If there is one word that best describes the attitude that the Singaporean administration uses to approach the management of the city, it is “convenience.” Things are designed to be as easy to access and enjoy as possible – public transportation, especially so.
Here are a few tips that will help you make the most of the public transportation in Singapore – how to use it and how to act while you ride.
Using the System
Use your NETS card as a pass — When you move to Singapore and open up a bank account here, your checking account will likely be connected to a NETS card. NETS is a debit system that functions as cash.
This is very convenient for shopping in different retailers throughout the island, and it is also significantly useful to support your transportation needs. Your NETS card can be used in two ways when you’re finding your way around Singapore.
First, use your NETS card in a cab. Surprisingly, the Singaporean taxi system has been slow to adapt to credit card technology. Not all the cars have the capacity to take credit cards as payment, which can be very frustrating in our increasingly plastic world, but no need to worry – they will take your NETS card and run it the same as cash.
Second, you can use your NETS card as a ticket when you ride the MRT system. If your EZlink MRT card balance is running low, just swipe your NETS card as you pass through the turnstiles – when you exit the station, the cost of the ticket will be deducted, no problem.
Apps to plan your bus trip — The bus system is regular and widespread, but it can be difficult to remember all of those schedules and routes. Luckily, there are several superb apps to help you best plan your trip from point A to point B.
NextRide will make suggestions of a few different journeys that combine bus and metro rides with walking directions, based on how long it will take you to reach your destination.
Search for a stop on BusLeh, and you’ll be provided with a list of all the buses that come by, along with a fairly accurate to the minute update of how long until the next three of them arrive.
Metro Fees — All metro fares are charged based on the distance traveled. There are no boarding or transfer charges, so you won’t be penalized if your journey involves changes between a few different trains. Rides start at 78 cents per trip and top out at $2.70, though there is an additional fee for peak periods.
Taxi Fee — Compared to other international cities like London and New York, the cost of a Singapore taxi ride is very reasonable. Still, the fee structure can be complicated – and so it’s useful to be aware of any surcharges that may be added to your trip cost.
- Flag-down fare – S$3 to S$3.90
- Distance fares
– 22 cents every 400 metres (above 1km-10km)*
– 22 cents every 350 metres (above 10km)*
- Waiting time – 22 cents every 45 seconds*
- There is no fee for trips to the airport, though there is an added $3-5 for trips from the airport
- Trips commencing or ending in the city area between 5pm and midnight will add a S$3 fee
- Pre-booking will incur a fee, though the amount depends on the taxi company
- Prepare for fees when traveling to Sentosa, Gardens by the Bay, and ferry/cruise terminals.
Timing — In order to be responsive to the demand of passengers, the metro schedule varies depending on the line and day of the week. Generally, however, train service begins around 5:30 am and the last train departs between 11:15 pm/12:49 am.
It is just as important to prepare for the expectations of etiquette and behaviour that are enforced on the Singapore MRT system. While many of the guidelines that follow might just seem like common sense, here they have real world consequences – as you might find yourself being fined by breaking them.
Right of Way — There is a sternly enforced expectation that embarking and aligning from the train will happen in an orderly manner – a distinct contrast from many other cities in the region.
In order to do so, passengers waiting to enter the car wait in lines to the left and right of the doors. As the train arrives at the station, those leaving the MRT exit through the center walkway first and then the passengers board the car.
Reserved Seating — The seats closest to the doors are strictly reserved for the elderly, the disabled, pregnant women, or parents with children. Many times, even during rush hour, the spaces will be left empty in the event that someone in need will board the train. Poster messaging throughout the train system reminds passengers that giving them the seat is ‘the right thing to do.”
No Food or Drink — The Singaporean MRT system is notoriously well maintained. The floors and seats are remarkably grime free compared to the state of many metro systems worldwide. One of the reasons the cars are able to stay so spotless is because all consumption of food and drink is banned; even a small sip of water is against the rules.
No Durian — In order to preserve the pleasant environment for everyone, the Singaporean Transit Authority has specifically banned durian, the beloved – yet notoriously pungent – Southeast Asian fruit. If you are looking to try some, make sure you eat it near where you buy it; transporting a durian on the MRT will result in heavy fines.
Be Considerate — The system as a whole has an overall expectation that all passengers do what they can to make transit pleasant for everyone. Perhaps the best illustration of this is the “Thoughtful Bunch,” a group of compassionate characters including: Bag Down Benny, Hush-Hush Hannah, Stand Up Stacey, Give Way Glenda, and Move In Martin, featured on posters throughout the Singapore MRT that help make the point for more gracious behaviour.