Getting around the Little Red Dot using Singapore public transport is incredibly easy, and affordable too. If you’re new to Singapore, understanding the public transport system will make exploring your new city a whole lot easier.
The MRT system (short for Mass Rapid Transit) is a train system, very similar to Hong Kong MTR or the London Underground. Currently there are 5 major lines, with plans to double the existing network coverage over the next few years.
Although most MRT stations are underground, most of the track is above ground, so riding the MRT can be a great way to take in your surroundings, and get to see many of the different areas.
The North South (NS): This line runs in a roughly North-South direction from Marina South Pier to Jurong East, and serves popular areas like Raffles Place, Orchard, Newton and Novena. It’s also the main way of accessing areas in the north of the island, like Woodlands and Kranji.
The East West (EW) line: This line stretches from Pasir Ris and Changi Airport in the east, to Joo Koon in the west of the island. It serves a lot of popular residential neighbourhoods like Kallang and Queenstown and connects both sides of the island to the CBD, with stations at Raffles Place and City Hall.
The Circle Line (CC): Somewhat confusing named, as it’s not actually a circle at the moment (although it will be!) the Circle Line runs from Harbourfront, around the centre of the island, before terminating at Dhoby Ghaut. There is a short branch that connects up with Marina Bay.
North East line (NE): Known by some as the ‘food line’, this line runs from Harbourfront to Punggol in the North, serving areas like Little India, Serangoon and Clarke Quay.
The Downtown Line (DT): Singapore’s newest MRT line starting in Chinatown, sweeping around the CBD, before heading North to Bukit Panjang. More stations are due to open in 2017 and it’s hoped that the opening of the line will relieve congestion on some of the older lines.
There are also several LRT links consisting of lightweight ‘people carriers’ that simplify access to the MRT system. These include the Bukit Panjang LRT, Sengkang LRT and Punggol LRT.
Because the Singapore authorities seek to encourage the public to use public transport, rather than drive, fares are extremely affordable. Get yourself an EZLink card (you can also use this on the busses, LRT and in taxis), and you can just tap in and out with ease. Fares are based on the distance you travel. Trains are frequent, with one arriving every 2-3 minutes during peak times, and 5-7 minutes off-peak.
The MRT is air-conditioned and also very clean. There is a ‘no eating, no drinking’ policy enforced on trains and in stations, so just make sure you are aware of the rules and the penalty fine for any transgressions!
For more info, including maps, fare information and a journey planner visit www.smrt.gov.sg.
Buses are still incredibly popular in Singapore, and in some areas is the only way of getting around on public transport, as there are still areas that the MRT does not serve.
The buses are pretty comfortable and have air-conditioning, but can be crowded during peak times. The usual drawbacks to buses apply, such as delays due to traffic or bad weather, but they are generally quite reliable.
You can download an app like SG Next Bus, which allows you to check when your bus is due to arrive. In addition, many bus stops also have electronic displays showing you the wait time for each bus route.
Some condominiums and international schools often offer private buses to take you to work or your children to school. Make sure you check out whether you can use these services.
When it comes to convenience and privacy, taxis are a popular choice. Compared to public transport, fares are a bit more expensive, but for those coming from countries like the UK, they can seem extremely affordable. All taxis are required to use a meter, with rates and surcharges clearly displayed inside the taxi. There are peak hour surcharges and for travelling within the CBD at peak times. Passengers are required to bear the cost of any tolls incurred.
There are a number of taxi companies. Comfort & CityCab are the biggest – you’ll see their distinctive yellow and blue taxis all over the island. There are also SMRT taxis, Premier, Trans-Cab, Prime Taxi, but fares are pretty standardised across these. Do look out for the black ‘Chrysler’ taxis, which are more expensive.
Singapore has been part of the Uber revolution, with a number of apps allowing you to book private cars, via UberX or GrabCar to ferry you about, as well as allowing you to access the main taxi companies. Popular apps include Uber, Grab Taxi and the Comfort & City Cab app. You’ll have to pay a booking charge, but this is usually around $3-$4.
Don’t be surprised if your taxi driver asks you which way you want to go – this doesn’t mean they don’t know the way, but rather want to know if you want to avoid toll roads or if you’d rather just arrive at your destination as quickly as possible.
The MRT is the most reliable form of public transport available, and the routes it covers are becoming every more comprehensive, but there are still many popular areas that are not well served. Bus routes are comprehensive and can link you to the MRT, or you can take a bus to your final destination without changing over to the MRT, but taxis might prove more convenient.
Your commute will affect your choice of housing while you are in Singapore, but Greyloft makes it easy to decide which areas you should consider for a rental, thanks our integrated commute feature.