A Guide to Singapore’s Public Transportation

Singapore has an unfair advantage because of its small size: the ultra-efficient government has built a public transportation system that makes getting from point A to point B a breeze. This means that passengers who prefer to visit Orchard Road in the morning, Singapore Zoo in the afternoon, and Changi Airport in the late evening can take a bus or MRT and get at each destination on time, with no hassle. Amazing, right?

Fortunately, the efficiency of Singapore’s public transportation system allows you to ride like a local from the time you arrive. Learn more about it here.

A Guide to Singapore's Public Transportation

Here’s How to Take the MRT as a First-time Visitor

Singapore’s Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system opened in 1987 and has subsequently extended to serve the majority of the city-state, from residential suburbs to commercial and heritage centers to Changi Airport.

The island is served by six lines and about 130 stations. Each station has a line-specific name and a sequential number; for example, Orchard Station on the North-South Line has the station code NS22.

Interchanges allow passengers to switch lines without leaving the paid area across the MRT network, while some of the more recently constructed crossings require commuters to walk significant lengths between tracks.

Consult the official MRT network map to get a better sense of the system’s coverage.

The MRT operates everyday from 5:30 a.m. to midnight, with extended hours on holidays and other special events. The train frequency on the MRT varies, with 2-3 minute intervals during peak hours (7 a.m. to 9 a.m.) and 5-7 minute intervals the rest of the day.

Depending on the distance traveled, prices range from $0.83 to $1.25 Singapore dollars (around 60 to 90 cents). Using the Singapore Land Transport Authority Fare Calculator, estimate between-stop rates.

The EZ-Link Pass is a stored-value, contactless smart card that may be used to pay for both train and bus tickets. To enter and exit the purchasing area, tap the card on the gantry; a screen will display the remaining value of the EZ-Link Pass.

Passes may be purchased at MRT stations, bus terminals, and 7-Eleven locations. There are also single-journey passes available. For more information on contactless transit cards, see our article on Singapore’s EZ-Link Pass.

MRT stations have been designed from the ground up to be accessible, with ramps, elevators, and barrier-free access; wheelchair-accessible bathrooms; and trains with wheelchair-accessible coaches. Allowances for visually impaired and deaf riders have been provided where possible, ranging from Braille plates in elevators to strategically placed signage and lights. Consult the accessibility accommodations page of the Singapore Tourism Board.

How to Get to Changi Airport: Take the train to Tanah Merah Interchange (EW4), where you may change to a train that will take you directly to Changi Airport (CG2) (CG2).

You may plan your journey by downloading and using a number of free applications or websites that allow you to enter Point A and B and generate a travel itinerary based on both points.

MyTransport, a service provided by the Land Transport Authority of Singapore, allows you to plan a trip based on your chosen forms of transportation. Meanwhile, CityMapper and GoThere.sg also provide trip-planning functions for mobile and desktop platforms with considerably different graphical user experiences.

What Tourist Attractions in Singapore can be Accessed via the MRT?

Once you’ve mastered the MRT, you can go to any of the following MRT stations in Singapore:

Botanic Gardens: Singapore’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site is easily accessed via the Botanic Gardens Interchange (CC19/DT9), which links the Downtown Line and Circle Line.

Chinatown: This is largely accessible via the Raffles Place Interchange (EW14/NS26), Outram Park Station (EW16), or Chinatown Station (NE4).

Take the MRT East-West Line to Bugis Station to get to Singapore’s main Muslim cultural center (EW12).

Little India: The Indian enclave of Singapore is accessible through the North-East Line’s Little India Interchange (NE7/DT12) and Farrer Park Station (NE8).

Marina Bay: This is accessible by Raffles Place Interchange (EW14/NS26), City Hall Interchange (NS25/EW13), Marina Bay Interchange (NS27/CE2/TS20), Bayfront Interchange (CE1/DT16), Promenade Interchange (CC4/DT15), and Esplanade Station (CC3).

Orchard Road: Dhoby Ghaut Interchange (CC1/NE6/NS24), Orchard Interchange (NS22/TE14), and Somerset Station all provide access to Orchard Road. Singapore’s most prominent shopping district is Orchard Road (NS23).

Sentosa: To get to Singapore’s resort island, take the North-East Line or the Circle Line to HarbourFront Interchange (NE1/CC29), then ascend to the connected VivoCity Mall and board the Sentosa Express.

Singapore Zoo: Take the Mandai Khatib Shuttle from Khatib Station (NS14) on the North-South Line to Singapore Zoo.

