase in tow?

If you don’t have a smartphone with an internet connection, you will probably have to take a taxi.

Taxis in Singapore can be conveniently flagged down on the street, or queued for at a taxi stand in certain places. You can easily identify taxis from the signs on their roofs. When these light up in green, it means the taxis are free to accept passengers. There is usually a taxi stand in front of major hotels and at major shopping malls.

Sometimes, taxis can be in short supply, such as during rush hour, during a downpour or in the half-hour before late night surcharge kicks in at midnight. In such cases, you might have to order a taxi by phone, or by using a taxi booking mobile app like [email protected].

Taxis are technically supposed to take you anywhere you want, except into Malaysia. In practice, some drivers might reject you if you’re going to a location that’s not convenient for them or if they’re on their way home.

Here are the taxi operators in Singapore and the number to dial when booking a cab.

  • ComfortDelGro – 6552 4525
  • CitiCab – 6552 4525
  • SMRT Taxis – 6555 8888
  • Trans-Cab – 6555 6666
  • Premier Taxis – 6476 3033
  • Prime Taxi – 6778 0808
  • HDT Taxi – 6258 8888

 

How to pay

  • Cash – All taxi drivers accept cash and can give youchange.
  • Credit or debit card – The majority of cabs accept payment by credit card, though you should ask before boarding just to be sure they are not experiencing any problems like a malfunctioning card reader. Note that you will be charged an administrative charge for paying by credit card. If you are booking your taxi using a mobile app, you might also have the option of paying online using your credit card. For instance, if you’re using ride-hailing app Grab to book your taxi, you can pay online through the app using your credit card thanks to their mobile wallet GrabPay.
  • EZ-Link – You can pay by EZ-Link when you take Premier Taxis, SMRT Taxis, and certain Comfort and CityCab taxis that have upgraded to accept EZ-Link payment. Again, ask before boarding.

 

Fares

Basic taxi fares are not that expensive compared to those in the likes of London or Tokyo. But there are many surcharges which can really add up.

While different taxi companies might have slightly different ways of calculating fares, they’re all about the same.

Here are the fares being charged by ComfortDelGro, the biggest player in the taxi market.

Basic taxi fare

Note that these fares only apply to their regular taxis (Hyundai Sonata). Unless you need the extra space, avoid hailing the big hatchback taxis or the limousine cabs, as you’ll be charged more.

Flag down and first 1km or less

$3.20

Every 400m thereafter or less up to 10km /

Every 350m thereafter or less after 10km /

Every 45 seconds of waiting or less

$0.22

If you book a regular cab using the ComfortDelGro Taxing Booking app, you’ll be charged a flat fare calculated in advance based on the distance and estimated waiting time. You’ll also be charged $5 for every additional stop you have the driver make en route to your final destination, and for every change in destination for every 5km thereafter. You may also have to pay additional charges at the end of your trip if the taxi goes under ERP gantries, which are basically electronic toll booths.

Taxi surcharges

Do the fares above not sound too expensive? Well, they are, BEFORE the following surcharges are added to your fare.

Surcharge

How much?

When?

Booking surcharge

$3.30

– Mon to Fri (except public holidays) from 6am to 9.29am

– Mon to Sun and public holidays from 6pm to 11.59pm

$2.30

All other times

Peak period

25% of metered fare

– Mon to Fri (except public holidays) from 6am to 9.29am

– Mon to Sun and public holidays from 6pm to 11.59pm

Late night

50% of metered fare

– From 12 midnight to 5.59am

City area

$3

– Mon to Sun and public holidays from 5pm to 11.59pm

Trips starting from Changi Airport

$5

Fri to Sun from 5pm to 11.59pm

$3

All other times

ERP (Electronic Road Pricing) rate)

You will pay the ERP rates depending on the time. $0.50 to $6 per gantry depending on time and location.

During ERP operating hours. Charges tend to be hire during peak hours.

Administrative charge for credit card and charge card payments

10% of metered fare

Administrative charge for Alipay payments

5% of metered fare

Administrative charge for NETS, NETSPay, NETS Flashpay, DBS PayLah!, OCBC PayAnyone, UOB Mighty and Ez-Link payments

$0.30

Estimated taxi fares

Here are some estimated taxi fares at 3pm, when there is no Peak Period or Late Night surcharge, and ERP charges are either low or not applicable.

Journey

Estimated fare

Changi Airport to Marina Bay

$15.23

Chinatown to Orchard

$5.56

Bayfront to Little India

$6.77

Woodlands to Esplanade

$21.24

Bugis to Orchard

$6.10

Jurong East to Changi Airport

$24.67

City Hall to Singapore Zoo

$25.53

Orchard to Universal Studios Singapore

$8.39

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Ride hailing mobile app

How to use it and where it takes you

Right now, Grab is the only available ride hailing mobile app, as Uber has been acquired by them. If you have purchased a SIM card with data or are able to connect to wifi, you’ll be able to use Grab.

There are other ride hailing apps in the works, including Ryde and Go Car, but they have not been launched yet.

