One of the most exciting things about visiting a new country isn’t simply the food, sights or steeping yourself in a new culture. It’s about navigating the public transport system — which can in itself be daunting, yet one of the best ways to discover the local way of life.
In this article, we take you through the best ways to get around Singapore, complete with prices.
Here’s a quick overview of transport options in the city-state.
- By public transport: Buses, MRT or LRT (or Light Rail Transit)
- By taxi/ride-hailing services
What you’ll need before exploring Singapore
From Marina Bay Sands and Gardens by the Bay to Chinatown and Joo Chiat, Singapore is a heritage-rich cosmopolitan city.
These are some important things to know before kickstarting your exploration of Singapore.
Mobile data and travel SIMs
You’ll be able to easily connect to Singapore’s free Wi-Fi service, Wireless@SG, in certain parts of the city — whether it’s on MRT platforms or in shopping malls.
Unfortunately, the connection tends to be intermittent, which is why you’ll need sufficient mobile data in Singapore to navigate Google Maps on the go.
While there’re scores of options for physical SIM cards, there’s an easier way of getting mobile data.
Simply connect to any free Wi-Fi service and download the OYA app — then fill out your details and activate it for instant mobile data at just S$5 for 1GB!
Unlike other telcos in Singapore, OYA’s SIM-only mobile plans run on eSIM technology. You’ll can also use your leftover data even after leaving the city, because it never expires, and isn’t location-specific.
Here’s more on how to pick the best mobile data plan in Singapore.
Transport card options and modes of payment
There’re three main modes of payment in Singapore for public transport.
1. EZ-link card
Essentially a stored value card, an EZ-link card can be used across buses and trains (known as the MRT) in Singapore. You’ll be able to easily purchase one at any 7-Eleven outlet for S$10, which includes S$5 in stored value — and a basic S$5 fee for the card itself.
Alternatively, you can purchase an EZ-link card directly from the Passenger Service Centre at any MRT station for S$12, which includes S$7 in stored value. (This might be a better option if you’re going into the city from Singapore Changi Airport!)
Sadly, you won’t be able to get a refund if you’ve leftover value, so avoid topping up large amounts at one go.
2. Contactless payment
It gets easier if you’ve a Visa or Mastercard contactless bank card. These would eliminate the need to top up your card, although certain fees may apply.
Other options to explore include using a multi-currency card by YouTrip, Revolut or TransferWise. These digital banks offer commission-free exchange rates in real time, so you don’t have to worry about hidden fees or administrative charges when making transactions overseas.
3. Singapore Tourist Pass (STP)
If you’d rather not pay the S$5 for an EZ-link card, the Singapore Tourist Pass (STP) can be purchased for S$10 (one day), S$16 (two days) or S$20 (three days) — and includes unlimited travel. You can purchase one at these locations.
How to get around Singapore
Now that you’ve got your mobile data sorted, you’ll be able to cover most parts of Singapore easily. This fare calculator will help you determine roughly how much your journey will cost. As a guide, set aside around S$8 per person per day for public transport on MRTs and buses.
Most locals get around by train (aka the MRT), which easily takes you from one end of the island to the other in an hour, tops.
If you’re staying further out, though, you might have to take the LRT — a smaller train that connects residents in certain parts of Singapore to MRT stations.
Once you've familiarised yourself with the MRT/LRT map, all you'll need is sufficient mobile data to download travel planning apps or navigate Google Maps.
For public transport timings, try CityMapper.
Getting around by MRT/LRT
Click here for a larger copy of the map.
There are five MRT lines and three LRT lines traversing Singapore, as indicated on the bottom right hand corner of the map. Interchanges such as Dhoby Ghaut and City Hall allow you to cross to other lines.
You won’t be required to tap out when changing lines, unless you’re at Newton MRT station — in which case you’ll simply have to tap out, then tap in again to continue your journey.
Train directions are indicated at platforms based on the first and last stops per line.
For example, if you’re at Little India MRT looking to go to Chinatown MRT, you’ll need to identify the last stop on the purple line — which, in this case, would be Harbourfront MRT.
Getting around by bus
Buses are best taken during off-peak hours, or any time outside these periods: 7am to 8am, and 6pm to 7.45pm.
You can use your EZ-link, contactless payment card or Singapore Tourist Pass on buses; simply tap in upon boarding, and tap out upon exiting.
Because certain buses run less frequently, a mobile app like SGNextBus would likely help you better plan your route.
Taxis, ride-hailing and car-pooling services
Grab, GoJek and Ryde
Ride-hailing services have practically supplanted traditional taxi companies. They aren’t always cheaper than regular taxis, though — and if your driver may cancel on you within minutes of accepting a ride.
Taxi services in Singapore
Taxis in Singapore use metered fares, but vary depending on the type of taxi you’re taking. Flag-down fares start from S$3 for normal taxis, S$3.90 for limousine taxis, and from S$5 for Chrysler taxis.
These are the key taxi companies to know:
- Comfort DelGro (they’ve also an app for Apple and Android users)
- SMRT Taxis
- Premier Taxis
Surcharges apply to certain areas, and at certain timings. For instance, taxi pick-ups from the airport include a S$5 surcharge — in addition to your metered fare. Find out all about taxi surcharges and how fares are charged here.
While we don’t recommend taking a cab unless you’re pressed for time, a seamless mobile data service like OYA's will make your stay in Singapore an enjoyable one.
It's set to launch on 11 Nov, 2019 — and your leftover data can be used even after you return home.
Enjoy 1GB of free mobile data in Singapore when you sign up here!