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Everything You Need to Know About Getting Around Singapore

Picture of Sadali Mawi
Updated: 23 October 2017
Despite being a tiny country on the map, Singapore’s transport system is surprisingly well-developed and efficient. Whether you are relocating or traveling to Singapore soon, check out our guide below and navigate the city like a pro.

Essentials: Ez-Link Card

If there is one essential you will need to get around in Singapore, it is the Ez-Link Card. Also known as the CEPAS (Contactless e-Purse Card), this smart card is the most popular and cost-effective way of paying for public bus and train rides in Singapore.

It can be purchased from any TransitLink Ticket Offices (located in most MRT stations) for $12, which comes with a stored value of $5. Each MRT station has at least two ticketing kiosks, which makes reloading of cards easier when it is running low on value.

Trips are charged based on your total distance, which is a unique feature that allows you to save a little more every day. So if your daily route includes switching between two buses and a train ride, as long as you tap your card upon exit each time, the smart card will automatically calculate your total trip distance and deduct the fee accordingly.

Singapore’s Ez-Link Card | © Karl Baron /Flickr

Understanding The Train Network

Singapore’s train network has expanded over the last decade, and the government has plans to expand it even further. Broken up into five major lines: East/West Line, North/South Line, Circle Line, Downtown Line and North/East Line. Stations that overlap in the train map (below) indicate that you are able to switch between these five lines to get to your destination quicker.

LRT lines connect the various stations to suburban areas in Singapore, and these trains are driverless and automated, which can be an interesting experience for first-timers. The overall user experience for trains in Singapore is seamless, with detailed maps all across train stations and adequate announcements in the cabins ahead of stations to ensure you will arrive at your destination correctly.

Singapore’s Train Network Map | © SMRT Website

Buses that get you everywhere

Love it or hate it, public buses in Singapore gets you to every corner of the country, as long as you are savvy. It is possible to travel from the very end of the country to the heart of the city through connecting buses. The best way to do this is through gothere.sg, a popular website in Singapore where you can find the most efficient way to get to your destination through public transportation.

However, if you need to get somewhere fast, Singapore’s bus system does have an express service that skips most stops and goes into the highway. Service numbers that end with “E” (e.g., 502E) indicate that it is an express bus, charging a slight premium of $2.70 per ride, regardless of distance. While the cost might seem high, it is especially popular with the after-work crowd working in the CBD and looking to head home fast.

Singapore’s Major Bus Providers | © SgTransport /Flickr

Driver Anywhere Within 40 Minutes

Sure, this might sound like a bold claim, but Singapore’s relatively small size means that you can get from the east to the west in under 40 minutes (or up to an hour) by car. If you do intend to drive in Singapore, then it will be useful to learn these abbreviations for expressways:

  • PIE: Pan Island Expressway
  • CTE: Central Expressway
  • KJE: Kranji Expressway
  • BKE: Bukit Timah Expressway
  • MCE: Marina Coastal Expressway
  • KPE: Kallang-Payar Lebar Expressway
  • ECP: East Coast Parkway
  • NSC: North-South Corridor
  • AYE: Ayer Rajah Expressway

These abbreviations may sound confusing at first, but you will master them once you start navigating the expressways daily. If you are feeling lost though, fret not, many Singaporeans use Google Maps to navigate anyway.

Another thing to take note of driving in Singapore is ERP (Electronic Road Pricing). While many Singaporeans lament having to pay a daily fee every morning, this is an initiative by the government to manage the volume of traffic during peak hours by imposing a small fee (that differs with each type of vehicle). Remember when we said Singapore is sometimes known as the “fine city”?

Expressway in Singapore | © Jnzl’s Photos /Flickr

Use Apps To Navigate

If owning a vehicle is too costly (or if you are just visiting Singapore for a short period), the fastest and most affordable way to get around is through apps like Uber and Grab. The taxi industry in Singapore has suffered slightly in the past year as ride-sharing apps are proving to be more popular with the locals. And why not? Gone are the days of surprise taxi fares or unethical laundering. But do take note of surge pricing, the last thing you want is to fork out $70SGD to work just because of high demand!