Budget Travel

Getting around Singapore: how you can navigate the garden city

Getting around sultry Singapore is definitely an absolute breeze because of the Lion City's excellent trains and buses system, that is continually expanding. With taxis, rideshare services, and bicycle hire available too, most travelers won't see the need to employ a car.

If you're visiting for over a day or two, the easiest way to pay for travel on public transport is with the EZ-Link card, which allows you to travel by MRT trains, local buses, river taxis, the Sentosa Express monorail, by most taxis. Simply swipe the card over sensors while you enter and leave a station or bus. Cards are for sale to purchase and top from customer service counters at MRT stations and at 7-Elevens for S$10; both prices incorporate a S$5 nonrefundable deposit. You can also top-up your card with the EZ-Link app.

Here's everything else you need to know about getting around Singapore.

Metro

Efficient, clean, and blissfully air-conditioned, Singapore's Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) metro system is the simplest and quickest way to get around Singapore. There are other than 130 stations around the system, which operates from 5.30am to midnight, with trains at peak times running every 2 to 3 minutes, and off-peak every 5 to 7 minutes.

In the interior city, the MRT runs underground, emerging overground out towards the suburban housing estates. It consists of six colour-coded lines: North -South (red), North -East (purple), East -West (green), Circle Line (orange) and Downtown (blue), and also the Thomson -East Coast (brown). The latter opened its first three stations in 2022, followed by six more in mid -2022. A third stage connecting Caldecott with Marina Bay is scheduled to open in 2022, with a final section running through to Changi Airport due to be performed by 2040. There is a map from the network on the Land Transport Authority website.

Single-trip tickets cost from S$1.70, but when you use the MRT a great deal it's more convenient and cheaper to make use of the EZ-Link card.

Bus

Singapore's extensive bus service is clean, efficient and regular, reaching pretty much every corner from the island. The two main operators are SBS Transit and SMRT, each of which accept EZ-Link cards. You may also pay with cash, but you'll need the precise fare as no change is given. Routes and timetables are available on their own websites as well as the 'SG Buses' app, which shows real-time bus arrivals.

Train operator SMRT also runs late-night bus services between the city as well as other suburbs from 11.30pm to 4.35am on Fridays, Saturdays and the eve of public holidays. The predetermined fee per journey is S$4.50.

Trishaw

Once a well known mode of transport within the Little Red Dot, Singapore's dwindling fleet of trishaws (three-wheeled bicycle taxis) have evolved to provide novelty rides through some of the city state's most atmospheric neighbourhoods thanks to Trishaw Uncle, the city-state's only licensed trishaw tour operator. Freelance trishaw operators are far and few between nowadays; look for them in tourist haunts like Chinatown and outside Raffles Singapore.

Taxi and rideshare

When you're headed to 1 from the few corners of Singapore that's not serviced by its trains and buses network, or else you want to get somewhere quickly or after hours, metered taxis and rideshare services perhaps you have covered.

Singapore taxis are clean, air-conditioned and affordable by Singapore standards. They're also becoming greener: consider the fleet of neon-green electric Strides Taxi cabs rolled out in 2022.

Taxis are technically only permitted to stop at designated taxi stands, so create a beeline for a hotel or shopping centre, but you may be able to flag one down if you're lucky. Do note that getting a cab during prime time, during the night, or when it's raining can be difficult. Many drivers change shifts between 4pm and 5pm, making it notoriously tricky to score taxis then too.

The fare system here is complicated, but because taxis are metered there's no haggling over fares. Passengers are required to pay in cash when you are able – Singapore taxis don't accept Visa, and other cards incur a 10% surcharge. You can also pay using your Ez-link transport card. For a comprehensive list of fares and surcharges, visit Taxi Singapore.

Grab is Singapore's answer to Uber and Lyft, and works exactly the same – book and pay through the app, and expect price 'surges' during peak times.

If you're staying downtown, water taxis are a good way to get around, with stops at Robertson Quay, Clemenceau, Clarke Quay, Boat Quay, and also the Esplanade. Scenic river cruise trips are available too.

Bicycle

Cycling may be a sweaty endeavour in perpetually hot and humid Singapore, however it hasn't deterred the Land Transport Authority from the goal to triple the country's 460km (286-mile) network of motorcycle paths by 2030. Top draws range from the 300km (186-mile) Park Connector Network of trails connecting Singapore's green spaces, and the dedicated mountain-biking areas at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Tampines and Pulau Ubin.

Other excellent places for cycling include New england Park, Sentosa, Pasir Ris Park and also the Southern Ridges. Observe that only fold-up bikes are permitted on trains and, with simply one fold-up bike allowed on buses at any time.

Bikes can be rented at a number of places along New england Park and on Sentosa Island and Pulau Ubin, with adult prices beginning with S$7 a day on Pulau Ubin and around S$12 an hour elsewhere.

Singapore will also support several bike-sharing platforms with the major players including SGbike and Anywheel. Simply download the app, create a merchant account, choose a bike, and from you go! You're charged for the time you ride.

Boat

If you are planning a vacation to the laid-back island escape of Pulau Ubin, you will need to board a bumboat (motorised sampan) at Changi Point Ferry Terminal, near the airport, for the 15-minute trip. Boats don't leave until full (usually 12 people), so factor in some waiting time.

You can also visit four of Singapore's Southern Islands by public ferry, with services bound for St John's Island, Lazarus Island, Kusu Island, and Sisters' Island departing in the Marina South Pier. Island-hopping tickets can be found.

Singapore Tourist Pass

If you've got a jam-packed Singapore itinerary, it might be more cost-effective to buy a one-, two- or three-day Singapore Tourist Pass including unlimited train and bus travel for approximately 72 hours. Passes start at S$10 for just one day plus a S$10 refundable deposit.

Accessible transportation in Singapore

Singapore is among the world's most accessible cities, as befits certainly one of a number of countries which have officially adopted Universal Design principles. When it comes to transport, all MRT stations have priority lifts, tactile wayfinding, easy-to-follow signage, visual and audible indicators in lifts and on platforms, and wheelchair-accessible toilets.

Singapore's entire number of public buses was declared wheelchair-friendly in December 2022; just about all bus stops are barrier-free.

Wheelchair-accessible taxis can often be flagged down, but wheelchair-accessible maxicabs could be booked through Limousine Transport.

For a lot of accessible travel in Singapore and beyond, download Lonely Planet's complimentary Accessible Travel Online learning resources ebook.

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