While Grab also lets you book taxis, the Grab app offers three main options when it comes to ride sharing:

  • JustGrab – If you’re not picky about whether you want to book a taxi or a private-hire car, choose this option. It’s often cheaper than GrabCar.
  • GrabCar – This works like UberX. You will be picked up by a Grab driver and sent directly to your destination.
  • GrabShare – Carpool with other commuters and enjoy fares that are up to 30% lower than JustGrab fares. There should be no more than one stop during your ride.
  • GrabHitch – Your carpool with other commuters going your way, and are picked up by not a professional Grab driver, but a fellow commuter. GrabHitch rides are much cheaper but they also tend to be hard to get, since there must be a driver who happens to be going your way.

Like taxis, you can use Grab to travel anywhere in Singapore. Just indicate your destination on the app and the system will search for drivers close to you.

How to pay

There are three ways you can pay:

  • Cash – Pay your driver directly in cash.
  • GrabPay credits – Top up your account with credits using a credit or debit card, and then pay electronically.
  • Credit or debit card – Link your card to the app, so you can be charged automatically each time you take a ride.

 

Fares

Grab fares are subject to surge pricing. That means how much you pay also depends on how many other people are trying to get a ride at the same time, and how many Grab drivers are available.

Here’s the basic fare structure for Grab’s regular private hire car service.

Fare type

Amount

Base fare

$2.50

Per kilometre rate

$0.50

Per minute rate

$0.16

Demand surcharge (surge pricing)

Based on demand and supply of cars in the area

Additional waiting time

$3 for every 5 minutes

Toll charges (ERP / Sentosa) incurred from pick-up point to destination

Depends on tolls

Additional stops or additional distance

$5 per stop / per 5 km up to a maximum of 3 stops

Booster seat use for children aged 4 to 7

$2 per seat, max of one child per ride

As a general rule, Grab fares tend to be higher than basic taxi fares, assuming there are no taxi surcharges. But once taxi surcharges come into play, Grab fares can often be cheaper.

For instance, if you’re going home at 3am, it is always, always cheaper to take Grab back to your accommodation rather than pay the 50% midnight surcharge levied by taxis.

Tip: If you’ve got an internet connection and always want to know whether Grab or flag-down taxis would be cheaper at any given moment, check the price of Grab rides using the Grab app, and then compare them with the estimated price of taxis using this taxi fare calculator. Do note, however, that you’ll need to pay booking fees in addition to the estimated fare should you decide to book a taxi by phone or mobile app.

 

Bike sharing

How to use it and where it takes you

Bike sharing is relatively new in Singapore, so these services are sure to evolve over time.

But right now, there are three main bike sharing companies:

  • Ofo (yellow bicycle frame)
  • oBike (grey bicycle frame with orange rims and a black basket)
  • Mobike (grey bicycle frame with orange rims and an orange basket)

Unlike bike sharing systems in Paris or New York, there are no bike stations where you pick up and park bikes. You can pick up a bike anywhere you find one, and leave it in a designated bike parking box painted on the ground or even on a random sidewalk when you’re done using it.

While you’re not going to ride a bicycle all the way from the airport to town, they’re a very useful way to get to and from MRT stations without having to rely on buses, and can also be used to navigate within districts and neighbourhoods.

Parking your shared bike

While it can sometimes seem like you see shared bicycles littered all over the place, there are some rules as to where you can and can’t park.

Here’s where you can legally park your bike:

  • Designated bike parking spaces near MRT stations and shopping malls
  • Public bicycle racks
  • Public sidewalks, so long as the area is spacious enough and you are not obstructing pedestrians or traffic

Where’s where you can’t park:

  • Inside buildings
  • In underground parking spaces
  • In gated communities or on private property
  • In any place where traffic or pedestrians would be obstructed, or where other means of transport would be affected.

 

How to pay

To use any of the three bike sharing services, you will first need to have a smartphone with a working internet connection. You will then need to download the mobile app of the bike sharing service you wish to use.

Create an account, enter your credit or debit card details, and you’re good to go. Your card will automatically be charged each time you incur fees. oBike also accepts payment by PayPal.

You can use the mobile app to locate bikes near you, or simply walk around until you come across one. To unlock bicycles, you scan the QR code somewhere on the frame of the bike. When you’re done using the bike, park it and then lock it. Make sure it is locked, otherwise you will continue being charged.

Fares

Before you can start using a bike sharing service, you might be asked to put up a deposit. Your deposit will be refunded when you decide to stop using the bike sharing service, presumably just before you leave Singapore.

Bike sharing service

Deposit

Price

Offers

ofo

$0

$0.50 for 30 minutes ($5 cap for singular trips).

With the ofo pass, riders get free 120 minutes per ride for unlimited rides.

ofo pass:

7 days – $1,.59
30 days – $6.99
60 days – $15.00
90 days – $25.00

oBike

$49

$0.50 for every 15 minutes

Mobike

$49

$0.50 for every 30 minutes

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3 Ways to Spend Less on Public Transport in Singapore

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.