Getting Around Through Singapore’s Bus System

The MRT in Singapore is fast, but the bus system is more extensive. It’s a massive network that stretches over the entire island, including public housing estates that are inaccessible by train.

SBS Transit (sbstransit.com.sg) and SMRT Buses are Singapore bus lines; buses run from 5:30 a.m. to midnight, with frequencies varying from five to thirty minutes.

Extended night transport services (Nite Owl from SBS and NightRider from SMRT) operate until 2 a.m. and cover reduced routes in Singapore until 12 a.m.

Singapore’s buses, like the MRT, use the EZ-Link Pass as its electronic ticketing system. Cash is also accepted, but only exact change.

The same apps that can plan your MRT route can also plan your bus journey: MyTransport, CityMapper, and GoThere.sg can create an itinerary based on your origin and destination that includes both MRT and bus.

Taxis and Ride Shares in Singapore

Taxis are plentiful in Singapore, however, they are substantially more expensive. Look for a well-marked taxi line stand, call their number or use their smartphone app to request a taxi to your location.

Here are just some of the taxi phone numbers worth noting to use when in Singapore:

Comfort Transportation: (+65) 6552 1111

CityCab: (+65) 6555 1188

SMRT Taxis: (+65) 6555 8888

Trans-Cab Services: (+65) 6287 6666

The two most popular cab applications are Comfort DelGro and Cabify/EasyTaxi. Grab is Singapore’s ride-hailing app. If you’re in a hurry, you can use the app to order the nearest Grab car or cab to pick you up and drop you off at your destination.

Surcharges and Prices for Taxis and Ride-Hailing Services

Taxis and ride-sharing services have a complicated price structure due to congestion charges and other taxes imposed by the Singaporean government to decrease traffic congestion.

A typical non-premium taxi ride, for example, will cost between 3.20 and 3.90 Singapore dollars (about $2.50) for the first kilometer, plus 0.22 Singapore dollars (about 15 cents) for every 400 meters up to 10 kilometers, and every 350 meters after that.

Additional surcharges will be imposed to your fare if the following conditions are met:

Travel during peak hours: If you take a cab between 6 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. on weekdays (except Singapore public holidays) and 6 p.m. and midnight on weekends, you will be charged a peak time premium of 25% of your metered fare.

Travel after midnight: Taxi journeys between 12 a.m. and 6 a.m. incur a 50% extra on the metered fare.

Travel from specified regions: A location-based taxi premium is paid to taxi trips departing from specific locations at specific times. These are as follows:

  • From 5 p.m. to 11:59 p.m., the Central Business District is 3 Singapore dollars.
  • Sundays and public holidays: 3 Singapore dollars (from 6 a.m. to 4:59 p.m.)
  • S$5 for Changi Airport (5 p.m. to 11:59 p.m., Friday to Sunday); S$10 for Resorts World Sentosa, Gardens by the Bay, and Tanah Merah. Ferry: $3 per passage in Singapore.

Travel to specified locations: When a cab passes beneath an ERP gantry, it incurs ERP costs in the form of congestion fees. Prices vary depending on location.

Credit card payments are subject to an extra 10% administration fee.

These expenses add up to something significant. As a result, we recommend you take the bus or MRT whenever possible and only hire a cab if you can avoid paying the required surcharge.

How to Survive Your First Commute in Singapore

  • The enemy is rush hour. Trains get overcrowded, transit lines become much longer, and taxis charge fees that can nearly treble the rate. Avoid taking public transportation between 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. whenever possible.
  • Never leave the house without your EZ-Link Pass. It’s Singapore’s Swiss Army Knife of cards; you can use it on buses and trains, make purchases at select stores, and take it home as a keepsake due of its unique design.
  • Purchase a local SIM card for your unconnected phone. From departing Changi Airport to hailing a taxi to scheduling a trip through public transportation, there is an app to help you with every aspect of your Singapore commute. To get the most out of all the apps described above, purchase a local SIM card (assuming your phone is compatible with Singapore’s 4G network), download the essential apps, and commute like a local.

Final Thoughts

Getting around in Singapore can be a little overwhelming at first, but once you have settled in and downloaded the right apps, navigating the island-state will become second nature. From using public transportation to finding your way around town with a Grab ride, there is nothing that can stop you from making the most of your time in Singapore.

As always, we hope that this article has been helpful and that you have a great time in Singapore. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below.

READ NEXT: Singapore Tourist Pass (STP): Everything You Need to Know